World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita
World of Final Fantasy’s opening 10 hours are a slog, especially if you’re not the kind to enjoy slapstick humor. As an entry meant to celebrate the Final Fantasy legacy by taking a wistful romp down memory lane and introducing ‘cute’ chibi reincarnations of our favorite series icons, the game… kind of succeeds. Sometimes. But as a title that aims to welcome a new generation of gamers into the world of Final Fantasy, it kind of fails. More on that later.
Our story kicks off when two amnesiac twins, Reynn and Lann, wake up one morning to find their town completely empty. They’re coffeeshop baristas, and when they find their town devoid of life one day, a strange woman shows up to tell them that they have to journey to the world of Grymoire to capture Mirages and learn more about their past. Mirages are essentially Pokemon-like critters that you can encounter in dungeons. Perform specific actions and cast certain spells, and you’ll be able to capture them and use them in battle. Spend more time leveling these creatures up, and you can even evolve them and gain more abilities from that evolution.
The combat and the new, innovative stacking system is where World of Final Fantasy truly shines. Instead of selecting a class or job for your characters, you equip your captured Mirages by stacking them on top of or below your characters. It’s a system that gets even more complex when you start experimenting with Reynn and Lann’s chibi and giant forms. So when your characters are tiny, you can stack one small Mirage on their heads, and have them sit atop a larger Mirage. And when they’re normal sized, you can stack one medium and one small Mirage on their heads.
Creating stacks will give your characters access to abilities that your Mirages have, and also change up their weaknesses and resistances. Stacking will give you more HP, but creating an ‘unstable’ stack will make you extremely vulnerable to toppling from enemy attacks. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the stacking system, and have spent a few hours mixing and matching my Mirages, trying to figure out which configuration would work best for my party. Stacking multiple Mirages with the same abilities will also allow you to ‘combine’ those skills and let you use a much stronger version of that skill. So if you stacked two Mirages with the Fire spell, you’d be able to use Fira in battle. Pretty neat stuff.
Unfortunately, all of that neatness falls flat once you run face first into the game’s extremely high encounter rate and the banal puzzles you have to solve in the dungeons. World of Final Fantasy’s combat is fun, but it quickly wears out its welcome when you realize that you can’t walk 10 steps without triggering a random battle. This honestly wouldn’t be so terrible if you didn’t run into the same three Mirages in each dungeon. There seems to be a very small variety of Mirages in a dungeon, and given how long and stretched out they are, coupled with the high encounter rate, dungeons and the random battles can quickly become a slog.
On top of that, the later dungeons are also filled with trivial puzzles that will require you to backtrack and hunt for items in order to progress. Quite simply, the dungeons are a bit of a chore to get through in this game. And while they are beautifully themed and designed, I could only tolerate watching the same old Mirages load slowly onto my screen so many times before starting to feel a little bored.
Thankfully, World of Final Fantasy features a fast-forward button which speeds up both game dialogue and battle speed. Not only did this make the dungeon crawls a little more bearable, it also allowed me to skip the incessant yapping of Lann and Reynn during the early hours of the game. Thanks to our two bland protagonists, the story itself also feels like a tiresome trudge at times. The twins can’t stay quiet for more than a minute at a time, and it certainly doesn’t help that the game seems so intent on beating you over the head with the fact that Lann is supposed to be the funny, stupid one of the pair.
Here’s how the average cutscene (of which there are many) plays out in World of Final Fantasy.
Tama (a friendly Mirage that helps you out on your journey): “Here’s a cool door to help you the-travel between Grymoire and the main the-hub! It’s like a shortcut!”
Lann: *reacts with an over exaggerated gesture of shock and pretends to fall over* “Wow! A shortcut?! How short is it? If it was any shorter, it’d be a buzzcut!”
Reynn: “Please stop.”
Tama: “Yeah! We could the-call this a buzzcut!”
Lann: “Haha buzzcut! I’m so funny!” *does another over exaggerated body movement showing that he’s laughing and enjoying himself*
Alright, so I’m paraphrasing a little bit here, but that’s how you can expect most of the cutscenes to go down in the first half of the game. It was endearing at first, and somewhat fun to watch Lann play off the cutesy Mirages in an adorable manner. But after the tenth lame pun made by Lann, I found myself empathizing more with Reynn and wondering how she put up with this dork of a brother her entire life.
And yes, Tama talks with that annoying “the-” speech pattern the entire game.
Because World of Final Fantasy wants to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, players will, of course, get to meet their favorite series icons throughout the course of the game. This is another area in which the game really shines, and it’s one that will surely appeal to longtime fans. By completing Intervention and Champion quests, you’ll get to watch a few cutscenes and take part in cool battles alongside series favorites. While the overall story in World isn’t particularly interesting, nothing beats the triumphant feeling of seeing your favorite character suddenly arrive on the scene, complete with a heroic pose in their hyper cute chibi forms.
Finish these optional quests, and you’ll earn Champion Medals that allow you to summon these characters to help you out in battle. Tidus, my favorite Champion, has the Blitz Ace move and every time you use it, he bursts onscreen to perform the famous Jecht Shot Mark III and kicks a blitzball into the faces of the enemy horde. It’s really awesome. Many of the original voice actors have returned to reprise their roles (both in English and Japanese, which is nice), and the whimsical sense of nostalgia really kicks in when the game starts playing lovely rearrangements of your favorite tracks from the original games.
For returning fans of the series, the Champion quests and their respective cutscenes are well worth the trudge through the awful jokes and dungeon grind. If this is the last we’ll ever see of our favorite characters, World of Final Fantasy certainly does them justice, and the game serves as a fine send-off and throwback to these heroes of the ages. But for the newcomers who know nothing of the series prior to this title, honestly I’d be shocked if World of Final Fantasy ends up enticing and encouraging you to check out the rest of Square Enix’s games. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the turn-based combat, but everything else about the game – the story, its characters, the cringe-worthy dialogue – does little to show newcomers what this long-running series is all about.
I vastly enjoyed my time with World of Final Fantasy. The stacking system is one of the most innovative additions the studio has made to Final Fantasy’s traditional turn-based combat, and your hoarder compulsion could kick in if you choose to delve into Mirage collection. Fans who want more combat without all the interrupting dialogue can test their mettle against other players at the online coliseum, so I’d highly encourage series fans to give this one a go. On the other hand, if you’re looking to play a Final Fantasy game for the first time and are wondering if this is a good entry point, it is not. Newcomers will have a far better experience playing one of the classics instead.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair