2016 has been flooded with Final Fantasy content leading up to the highly anticipated – and far too frequently delayed – launch of Final Fantasy XV. With an anime series, a CG movie, multiple phone games, and even a Final Fantasy branded sports car, Square Enix has been pulling out all the stops to make sure people have the franchise on their minds. Now, with just less than a month left until the release of Final Fantasy 15, World of Final Fantasy aims to celebrate the history and nostalgia of the iconic, long-running franchise.
It kicks off with some vague JRPG weirdness that feels more in line with Kingdom Hearts than Final Fantasy. Fraternal twins Lann and Reynn wake up one day to discover that their entire town is empty. They also happen to have amnesia, but a mysterious woman is thankfully on hand to tell them that both they and their mother were once in control of huge armies of monsters called Mirages. Also there’s a talking floating fox! And the mysterious woman might be god?
It’s a very strange setup, and it takes more than a few hours and a handful of chapters for the story to really kick off and set up the overarching plot. Thankfully, my interest was always maintained thanks to the great writing and acting in the game. The main trio of Lann, Reynn and their cutesy mascot Tama have a lot of great pun-laden banter amongst each other, and the way their wacky antics sometimes clash with the more stoic and serious characters in the story is even more amusing. The English voice cast does a superb job of keeping things fresh and natural, although there are plenty of times where the wacky body movements of characters feels like it was more suited toward Japanese voices.
Now, if you’d like to experience those Japanese voices and see if my hunch was correct, you can’t. Like many localisations, World of Final Fantasy only has English audio on disc. However, many games either provide a free download at launch that contains the Japanese voices or, at worst, might charge some money for it. Square Enix, however, has gone even further than that, and decided to make the Japanese audio exclusively available in the Day One edition of the game. There is no PSN listing for the content as of release, and no word on if, or when, it will come. It’s a disappointing and slightly shady decision, but I’d be a lot more upset about it if it weren’t for the excellent English voice acting.
The comparison I made earlier to Kingdom Hearts is also amplified by the visuals of the game. In World of Final Fantasy, most characters appear in adorable, bite-sized Lilikins forms, and even legendary monsters like Ifrit show up with adorable toy-like proportions. Some characters, such as your main duo, have more normal human proportions in their Jiant forms, and the art style in which they’re rendered is very reminiscent not just of Kingdom Hearts, but specifically the character models of The World Ends With You characters from Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. Even character designs for the World of Final Fantasy characters share the same sharp, fashionable sleekness you’d see out of those games. Environments also look equally sharp, and almost every dungeon and town I set foot in was beautiful to behold.
These cutesy characters aren’t just an artistic liberty, though. They’re also tied into the plot and gameplay in an interesting way. Rather than the usual fare of recruiting friends into a party and upgrading your weapons and equipment to take on enemies, World of Final Fantasy has you capturing and raising hundreds of different creatures, and using their skills and abilities to best the many enemies you’ll encounter over the 50-ish hour long story.
These monsters, or Mirages, come in three different sizes, and your main characters can choose to stack monsters on their head with the Stack system to pool together HP and abilities. If you’d rather have a big Mirage in your stack than a big protagonist, our heroes can instantly switch between Jiant sized and bite sized, opening up even more Stack options. Stacking comes with pros and cons, and in the heat of battle you might even decide to unstack and have all of your characters on the field together in a ‘quantity over quality’ approach.
These systems of monster management and training are wildly different from anything else in a Final Fantasy game. At first, it was weird to not even have any options for equipment or weapons. However, these unique gameplay elements work, and they work really well. Combat is fun, and with the ability to level up Mirages and access new skills via a Final Fantasy X style orb grid, you gain even more options in battle. Some of these skills even have uses outside of battle, such as letting monsters stroll alongside you in the world, or having them melt away ice that’s blocking your path.
You also have tons of options concerning how you want to experience battles. The game operates on an Active Time Battle system, where all characters wait for their turn to come up, and then act. In the game options, however, you can choose whether time stops or continues to flow once your own turn comes up, giving you control over just how turn-based you want your combat to be. You also have convenient single-button command shortcuts that let you quickly use your favorite abilities or skills, but if you want more detailed control, simply hold down L1 to access a more traditional Final Fantasy command menu.
Battles are fun and addictive, but as you progress through the lengthy game, you’ll start to feel a little weighed down. Dungeons are fun to explore and hold plenty of shortcuts and treasures, but there are a number of puzzles you encounter that feel like they serve as nothing but a way to eat up your time.
Once you get past the bogged down dungeons, though, you’re always rewarded with new fun story encounters. As you progress through the game, you run into a number of classic Final Fantasy characters, environments, and experiences. Seeing Lightning in action or visiting Midgar will be sure to flood fans with nostalgia and warm feelings. All of these characters are rendered in the cutesy chibi art style, and hearing things like Snows gruff voice come out of his tiny baby body are so fun and endearing. It’s a shame that you never really get to see these characters in action in Jiant form. The game doesn’t suffer for it, but if anything, seeing these characters rendered 1:1 would have made these moments even more special.
You’ll even be able to utilize these famous characters in battle as classic Final Fantasy style summons that perform quick special attacks for you. On top of that, a number of side missions and activities open up involving classic Final Fantasy characters, giving you an opportunity to play as them in a unique quests that explore their own stories. You also get a number of mini-game activities to participate in, and a battle coliseum you can go to in order to win grand prizes. It can be a slog to get through such a long game, but all of the gameplay options available ensure that you’ll always have a way to break up the monotony.
World of Final Fantasy is so much bigger than any other Final Fantasy spinoff I’ve experienced. Out of the gate, it’s an incredibly lengthy JRPG with full voice acting, cutscenes everywhere, hundreds of characters, and more. There’s a fair amount of fluff and filler spread throughout the lengthy RPG, but its tail end features some great nostalgia trips and fun character moments. It’s a great celebration of the legacy of Final Fantasy that’s a blast for fans old and new.
Version tested: PS4