It’s odd that in 2016, the closest thing to a classic JRPG is a stylized, tongue-in-cheek spinoff. Yet here we are: from a gameplay standpoint, World of Final Fantasy is the closest we’ve gotten to the titles it pays homage to in quite some time. The game is also not afraid to embrace what it is, the writing fully prepared to break the fourth wall and utilize its zaniness for a few laughs. Not every punchline is a hit, but enough land to give the game a unique identity. At the same time, fans of the series will find that their favorite characters make appearances not simply as background decoration, but as fully integrated parts of the story. While the end result is often an overarching narrative that lacks focus, there is too much there for a Final Fantasy fan to enjoy to complain.
Game Name: World of Final Fantasy
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Square Enix
Release Date: 10/25/2016
World of Final Fantasy follows the journey of Reynn and Lann, siblings who find themselves stranded in another dimension without their memories. They wield great power: the ability to control “Mirages” (essentially the enemy catalog of the entire series). However, it is now up to them to go on a journey to reclaim this power while fighting an enemy that threatens the world of Grymoire. You see, there is this entity known as the Bahamutian Army that currently has an iron grip over the free peoples of Grymoire. The League of S, comprised of many famous characters like Squall and Cloud, are rebelling against their dictatorship. At the same time, there are at least five other mystery foes that make appearances in cutscenes and the like. These folks, and the character that sends you on this crazy adventure (she literally refers to herself as God) suggest a larger conflict. But after twenty hours or so, one wouldn’t know, as we’ve only seen them a handful of times. There is no real development of the main cast, nor does the larger story move anywhere.
The tale is broken up into a series of chapters that play out sort of like episodes in an anime (there are even anime cutscenes). While the overarching plot can be unwieldy, these smaller stories are where the game shines. While the characters are somewhat static, Reynn, Lann, and their sidekicks have a wonderful dynamic that can prove to be very funny. Some of the fourth wall breakings are comedic gold, with characters constantly pointing out the silly conventions of games themselves. The way in which Square Enix has utilized the large cast of Final Fantasy is also very satisfying. Not only will you encounter characters throughout your own journey, but through the main hub, you will be able to follow their adventures further for in-game rewards.
But narrative aside, World of Final Fantasy truly nails it where it counts: gameplay. Combat and progression are, dare I say, near perfect for a fan of the classic JRPG. The Active Time Combat system is nothing we haven’t seen before. However, like any true Final Fantasy, this game brings its own spice to the table to flavor things up in the form of stacking. The mirages you capture, not unlike Pokemon, are your primary means to fight enemies. You create stacks (including Reynn and Lann, of course) of up to three, mixing and matching to min/max stats and abilities. Each mirage also has a skill tree, not unlike the Sphere Grid or Crystarium, that will keep any completionist hopelessly addicted (believe me). While I felt that combat was a bit too easy for the first few hours, it quickly ramps up as the game forces you to switch around mirages to utilize both their elemental advantages as well as abilities necessary to traverse the terrain (think Swim in Pokémon).
This is also not a title lacking in content. Aside from all of the mirages to collect, World of Final Fantasy boasts an endless parade of optional side quests, including the aforementioned character quests, a gladiatorial arena, and plenty of secret boss fights and treasures hidden throughout dungeons to draw you back later. That’s, of course, not counting the main story itself, which is also quite lengthy.
*World of Final Fantasy was provided to us by Square Enix for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Just needed a rug (read: story) to tie it together
World of Final Fantasy is a great game. I love every minute of walking through its dungeons, looking for a chest that I think will hold a cool weapon or rare item but only has a potion. It hearkens back to what myself and many others consider a "Golden Age" in the genre. This is not to mention how the game is also not afraid to play around with the subject material for some laughs. However, eventually, I lost any notion of what was driving the overall plot of the game. More and more, I found myself using that fast forward button that Square Enix has grown so fond of. Humor can do a lot to make characters likable, but for an adventure this long there needs to also be tangible drama, and I could not find it here. That is a shame, because the gameplay is so damn good.