Over the years there has been no shortage of Final Fantasy spin offs. From entire series such as Crystal Chronicles, mashups like Chocobo Mystery Dungeon, to one offs like Final Fantasy Explorers. Most have been met with mixed reviews from the great to the middling. At first look it would be easy to dismiss World of Final Fantasy as a cutesy entry into an already saturated franchise, but to do so would be missing out on a gem.
It’s hard to deny with its chibi graphics that the cuteness in this game can undermine the potential menace. Even when a monster is supposed to be imposing you just want to run up and hug them. But don’t mistake the games cuteness for utter simplicity. There are a lot of different systems at work here that make for a true Final Fantasy experience.
World of Final Fantasy is a modern day Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. For those that don’t remember Mystic Quest was an oversimplified adventure on rails that was created as an entry point to the series for the west. Some took offense to a dumbed down Final Fantasy but I was young enough that I just viewed it as another Final Fantasy for my SNES. I replayed it as recently as this year and still find joy in some of it. World of Final Fantasy can bridge the same gap that Mystic Quest did in the early 90s but it is not nearly as simple.
While the parallel of serving as entry points holds, World of Final Fantasy isn’t over the top simplified like Mystic Quest, even though at some point it is over the top cute. There are a number of different systems at work here to add complexity to your adventure. Most of them deal with your party composition.
You’ll start your adventure as twins Reynn and Lann seeking to uncover the truths of your past. While you won’t wake up suffering from complete amnesia you’ll quickly realize this brother and sister duo have no idea who they truly are. You’ll set out to discover the pair’s heritage, and why they are being assisted by mysterious deities. Maybe you’ll also find out why they insist on spelling Jiant with a j instead of a g.
The influence of collector games like Pokemon is obvious in World of Final Fantasy but the game takes it a bit further than just having to catch them all. As you encounter mirages there are different requirements that have to be met before you can imprism them, yes that is a pun off of imprison. Some mirages simply need to take physical damage for you to attempt to imprism them. Others actually need you to heal them. Some mirages need you to cast a status ailment on them that is only accessible by having previously captured certain mirages. The further you progress in the game the more complex capturing mirages can become.
Imprismed mirages can be carried around with you, up to 8 at a time, and worked into your stacks. A stack consists of one large, medium, and small member. Reynn and Lann each have their own stack and can take up either a large or a small slot. The other two slots are filled with mirages. The mirages that you carry with you but don’t take into combat as part of your stack will earn a small portion of the experience you earn each battle so they aren’t completely left in the cold. As mirages level you can choose new abilities for them on a mirage board. This are similar to the skill board found in Final Fantasy X, only a lot smaller. Each mirage also has a latent elemental affinity. As you level mirages and gain access to more skills your stacks will gain access to combo abilities. If you have a stack of two mirages that can cast fire you’ll gain access to the fira spell. Some combos are also great at toppling your enemy’s stacks and making them weaker.
The skill board isn’t the only thing that reminds me of Final Fantasy X. The camera does as well. You’ll only get glimpses of the overworld map. You’ll never really traverse it. The maps you’ll interact with are small interconnected sections of larger areas. You do not have free access to rotate the camera 360 degrees nor do you have the ability to zoom the camera in or out. Anyone that has played Final Fantasy VII through X will find this camera setup very familiar. Due to its limitations it can make it easy to overlook that out of the way nook tucked off in the corner. But sometimes I think that might be intentional.
Your mirages aren’t just useful in combat either. They can escort you out of combat and serve a variety of purposes. You can ride those that have the joyride ability as mounts. Some have a stroll ability and can accompany you and find hidden items on the map for you. Still others have special abilities and can interact with obstacles on the map and help you clear them. The Floating Eye has the flutter ability and can help you fly over small sections of water.
The voice acting is surprisingly good, especially compared to Final Fantasy Class Zero where it was exceptionally bad. Even when delivering hamfisted comidic lines the actors manage not to come off too saccharin. The banter between Reynn, Lann, and their mirages comes off as playful, familial, and sometimes helpful. They typically drop hints about what it is you are supposed to be doing at that moment in the story so if for any reason you have to take an extended break you can probably pick right back up where you left off which isn’t always the case in a RPG.
There is a lot to like in this game and the deeper I dug the more I enjoyed it. While the game does have a lot of fan service none of it is so complex that you can’t enjoy the overall experience if you haven’t played any other Final Fantasy game. For those that have played a lot of Final Fantasies you are in for a treat. Beyond the cast of recurring supporting characters such as Biggs, who makes his return as an incognito reporter, there are recurring themes too. Oppressive evil empires trying to exert their will on tinier friendly nation states, the ability to summon more powerful assistants to battle. You know, the typical Final Fantasy tropes. This game also is very humorous, whether it is goofy one liners, self-aware deprecating humor in the description of mirages, to spoofs of the current Seattle coffee culture. There is a lot of fun to be had in World of Final Fantasy for fans old and new alike.
A review copy of World of Final Fantasy was provided by Square Enix’s PR team and tested on the PS4.
Gameplay: 8 | Collecting, powering up, and stacking mirages makes for deceptively addicting gameplay. A few hours in this really feels like a true Final Fantasy entry.
Visuals and Sound: 9 | The visual are appealing. The character art is great in giant or chibi fashion. The voice acting is top notch for a Final Fantasy game. The only thing truly missing is those iconic FF fanfare’s when destroying your enemy.
Polish: 8 | The game runs great. Kept a constant frame rate. Draw distances were nice. Could use better control of the camera in the overland areas.
Longevity: 8 | With tons of mirages to capture and mini games to collect there are lots to things to do besides just the main story.
Value: 8 | $59.99 for this PS4 title is standard price. There is a lot of content packed into this title.
FINAL SCORE: 8.2