With the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy, Square Enix is releasing World of Final Fantasy. The game very much appears to try and create an experience that will appeal to nearly every Final Fantasy fan, be it through game mechanics, character line-up, appearing monsters, or story. World of Final Fantasy does its absolute best to create a game that appeals to nearly every Final Fantasy fan, and it hits the mark very well.
The story is a very Final Fantasy affair. The two main characters, Reynn and Lann, have lost their memories. The only thing they know is what they have been taught by a mysterious woman: they are both Mirage Keepers, and were previously great and powerful ones. They are also taught that there are multiple worlds, and our hero and heroine are directed to one named Grymoire, where they were fabled and legendary heroes. Whilst trying to build up their old army of Mirages, they will also try to reclaim their memories.
Again, the game is a very Final Fantasy affair, especially when it comes to character interaction. In my experience with Final Fantasy, there is a history of jokes that have missed their marks and end up just feeling embarrassing. World of Final Fantasy has a much higher hit rate with their jokes, causing me to chuckle and grin. The interaction between Reynn, Lann, and other characters have been incredibly pleasurable. A noteworthy and enjoyable dynamic is Lann’s instances of cluelessness and Reynn’s response of chastising Lann for such cluelessness. Accompanying cast members, such as Tama, also contribute to the game’s authentic interactions. Due to Tama’s flexibility, she can and is used effectively to provide comic relief, exposition, and tutorial tips.
This Final Fantasy doesn’t have as much of a focus on party units in the same way as previous games. You engage with Lann and Reynn accompanied by several Mirages. Mirages are the monsters of World of Final Fantasy, and can be captured, or imprismed. This is done in a unique fashion. To have the chance to imprism a Mirage you need to fulfill a certain condition, be it usual ones that are normally going to be met in battle (such as inflicting physical damage) or ones that you would need to go out of your way to cause, like healing an opponent. These prismtunities last for several turns, and allows you to try and imprism them. Similar to monster catching mechanics in other games, you only have a chance to catch them, meaning there is never a guarantee that you will capture the Mirage that you want.
These Mirages also have access to abilities, and they work similarly to Spirits from Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. In it, spirits would acquire skills by expending Link Points. The same logic applies with the Mirage Board system. When you acquire a Mirage, it starts with 3 Ability Points, and gains one per level. By acquiring skills throughout the board, you can unlock a transfiguration, which allows a new Mirage Board. This opens up the possibility of gaining new abilities whilst retaining some of its old, passive ones. A transfiguration also allow you to shift your Mirage’s forms, and reminds me largely of Digimon, in that they can be transfigured into bigger forms, or backwards into older, smaller forms.
These Mirages can also be stacked. Stacking is essential in World of Final Fantasy. You must organize yourself into stacks. Reynn and Lann can transform into Lilikin or Jiants, who are considered medium and large, respectively. Each Mirage also has a size class, consisting of small, medium, and large. By stacking yourself with the Mirages you will collate your skills and stats into one unit. You fight with two stacks, one for Lann, and one for Reynn. Strategic stacking is paramount to minimize damage taken with resistances, and maximizing output with relevant abilities and spells so that you can exploit weaknesses. Lann and Reynn cannot have skills by default without having Mirajewels, which you can use to give them both skills. They are effectively similar to Materia in previous games. You have a limited number of slots to apply these Mirajewels to, so choosing them to exploit typical Mirage weaknesses, or to provide support when needed is beneficial. You can gain more slots by fulfilling certain conditions, usually by leveling up.
Your stacks can be unstacked in battle, be it by your own hand, or your enemies knocking you over. There is obviously advantages to both stacked and unstacked formations. Stacked formations can inflict much higher levels of damage, have more health, and can withstand more damage. Unstacked formations inflict less damage, but allow more attacks to happen. When these attacks can inflict status effects (and you’re facing a large amount of enemies), unstacking and using these ailment inducing abilities may help. The strategic play this system allows for is extremely fun, and experimenting with Mirage stacks has been an overall pleasurable experience.
The battle system itself can be customized extensively to allow for many different styles of play. Do you prefer a more streamlined battle experience? Basic menus give you four inputs for abilities, whereas classic menus are very much like old-school Final Fantasy games in aesthetic and function. This allows you to manually change targets for your attacks, as well as access all of your skills with ease. You can also enable the hallmark active time battle system so that the game waits for your move to finish before the active battle bar moves on, to determine whose turn is next whilst on wait mode. Semi-active ATB will have the bar progress while in basic mode, and have it wait in classic. Active ATB will have the active time bar move constantly, regardless of your mode.
This level of customization in battle options allows for people to play the game as they like, whether that they want a challenge, or just a way to play the game without expending too much effort. This also allows for those interested in Final Fantasy, but are on different skill levels to be involved. I think it would be fair to call World of Final Fantasy the most accessible Final Fantasy, even with the callbacks to previous Final Fantasy games. A new player would likely find enjoyment with this game when it comes to how satisfying and entertaining the battle system is.
Battles also allow you to use champions, which use one-off moves. These are normally powerful and act as limit breaks. As you are dealt damage and kill enemies, you build up a champion gauge. By expending stars (which you acquire by filling the champion gauge) you can activate a champion. These are usually offensive skills with a buff or a healing effect to some degree, be it a mass heal or complete revival. These are incredibly helpful, and are normally followed by an animation that are actually brilliantly fun to watch. Since these aren’t used massively often (and you can carry three Champions) they don’t really seem to get old. Not to mention that you can switch them out a lot given the frequency in which you acquire them.
Another big element is a substitution for summoning. Some Mirages will have an extra-large size class. These cannot be used in stacks, so by expending AP stored by both Lann and Reynn, you can have one supposedly powerful Mirage in battle. An issue here, however, is that they are barely worth using upon acquiring them. It requires a lot of work to level them up, increase their stats, and acquire skills to make them battle-ready. Even when they are summoned, I question whether it is as efficient as using two stacks. As such, I find myself ignoring the feature mostly, which is unfortunate, since the design of these extra-large Mirages are awesome.
The game also has a very distinct aesthetic. As mentioned, Lann and Reynn can switch between Lilikin and Jiants. Jiants are the more human versions of characters, whilst Lilikin are more chibi in their appearance. Grymoire’s characters all appear as Lilikin, or in some kind of chibi form. This leads to an aesthetic that’s largely adorable, whilst still allowing the monsters to retain their original aesthetic feel. Cerberus still looks incredibly cool whilst maintaining a vague air of cuteness, for example (seen below).
One issue I noticed, however, is that you can only have one game saved. For those intending to do multiple playthroughs while keeping your older saves intact to engage in post-game content, this is not possible. This is unfortunate (and something I expected to be present) and the absence of this feature may be an off-putting factor to you.
World of Final Fantasy is a brilliant Final Fantasy game. Its adherence to its more old-school values has served Square Enix well in this instance, as it has done with Bravely Default and Bravely Second. If you’re looking for some more Final Fantasy to tide you over until Final Fantasy XV‘s ever encroaching launch date, this will definitely keep you satisfied. Alternatively, if you are not a fan of Square Enix’s more recent Final Fantasy and XV is looking like more of the same to you, maybe the newer take on their older systems will be more to your liking. Ultimately, I find World of Final Fantasy to be an excellent turn based RPG, with it’s only real downfall being some jokes missing the mark and inducing some second-hand embarrassment, which can also lead to some amusement, if you are into that kind of thing.