Played on Windows
Also Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One (including an enhanced version World of Final Fantasy Maxima)
Two years ago, Final Fantasy released a most interesting game that flew under the radar named World of Final Fantasy. It was announced at E3 2015 in both Sony’s and Square Enix’s show. It was one of the only mentioned of final fantasy, but got overshadowed by Hitman, Just Cause 3, Final Fantasy VII Remake (still not out), Kingdom Hearts 3 (Also not out) and more The fact is what was shown was a cutesy video with chibi characters, and it definitely slipped under the radar. So it actually came out the following year in 2016 and didn’t get much attention. Was it a missed opportunity, or a silent failure? We’ll see.
I actually looked further into this game this year because someone referred to World of Final Fantasy as Pokemon meets Final Fantasy, which is certainly an interesting idea. In addition, the Pokemon formula hasn’t seen much success outside of Nintendo Platforms, so to see a Pokemon-like game on PlayStation and Windows is an exciting proposition.
Before you rush out and buy it, hold off, I’ll get to the gameplay of it, and go over why it’s Pokemon-like, and Pokemon-unlike, but to put it simply, it’s an interesting idea, but hardly the Pokemon + Final Fantasy experience I was hoping for.
So before we get to that, we have a little more to discuss. Let’s start with the graphics, and honestly, the graphics in World of Final Fantasy are rather good, though there are some strange choices.
The main characters are two human children named Lann and Reynn. They start off as full-sized characters. To be honest, the beginning of the game is hard to watch, mostly because Lann’s animations are pretty terrible, they remind me of something from 2012’s “classic” Foodfight. Basically, horrible overacted animations that try too hard to be animations. It’s odd because this game comes from Squaresoft, who is known for having really good graphics and animations, so I don’t know what happened there.
However, quickly, within the first ten minutes, we’re also introduced to the alternate worlds of the game where everyone is a “chibi” character, which is basically a miniaturized character size. In fact, almost everyone in the game is based around this “chibi style” so I wonder why the game decided to have the large versions of Lann and Reynn. The only answer I can come up with is that they are easier to animate to show a variety of reactions than the smaller characters. This might be correct but doesn’t seem to be a strong enough reason as only those two characters are full size, and even then, they’re only full size some of the time.
The animations are not perfect, but the game still looks good with them as full sized characters.
The “chibi style” and the graphics of the game are great. The entire game allows the player to see many different locations spread over the 19-year history (at the time) of the Final Fantasy series. Having the original Final Fantasy versus Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy XII, for instance, would be hard to align graphically. However, to put all the characters into a similar art style that’s different than any of their games does allow a single unified version of the multiple worlds to exist and works quite well when exploring the large worlds of Final Fantasy.
Similarly, the game needs a story reason to explore, and while the game doesn’t seem to come up with a solid one, it really doesn’t require one. The early story of the full size version of Lann and Reynn is that they live in Nine Wood Hills alone when suddenly (on the first day of the game) you meet Enna Kros, who teaches them about their world and others, and sends them on a quest to collect Mirages, and explore the alternate worlds.
These alternate worlds are the realms of Final Fantasy mashed together, and it’s quite well done. I actually enjoyed the idea of exploring these worlds, and the game doesn’t take itself very seriously. You run around a quick dungeon before you come upon Cornelia, from the original Final Fantasy game as well as the Warrior of Light and Sarah his princess. They give you a task and you have to go through a dungeon to do it.
This is just fan service, but in reality, a game where you go through and explore every Final Fantasy game had to be fan service. This is Square Enix’s version of Smash Brothers Melee, with a strong focus on a single series and it works, but the story really works when you can accept it’s as just simple fan service.
“Hey look, there is Yuna” “Oh my god it’s Tifa” “Rydia!!! It’s Rydia” I kept shouting out characters to myself and I fanboyed out each time a new character I recognized was introduced, and that’s the best pull of the game.
The fact is World of Final Fantasy is at its strongest when it focused on that. The story is a bit weak and filled with a number of bad puns, which the dad in me loves as that’s my brand of humor, but do get annoying. The reasons for progressing aren’t much better, you are told often to “go gather Mirages” which are the pokemon of the game. Why? To gain power, and it would be an interesting gameplay element, but it’s not included. You don’t get more powerful as you get characters through collecting them, only through leveling up, so it’s just a story element.
All aboard the Fan Service express!
The game mixes a lot of lore though. Edgar’s famous castle from Final Fantasy VI has an engine room that’s Midgar’s Mako Energy Reactor from Final Fantasy VII, and you meet Vivi from Final Fantasy IX in that same room. What? Yeah it’s crazy and doesn’t make a ton of sense, and probably may piss off a few fans, but it’s also a bit glorious in the cheekiness to combine all these various lores into one object.
The story though keeps hinting at a League of S, and I was ready for the game to throw a clever joke or a silly reference in that place. But when you’re told to go meet with them, the game quickly steps back and tells you that another character will make contact for you and then again “go get mirages”. This is a recurring theme even after a prophecy shows up and you have to gather four keys to satisfy it.
Sadly, the story doesn’t really inspire awe at all, and you’ll play through 20 “chapters” in the game. Many chapters are rather short, as beginning chapters take an hour or two to quickly progress through, however by the end the chapters are longer but not meatier with the story, as the player will usually find them only elongated by longer dungeons rather than the story. It’s not even “grinding” just dungeons that have too many rooms.
In addition, there’s an interesting system called the intervention quests where the player is inserted into many stories of the characters that they meet. All of these are again, amazing fan service and flesh out a lot of characters, but are mostly there for an enjoyable experience.
After twenty chapters and multiple interventions, the game decides that it suddenly cares about the story, and presents a very serious couple of chapters. That League of S finally appears after 50 hours of cute but meaningless story.
It’s not really clear why it took so long, as it turns out the League of S is all the characters you’ve already met, helped, hung out with, and proved yourself to. Why does the game hide that for so long if it was this very important group for you to make contact with? Instead, why not have one of the earliest characters tell you to gather all of these characters and make that the important story of the game. The ultra-serious story that appears out of nowhere isn’t even that good and the fact World of Final Fantasy suddenly takes itself so serious is so tonally different from the rest of the game that I stopped caring. This is different from at least ninety percent of the game which is just a fun romp through a unique experience.
The game can be very punish, whether you read that as pun-ish, or punishing, you get the idea.
Suddenly you start hearing about the Exnine Prophecy, Cogna and the question becomes “Where did this all come from?” There was a minor foreshadowing of something happening but all these terminologies are suddenly thrown around in that last chapter. It is like someone said they have to have a “real story” and suddenly rushed to do it, but the game that the player had been playing doesn’t work with that story.
They also introduce major characters who… well it isn’t that important until that scene, again, everything sits on this major tonal shift. With it falling flat, that final chapter doesn’t work at all and takes entirely too long to do so.
In addition, the game makes other odd choices. The theme song for the game comes out of nowhere an hour into the game. There is a sudden anime cutscene 10 hours into the game which is short, but out of place as well, there is an anime cutscene every ten or twenty hours without very strong reasons for the graphical change.
I’m just not clear on what the game really wants to be. It seemed to be a light hearts romp through World Of Final Fantasy but wants to do Anime, and a serious story entirely too late to shift the entire focus of the game to these things.
A couple of times the game springs for an anime cutscene, but these come out of nowhere.
That does lead to the gameplay, as mentioned earlier, this game is a bit like a Pokemon version of Final Fantasy, and we’ll dig deeper into that idea.
If you’ve never played Pokemon, it’s sufficient to say that it’s an extremely popular Japanese RPG where the player collects tons of “pocket monsters” or Pokemon who will fight for him. The player levels them up, evolves them and grows his power while using a rather complex weakness system, and a large number of interesting characters.
World of Final Fantasy does everything the same as the ultra-popular series it tries to emulate, but it tries also to be different and this is where it gets into trouble.
However, the combat in World of Final Fantasy is rather simple. Characters only get a handful of abilities, and Lann and Reynn can tap into character’s powers by “stacking”. The player can stack a small, medium and large character together to make a stack, and while Lann and Reynn are required, they can be either in their large (human-sized version) or medium (chibi style version). Since they are required in their stacks, so the question is which characters will they bring with them.
With two playable characters, there are only two stacks the player can use, so building stacks becomes a major part of the game as does collecting these stackable characters, called Mirages.
There is actually a lot of stuff to do in the game. Collecting all the mirages will take time, as will leveling them up, and unlocking variants when necessary. Many Mirages also have special abilities that will open up hidden areas of dungeons, such as flying over hazards or breaking stone rocks. Collecting items, skills and more will take a lot of time, and there are a ton of activities besides all this that the player can do.
When classic characters come in they’re well done. See if you can figure who this is, or even hear her theme while looking at just the picture.
Characters and mirages level up through Experience points and it’s done well. The graphics for each character also shines and it’s a lot of fun for players to see classic Final Fantasy monsters in a bunch of different situations, or tackling new characters.
The battles in World of Final Fantasy are rather easy, and most of the game involves using good combinations of characters and leveling up mirages and the player characters so they can do more damage. If you use the “Libra” which is the spell that allows the player to see the stats of the enemy and use that information, you’ll go a long way.
I do want to call out something here with the difficulty. The game offers an “Auto Battle Mode” which is an interesting choice, similar to what Dragon Quest XI offered. However, in this case, the game will only use the same attack over and over, and not attempt to use any tactics, which is a good reason not to use the mode. This is actually something that Dragon Quest XI failed at in my mind and I want to call out the success here specifically because of that (and the negative reaction).
Really, the game is cute. Capturing new Mirages is as good as capturing new pokemon. Clearly, this game was based on the other popular franchise so why didn’t this get more attention? Why didn’t people scream “it’s Pokemon but not on the Nintendo systems?” Well, they did, but there are flaws with World of Final Fantasy, and let’s get into them.
I mentioned imprisming above, it’s the “capture system” for World of Final Fantasy, and it seems alright at first. You have an enemy and you can “break them” by fulfilling a certain task, such as attacking them, giving them an item, or reducing their HP. This sounds fine at first and is a great way to add to your ranks in the early game.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with this system. Some enemies are harder to find than others. I found a couple of enemies in the first mine in a group of five and couldn’t imprism one of them and have never seen that enemy again. I probably could go back but hunting for enemies in large groups or a specific enemy is annoying as the player has to try to target one specific enemy.
Here’s a typical battle screen.
In addition similar to how the player is stacked, enemies can be stacked as well and it’s hard to unstack enemies. You normally have to topple their tower with attacks. That sounds possible but each attack also does damage and if you’re much higher than their level, these attacks will lead to killing the stack before they topple.
Some of the actions required to imprism the enemies are very specific such as needing to reflect a spell back or using a specific type of damage that isn’t readily available in the game. When one of these is required, they require so much effort I found myself passing due to the difficulty.
Even when you capture the enemies, there is a lot of oddness to the leveling system. The game offers what is known as “Mirage Boards” and you can use your points from leveling to unlock the board with abilities and more. This works well to grow the power of characters, however, it’s also how you change your character. If you want to move from a Chobochick to a Chocobo, you might need to level up to a certain point of the board to unlock the Chocobo or already have imprismed one or beat a specific enemy or goal somewhere to earn an item that unlocks the transmigration. Each of these tactics are needed for some transmigrations but it’s not a great system.
In addition, the transmigration is confusing. In Pokemon, your characters evolve from the first form to the second form and can’t turn back. The evolution means it grows in power but changed what the Pokemon was or looked like. In World of Final Fantasy, the player can “Transmigrate” characters to different characters. Some characters actually will be able to access more than one Mirage Board of the characters it can transmigrate into to enhance its power, but if so, the question I come back with is “What does Transmigration” really do, and the game isn’t very clear on it in those cases, besides changing the size of the character in some situations and some minor stat points.
Some characters have more than 4 transfiguring forms to select from for no reason. It ends up with most characters making you want to collect all of their forms, but ultimately don’t feel a real need to try each form.
In fact, as I was playing through the game the over complication of the Mirage Board made me wish for the simplicity of the Pokemon’s level and evolution system. It’s easier, but the fact is with so many characters and monsters, simplicity would have been welcomed.
There are more problems with this simple system. There is no way to find a specific type of character easily, and while there is a rather interesting storage system for all the Mirages, if you need a specific ability or a spell, it’s painful to search through each mirage to find the one mirage that knows the ability “Smash” or can learn it. Finding a Water Mirage is equally hard when fighting against Fire, or even to find Water Defense power. These are simple item management problems but the fact the game doesn’t offer a solution to them makes the UI feel a bit lazy as well.
The game looks great as you walk through the majority of the areas.
Imprisming the mirages is also a bit frustrating as the collection rate can be quite low. If the ability to activate imprisming is easy, it can be used multiple times to improve the odds, but enemies can also run away at times, which will lead to more frustration.
In addition, the game allows the player to capture the same monster multiple times without a clear reason for allowing it.
There are other parts of the game that are a bit odd. Normally the player can’t die. Losing any battle sends them back to “Nine Woods Hills” and then the player can return to the map he was on. However, there are places in the game called “Thresholds” where losing a battle is a game over. This is normally only used for boss battles, but it seems odd to remove the ability to lose a battle and not lose the entire game. Or to have that as the option only part of the time.
In addition, there is only one save slot, and I can only imagine this was done “Because of Pokemon” but Pokemon originally did this due to the Gameboy’s limited save space. Playing on a PS4 or steam and having the same limitation is strange. In addition, there’s no way to suspend or quick save, which means if you can’t find a save point, you’ll have to leave the game on or lose progress, neither of which are good options for a long JRPG especially for how long some of the late game dungeons are.
There are also cheats on the config menu, and I’ll admit I haven’t seen that one before. You can turn on infinite AP (this game’s version of MP) for moves, Infinite money and items, or Infinite Summons. All of these are quite powerful and gamebreaking ‘cheats’. I have a minor issue with this as it’s not really a “Configuration”, but I do have to admit I like the idea of a cheat menu for two specific reasons.
The first is simply because I feel developers should try to make games for as many gamers as possible and so having the ability to make the game easier, while still saying it’s not the intended way to play the game is good.
The other side is admittedly I ended up using them. The last chapter started to crank the difficulty up and it was done in a solid way. However, while the game isn’t too hard, I felt the need to grind to level up so I could tackle the final set of bosses. I will say that the game succeeded in not requiring much grinding before that point, and I do find the difficulty in the game to be a solid curve. Yet, I honestly wasn’t having a ton of fun in the final chapter and felt done with the game if it came to grinding.
The cheat options gave me a way to finish the game, without grinding. Personally, I feel like grinding is the failure of a game design. I know many JRPG fans will disagree, and one of my favorite series (coming up next ) Disgaea tends to require a decent amount of grinding, but that doesn’t make it acceptable and I feel that the genre has relied on it to lengthen games, where that’s probably a bad habit that has become acceptable. The fact that the World of Final Fantasy gave me a “cheat” to avoid grinding is a good thing. Actually, this is a cheat system that I didn’t even have to pay for is also becoming a novel thing in the games industry. So that’s two good reasons for them, even if they are placed in the oddest location.
You can get a good look at what three famous characters are. This is Ramuh, Ifrit, and Shiva, “Chibified”
Though, one other issue I found in the final chapter, was the sudden inclusion of four minigames. These come out of nowhere, feel unnecessary, and are quite poor. The Cactaur game where the player has to “hit” the cactuar that appears entirely too fast is especially frustrating, though throwing the ball at attacking enemies was also quite bad. There’s a solid strategy RPG minigame in there as well, and that one worked, but overall I’m not a fan.
The minigames just suddenly appear and are required by the game. While the player can skip them I believe, I personally feel that if you include something in the main flow of a game, it should be a quality experience… well technically if it’s anywhere in a game it should be a quality experience, to be honest. However, the minigames feel out of place and poor. I could imagine any of them as a flash game in the early 2000s on Newgrounds more than appearing in a semi-major Final Fantasy release.
The fact is once I finished the final chapter I did see there was a post-game dungeon and more added, but I was finished. I had my fill of World of Final Fantasy and honestly had that same fill a chapter or two earlier.
World of Final Fantasy isn’t Final Fantasy at its best, but if you want to slip on the nostalgia goggles and play around with the long-running series, it’s not bad. It’s a shame the gameplay wasn’t better, because while I enjoyed my time with the game, and there’s a lot of content here, I was getting frustrated with the over complication of the leveling/mirage board/transfiguration systems by the end of the game. Still, it’s an enjoyable game if a little weak.
I award World of Final Fantasy a
Final Thoughts: A fun fan-service heavy game for the Final Fantasy franchise with tons of famous characters popping in for their fifteen minutes. It’s like Pokemon meets Final Fantasy but not as good as it sounds.
Stats: 62.8 hours played, 21/49 achievements earned