Before I go into anything else, I just want to say that Hiroki Chiba deserves a huge pat on the back for everything that he’s achieved with World of Final Fantasy. While it may not appeal to everyone and does have deficiencies if you’re looking at it with a cold, critical heart, this game is nothing short of a love letter to the Final Fantasy franchise and as a long-time fan, I wholeheartedly appreciate it for what it is.
As most of you know, World of Final Fantasy focusses on Reynn and Lann, two brand new characters, who, along with their trusty ally Tama, go on an adventure to the magical world of Grymoire.
But before we get there, let’s take a step back and look at Nine Wood Hills, the hub world outside of Grymoire… In a rather unorthodox move and as a complete juxtaposition to pretty everything else in the game, we are led to believe that both Reynn and Lann led pretty standard lives. Lann even starts out as a barrister in a coffee shop! This all changes though, when one day everyone in Nine Wood Hills disappears, someone called Enna Kros appears to tell them that they’ve lost all their memories, and that to gain them back, they have to go to Grymoire and collect these things called Mirages. If they do so, they’ll become stronger and be able to find their family. It’s as flimsy a plot as you’ll find, but… I’ll give it a bit of a free pass, because it actually works quite well.
This flimsiness is rather commonplace throughout parts the game and the only reason that I’m willing to give this all a free pass, is because the game is more than aware of it, often mocking itself through banter between the characters. For example, at one point Reynn asks why mirages are randomly dropping money, as it makes no sense. Tama brushes it off by saying that it’s all due to Enna Kros, and but doesn’t elaborate further. It’s a bit of a running theme.
It’s something that I actually quite appreciated, because in a game like this that clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, I really don’t care about all the tiny little nuances - it’s not meant to be a realistic simulation. Anyway, my point with all of this is that the opening sequences are rather woolly around the edges, an empty vessel to serve as an impetus for the protagonists, if you will. There’s limited substance there, when put into context of the story as a whole. That is instead slowly added as you venture around Grymoire, but I couldn’t imagine the game starting straight in Grymoire… or Nine Wood Hills not existing. It’s a necessary device.
Once you do head to Grymoire, the feels will start flooding in. The story, while random to the nth degree, also feels incredibly well crafted. And that isn’t just in relation to the development of characters, it also relates to the locations you visit and the personality they exude. Many of them, even if they are quite minimal, tell quite the story and they aren’t always represented how you would expect them to be. One that really stands out for me is the sequence that could be related back to “Final Fantasy VII”. You start off going through some innocuous mountains… and encounter some red dragons. Fair enough, a pretty standard occurrence, until Tifa appears in her Crisis Core getup. It’s of course an ode to Mt. Nibel and the Red Dragon that Sephiroth fights. This then leads into them heading to Nibelheim, which has been merged with Midgar!
I couldn’t help but sit back and admire how they blended the different worlds, introduced the characters we know and love and used Reynn and Lann as characters who, through their actions, help us to learn more about the world until we get to the point where we’re no longer novices... And it’s at this point that the game takes its next step. When that happens, you’ll know about it.
I mentioned in my previous review that there had been some bombshells and the game does take an interesting turn. However, I’d say that up until that point, much of the game is quite superficial, which is fine, but I did not really appreciate there being approximately 16-17 hours set aside for crafting the world, doing basic introductions with the characters and essentially just setting up for this one big thing to happen - progressive story moments up to this point are far and few between. However, after this twist, where the walls kind of break down a little, everything feels a lot more integrated and the game somewhat loses its forced smile of happiness. It actually surprised me, because despite it being a game geared more towards the younger demographics, after this point there’s a distinct darkness that starts to creep in. I honestly shouldn’t be too surprised, given that one of the main scenario writers is Sarah Okabe, who also worked on Final Fantasy Type-0’s story with Hajime Tabata and… you guessed it, Hiroki Chiba.
This darker side is perhaps more apparent with Intervention missions. I’m not going to delve into them with any great detail, but one in particular made me just take a step back and have a minute to ponder...… like, whoa that was some deep shit right there, would I really want my young daughter playing this? Upon consultation with Lauren, the answer was a distinct no.
Needless to say, I enjoyed where the story went and upon its conclusion, I’d say I was satisfied.
Classic characters from across the franchise were a big part of this satisfaction too. Some have more prominent roles than others, but the main thing for me was how well most of them were represented. I’d say my main disappointment was that it felt like some were literally just added in to make up the numbers, while others had more substance to their inclusion. I’m going to single out Rikku and Snow here, as although I love them for who they are, their role within the story was pretty much throwaway. Outside of a few Intervention missions, their screen time amounts to nothing more than a couple of minutes, and even in those few minutes, it’s not like they did anything that was actually helpful.
I’m glad that this is isolated though, and that other characters have larger roles to play. Their interactions with Reynn and Lann work well, especially in the later stages of the game and they don’t ever feel out of place. I never got the impression, aside from, as I mentioned, a few isolated cases, that they were just there for the sake of it. Again, this is to the credit of the writers.
In summary, I appreciated the story as someone who’s invested in the franchise. It’s adorable, if not superficial, and once the twist happens it does come to life in a big way. I was LIVING for some of the cutscenes and the darker side of what happens! But I can’t ignore the elements that felt subpar, because this is a Final Fantasy game and it was billed as having a story that’s on-par with the main series. I don’t feel they managed to achieve that.
It’s also nowhere near that 100 hours they spoke about, it’s more in line with what I mentioned in my previous review. With me faffing about a bit, the game took me around 30 hours to finish, which is still decent, but I know some people were a bit surprised when I mentioned that before.
I have been impressed by the mechanics on show in World of Final Fantasy. It sees the return of a more traditional style of Active-Time Battle system, but there are some modifications thrown in to keep things interesting. The visual style has also been updated to make everything seem a bit more fluid.
The basic setup is that you have turns, and they have turns. This gets plotted out to the time bar, which appears on the left-hand side of the screen and is rather akin to what we saw in Final Fantasy X, except that the order isn’t pre-determined and is instead dependent on your agility.
One of the things I liked about this, is that within the options menu you can modify things around a bit. You can either choose to have the battle system work via the wait, semi-active or active systems, and you can also choose to speed up the default battle speed if things are taking a little too long for your liking. In addition, when in battles, you can also press R1 to speed things up even further, and there’s also an auto-battle option that allows you to just have the combat play out manually, using your last command as your designated action. All of these things made me rather happy indeed!
Adding the Stacking Mechanic on top of this, then made me slightly euphoric! It’s a deep, rich system and deserves some special praise due to its versatility, and the fact that despite having this versatility, its impact does not become diminished. For a quick synopsis of the mode… as mentioned in the story segment, your main objective is to capture Mirages. Up to four of these Mirages can then fight alongside you in battle and they level up as members of your team.
It’s not like Final Fantasy XIII-2, where monsters acted as a third member of the party, instead, they join with Reynn and Lann to create two super-charged teams, or can even split out to give you six individuals to use in a single turn. This is dubbed Stacking and Unstacking.
When stacked, all of the stats, including HP and AP, get combined and depending on which Mirages are used, you will receive channel bonuses, such as an elemental attack, resistances and even new abilities. When unstacked, all the stats get separated, but you can attack more regularly from different perspectives.
Most of the time, I was able to coast through the game just using basic attacks, and I didn’t even grind at all. There were a handful of bosses that tested me a little, but with both stacks rocking Cura, and an ample supply of Mega Phoenix items, you will hardly ever see a game over. I’d say this aspect was a slight disappointment, but I was also kind of glad as you will have a LOT of fights in this game due to there being some serious padding in this game. Looking at some time stamps from my playthrough, the Crystal Tower dungeon, for example, took me one hour and forty minutes to complete. For all the positives of the ATB system, by the end of it, you’ll just want battles to be over as quickly as possible so you can plough on to the next story sequence.
Some of the other elements presented are also just a bit barmy. At one point, you’ll get to play some minigames and wow, they are pretty terrible haha. I was so thankful they could just be skipped with no penalty, because they were genuinely painful to play through.
Anyway, back to the positives. The stacking system obviously wouldn’t be anything without the mirages, and there are an absolute ton of these in the game. Mirages come in four different sizes, but only three of them can be used in stacks… and only two at any one time. It all depends on how you use Reynn and Lann. Both of them can either appear as a Medium or Large Mirage, depending on if you’re in Lilikin or Jiant mode, so then you need to make sure the other two slots are filled.
What I loved about the Mirage system was just how much depth it offered. Take the Chrome Giant for example. This guy actually started off as an x, which I transfigged to y. Then, I unlocked a sister Mirage Board to turn this guy, who I called Jerry, into a Chrome Giant. Some of the Mirages can be transfigged into a ton of different Mirages, and the great thing about it is that when you transfig, their stats get retained - it’s only the abilities that switch around. It means that you could capture a Behemoth King, make him super powerful, then transfig him down to a mini behemoth and he’ll be just as strong, just in a different role within the team. I can’t understate how much I enjoyed this system and the positive impression it left on me.
One of the main things that has drawn people into World of Final Fantasy is the art style. There are two distinct art styles present throughout the game, those of the Jiants and those of the Lilikins, but it’s the fact that all of the older Final Fantasy characters are presented as Lilikins that has fans all giddy with excitement.
Square Enix already knew that this was a recipe for success following the Theatrhythm series, but World of Final Fantasy takes this cutesy art style a little further. Many of the designs are actually influenced directly by Pictlogica, a free-to-play puzzle game that released in Japan three years ago, but they were transitioned into the game by Yasuhisa Izumisawa to great effect.
I don’t want to labour on the art style too much. I think you guys all pretty much know everything about it already, as it was one of the main promotional tools for the game. The only thing I can add, is that the animated cutscenes, even if they aren’t all that prevalent, are pretty hilarious. It was one of those things where I never expected them when they happened, but very much appreciated them when they did.
I guess in a way, it’s also how I felt about the music in the game. I knew beforehand that Masashi Hamauzu, the game’s main composer, was going to be tasked with re-arranging quite a few pieces of classic Final Fantasy music, but due to the game’s mishmash story, where everything is integrated with everything, I never quite knew what the upcoming music selection was going to be or what tracks they were going to select. It meant I had lots of nice, pleasant surprises.
Perhaps my favourite piece of music in terms of execution was the area theme rendition of Clash on the Big Bridge. It was so cleverly crafted that I couldn’t help but sit back and admire how the various elements were worked in.
If I were to summarise both the presentation as a whole, from both a visual and an audio perspective, I was constantly left wondering what was coming up next, and then being pleasantly surprised by what appeared. The designs of the Mirages are awesome, the animated cutscenes are awesome, a lot of the arrangements are awesome and the original pieces of music that appear are more than good enough to stand out amongst the classic pieces of old.
I think World of Final Fantasy brings a lot to the table. It’s perhaps not quite as grandiose as they tried to make out, but there's a lot to appreciate. However, I do feel as though the insider knowledge of the franchise feels too ingrained and I feel it could serve as a bit of a barrier to anyone who’s looking to get in. That might not be the case so much for younger gamers who play, but anyone who’s a bit older and hasn’t experience the franchise before, I just don’t feel as though the game will resonate anywhere near as well. Still, it's got a decent battle system, plenty of depth with mirages and it'll be a fun little jaunt whether you're a fan of the franchise or not.
|Score features some awesome arrangements.|
|Lann and Reynn are decent characters.|
|Story feels a bit wishy-washy for too long.|
|Minigames are... bad.|
|Feels a bit too easy.|