Our World of Final Fantasy review finds this trip down memory lane a pleasant one that narrowly toes the line of falling apart.
That one story that really hit home for you, that one character that was a perfect avatar for your life at that moment. These are a couple of the many reasons why Final Fantasy is an institution in the gaming landscape. With releases in the “traditional” franchise coming out at an infrequent pace, that institution is almost always told through nostalgia. Nostalgia not only of the game itself, but also their environments and where you were the first time you played your favorite entry. World of Final Fantasy takes all those nostalgic feelings and blends them up into a charming trip down memory lane. Returning to your favorite characters and places sounds like a surefire way to frame a game. For the most part that is a very valid assumption. Once the nostalgia wears off and all the cards are put on the table, though, the game nearly turns from a breezy jaunt through Final Fantasy lore into a plodding endurance test with mindless encounters. Thankfully, a strong story with fun protagonists provide a good reason to stick it out despite its flaws.
World of Final Fantasy stars twin siblings Lann and Reynn as they set off on adventure to collect mirages across Grymoire and discover forgotten memories. Lann and Reynn are thankfully wonderful additions to the Final Fantasy cast of characters. Lann is the hyperactive “act first, think second” half of the duo while Reynn is more thoughtful and, understandably, first to call out Lann on his sometimes idiotic behavior. There is a different feel to the interactions Lann and Reynn have within game. They tend to question the vague, often silly talk of prophecies and joke when faced with convoluted backstories. The self-aware nature of the game fits perfectly with the idea that, as a player, you are revisiting past places and people you know. You’ve already lived their stories and know how melodramatic it can be so it’s nice to have a more laid back, playful vibe to the characters. The twins’ story is engaging because the characters feel more three dimensional it keeps you pushing toward an end goal, even when the story stretching portion of World of Final Fantasy kicks in.
Collecting mirages is probably one of the biggest additions to the game to bring in people outside of the series. Collecting mirages, not to mince words, is Pokemon. The pocket monsters in this case are called “mirages,” tiny creatures from Final Fantasy lore. They join you in battle by stacking on top of both of the twins. The stacking is not only literally stacking on top of each other but also their stats to create a shared HP/AP pool on which to pull from during battle. The mirages are imprisoned by either Lann or Reynn and then can be either kept on hand for fast access to add and remove from stacks or put in storage for access at save points. Each stack consists of a small, medium, and large figure. While in regular normal form, the twins can stack small and medium mirages on them. Conversely, while in the chibi-style form they will stack a small and large mirages. The mirages have skill trees to upgrade and eventually transfigure into more powerful forms, with additional abilities and skills. With as many stacks and forms you are juggling, it can seem daunting at first look, however the controls fit nicely and navigating through the menus becomes second nature fairly quickly. I found that once a solid stack with a good balance of element defense and attack was achieved you could ride that stack all the way through the game without much change.
The chibi style presentation for the characters inside the Grymoire of World of Final Fantasy inhabit is both cute and fun. It also meshes well with the game’s self-aware nature. Considering how we’ve seen so many of these characters before, it is a great way to give them fun new looks that also provide a nice throwback to the series roots. In addition, the art style also compliments well with the mirages. In terms of appeal, the visual style may also appeal to a crowd that may not have any previous Final Fantasy experience.
Dungeon design mirrors the stacking of your mirages by putting a spotlight on vertical thinking. At times gravity changes allowing for wall-walking, which opens up new paths and variations on the course to reach the end goal.
Unfortunately, the dungeon design can get a bit confusing. Since the design is vertical, the map can sometimes be disorienting; where you need to go or what path you need to follow is not always apparent. Combining a complicated layout that sometimes can require backtracking can get very tedious when you start hitting random encounters for every false step you take. The more dungeons you explore, the easier it is to determine placement and where to go, but there is a bit of a learning curve with that type of approach.
World of Final Fantasy stretches out to around 30 hours long, which is actually pretty efficient for a Final Fantasy game. Sadly the last third of the game becomes less of a fun adventure and more of an endless sea of random encounters without any real ramp up in difficulty. Despite this lack of difficulty, the random encounter frequency of battles increase exponentially which can inflate dungeons to 1 to 2 hours at minimum to get through. The encounters don’t get harder, just more tedious.
The first half of the game progresses nicely, imprisoning your mirages and filling out their skills. At that point you can use different techniques and abilities depending on the encounter. After that midway point, though, it felt that you could settle into a stack with enough attributes to coast all the way until end game without any real challenge. This lack of difficulty can be great for new or casual fans of the series looking to knock out their first Final Fantasy title, but, without an increase in enemy difficulty, more seasoned gamers may spend the last ten hours in auto-pilot. Instead of being strategic, you’re simply mashing attack with the occasional cure thrown in just to get through each encounter as quickly as possible.
As enjoyable as the game is, the last thing you really want to feel as you close in on the completion of the story is boredom. Perhaps in order to speed through some of these encounters you can press the right bumper to “fast forward” both cut scenes and battles, which is a nice feature for those wanting to speed up their gameplay and stick with the story. This “fast forward” feature essentially speeds up the cool downs between battles to jump directly to the action phase for either Lann, Reynn, or an enemy to keep battles moving at a swift pace. There’s less waiting and more playing.
World of Final Fantasy is a game that I really wanted to love, and in many ways, I do. It is breezy, fun, humorous, and straightforward. For those new to the Final Fantasy franchise, it is a crash course in notable characters and settings from the history of the series while also showcasing a lot of the charm and style that made the series popular. Gamers looking to jump back into the series can enjoy the walk down memory lane while experiencing a new story set in a familiar world. I think the monotonous last third of the game can put off people who maybe only have a half hour to hour a night to play, as it can feel like you don’t really make any progress during that stage. That being said, to complete any Final Fantasy is under 30 hours is a nice warm up to the style without having to devote 80+ hours.
In the end, this makes World of Final Fantasy worth playing for fans of the series. The flaws can be annoying, but in the broader scope of the story, characters, and setting, it doesn’t detract enough to disappoint.