A majority of people who call themselves fans of the Final Fantasy series didn’t pledge their allegiance over the last 15 years. Sure, some did, but most fans were invested well before the death and reincarnation of the current MMORPG, Final Fantasy 14. Most have been around since before Lightning traveled through time to save the world (at least I think that’s what happened…).They were around before the series took a decidedly political turn with Final Fantasy 12, and they know all about the series’ first attempt at an MMORPG with Final Fantasy 11. All of these games were good enough in their own right to appeal to a mass audience, but the die-hards… the ones who know what it truly is to experience a Final Fantasy game, have been around well before any of these games were released. World of Final Fantasy is trying to reach out to them. The ones who remember the opera scene or the ones who know what the summoner’s pilgrimage truly is. They remember when it all started with the four Warriors of Light and they recoil from the pain associated with losing the flower girl. World of Final Fantasy reaches out specifically to those fans by mixing a new story with all of the Final Fantasy nostalgia a person can handle.
World of Final Fantasy focuses on the adventures of two siblings, Lann and Reynn. Lann wakes up one morning and realizes he is running late for work. He works in a coffee shop in a city that doesn’t appear to be too dissimilar to ours. After Lann arrives to work we are introduced to Reynn, his sister, who has concerns with the noticeable lack of people occupying the world around them. With the aid of a mysterious person sitting in the coffee shop it is understood that the siblings must travel to Grymoire in search of their mother whom they haven’t seen for many years and have no recollection of due to their amnesia. The siblings have been granted two significant gifts and they must use these gifts to travel the lands of Grymoire to unravel the mystery of what happened to their mother. The first of these gifts is the ability to transform from a Jiant to a Liliken. A Jiant is essentially their everyday appearance in the world that they currently reside. A Liliken though, is something different entirely. Liliken make up the populace residing in Grymoire and are tiny people with heads bigger than their bodies. My best way to explain a Liliken is to direct you to the popular “Funko Pop” toy line.
Coupled with the ability to change their appearance, the second gift they’ve been granted allows them to capture and manipulate monsters known in Grymoire as Mirages. These Mirages take the form of many of the enemies (and allies) experienced in past Final Fantasy games. You’ll run into the common chocobos, behemoths, cactuars, etc…. However, you’ll be introduced to new representation of these monsters the further you progress into the game. For example, the Chocobo is actually the second of three forms for that particular mirage. Over time, you’ll have the ability to “Transfigure” mirages to make them bigger and/or more powerful. To help illustrate my point, take the above example. Say you’ve captured, or imprismed, a chocochick. A chocochick is an adorable miniature chocobo that walks around with a big piece of the shell from which it hatched resting on its head. If you use the chocochick enough in battle, you’ll eventually have the opportunity to transfigure the Chocochick into a Chocobo. It isn’t unfair to make the comparison to pokemon in this regard, as the evolution system is essentially the same. However, how these allies are used in battles is what really sets this game apart from other games of this ilk.
World of Final Fantasy introduces a new combat mechanic called stacking. In the above example the Chocochick is considered a small or “S” mirage and the chocobo is a medium or “M” mirage. You’ll also have access to large or “L” mirages as well. Stacking works by, you guessed it, stacking mirages on top of one another and compounding their stats to grow stronger. Lann and Reynn’s two forms are each set up to be “M” or “L” depending on whether you are currently a Jiant or a Liliken. You can have four stacks prepped at any given time, but can only take two into battle. So a stack could consist of Jiant Lann on the bottom, Chocobo on his head, and Chocochick on Chocobo’s head. While your other stack could be Magitek Armor on the bottom, Liliken Reynn riding the armor, and Cactuar on her head. At first I thought this was such a strange concept to build your battle system on, but then I started playing around with combinations and started to realize the depth to the system. While it may look a bit silly, it is a truly engaging and entertaining way to approach party customization.
The combat system itself harkens back to the old Turn-Based battle system employed in the Final Fantasy games leading up to Final Fantasy X. When you step into a random encounter with enemies you’ll notice on the left hand side of the screen that each character and enemy on the battlefield has a portrait that shows up alongside a meter. When those portraits move up to the top of that meter, it is that characters turn to attack. You can use the battle menu that they created for the game or switch to classic mode. I found that I almost immediately switched to classic mode for two reasons. The first being that the menu created specifically for this game wasn’t explained very well and seemed a bit difficult to navigate. The second reason is because I wanted to go all-in on the nostalgia factor. If you are familiar with past Final Fantasy games, this combat system will feel completely natural to you.
The final talking point as it relates to battles are the abilities to summon forth powerful beings to assist in battle. We know that no final fantasy game is complete without the ability to do so. In other Final Fantasy games these entities have been known as Eidolons, Espers, Aeons, and so on. In World of Final Fantasy they are known as champions. The naming convention isn’t the only difference though, instead of summoning forth Shiva and Ifrit, you’ll be summoning past heroes of Final Fantasy games. As you progress through the story you’ll run into these characters and when completing their storyline you’ll gain the ability to summon them forth in battle. It is a unique spin on a system that is as much a part of Final Fantasy as anime haircuts and giant swords..
If I have any true qualms about the battle system in this game it’s the fact that as the game wears on the battles become either much to prolonged, or they become so simple that auto-battle paired with holding the R1 button (fast forward) is a must. The other thing is that this game uses the “Unwinnable Battle” trick too often. We’ve all been there in an RPG. You get put up against a menacing, or in this case not-so-menacing-foe, and get obliterated within the first couple rounds. Usually it happens once, maybe twice in a game, but I think I counted six different occasions where I was brought face-to-face with an enemy that I had no chance in beating. I know that there needs to be a way to challenge players, but there has to be a better way than throwing me at an enemy I can’t beat over and over again.
Exploration in the game is mostly linear. You pretty much always know your next destination and the ability to follow a map for most dungeon areas makes it difficult to get lost until you reach some of the final areas of the game. The world is bright and colorful and does a good job of capturing the essence of Final Fantasy. Some of the areas you’ll come across should be instantly familiar, but for some reason won’t match up with your memories in quite the way you’d think. There were a couple times where it felt like they had all the pieces, but didn’t have them in the right order. I understand that this isn’t necessarily a retelling of past adventures, but there were some pretty jarring changes made to some of the characters and settings that had me scratching my head as to why they were made to be so different.
The music in the Final Fantasy games have always been one of the most defining characteristics in the series. World of Final Fantasy uses those familiar songs and remixes them to match the the upbeat tone of the game. It’s a tremendous feeling to be wandering around an area only to realize you’re somewhere you recognize just as a familiar track kicks in. The other awesome feature as it relates to the soundtrack is the way it changes when you call forth a champion. Once a champion is called, you’ll get to hear a rendition of the music from that character’s original game. While there is plenty to appreciate regarding the soundtrack to the game, my biggest gripe comes from the other form of audio you’ll experience… the voice acting.
Voice acting has been both a blessing and a curse for the more recent Final Fantasy games. We can go back and watch the laughing scene from Final Fantasy X (which may or may not come up in this game) to see one of the lower points, but the voice acting hasn’t necessarily enhanced or ruined an experience. World of Final Fantasy’s voice acting comes close to achieving the latter . The characters are completely ridiculous and over-the-top in the way they converse with each other to the point that you can’t really help but grimace at what is taking place on the screen. One of the new items on my bucket list is to find a way to sit down and watch the recording sessions that these voice actors took part in. I won’t spoil the game or the dialogue but when you get the the part with the Princess Goblin, just imagine watching that voice actor get through those lines. As much as I want to harp on the character’s voices though, most of the blame lies in the way the dialogue is actually written. One of the character’s you’ll be with for essentially the entire game is a mirage named Tama. At some point during production, a decision was made that baffles me to no end. Randomly, once or twice in every sentence, one of the words Tama says will inexplicably have “the-” in front of it. I’ll let you read that last sentence again. Here’s an example of what I mean. If I say to you, “Hey friend, let’s play this game and have a good time.” Tama might say something like, “Hey friend, let’s the-play this game and have a the-good time.” Why? Why was this allowed to take happen. It is compounded by the fact that Tama has a ton of dialogue throughout the game. The way the characters interact with each other isn’t a strong point to begin with, but having one of your main characters constantly spit out ridiculous lines of dialogue that make zero sense hurts this game more than bad voice acting ever would.
World of Final Fantasy calls upon its lush history to bring together some of the most memorable characters and settings from the Final Fantasy universe. Almost all the previous games have some sort of representation in this game. While the story itself is a bit cliche and is certainly not the most engaging aspect of the game, fans of the series should be able to find something that appeals to them. Newcomers to the series might have a bit of trouble understanding the significance of all the characters, but the combat system and the world that has been created is good enough on it’s own to garner new fans. I wish I could recommend playing the game on mute to avoid the insufferable voice-acting, but then you’d be missing out on the amazing music that helps define the almost 30 year old franchise. World of Final Fantasy is an homage to the golden years of one of the most important franchises in video games.This entry though, also marks an interesting point in the series going forward.