Final Fantasy XV may have been the technical powerhouse AAA JRPG fanatics were looking out for last year, but Sqaure Enix put out another solid entry in the franchise just before - and this one didn’t take 10 years to materialize into a half-baked product.
World of Final Fantasy is, to say the least, a homage to everything the franchise has achieved over its illustrious 30-year reign. Essentially developed as Squaresoft’s answer to Enix’s Dragon Quest series, the original is hailed as the reason Squaresoft survived its early years, why creator Hironobu Sakaguchi is still developing video games, and why the two development companies joined forces later down the line.
This all may look childish on the outside, but it still packs the emotional punch we’ve come to expect from any good Final Fantasy tale.
Building on the foundation of its ancestors, World of Final Fantasy is a JRPG with small towns, quirky characters and turn-based battles; but it swaps out equipment hunting for monster catching, and pulls it off with a staggering amount of charm. Captures, while random at best, need to be ‘triggered’ by fulfilling conditions set by the monster, which you’ll either need to plan for or just trigger without a second thought.
Rather than simply catching monsters to pit them against each other in mortal combat like Pokémon or its many clones, the ‘stack’ system opens up dizzying amounts of customizability and on-the-fly strategizing. You can switch between traditional turn-based and Active battle systems whenever you want, too.
With monsters coming in 4 different sizes, our two main characters, Lann and Reynn, each ‘stack’ with two other monsters to create a party that benefits from skills and stat bonuses as if they were one. Taking too much damage can cause a stack to topple, splitting those bonuses once more, but manually stacking and de-stacking opens up plenty of ways to try a different approach mid-battle. Stacks can be rearranged whenever you’re not in combat, and with so many mirage monsters to catch, level up and evolve, you’ll struggle to settle on a consistent team throughout your adventure.
Just like a good catcher game, World of Final Fantasy contains a long list of tamable creatures plucked from 30 years of first-party material. Iconic characters are introduced throughout to pull together a story that, while certainly its own, employs all the same doom and gloom as any other Final Fantasy title. And it doesn’t do a disservice to the characters it borrows, either, with many adding their signature combat prowess to your team by way of ‘medals’ – think summons from Final Fantasy VII and you’ll understand.
Taking place across a world called Grymoire, veteran Final Fantasy players will recognize towns and faces galore, with each being far more than simple throw-away references. This is a true celebration of the time and effort that’s been poured into making the franchise as iconic as it is, but it isn’t all just rehashed ideas with a flat story.
Everyone being so adorable puts a spin on things, but it’s how they react to our heroes willingly changing size that never gets old in this somewhat cliché ‘lost memories’ adventure. It’s more than that.
An all-star cast will delight those familiar with other Japanese video games and anime (whether dubbed or subbed) as you listen in and pick up who voices who, but it’s how some of the once silent characters gain a prominent voice throughout the course of the game’s events that really stands out whether you’ve played their specific title or not.
Throw in some music by Masashi Hamauzu, sole composer of the Final Fantasy XIII titles, and you have yet another memorable soundtrack that we hope will be introduced and enjoyed by concert-goers over the years.
World of Final Fantasy comes together to create a truly unique JRPG that only Square Enix could pull off. The script will regularly make you laugh and smile, the jab-heavy chemistry of the main characters is a joy to witness, and the combat system lends itself to plenty of post-game activities by way of skill trees, mirage evolutions, tough dungeons and hidden extras.
Like any good monster catcher, it’ll take some time to tame the creatures of Grymoire, but there’s enough reason to try it whether you’re a long-standing Final Fantasy aficionado or not. If you don’t know who these characters are before going in, you’ll certainly want to see them again when you’re through. And that, we can imagine, is exactly what Square Enix intended.
WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY VERDICT
Whether you’ve played past titles in the franchise or not, World of Final Fantasy is a seriously strong JRPG that any fan of the genre should get a kick out of. Emotional, hilarious and deep, it proves yet again that a good RPG is about more than just thwarting a world-ending menace - it’s about the journey and everyone who makes it worthwhile.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Putting a voice to Refia from Final Fantasy III - the reason I decided to try the franchise back in 2006. Quacho Queen may have stolen my heart, though. Sorry, Refia!
Oozing with charm and lots of lovable characters
Real laugh out loud moments by the bucketload
Unique battle system with plenty of room for individual experimentation
A brilliant introduction to the franchise, or a treat to long-time fans
A cliché plot point that still manages to tug at your heartstrings
Post-Game can feel a little grind heavy
Those anime cutscenes aren't great