Review: World of Final Fantasy builds upon a proven model
A strong turn based RPG undermined by its tone
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Publisher: Square Enix
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher
If you told me I was going to enjoy a Final Fantasy game this year, I wouldn’t have believed you, but after my promising experience demoing Final Fantasy XV, and now having played World of Final Fantasy, Square Enix seems to be two for two.
The games couldn’t be more different: one takes place in a hyper-realized setting where an ongoing war threatens to tear the world in two and the other has you transforming into Funko Pop-esque chibi characters and stacking chickens on your head. One is more hack and slash; the other a turn based RPG. It’s exciting to have both of these experiences releasing this fall.
Whilst I’m not well versed in the totality of Final Fantasy lore, the abundance of references and connections to games past means that even if you have a cursory knowledge of the franchise there’ll be at least a few things that you will pick up on.
In World of Final Fantasy, you play as Lann and Reynn; a brother and sister who live in another dimension that is almost entirely devoid of life. They haven’t always been there and over the course of the game you discover their history. The twins have a unique ability to control mirages, which are for all intents and purposes, the Pokémon of this game. You enter the world of Grymoire, capturing and fighting with these creatures, albeit it with a few additional features than Game Freak’s seminal RPG.
Each mirage has their own skill tree allowing for greater depth to the creatures and the game has an interesting stacking system in which Lann or Reynn can perch a mirage atop their head. The stacking system allows for a variety of different combat styles. If you stack the twins with mirages, their power is combined allowing for a stronger single attack. However, not stacking also has its benefits, as you can fit more moves in your turn with each character attacking separately. In Grymoire, Lann or Reynn can switch between Lilikin and Jiant forms (I’ll leave you to guess which is big and which is small). This can change the stacking system, which revolves around a small, medium and large design. When in their regular state, the twins will always be on the bottom of the stack, but in their cuter, petite forms they will sit in the middle. Figuring out whether a stack is the best form of attack, and if so, how to combine characters and mirages is a game within itself. It’s a well thought out system and you will never have one fight style that you always rely on.
What’s not as well thought out is the story. Whilst it tries to tackle some serious topics and attempts to appeal to an older generation of RPG gamers, it can’t help but be adorable at every turn. The tone just feels like it’s constantly at odds with itself. The epitome of this is Tama, a mirage that serves as the Meowth of the game, i.e. the one creature that can speak. And like Meowth, Tama is just as annoying if not more so. Tama is your guide for most of the game, and couldn’t be worse at their job. On top of constantly talking, they like to throw a “the” whenever they can in a sentence when it has no business being there.
You have to the-have a high tolerance in the-order to sit through one the-second of Tama the-talking.
Seriously. I’m not joking, every single sentence is like that and Tama probably has more dialogue in the game than any other character. It’s so terrible, that I found myself skipping through dialogue, performing mental ninjutsu to piece together what was happening without listening to what was being said.
Tama’s not the only one suffering from a poor script, Lann is so mind numbingly dimwitted that it’s amazing he even has the power to imprism a mirage. Yep, that’s also another cute thing the game has: you imprism mirages because instead of a Pokéball its a cube. Anyway, back to Lann. ,the poor kid acts as the surrogate to the gamer, specifically, a younger gamer who may be a little lost in terms of following along. So when the game lays on the exposition thick, it’s Lann who needs the layman’s, undermining his otherwise competent character. The story, around halfway through, starts shedding its tweed coat for a more serious one, but it never lets go of it fully, and if you're not an 8-year-old it wears thin very quickly. I understand that World of Final Fantasy is trying to appeal to a broad age range, but I can’t help but feel that it could have been handled a little better.
This is where we draw the obvious comparison: Ni No Kuni. Level 5 and Studio Ghibli’s masterclass JRPG is the perfect example of how you can build a fantastic role playing game that appeals to all ages. Ni No Kuni gives its audience the credit that World of Final Fantasy does not. That being said, the battling system in World of Final Fantasy is substantially more robust. I just wish it would have taken as much time to think about its narrative tone.