What do you get when you combine the visual style of Kingdom Hearts with the turn based combat of Final Fantasy and the capture/evolve mechanics from Pokemon? Apparently, you get World of Final Fantasy. A non-canonical entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, World of Final Fantasy takes us on a wild journey through the games we all know and love, re-introducing us to heroes and villains alike. With a unique combat and leveling system, World of Final Fantasy makes up for some opportunities in storytelling with a highly addictive game that’s the perfect filler for those of us anxiously awaiting the next main installment of the Final Fantasy franchise, due to arrive late next month.
Twin protagonists Reynn and Lann awaken on a rooftop with no memory of their past. After they both take an unfortunate step off the top of a tower, they both wake up in what appears to be their hometown. Lann rushes off to work as a barista, commenting on how quiet the town is as there’s nobody in the streets. He arrives to find nobody else at work, just a single customer wearing a labcoat. His sister, Reynn (who is a few minutes older than him, as she’s fond of reminding him from time to time), is the first to notice something fishy is going on. The doctor admits that she’s there for them, and fills them in on what’s happening: the twins were previously extremely powerful beings known as “Mirage Masters” – individuals capable of harnessing and utilizing powerful familiars known as Mirages. Something happened that caused Reynn and Lann to lose their memory, and now they must embark on a journey to recover their army of mirages and set things right once again.
World of Final Fantasy features a story that is all too familiar in the end – not necessarily a bad thing. You have the standard tropes of heroes banded together against malevolent forces, a journey to reclaim something that was lost, and just the right amount of twists and turns to keep things interesting, but not wildly unpredictable. Fans of Final Fantasy games and RPGs in general have an idea of what they’re getting into, and sufficed to say World of Final Fantasy doesn’t go off-script.
While the story itself doesn’t particularly shine, especially when lined up with other entries in the franchise, the delivery is what makes it stand out. The banter between the twins from the start helps to set the mood for World of Final Fantasy, particularly how the characters are comfortable breaking the 4th wall. Lann and Reynn both frequently make comments on the tutorials; for example, Reynn comments at one point during the Mirage tutorials – “Why do you suppose we’re getting all of this well-presented information popping up in our heads?” That’s a fine question Reynn…a fine question indeed.
While the dialogue is hilarious and well-balanced in its self deprecation, the English voice acting is hard to get past at times, particularly Lann. He is an over-the-top character as it is, and the commitment to this character on the part of Josh Keaton sometimes proves to be too much. As someone who purchased the day one edition, I received the Japanese VA add-on for free, which I have been personally enjoying. If the Japanese option is available for you, I would suggest that as a remedy if the English VA work isn’t to your liking.
Overall, the quality of World of Final Fantasy’s story comes back to the characters. What could have easily become a rote experience was transformed by its light-hearted nature and humor. Then again, there is far less talk about the story than there is about what is undoubtedly the biggest draw of World of Final Fantasy: the combat.
Earlier this year Pokemon Go made a huge splash on mobile (that splash has since turned into some awkward doggy paddling in the shallow end, but that’s another story). The reason? People love to collect things. Combine the promise of a good hunt with a reason to go outside and get some exercise and all of the sudden you have hordes of strangers wandering through city parks in an attempt to find a Pikachu. World of Final Fantasy decided to capitalize on this interest with their “mirage” system, and boy did it work out.
Essentially, a mirage is a powerful illusion of monsters we’ve encountered in previous Final Fantasy games. By fulfilling certain requirements you can create a “Prismtunitiy” to “Imprism” that monster and add it to your arsenal. In some cases you may need to heal the monster, hit it with an element that it’s resistant to, or just take an old-fashioned approach and punch it until it submits. Once captured, these mirages can then be equipped as part of a “stack” that combines the abilities and stats of all those in the stack.
At first, it looks ridiculous. To be honest, when I first saw pictures I wasn’t sure what to think. However, this system is ingenious and masks an exceedingly complex system of balancing elemental resistances and stat optimization. Or, you know, you can just stack monsters in a certain order because it looks funny.
The stacking system is pretty simple: Your “stack” is composed of three mirages of distinct sizes: large, medium and small. The twins are always in the stacks, and are either the large part of the stack in their “Jiant” mode, or the medium sized part in their “Lilikin” mode. In Lilikin mode you can even use one of your larger mirages as a mount and ride it around the map!
Before moving on I wanted to highlight one point regarding the difficulty. A key thing to remember when considering the gameplay, and specifically the difficulty, is that this game was designed with a younger audience in mind. While Final Fantasy games of the past could bring in younger gamers, in recent years the demographic has shifted towards older teens and adults, while younger gamers find themselves diving into other titles. World of Final Fantasy is an attempt to appeal to these younger gamers, and as a result, you may find yourself face-rolling your way through World of Final Fantasy with little resistance. I explain this particular point in detail to emphasize how impressed I am with the imprism/stacking system in World of Final Fantasy. The challenge isn’t necessarily in the battles themselves, but satisfying the conditions to imprism certain mirages. Even when you do catch the mirage, there’s still a lot to do.
As the mirages level they acquire SP – which you can then spend on their “Mirage Board”. This allows them to learn new skills or acquire stat boosts to defense, magic, strength, agility, accuracy, etc. Different mirages have different strengths – some focusing on defense and strength, others focusing on magic or magic defense, etc. More experienced gamers who are willing to dive into the stats will find another “World” waiting for them – one that’s vastly rewarding and downright addictive.
As if that wasn’t enough – add in the champion (summon) system, intervention missions, elite mirages and more… you begin to appreciate just how big World of Final Fantasy can be.
I couldn’t properly wrap up my review without calling out the endearing visual style of World of Final Fantasy. The mirages are all painfully adorable, even as they evolve into larger versions. Seeing a chibi-Sephiroth rain down a huge meteor on your enemies made me, a grown man, want to squee with delight. Character designer Tetsuya Nomura pulled from his Kingdom Hearts work, while Yasuhisa Izumisawa, known for his work on Crystal Chronicles, also lent his specific talents and design to the project. The result is an aesthetic that remains consistent with the light-hearted and fun nature of the title. It’s certainly not pushing the envelope when it comes to hardware, but then again, that’s not the kind of game World of Final Fantasy is to begin with.
Overall, my feelings about World of Final Fantasy are actually best summed up by the rating: Rated E for Everyone. Whether you’re new to the final fantasy franchise or a die-hard fan, there’s something in World of Final Fantasy for everybody. While the English voice-acting can be grating at times, and the story doesn’t exactly stand out when lined up with some of the other titles from the canon, World of Final Fantasy still delivers a highly entertaining and addictive title that’s sure to keep you entertained until Final Fantasy XV arrives next month – and possibly well beyond that.