World of Final Fantasy is a labor of love from a team that clearly cares about the franchise as much as longtime Square fans do. It is a saccharine love letter to a nearly thirty-year-old gaming behemoth that could use a step in the right direction. The attention to detail is staggering. Every area feels familiar, every song has honeyed notes of nostalgic twang that will tug at one's heart and the gamut of characters is immense. However, this approach leads to a game that will seem rather incomprehensible to those not intimately familiar with three decades worth of Final Fantasy. Those who have stuck with the series will find many reasons to stick around World of Final Fantasy' notably long runtime, even after looking past the decided lack of a quality narrative.
The game's marketing didn't do the best job in actually hinting at what the heck World of Final Fantasy is actually about. It is an intravenous injection of nostalgia sure, but more importantly, it's a cross of Final Fantasy and Pokémon that just works. The notion of collecting the very monsters that long-time fans have seen across so many entries and rostering them is engaging enough but then the wonderfully simple Stacking mechanic comes into play. All monsters (known as Mirages in-game) come in small, medium, large and extra large, which then feeds into the idea of literally stacking units on top of each other to combine health, abilities, strengths and weaknesses together. It is a unique twist on the classic party system that early Final Fantasy titles helped to make mainstream that possesses a deceptive level of depth. The flow of combat will also appeal to veterans of the franchise as classic ATB (Active-Time-Battle) system where players will be waiting for action gauges to fill up before making their next move.
Every new area the player encounters offers more Mirages to capture, ranging from Marlboros and Chocobos all the way to Ifrit, Bahamut and Shiva. Certain conditions have to be met to allow for captures, starting off simple enough with dealing a certain amount of damage. Deeper into the game, the capture conditions elevates dramatically including certain status effects, specific sequences of abilities and more. Customization of Mirages can be done via the Mirage Board which works similarly to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. This allows for passive and active abilities to be tacked onto would-be teammates but it also allows for evolutions of particular Mirages. There is, thankfully, an option to move back and forth between evolved states at Save Points throughout the game.
What about all of those screenshots of hyper-deformed Lightning or Cloud coming in to save the day? This shows up in the form of Champion Medals. Normally, players would summon Bahamut or Titan, but prior protagonists from entries past fill that role in World of Final Fantasy. Champion Medals allow once per battle summons to take place where The Warrior of Light or Bartz might swoop in, attack the enemy and also grant some sort of buff for the player's party. A remixed version of the character's theme or a main theme from the game they represent will begin to play and remain so for a few minutes after. Square-Enix is making no attempt to back away from the fanservice and, in fact, doubles and possibly triples down as far as Champion Medals are concerned. It is pure uncut JRPG goodness for fans to ingest that works tremendously well.
All of this talk of rose-colored glasses and remembering the good ol' days of Final Fantasy also brings with it the reality of what many of the game's core entries are plagued by. Genre clichés stacked on top of one another along with writing that is sometimes very hit and miss. There are really two ways to view World of Final Fantasy's story. One is to enjoy the ride, not worry about the specifics and enjoy the steady thump of the Final Fantasy "Remember This" drum that bangs away for the duration. The other is that the game is rife with horrible dialogue and overlong cutscenes that overexplain game mechanics (followed by information windows saying the same thing) and a contrivance to explain why all the former FF heroes are assembled here in chibi-form that is downright abysmal. Much of the game's writing is comedic and when the melodrama comes, it's as thick as molasses yet unfulfilling. That comedic tilt of the writing comes down to "Gee! Lann sure is an idiot!" more often than not. Add Tama into the mix who is adorable visually but grating in regards to EVERYTHING it says and you've got a recipe for dialog that misses the mark fairly often. The localization team clearly had a blast bringing this game stateside and it shows in character descriptions, flavor text and so forth. If only they'd done a better job of sprucing up the script as it ranges from bad to teeth-about-to-break cringeworthy moments at times.
The game's main characters are two twins by the name of Lann and Reynn. The eldest, Reynn, is the analytical one who has to put up with her lughead of a brother, Lann. So, of course, they have amnesia. Why wouldn't they? If we're going to traffic in core Final Fantasy then we're going to stick to the classics right? They need to get their memories back so they travel through a portal to Grymoire where, conveniently, all of the prior kingdoms/lands of Final Fantasy games past are all sandwiched together. So that means the kingdom of Cornelia (Final Fantasy) is located right next to Saronia (Final Fantasy III) and so forth. It gets a bit more ridiculous from there but that's the gist of things. There's a thread that starts to form in the early stages of the game regarding all of these universes somehow tied together into one that is largely ignored by the end, leaving the plot to devolve into the usual JRPG shenanigans.
So, depending on how much Final Fantasy one wants injected directly into their veins, this game will either be an absolute delight to play through or a slog. It doesn't help that the game feels like it overstays its welcome in the latter half, padding out for time a touch here and there to make it a "respectable" length for a JRPG. Genre veterans likely won't have too much issue with this, but newcomers to turn-based RPGs might lose their way after twenty or so hours. However, the target audience of World of Final Fantasy isn't newcomers. The combat is certainly accessible enough and deep enough to encourage newbies to dive in but the real star of the show is Final Fantasy itself. This is an unabashed tribute to any and all things Final Fantasy. If you don't feel a rush of glee hearing a new arrangement of the Zanarkand theme (Final Fantasy X) or grin like a lunatic upon seeing the words "spoony bard" then this particular Final Fantasy game might not be the best place to start.
World of Final Fantasy was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by Square-Enix. It is also available on PlayStation Vita.
World of Final Fantasy is a love-letter to the entire Final Fantasy franchise and its diehard fans. This is pure uncut Final Fantasy directly injected into your veins. Newcomers to the franchise will find an accessible battle system to work with but a completely convoluted and, frankly, bad story to deal with. The soundtrack is worth sticking around for, though.
- Stellar Visuals and Cute Characters
- Amazing Soundtrack with Remixed Classics
- Great Combat Mechanics.
- Final Fantasy Fan Service Overdrive
- Weak Story
- Terrible Voice Acting