Announced at E3 last year, World of Final Fantasy is designed as a celebration of the franchise’s almost 30-year history, co-developed by Square Enix and Tose. Although it features an entirely new story, many of the game’s characters and locations will be familiar to fans of the series. So, let’s find out whether World of Final Fantasy is a worthy addition to the franchise’s legacy.
Despite World of Final Fantasy containing various references to past games, the main protagonists are in fact completely new to the series. Fifteen-year-old twins Lann and Reynn are Mirage Keepers, who have the power to place monsters – known as Mirages – under their control. Once upon a time, they had legions of Mirages at their disposal, but have since lost all memory of them.
However, with a little help from a mysterious woman known as Enna Kros and a magical fox named Tama, the duo soon set out on a journey across the strange world of Grymoire, in the hope of fulfilling their foretold destinies. It’s certainly not the most original premise for a JRPG, but it gets away with it due to the game’s effortless charm and humorous delivery.
As well as paying homage to Final Fantasy itself, the game also takes inspiration from several other JRPG series; notably Kingdom Hearts (due to its child-friendly approach and aesthetics), but there are also elements of non-Square Enix developed titles such as Persona and Pokémon. In many ways, World of Final Fantasy feels like a celebration of the genre as much as the franchise.
As you might expect, most of your time in the game is split between exploring towns and other regions, and battling enemies in dungeons. Combat is built around Final Fantasy’s usual element-based mechanics (fire is weak against water, water is weak against lightning etc.), but with its own quirks; for example, imprisming, which is the act of capturing a monster to join your party.
Again, as with Final Fantasy games of old, most battle encounters occur randomly while exploring a dungeon or other dangerous area. Similarly, combat is generally turn-based (think Final Fantasy X), although you can also choose to play with time flowing continuously (à la Final Fantasy XIII). This is just one example of how World of Final Fantasy caters to several different playstyles.
Another central mechanic of combat is a new feature called stacking. In battle, Lann and Reynn are joined by four Mirages they have captured, so you can have up to six active party members at a time. However, rather than keep everyone as separate characters, you can also choose to stack them on top of one another, in two stacks of three; one for Lann and one for Reynn.
This is usually a good idea, as stacking three characters (one small, one medium and one large) adds all their stats together – such as HP and attack power – allowing them to take more hits or deal more damage. Unfortunately, it also means that individual characters’ weaknesses are shared between the whole group, so learning when to efficiently stack (or unstack) is a big part of combat.
Battles offer a nice amount of customisation too, as you not only have full control over the composition of your party, but each Mirage also has its own unique skill tree. This gives you the opportunity to regulate their development, allowing you to prioritise which abilities and attributes you wish to focus on, and consequently widening your range of options on the battlefield.
I may have previously described the game as ‘child-friendly’, but that doesn’t mean it is in any way easy. Unlike other recent Final Fantasy games, you do not recover HP automatically after battle, and dying in a dungeon will typically force you to start it from the beginning. There are also many high-level challenges and quests to complete, so there is no shortage of end-game content.
It should go without saying for a Final Fantasy game, but the presentation is fantastic across the board. This is particularly impressive considering that World of Final Fantasy took a fraction of the development time of many other games in the series (upon its release later this month, Final Fantasy XV will have been in development in one form or another for well over a decade).
The art style is absolutely adorable (I mean, just take a look at the screenshots in this review), while the sound effects and music are consistently charming. Whether you are in the heat of battle or exploring a peaceful town, there is always a catchy tune playing in the background. Furthermore, all dialogue is fully voiced, which helps breathe even more life into the world of Grymoire.
One very minor complaint I have with the game is that there is no option to turn off the subtitles, which is usually my preference, and it is similarly disappointing that the Japanese voice-overs were only available as a pre-order bonus. It also appears that you can only have one save file active at a time, which means you can’t have multiple save games on a single PSN profile.
I only played the PlayStation 4 version for this review, but it’s worth mentioning that World of Final Fantasy is also available on PS Vita, and features seamless Cross Saving between the two consoles, as well as a shared PSN Trophy list. Having become a bit of a white elephant in the last few years, it’s encouraging to see Square Enix still supporting Sony’s second handheld console.
Overall, World of Final Fantasy is an incredible tribute to the series, and impressively serves as both a nostalgic trip for veteran fans or as an effective entry point for newcomers. Grymoire is full to bursting with striking environments and colourful characters (both new and familiar), and I can see myself returning to this mysterious land again and again to discover its many secrets.