World Of Final Fantasy Review – A Realm Reborn
The beloved Final Fantasy franchise has struggled to maintain popularity among fans in recent years. While many wait in hope for the upcoming Final Fantasy XV, Square-Enix delivered an alternative take on the series in the new title World of Final Fantasy. With the chibi cuteness levels off the charts and bizarre-seeming combat mechanics, did this RPG powerhouse step too far from the norm? Check out our World of Final Fantasy review for the full lowdown.
World Of Final Fantasy ReviewWhether your first impression of World of Final Fantasy was watching the official reveal, stumbling across some screenshots, or picking up the case at your local game store, there’s one element of the game that jumps up at you instantly – the style. Final Fantasy has never been afraid to take its art style in a new direction, but with the more traditional approach featured in Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy’s chibi style, vibrant colors, and minimalistic approach could well have fallen short of the mark.
I’d just got done with some hefty coverage of Dragon Quest Builders so I wasn’t sure I could stomach another overdose of cuteness, but for the first time in many years, Square-Enix really surprised me. When I first saw World of Final Fantasy, I made no attempt to hide my disappointment. I’ve always been a fan of more realistic art styles, and considered World of Final Fantasy’s aesthetics to be aimed at a younger audience.
However, I was completely off with this assumption. It didn’t take long for the games main characters and the world of Grymoire to capture my full attention, and eventually my heart. As a longtime Final Fantasy fan, I’ve long craved for the stories and characters that I held so dear from my younger years. I really enjoyed the earlier titles in the franchise, but I consider Final Fantasy V through Final Fantasy X the peak of the franchise. The depth of the characters and bonds they created with one another, the immersive worlds they inhabited, and the dramatic plot twists and storylines came together in such a way that they all left a lasting impression on me. Having not felt that connection with a Final Fantasy game for many years, I was beginning to feel I’d maybe outgrown the franchise. However, World of Final Fantasy has reignited that passion in a big way.
The story begins in a place called Nine Wood Hills and follows the journey of Reynn and her younger brother Lann as they enter a special portal to explore the world of Grymoire. They soon learn that they were once names of legend but have since lost the memories of their past achievements and with it, as any knowledge of who they were and what happened to their family. In traditional Final Fantasy fashion, you explore a world in turmoil seeking the answers to your deepest and most personal questions, all while saving the inhabitants of Grymoire on the way. Grymoire is a Kingdom Hearts-style world where players will encounter a mix of locations and environments from throughout the Final Fantasy franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the first game or only picked up the franchise in recent years, you’re sure to bump into scenarios that pluck those nostalgic heart strings. Nibelheim, a Mako Reactor, Saronia, and Cordelia are just some of the many locations from past games with many of those games’ most beloved characters making cameo appearances including Refia, Tidus and Yuna, Lightning and Snow, and Cloud and Tifa. Many of which can be unlocked to be used as summons, entering a battle with an explosive ability before retreating.
The delivery and pacing of the nostalgic elements of the game are executed to near perfection and for fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s reason enough to buy the game in itself – it really is that good. Thankfully, however, Square-Enix don’t rely entirely on the past to sell World of Final Fantasy, as it’s packed with nearly 50 hours of gameplay and trademark elements of the franchise including tons of side quests, turn-based combat, summons, collectibles and plenty of new innovations also.
The backbone of the games combat, exploration, and progression systems is the ability to “catch ’em all,” a la Pokemon. The world of Grymoire is filled with cute, colorful and often deadly beasts called Mirages. Adding requirements to unlock the ability to catch each Mirage makes the experience more challenging and rewarding than similar games – such as having to put a Mirage to sleep or inflict a certain elemental damage. While many of these are unique to World of Final Fantasy, there is just as many legendary names from the franchise including everything from a simple Goblin to Malboro’s, Ifrit’s, Cactuar’s and Tonberry’s – all of which can be captured and added to “stacks.” Each Mirage has a Sphere Grid (similar to the one found in Final Fantasy X) like progression system that unlocks through experience points and grants everything from improvements of core stats to powerful abilities and transfigurations, which evolve Mirages into new forms with a brand new grid of skills.
One of World of Final Fantasy’s most prominent features gives the player the ability to construct “stacks” featuring both the main playable characters and a combination of different sized Mirages. The option of switching between “Chibi” and “Jiant” forms means you’re able to use the main characters as either L (large) or M (medium) and then complete the stack with the appropriate sized Mirages. The moveset available is dependent on the abilities, stats, and elemental influences for each of the characters in a stack. This creates a huge variety of potential builds and gives the opportunity to create a near perfectly balanced force of all elements, heals, and status ailments. It took a while for me to warm to the visual elements of having characters stacked on the heads of smaller characters once I had accepted the visuals, the massive level of depth and opportunity within the stacking system stands out as one of World of Final Fantasy’s most interesting innovations.
Outside of the Mirages and building stacks, there’s a multitude of other elements that come into the combat system to keep it fresh and rewarding every step of the way. A number of iconic Final Fantasy characters can be unlocked and used in the way of traditional summons – briefly entering combat with a devastating ability. There’s also a system that’s very similar to the summoning found in Final Fantasy X, calling in special super-sized Mirages that act as a single unit in combat until recalled or killed. Combat represents a huge portion of this title’s playtime, but thankfully there’s plenty of variation to ensure the experience is worthwhile – there’s a nice speed-up option for those that grow a little tired of the combat animations.
The story elements of the game itself can easily carry 20-30 hours of game time, but the bulk of the experience comes with the side content. All of the areas you explore are home to specific Mirages, some of which require a little bit of exploration and puzzle solving to discover. There’s a Coliseum mode that offers a quick combat fix featuring enemies and scenarios from past and current Final Fantasy titles, and there’s plenty of hidden side quests offering more information on the past experiences and emotions that drive the characters you encounter. World of Final Fantasy does support multiplayer elements such as dueling and trading, but I had very little luck when attempting to participate in either. The multiplayer elements definitely felt a little rushed and didn’t seem to feature much thought – having to remain in a room to trade for what could be hours doesn’t make a lot of sense – but it’s an addition I’m sure many players will appreciate.
World of Final Fantasy took me by complete surprise. It’s a warming combination mix of Final Fantasy and Pokemon laced with enough Nostalgia to bring a tear to the eye. It’s not very often you see a franchise look backwards to move forward but World of Final Fantasy is a credit to the effort and passion put into the franchise in the last 20 years.