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World of Final Fantasy (PlayStation 4) artwork

World of Final Fantasy (PlayStation 4) review

"A celebration worth attending."

Final Fantasy means a lot to me. I started with the first game on the NES. But I really became a fan, like mostly everybody else, with Final Fantasy VII. Since then, I have developed a picture in my mind of what Final Fantasy means to me. I like to think that every fan has such a mental image, and itís a little different for everybody. While Final Fantasy XV is trying to redefine what the franchise stands for, World of Final Fantasy looks to embrace everything fans have come to love about the franchise since its inception almost 30 years ago.

World of Final Fantasy opens with the story of Reyn and Lann, twins living together in a world that only they inhabit, being invited to Grymoire by the presumed god of the universe. Itís here that they are told to catch monsters, known as mirages, grow stronger and maybe even reunite with their family. Along the way, they meet up with classic Final Fantasy characters and monsters, and unravel the mystery of what happened to them and the world of Grymoire.

For the first 40 or so hours, World of Final Fantasy is jolly jaunt through a lot of Final Fantasy fan service. Over the course of the adventure, the twins make friends with characters from the Warrior of Light to Lightning, and even some rather obscure characters like Sherlotta. Itís all a lot of fun and legitimately funny, with a great script and overall fantastic voice work.

Itís easy, however, to criticize World of Final Fantasy for not really doing anything with its main scenario after setting it up at the beginning. There are some mumblings of destiny, the Federation and other nonsense that really doesnít jibe with the fun atmosphere, but that finally sorts itself at the end of the game, when everything is dumped on the player almost all at once. I felt that those last 10 hours or so were easily the game's best moments, but other players may not ever see them because they may not be able to handle spending so long messing around with humorous adventures before the game reaches it abrupt and dramatic payoff.

The narrative isnít going to do it for most, but Iím confident World of Final Fantasyís novel approach to monster raising will. As Lann and Reyn make their way through Grymoire, they will capture a variety of classic Final Fantasy monsters and raise them to do battle. The actual raising mechanic is pretty standard, with monsters leveling up and gaining new abilities through a sphere grid-like system reminiscent of Final Fantasy X.

Battles will also be instantly recognizable to fans of the franchise, as the classic ATB system is once again employed. This is the default option, but players can also switch to a wait system that stops time at every playable character's turn. I found myself having to use wait because some enemies, especially the final boss, take their turns so quickly that itís hard to pick proper abilities in time. The game tries to sidestep this with a basic battle UI that offers access to abilities at the press of a button, but I found the classic UI that mimics the older games to be more far more usable.

World of Final Fantasy, however, separates itself from the likes of Pokemon and Digimon through two new systems: capture and stacking. To capture each breed of monster, you must first satisfy a prerequisite. Some of those may be as simple as lowering a monster's HP beyond a certain threshold, while others require the player to inflict a specific status effect or elemental attack. These effects can be stacked to raise the chances of a capture, and a capture condition can also wear off over time. These two combined rules can sometimes prove annoying, especially when the capture prerequisite is something like landing a critical attack.

As for stacking, Lann and Reyn can transform between a small form and a larger form. In their small form, they can stand on a large monster and stack a small monster on their head. As for large form, they stack a medium and small monster on their head. These monsters add to their stats, and also impart special abilities, bringing a lot of strategy to battles as players have to keep elemental strengths and weaknesses in mind. Players also can unstack to obtain additional turns in a pinch, but every individual character and monster is weaker for it. Thereís never much need to unstack, though, rendering this particular tactic largely superfluous.

Optimizing stacks may not always come in handy, but it will when you are participating in the special intervention quests. Early in the game, Reyn and Lann find themselves in a clock room with a mysterious girl who offers to let them fight their friendsí battles on their behalf. Not only do these situations often present some of the most challenging fights in the game, but theyíre often also the funniest. Theyíre also a great way to spend more time with the more familiar Final Fantasy characters, as the main story isnít that concerned with letting you get to know the likes of Cloud and Terra before it shuttles you off to your next destination.

As for the dungeon design, I was pleasantly surprised. After the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, I was convinced that Square had given up on creating interesting dungeons full of puzzles. Fortunately, thatís not the case here, as almost every dungeon has a gimmick and secret paths that can be uncovered using monster abilities. Itís not until the end that the dungeons become long slogs through repetitive environments, but that flaw is easy to forgive when weighed against all the good that came before.

World of Final Fantasy is also quite the looker. Its cartoon aesthetic is pleasing enough all by itself, and the monster design is top notch. Itís hard to criticize a game that puts a conductorís hat on a cactuar, after all. The environments are similarly gorgeous and realized. The only downside is that since itís also a Vita game, World of Final Fantasy never gets too ambitious with its environments, so as not to tax the handheld.

Final Fantasy XV is looking to be the biggest shakeup the the franchise has seen since Final Fantasy XI. Meanwhile, World of Final Fantasy functions as a nice reminder of what the series has been up until this point. The game isnít going to be everything for everybody, but I feel that fans of the franchise will find something to love in Squareís quirky little love letter to their storied franchise. It might even help bring new fans into the fold, and help them to see why we havenít shut up about suplexing ghost trains or growing to love flower girls for almost three decades.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (November 14, 2016)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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