World of Final Fantasy Review
Despite dark times courtesy of the thirteenth and fourteenth main installments, the Final Fantasy franchise remained relevant to a lot of fans. It has always been regarded as the face of JRPG and after the success of XIV: A Realm Reborn as well as XV, the brand has been once again unstoppable. In October 2016, Square Enix released World of Final Fantasy, a family-friendly spin-off that revisits popular characters in an original setting. A little over a year, we finally get the chance to play it on PC.
Most people expect Final Fantasy titles to come packed with epic stories and relatable characters. Spin-offs tend to be no different seeing as how Tactics is often praised for its story and The 4 Heroes of Light gave birth to the critically acclaimed Bravely Default, which also received praise for its overarching plot. World of Final Fantasy, however, tones down the convolution the franchise is known for. We play as the twins Lann and Reynn, who one day wake up to a deserted town. A woman who identifies herself as Enna Kros explains that they are mirage keepers (Final Fantasy’s equivalent of a Pokemon trainer) who lost their memories and in order to get some of them back, they must travel to the world of Grymoire and collect lots of mirages.
While the story isn’t convoluted, it is barely there. The plot moves at a decent pace, but everything happens so conveniently that it’s almost a joke. The twins’ motive is silly at first and it doesn’t seem to have much impact as it develops. Even the most mysterious characters are far from compelling and their intents lack any depth. Overall, Lann and Reynn’s journey is as generic as JRPGs (especially Square Enix ones) get, but there’s a reason for that.
Simply put, World of Final Fantasy’s premise is that of a portable fan fest. Throughout the game, you meet a slew of Final Fantasy characters who serve no purpose other than fanservice. While each of them has some sort of goal in the story, it’s clear that they were written solely to make players go “look, it’s that character I love” and “man, I really enjoyed that game.” Square Enix also intended this to be an introduction to younger audiences, which would explain the game’s lighthearted tone and humor (which, at times, is quite clever), cartoony designs, and forgiving difficulty.
One of the game’s selling points is its graphical design. While some of the most important characters look like they came straight out of the Kingdom Hearts universe—including their personalities—, the majority of the cast adopts chibi-like characteristics. The protagonists can change between their regular and this chibi appearance at will, which influences party formations. It may sound and look off at first, to have Funko Pop figures interacting and fighting, but as long as your mind is open enough to this aesthetic it doesn’t take long until they fit the setting like a glove. Even when the twins are in their regular form the lilikins (as the chibi characters are called) are cohesive. I was sold on the visuals from the start, but I was particularly surprised by the monster design, which features some of the cutest FF creatures since the moogles. Also, props to how well the engine implements lighting effects and depth of field to make boring sceneries more appealing.
Another aspect that took me by surprise was the soundtrack. Having played other Final Fantasy spin-offs including The 4 Heroes of Light and Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates, I wasn’t expecting much of World of Final Fantasy’s music. I was quickly blown away by jolly and whimsical tracks, soothing piano melodies, and a few dramatic compositions that would fit comfortably into the main series. Primarily composed by Masashi Hamauzu (also responsible for the FFXIII trilogy), the soundtrack counts with many original songs that stand out on their own as well as arrangements of classic songs such as a bunch of battle themes, field themes, and even character themes.
Of course, we can’t talk about Final Fantasy and not mention combat. I noticed that, whereas the main series focuses on experimenting with battle systems, the spin-offs present little innovation. With the good old Active Time Battle system as its basis, World of Final Fantasy sets itself apart thanks to its gimmicky party formation which makes use of the protagonists’ form as well as different monster sizes to create dynamic groups called “stacks.” Each of the twins is the focus point of a stack, formed by them and two more monsters. If they’re using their regular forms, they can stack one medium and one small monster on top of their heads. However, as lilikin, they can ride a large monster whilst balancing a small one atop their heads.
Though World of Final Fantasy doesn’t have a roster as incredibly large as Pokemon’s, the variety of combinations can be overwhelming. Much like Nintendo’s beloved franchise, players capture monsters (called “mirages” in the lore) through a process called “imprism,” which involves more than only weakening the creature. Each mirage has their specific imprism conditions, such as causing enough damage, bestowing a status effect, or even healing them. The odds of taming can be as frustrating as Pokemon, but the process and the fact you don’t require specific items to even these odds is a refreshing change of pace.
World of Final Fantasy diverges drastically from Pokemon after mirages are captured. Each of them has their own mirage board, which function similarly to a regular skill board. Upon leveling up, the mirages acquire skill points which can be spent on a variety of nodes. They also have their own evolution lines, interchangeable at will to fit specific stacks or help the twins traverse obstacles. The most interesting part is how stacking works. Individually, each party unit has their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Upon stacking, however, all their stats are combined and their abilities, accessible by the whole stack. On top of that, combining units with the same ability will grant access to the next tier of that ability once they are stacked. For instance, having Lann balancing a creature with “Fire” whilst he rides another who also wields “Fire” will make “Fira” accessible from the abilities menu.
Though interesting, this unique take on party formations also means the usual grinding can be a necessity at times. The game is never too difficult to require specific mirages, yet there might be moments when grinding to acquire certain abilities or transfigurations will prove useful. Thankfully, World of Final Fantasy counts with a few “boost options” such as maximum gil, no AP cost, and even no encounters whatsoever, all of which can be useful if you want to get somewhere quickly or easily collect mirages. As nice as it is to have such options available, I wish they were as vast as Bravely Default, which goes as far as allowing players to set the enemy encounter rate.
For $40, World of Final Fantasy might be a mixed bag. For starters, there’s nothing remarkable about the port. It runs perfectly fine on my i7 and GTX 1050 Ti, but it has just as many optimization options as the FFXIII and XIII-2 ports—not to mention it’s locked at 30FPS. The fact that it was released for the PS4 and Vita means there are technical limitations that usually drive PC gamers away such as small maps and a considerable number of loading screens. On the other hand, the game has varied environments that are fun to explore and offers more than 30 hours of content.
Its worth depends on what you seek. If you’re a fan of the franchise, there’s a lot to enjoy thanks to polished mechanics, nostalgic characters, and jokes regarding the Final Fantasy franchise as well as pop culture in general. If you enjoy the collecting aspect of Pokemon, World of Final Fantasy will keep you entertained enough with its decently sized roster, all the possible party combinations, and the different forms the mirages can take. However, if you’re looking for great storytelling, interesting towns, and replay value, $40 could be better spent somewhere else.
- Characters from the Final Fantasy franchise come together for the sake of nostalgia
- Cleverly funny at times
- Interesting graphic designs with a reimagination of classic FF sprites
- Beautiful and diverse soundtrack, surprising for a spin-off
- The gimmicky party system is rather fun to play with
- For $40, the PC port is a mixed bag
- Underdeveloped plot and characters
- While funny, its overall humor suffers greatly from JRPG tropes
- Since it also came out for the Vita, this port has a lot of loading screens
- Though the game runs well enough, the optimization options are very limited