What happens when you take the classic Final Fantasy foundation, throw in Pokémon-like monster collecting, chibi characters and anime cut scenes, and literally stack them all on top of each other? The correct answer, of course, is a hit. On the heels of the Final Fantasy franchise’s 30th anniversary, World of Final Fantasy offers a great starting point for players new to the series and a heavy dose of nostalgia for gamers with decades of experience with the seminal RPG series.
The story centers around twins Lann and Reynn, who awaken in an empty town in the world of Grymoire with mysterious marks on their arms. These marks allow them to capture and deploy Mirages, the world’s enemy beasts, by their sides in battle… and also on their heads. What starts out as a mission to collect Mirages turns into a classic Final Fantasy story spanning over 40 hours of gameplay with more than 100 Mirages to collect, transform and battle with.
The art style is something that immediately pops out. On Playstation 4, environments are bright and vivid, and give off a sense of wonder that is reminiscent of games like Kingdom Hearts and Ni No Kuni. Players will explore icy caverns, fiery caves, and vast deserts, as well as some locations taken out of other Final Fantasy titles. Visually, accessibility is on point. There is no major red/green overlapping, and font in and out of menus are bright and easy to read.
Subtitles and translation in general are very accurate, which large fonts and speaker names displayed. However, the white font of the subtitles can often be drowned out by the background and become difficult to read. Some voices aren’t subtitled, like when summoning a Champion in battle, but nothing they say is important to the story or gameplay. Japanese voice acting is included in the menu, which fits better with the lip syncing than the English voice acting.
Voice acting is absolutely stellar. Every character, including assorted townspeople, has their own voice, and everyone is given their own personality. Some are over the top, with others being subdued and mysterious. The script and voice acting are always perfectly in-sync, and it brings so much life and color to the world of Grymoire. Final Fantasy games always have stellar localization that often gets overlooked, but World of Final Fantasy is as great as it is because of the joyful personality it exudes.
Each location you travel to in the world has a little bit of everything you’d expect from Final Fantasy dungeon design. Hidden chests, secret bosses, and mini-quests populate every area. Progressing through the story is a joy. Reynn and Lann, along with Tama, your first Mirage introduced to you at the beginning of the game, banter with each other as you walk along your journey. Dialogue is lighthearted and goofy and I laughed out loud several times during the first portion of the game alone. Anime cut scenes take over during big moments in the game, and they’re so well done and beautiful that it made me crave a proper Final Fantasy anime more than I ever thought I would.
Nostalgia is a key component of the game, with heroes from across the last three decades joining forces in the world of Grymoire. Almost every mainline Final Fantasy is represented, with heroes like Tidus, Cloud, Bartz. Many more memorable heroes cross paths with Reynn and Lann along the way. The chibi character design is not only adorable, it’s grounded in the narrative, as well as having an effect on your party’s construction. Both Reynn and Lann can switch freely between big and small forms, allowing them to fit into different party combinations.
World of Final Fantasy bills itself as an accessible starting point for children and newcomers alike, and a lot of care was taken to ensure everyone could play this game regardless of age or ability level.The game offers as much depth as the player can reasonably handle. Player parties are constructed by way of stacking. As the name suggests, stacking allows players to place monsters on top of their heads to gain a boost of stats and use of their abilities. Stacking Mirages with specific skills in specific orders can give players new abilities. For example, if you stack two Mirages with Fira, a level two fire spell, the stack will gain the level three Firaga spell. It’s an interesting system that encourages experimentation.
The biggest strength of the battle system is the sheer amount of options available. Battles are turn-based with the option to choose between a wait or active system. Wait allows players ample time to make their choices, while active offers a challenge to those who are more familiar with the battle system. What is more impressive is the ease of navigating the battle menu. The default is a circular menu that works by moving the left stick in one of four directions and pressing a face button to select an assigned ability, which can be completely customized. Pressing L1, however, brings up a traditional menu that lists every skill, ability, summon and option available to you. Other helpful additions include the ability to “auto” battle, and fast forward.
Traversing the world and exploring dungeons is a straightforward experience for anyone familiar with JRPGs. There are no platforming sections and very few puzzles to solve. Small minigames appear later on in the story, but they could be skipped outright if they cannot be completed by the player. I found some of these sections to be vague, clunky, and frustrating, so it’s very refreshing to see the developers allow players to fail and still progress the narrative. In fact, if your party falls at any point outside of a boss fight, you just get transported to the main hub town and suffer no penalty whatsoever. In certain important battles, death would lead to a game over, but there is a save point located right outside of every one of these encounters.
World of Final Fantasy has something for every type of gamer, with this being the most family friendly game in the 30 years of the franchise. Part of me wishes I had a son or daughter to sit down and play with to introduce them to a series that captivated me as a child, and grew with me as I got older. Square-Enix hit the sweet spot, including an ample amount nostalgia and accessibility. The Final Fantasy series has always been inherently accessible, but World of Final Fantasy takes it to a whole new level with the sheer amount of options available. I imagine World of Final Fantasy is meant to be a singular experience, but this is exactly the refreshing change of pace the Final Fantasy franchise needs. Characters this fun and charismatic deserve a chance to be seen again, and I hope they have a chance to be an integral part of the next 30 years of Final Fantasy.