World of Final Fantasy
The Final Fantasy franchise has had a turbulent road for quite some time now. With mixed receptions for XIII and XIV in its various forms, fans have been left wanting something akin to the classic JRPG structure of days gone by. The Vita has become a JRPG’s dream device, while the PS4 has been relatively barren outside of PS Now-playable games and Star Ocean’s return entry. Now, World of Final Fantasy is out for both devices and gives Final Fantasy fans old and new alike something to enjoy.
It features a grand, but easy to follow story about saving the world – amid a sea of amnesia and a bit of confusion. Lann and Reynn are brother and sister, and start the adventure in a bit of a daze. They wake up and his usual coffee shop has no one in it – and the surrounding area is barren as well. All they see is a strange woman named Enna Kross, who gives them some vague hints to their pasts. They commanded powerful beings known as mirages – which initially seem to be the in-game summons. As time wears on, you learn that they are effectively this universe’s Pokemon.
They meet a strange little magical cat-like creature known as Tama who is equal parts adorable and annoying thanks to its habit to always say “the” between phrases. Tama is going to be a love it or hate it kind of character, and while I love the design, the voice work grates more than anything else. The siblings are tasked with saving Grymoire from various commanders within the vile Bahamut Army – who are taking over the world kingdom by kingdom.
The kingdoms act as a way to not only pay homage to the fantasy setting that the Final Fantasy series was initially known for, but also to use characters from prior games in a re-imagined form and have them take part in the latest story. Characters from Final Fantasy I through X are given World of Final Fantasy’s chibi treatment, and while it’s a bit strange, it also works nicely. It’s a good-looking art style and allows the game to look impressive on both the Vita and PS4.
Tama aside, the protagonists are largely enjoyable characters. Lann is a bit of a smartass and enjoys breaking the fourth wall, while Reynn is frequently embarrassed by his antics. They don’t break any new ground – but their banter works. It’s very playful and they do fight like siblings, which makes them all the more realistic in an unrealistic fantasy setting with all sorts of wacky things going on around them. At times, Reynn has to act a bit like Oliver Wendall Douglas from Green Acres and just stare in amazement at this silliness while Lann acts like it’s just perfectly normal and those are some of the game’s best moments.
The combat system is a blend of the JRPG norm with some modern-day flourishes and new kinks thrown in. It’s turn-based with a bit of the active time battle system thrown in, but with the ability to do a bit of fast battling if you want. The default menu system gives you a few options, while more in-depth options are available with a press of L1 to bring up a “classic” menu akin to the older Final Fantasy games. This setup gives you a mix of depth or simplicity if you want. Generally speaking, in random battles, you can just use the simple system and be fine while bosses will benefit from the more complex options.
For the impatient fans who just want to skim through as many battles as possible, World of Finial Fantasy is quite accommodating. Using R1, you can fast forward through things – so if you know you’re going to take damage from an enemy and just want to get it over with, you can. This is a huge time saver for random battles and does make the pace far more brisk than most games. You can even press the touchpad to initiate auto-combat where your prior commands will register for every turn. These features may come off as a crutch for the lazy, and they sure can be, but they do make it easier to see the story unfold and not be bogged down by insignificant battles.
The game uses monsters in new ways for the series, with the playable characters basically acting as Pokemon trainers as they get new allies and turn enemies into friends by beating them in battle. These Mirages can be stacked on top of other characters in any order – as long as it’s large>medium>small on top so the stack doesn’t fall and do more damage. It’s an interesting system and something that allows World of Final Fantasy to stand out instantly from the rest of the series.
The largely chibi art style does that as well – and that can be changed in real-time too if you don’t like it, but that also plays a bit of a role in the story since larger characters and smaller ones are viewed a bit differently within the in-game world. Graphically, the character models look outstanding while the ground textures and environments as a whole look top-shelf far more often than not. Occasionally, you’ll see some issues with grass, but by and large, everything is impressive to see.
Musically, World of Final Fantasy is excellent with a good mix of stirring orchestral tunes and relaxing ones as well. It’s everything a classically influenced Final Fantasy should be, but with fewer memorable songs. The sound effects during battle are solid, while the voice work varies between excellent and unbelievably annoying with the latter being due to Tama. Tama’s desire to add “the” in every sentence is impossible to tolerate and is groan-inducing. Fortunately, the actual voice acting for the role does get across the lighthearted and loveable nature of the character – so it’s not all bad there. Everyone else acts fairly well and the protagonists in particular get some of the game’s most-impressive voice work – and that’s good since they have the biggest emotional journey to travel.
World of Final Fantasy isn’t a perfect game, but it does bring the beloved franchise back to its roots while also adding some modern flourishes. The revamped battle system is a lot of fun and strikes a balance that is good for fans seeking a return to turn-based combat while also finding a way to appease those seeking faster action. Its blend of Final Fantasy and Pokemon-style monster usage is enjoyable, while the storyline is reasonably intriguing and features a light enough tone for kids yet enough humor for adults to enjoy as well. The voice work is largely excellent while the soundtrack is technically fine, but doesn’t stick with you for long.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of World of Final Fantasy for the PlayStation 4 provided by Square Enix.