Game Review

by Dustin Bailey,

World of Final Fantasy

PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

Description:
World of Final Fantasy
Just in time for the series' 30th anniversary, World of Final Fantasy brings together characters new and old for a lighthearted role-playing adventure that builds on three decades of legacy while crafting its own identity.
Review:
It's been nearly 30 years since the four Warriors of Light crossed the bridge out of Cornelia and into our collective hearts, launching one of the biggest—if not the biggest—RPG franchises in the world. A new game a decade in development is a month away from setting the stage for the franchise's future, but before that monumental release, World of Final Fantasy takes us back through the series' past.

The world of Grymoire is home to people, places, and things from throughout the Final Fantasy multiverse, from Cornelia to Magitek Armor to Cloud, Tidus, and Lightning. You play as twin siblings, Lann and Reynn, a pair of amnesiac heroes thrust into this mysterious new world armed with the unique power to capture and command the monsters they come across. Their ability to control these creatures called “Mirages” is the center of both WoFF's gameplay and plot, and the core of what makes this a worthy entry into Final Fantasy's extended family.

Every Mirage has a trigger that will make them available for capture. For some, it's as simple as lowering their health. Others will have to be hit with a certain type of elemental damage, or impaired with a particular status effect, or in some cases even given a specific item. Once they're open for capture, you toss a prismarium at them—a spherical object which definitely bears resemblance to a Poké Ball—and hope that they don't escape. If successful, you've got a new party member to train and fight with.

Your party, however, isn't just made up of a line of battling Mirages. Instead you have two stacks of three creatures, including your human avatars, and these stacks inherit the strengths, weaknesses, and abilities of their constituents. You'll need a large, medium, and small creature in each stack, and ideally they'll synergize to have stronger abilities than the individuals. Stacking multiple Fire-users, for example, will typically grant the ability to cast Firaga. You've also got to mind your tower's stability rating, as enduring enough damage in battle will cause a stack to topple over, leaving its individual members stunned and weakened on the ground.

Mirages almost always have elemental strengths and weaknesses, so building an effective stack means maximizing the strengths of your specialized elements while ensuring that you've got a wide enough spread of spells to take on most opponents. As individual Mirages level up, they gain skill points that can be spent in a sort of simplified Sphere Grid, building up to more advanced abilities and opening blank spaces that can be filled with skills of your choice.

Seeking out strong Mirages and building a powerful stack is incredibly satisfying, as the right combination of creatures can wipe the floor with most any opposition. I found a good make-up about halfway through the story that let me steamroll everything all the way through to the final boss. With decent team-building strategies, this isn't a difficult game, and I even found myself auto-battling through most of the last few dungeons. Even if you run across a particularly challenging boss, experience points come fast and easy, meaning that any level grinding you choose to do will be over with fast.

You might call that lack of difficulty a weakness, but WoFF's focus is clearly on providing a light, customizable battle system rather than a particularly fearsome challenge. The game defaults to fully turn-based battles, but if you want some time crunch on your decision making, you can move to semi or fully active combat, where you have to make split-second decisions about what abilities to use before the enemy's attacks start piling up. You can change this option at any time, so it's not really a difficulty selector, but it can serve to make the battles a bit less easy.

In addition to your stacks of Mirages, you can call upon a cast of Final Fantasy favorites to help in battle, delivering powerful single attacks that typically bypass defenses and deal a whole lot of damage. These are functionally identical to the summons of the series' past, though having ultimate abilities tied to Cloud and Squall while regularly having battles alongside the likes of Shiva and Ifrit is a fun flip of the standard script. Your ability to summon is slowly charged by taking damage over the course of multiple battles, meaning that you'll likely be saving these special call-in for bigger boss battles.

Both in battle and the story, the returning Final Fantasy heroes are very much side characters there to facilitate the adventures of Lann and Reynn. That's ultimately a good thing, as it means World of Final Fantasy is able to stand on its own without falling to the trap of pure nostalgia. Yes, depending on how deep your fandom runs, you'll recognize almost the entirety of the supporting cast. But even if you've somehow never played a Final Fantasy game, WoFF would be able to stand on its own as a unique RPG with a terrific combat system.

You'll similarly explore locations both new and recognizable, and it's a bright, colorful patchwork that looks great despite its relative simplicity. The story presents a mostly linear run from beginning to end, but there are enough secret areas and unique mirages to collect that it avoids becoming a slog to the next objective point. You can easily fast travel between areas, making it a snap to scoop up whatever creature you happen to need at whatever time you need it.

This is a colorful cartoon world with a breezy plot and some very goofy dialog—mostly in a good way. Everybody is seriously earnest about their dumb puns and silly wordplay, and while it's clearly written with kids in mind it's all enthusiastic enough to be endearing. It helps that the English dub is largely pretty good. While a couple of characters can come off cloying, the cast largely sells the lighthearted adventure in a terrific way, whether they're fretting over their mysterious past or having an argument amount the misuse of verbiage. The game offers a Japanese voice track as well, though only to those who've picked up the Day 1 or Collector's Editions.

Those character interactions carry most of the story, because the details of the genre-standard plot certainly do not. “Amnesiac heroes with special powers learn about their past and save the world.” The characters themselves are strong enough to elevate a story that has minimal turns and only the most predictable of twists, but the game is smart to focus more on smaller vignettes than the overarching plot, which is the focus for only the final third of the 30-40 hour run time.

That length assumes a straight run through the main story and only a handful of explorations into optional objectives, but there is a plethora of side content. Beyond the obvious options of tracking down every Mirage and finding every secret nook of the dungeons, there's also a Coliseum where you can challenge unique lineups of foes and an extensive series of side stories focusing on the adventures of the chibi-fied Final Fantasy cast. These sections offer powerful rewards and some of the game's most memorable moments, making them well worth diving into even once the main story is over.

Probably the best way to describe World of Final Fantasy is “breezy.” It's got a fun combat system with depth but not a lot of challenge, and an entertaining story with personality but not a lot of depth. It's a colorful, delightful adventure while it's running, but it's not nearly as memorable as most of the games it references.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B+
Graphics : B
Sound/Music : B+
Gameplay : A-
Presentation : A

+ Deep customization makes creature collection satisfying, and there's a fun, colorful cast of characters new and old
Story never takes a particularly interesting shape, and you can auto-battle your way through big swaths of the game

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