There are a lot of things about World of Final Fantasy that might give you pause when you first start playing it. The script can be over-the-top silly and simplistic, occasionally overlooking opportunities to investigate more serious situations. It’s rather easy, with the optional Murkrifts and arena fights offering the only real challenges. There’s even a battle system that makes things easier, breaking things down to basics. All of these would be somewhat out of place in a major Final Fantasy release, but make sense when you think about World of Final Fantasy as being an introductory experience. This installment feels like it was made for people who aren’t as familiar with RPGs or maybe even games in general.
Let’s start with the script. World of Final Fantasy has some of the series’ trademarks. There’s the obscure terminology used to refer to and, let’s be honest, sometimes over-complicate things. Plenty of mysterious figures find their places in the story, perhaps at an even more frequent pace than other games in the series. But it doesn’t seem to always have the same dramatic and emotional depth to it. Reynn comes across as a standard, respectful heroine who has a brain and common sense. Lann makes repeated jokes that fall flat and both behaves in such a way that you wonder if he’d remember to breathe or eat without Reynn around. It feels geared toward a younger audience, what with the rampant silliness.
Then, there’s Tama. I’ve been playing JRPGs for a long time. I’m familiar with many a mascot character. I’ve lived through annoyances like Quina Quen, Mieu, Tatsu, and sometimes even Nall. Tama tops them all. She’s one of the most adorable creatures I’ve ever seen, stunning in her upgraded form, and one of the most useful Mirages in the game, but her tic is taxing. It’s made worse by her spending so much time explaining the simplest concepts. Yes, Tama, I get what the-you are trying to the-say to me. Maybe it’d be better if there were some rule to it, so we could brace ourselves for the quirk, but there’s none. It appears ahead of a noun. (“You used to command a whole the-legion of them.”) It can show up in the middle of the word. (“I’m sure that’s how every-the-body in this world must look.”) It can appear ahead of a verb. (“Use it to the-make the chocochick’s prismarium!”) Rather than wondering if it will appear, it comes to how often. While she may start bothering some, she’s the sort of character who’d fit perfectly into any cartoon made for kids under the age of 12. It’s another element that suggests this is a good game for younger players.
World of Final Fantasy also begins with a default Basic battle system. The game automatically assigns actions to the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita’s action buttons, with a system that involves you pressing one of four buttons to get things done, as well as quickly enable an auto-battle system or fast forward through fights. You actually have to press a button to bring up the Classic menu we’re familiar with from past Final Fantasy games. The traditional menu is far more comprehensive, but the Basic scheme is far simpler for people who might never have played such a game before. Since the game is rather easy, and more about grinding your way to survival than actually employing complex strategies outside of Imprisming and boss battles, it’s easy enough to get by in most situations with Reynn and Lann set to auto-attack everything. While the battle system itself is actually rather complex, this means of making it immediately more palatable suggests Square Enix believes a certain audience will be playing this game.
The game is also always giving us opportunities to quickly jump from one place to another. If your party falls in a battle, Tama will take you back to Nine Wood Hills up to nine times. Unless you rest, as that restores her time-rewinding and teleporting abilities. Each town and region has a gate, which takes you back to the hub, and dungeons each have two gates that bring you back to the safe space. When you’re in the hub, you can bring up a sub-menu to immediately take you to any part of town. You don’t even need to remember where your Miniventure side-quest givers are, because you can even redeem them from the menu. I appreciate that time-saving element, it does feel as though it also offers people who might not be as familiar with such games an opportunity to jump to what’s important.
Even the puzzles aren’t very puzzling, just repetitive. Let’s go over the three four dungeons’ challenges. In the first cave, you’ll have platforms where you’ll need to place Mirages collected from that location on a pedestal to open up a bridge. Only one of these is really necessary to proceed, as the other leads to a treasure. There’s no thought put into it – just put on critters that resolve the weight and resistance requirements. When you’re in the forest, some paths will be blocked by branches. How do you remove it? With a Cockatrice’s Sizzle ability. Which means you walk up to it, and it automatically clears. Heading into the icy crevasse brings us to puzzles where you have to slide along slick surfaces to reach the right exit. Except… it felt like the puzzles solved themselves? For each of the ones I encountered, I basically had to follow the path set up from walking on to it to reach the places I needed to go. The puzzles never really challenge you in the same way other RPGs do. Even when they start showing up again, at supposedly higher difficulties, they aren’t as brain busting as you’d expect. This may make it a cakewalk for most Final Fantasy fans, but also feels like it’s easing newbies into dungeon crawling.
World of Final Fantasy is a unique little game that can appeal to many different people. There are some good ideas and fun times here. But, perhaps the best part, is that it has the potential to be entertaining for anyone who picks it up. Experienced players won’t exactly be challenged, but they’ll have fun spotting and collecting their favorite characters. Newcomers might go through this and decide to give bigger and more traditional entries a try. Everyone wins.
World of Final Fantasy is now available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in North America and Japan. It will come to Europe on October 28, 2016.