The past few years have brought many Final Fantasy fans numerous love letters to the almost 30-year old franchise thanks to titles like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Mobius Final Fantasy, and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. As we wind closer to the release of Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix has one more of these love letters to release to fans before they experience the latest installment of the franchise. World of Final Fantasy is a vibrant and adorable title that harkens back to the past of Final Fantasy with gameplay system and chibi-renditions of popular characters from various games in the franchise.
Strangely, World of Final Fantasy reminds me of the oft-forgotten 2001 anime series Final Fantasy Unlimited. Both feature young twins seeing out the truth about their parents as they leave their modern world and are thrust into a magical one filled with Final Fantasy iconography, and discover their relationship to a destiny larger than they could have imagined. Final Fantasy Unlimited and World of Final Fantasy also happen to share the same purpose: to present Final Fantasy in an easy-to-digest manner for audiences who are new to the franchise while still featuring aspects of Final Fantasy that fans can enjoy.
World of Final Fantasy starts us off with the story of twins Lann and Reynn who have lost their memories and are told by the enigmatic Enna Kros that time has “stopped” for them, and that they have forgotten their role as Mirage Keepers. In order to regain their memories and restart time anew, they must travel to the world of Grymoire, collect all of the Mirages they have lost, and save Grymoire from destruction.
When they arrive in Grymoire, they find themselves in a world filled with small and adorable people called “Lilikans” who fear the wrath of the Bahamutian Army as they claim city after city for the tyrannical Federation. As Lann and Reynn travel to help take on the Bahamutian Army, they learn more about their grand destiny but it takes quite along time for any of this to build up to clear point.
During their journey, Lann provides the levity to diffuse most tense situations as the air-headed funny man of the duo. Reynn is much more logical, serving as the audience’s vehicle for unpacking new plot points revealed along the way, although she is a hothead once she gets angry. The twins’ conflicting personalities create a humorous manzai-like comedy duo that keeps the game’s narrative lively during treks through the dungeons of Grymoire, something you grow to appreciate as the story starts turns more serious and heavy later on.
For fans of classic turn-based combat, World of Final Fantasy will be the perfect game to sink your teeth into. The Active Time Battle(ATB) system comes in three flavors: Wait, Semi-Active, and Active. Each mode allows players to discover if they like waiting for their turn in order to plan their strategy or having a more fast-paced battle where you have to think on your toes. You are even given the choice of using the classic scroll menu or using a more intuitive menu that maps attacks and battle options to each face button.
If battles still feel a bit too slow or mundane, you can press R1 to speed up battles and press the touchpad for autobattle. Options like these help streamline the experience so you aren’t wasting time going through menus or mindlessly pressing buttons repeatedly to defeat enemies you out-level.
Lann and Reynn have the ability to transform between their normal “Jiant” form into Lilikans, which plays an integral part of the the combat system in World of Final Fantasy. By collecting Mirages, creatures modeled after familiar monsters and summons from past Final Fantasy titles, you can stack them on top of each other and take them out into battle. Every Mirage has its own size ranging from small to large and by forming Stacks with Lann and Reynn in their Jiant or Lilikan forms, you can mix and match abilities to take into battle against enemy Mirages.
Similar to the Ability Link board present in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] or the monster Crystarium in Final Fantasy XIII-2, World of Final Fantasy features the Mirage Board where you unlock special skills and abilities for the different Mirages you collect in battle. By progressing through the board and raising your Mirages, you can unlock more powerful transformations that will help you create stronger Stacks along the way.
Early on in the game, I rarely changed my party due to growing comfortable with the skill set my Stacks had, but once more Mirages were introduced as I progressed further, I began to experiment more with my party until I was switching out my Mirages more often to fit with the situation I was in rather than powering through enemies with one set of skills. Being flexible in changing your party for different skills is also imperative in order to catch Mirages that may have specific requirements before you can catch them. For example, some enemies require you to cast blindness or heal them in order to make them Imprisimable.
There are also extra-large Mirages you can bring into battle by sacrificing ability points that will help turn the tide of a battle if you are in desperate need of a shift. Need more firepower? You can also summon Champions like Final Fantasy III’s Refia or Final Fantasy VII’s Tifa in order to attack enemies or grant you stat boosts in the heat of battle. These medals are purchasable from the Girl Who Forgot Her Name’s store using Arma Gems that are collected throughout your playthrough of the game.
In World of Final Fantasy, you can explore towns which are modeled after familiar locations in past Final Fantasy titles. I found myself beyond amused to see Final Fantasy VII’s Nibelheim dazzled up with the neon-lit businesses from Midgar’s Wall Market, complete with its own Honey Bee Inn. There are more towns throughout World of Final Fantasy that have plenty of throwbacks to past Final Fantasy games. These towns are located on various floating regions of Grymoire, which also contain the many different dungeons players will explore to reach new areas, fight bosses, and catch new Mirages.
During my time playing through the game, I found that dungeons were a bit too simplistic and linear. Players will have very little issue finding what they need to get out of a dungeon, rarely needing to go out of their way for a particular item or Mirage in order to move forward in a dungeon. There are secret areas you can discover while exploring a dungeon filled with more powerful Mirages or rare items, but they hardly do anything to make a dungeon more exciting. Dungeons do their job and make it much easier to move through the game without feeling trapped in one location for very long, thankfully.
One of the more frustrating aspects of World of Final Fantasy is the constant loading screens. Every cutscene, area change, and post-battle screen features a short load that can be extremely distracting if you are in the middle of an important story cutscene or transitioning from a battle to a cutscene. It may not bother many people at all, but for me I felt like I was always hyperaware of every loading screen and constantly felt thrown out of the flow of the game every time one appeared.
Despite those complaints, there is plenty to praise World of Final Fantasy over. The game excels at its visual delivery. World of Final Fantasy’s art direction is simplistic but adorable thanks to Yasuhisa Izumisawa chibi-style designs, blending well with Tetsuya Nomura’s character designs for the game. The music in World of Final Fantasy also takes the cake, providing new and catchy music that fans can become attached to as well as having new renditions of iconic tracks from Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XIII, and beyond.
For newcomers of any age playing World of Final Fantasy as their first Final Fantasy game, it is a great starting point to guide you on your journey through the rest of the games in the franchise. With a highly customizable ATB system, you can find just the right speed and style for how you like to tackle battles.
For all of the old-school fans, World of Final Fantasy has plenty to offer with its throwbacks to memorable characters and locations of beloved and under-appreciated titles. I found myself charmed by the small appearances of my favorite Final Fantasy characters and found myself trying to guess which characters would appear next when arriving in a new location.
It is clear World of Final Fantasy isn’t trying to break new ground. Instead, it is trying to celebrate the vast and iconic history of Final Fantasy while paving the way for new fans to jump into the series. In the end, World of Final Fantasy does just that and wraps it up in an adorable, fun package.
World of Final Fantasy is available now in North America on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4.
Disclaimer: A review copy of World of Final Fantasy for the PlayStation 4 was provided to Final Fantasy Network by Square Enix for the use of this review.