Even as a Final Fantasy fanatic, I have to admit my ignorance when first seeing World of Final Fantasy announced. Just like everyone else, I shrugged the game off because of its somewhat “babyish” visuals. I looked at it as ‘Final Fantasy for kids’ and decided ahead of time that it wasn’t worth getting excited about because we have Final Fantasy XV to look forward to. However, after playing this game, I would like to formally invite Square Enix to slap me sideways into Sunday.
Both newcomers and dedicated Final Fantasy fans will feel at home with this game. The story has various callbacks to some of our favorite games in the series, but it’s not overwhelming to the point that a newcomer won’t understand what’s going on.
In World of Final Fantasy, you take control of twins Lann and Reynn, who wake up with amnesia and are given the task of entering through a portal to the world of Grymoire where they may be able to recover their memories. Grymoire is home to Chibi based characters, and many of them are from previous games in the Final Fantasy series. When visiting the different towns and factions, Lann and Reynn often encounter the worldly threat of the Bahamut Army.
World of Final Fantasy will draw you into a fun and laid back story where you don’t have to think too hard to keep up. I never expected that so much attention would be given to the story and narrative in this game. Usually, when it comes to JRPGs some of the writing may not translate well. For example, jokes may come across incredibly cheesy to us because of the way the game is written and translated. However, World of Final Fantasy feels like it was written from the ground up in English. Throughout Reynn and Lann’s interactions, there’s a ton of word play and puns that will have you giggling. You could actually compare World of Final Fantasy to a Disney Pixar movie because it’s compelling yet light-hearted.
The biggest appeal that World of Final Fantasy has for long-time fans of the series is that the battle system is completely turn based. This alone is a big deal, considering that the company has actively made an effort to move to real-time combat over the past 10 years. On top of that, the game introduces a stacking system which allows you to play around with different abilities and stat buffs. Stacking is basically piling up a couple of the creatures you’ve captured onto (or underneath) your characters to make use of them in battle.
World of Final Fantasy takes a lot of cues from Pokemon. When you’re in the world of Grymoire, you’re referred to as Jiants because the rest of the world is inhibited by both Chibi people and what’s known as Mirages. Mirages are the monsters that live in the world and will challenge you to battle throughout your adventures, but you have the ability to capture these Mirages in prisms. Once you’ve captured a Mirage you can use them in battle by adding them to your stack; this allows Reynn and Lann to borrow their abilities in battle. Lann and Reynn may only stack two Mirages each, so it causes you to think about your choices based on the area you’re fighting in.
To make things even more intricate, both Lann and Reynn are given the ability to shrink down to Chibi size themselves. This opens up more flexibility as it allows them to also mount larger Mirages both inside and outside of battle. If either Lann or Reynn are Chibi size outside of battle, then they will also be Chibi size once a battle is initiated. When this happens they will use whatever stack you have set up for them in their Chibi form. Earlier in the game, this is a simple dynamic, but as you capture and encounter more complex Mirages, you’ll be left with so many variations to consider when approaching battles.
Though it’s fun and laid-back, the main story can be dull in parts. Thankfully you’re given so much to do in World of Final Fantasy that you can easily take a break to refresh. Though the main story typically unfolds in Grymoire, you can also jump back to Reynn and Lann’s hometown of Nine Woodshill when finding a portal gate. Going back to Nine Woodshill allows you to stock up on items, manage your Mirages via the Prism Case, compete in coliseum battles and carry out mini-quests given to you by “The Girl who Forgot Her Name”.
These mini-quests consist of you aiding friends that you meet throughout the story in Grymoire; so new mini-quests are always being unlocked as you progress through the story. These mini-quests also come with their own rewards; many of them are particularly valuable. Ultimately, the coliseum and the mini-quests are welcomed distractions from the story, as sometimes I just wanted to do battle instead of focusing on the story.
When it comes to Final Fantasy games, there’s nothing more exciting than battling and developing your characters. The battles quickly become challenging in this game, and considering that your enemies will have abilities that can blind you, poison you or collapse your stack completely, it’s important to keep up with your Mirages and develop them. As you win battles your Mirages will gain SP that allows them to earn new abilities on a table that resembles the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. Eventually, your Mirages can even “transfigure” into more powerful Mirages.
In the menus you’re also given the option to hotkey your favorite abilities to the controller’s face buttons, but while in battle you may also press L1 to select from a full list of abilities, just like you would in Final Fantasy VII for example. What’s more, your stack can also be separated in battle, either by choice or by being collapsed by an enemy. When this happens, your Mirages become separate entities on the battlefield.
It’s difficult to imagine why you’d want to separate the Mirages from Lann and Reynn and miss out on the combined abilities, but there are cases when this works to your advantage. For example, there was a new Mirage I wanted to imprison by lowering its health slightly, but Lann and Reynn were way too powerful to the point they’d one-hit-kill the Mirage. By unstacking Reynn from her Mirages I could use my Mirages to attack the enemy Mirages without killing them, and then Lann or Reynn could imprison the enemy Mirages. There’s also other occasions where unstacking may be useful, like in cases where you need some extra turns to fully heal the party. It’s important to note however that once Lann and Reynn are unstacked from their Mirages, they can no longer use their abilities.
It’s worth noting that throughout the game you can earn Mirajewels. Mirajewels give Lann and Reynn the chance to learn specific abilities of their own, but only a limited number based on their level. Later in the game, you’ll even get to unlock summons that feature some of your favorite Final Fantasy characters. All-in-all, both the battle and the stacking systems make this a pretty in-depth experience. Though it’s intricate, the challenge is always fun. Once you’re invested in how the game works it will be hard to pull yourself away from it, even when you’re losing.
The adventure plays out like many JRPGs. You enter a hostile area or dungeon, navigate your way through and eventually get to a town or community; then you repeat the process. It sounds linear, but with the added side-activities mentioned before, and the fun puzzles and challenges spread throughout the world, the linearity is often forgotten. What I like about the puzzles is that they often involve the Mirages you’ve captured. For example, there may be a weight based switch that must be activated, but to activate it you’ll need to place a few select Mirages of a specific weight or ability. It sounds tedious, but this actually encourages you to capture new Mirages all the time, as you never know when you’ll need them later.
No Final Fantasy game can hit the market without a sensational soundtrack, and World of Final Fantasy doesn’t disappoint. The Battle themes were stuck in my head after just a day and I loved hearing remixed versions of older Final Fantasy songs. Another area where Square Enix never fails is the visuals. Though many consider them to look childish, the visuals are clean and well put together. The Jiants in the game feature well-detailed character models that balance out the cute and compact Chibi models. I played World of Final Fantasy on the PlayStation 4, but it’s also available on the Vita and looks equally as impressive. If you intend to play the game across devices then there’s a feature that allows you to cross-save. I found the cross-save to be annoying as it makes saving the game take noticeably longer than when the feature is turned off.
In many ways, I’m glad that World of Final Fantasy is releasing before its big brother Final Fantasy XV. But I still believe many gamers will overlook this game and it will become an underrated addition to the Final Fantasy family. If you’re new to the series and want to ease yourself into it ahead of Final Fantasy XV then World of Final Fantasy is now the best way to do it. Many will be put off by the Chibi presentation, but at the same time, it will make the series appeal to a whole new generation of Final Fantasy players who may see the bigger games as too complicated. World of Final Fantasy brings the series back to basics, while also adding in enough new features to make it feel fresh. The story, narrative and voice work is also surprisingly well done for a smaller budget Final Fantasy game. Production wise I felt like I was immersing myself in a Square Enix equivalent of a Walt Disney production (Think Frozen but without all the singing). Whether you fancy a nice laid back JRPG or you’re just desperate for some new Final Fantasy action, this game comes highly recommended by me.
This review was based on a digital review copy of World of Final Fantasy for the PlayStation 4 provided by Square Enix.