World of Final Fantasy (PS Vita) Review

By Az Elias 13.12.2016 5

Review for World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita

It seems there is no going back to the classical turn-based format for mainline Final Fantasy, as evidenced by the evolution of the series essentially following Final Fantasy X and its sequel, and further cemented with the real-time action of the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV and the pending release of Final Fantasy VII Remake, the latter of which forgoes its original design. There have been limited options for fans of the retro style in recent times, aside from perhaps venturing out into the spiritual successor Bravely series, or taking a chance on the likes of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which offers a fantastic alternative ATB system, but falters elsewhere. With any luck, though, World of Final Fantasy, a nostalgic throwback to the Final Fantasy of old, may prove to be the beginning of Square Enix using spin-offs to ensure that the spirit and classical gameplay of the franchise still burns.

Disillusioned or uninterested in Final Fantasy XV? Then World of Final Fantasy may be exactly what you're looking for. This Square Enix and Tose collaboration is in stark contrast to the realistic and action-oriented brotherly road trip that has finally seen release, and goes right back to its old-school roots, with the fan-favourite Active Time Battle system popularised in the Super NES era of Final Fantasy titles returning to satisfy turn-based enthusiasts. Crucially, there is even the option to put the ATB into Active or Wait modes, with the former meaning commands are input in real-time whilst enemies make their moves, and the latter pausing play as players pick and choose their selections. Whilst Wait does make things that bit easier, it also allows for that proper turn-based element to take centre stage if that is what is preferred.

The quest follows twins Reynn and Lann, living a solitary life in Nine Wood Hills, where time seemingly doesn't pass. With the sudden appearance of the mysterious Enna Kros one morning, the siblings are told that there is much about their pasts that they have forgotten—namely their important roles in an age gone by and details about their mother. Amnesia—of course! Such a cliché has been used throughout the Final Fantasy series, and it once again sets up the scenario here, forcing both protagonists to jump through a portal into the world of Grymoire to uncover their secrets and set out on a quest to capture monsters to rediscover their previous legendary status as supreme Mirage Keepers.

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As might be guessed by the title alone, World of Final Fantasy merges many of the iconic places and characters of the series into the core of the game, oftentimes with a slight twist on what fans will have previously come to recognise. What's so pleasing about those that make appearances is that it isn't just the obvious ones that make the cut. Of course, Cloud, Tidus and Lightning all appear, but there are welcome roles for so many other overlooked and oft-forgotten characters from games gone by, including spin-offs, which are all worked into the story in ways that make sense. From that narrative perspective, also, whilst these famous faces each have their traits and personalities established from their previous titles, they are built with the world of Grymoire in mind as real people living in this world, instead of having been swept up and teleported in à la Dissidia: Final Fantasy. It keeps scenes and characters fresh, and puts a spin on what fans can expect.

Grymoire's citizens—and as a result, the Final Fantasy champions present—take on a deformed chibi form known as lilikins, whereas Reynn and Lann are jiants, spoken of in a prophecy that plays a central role throughout the plot. At first, it is unfortunate not to be able to see the main Final Fantasy heroes depicted in the jiant style of the twins, but it quickly grows into an affectionate, cutesy feeling; it is simply adorable watching the blobby little Cloud swinging his Buster Sword around, and the presentation as a whole harks back to the pre-PlayStation era to fittingly add to that nostalgic theme that is ever-present in this adventure.

Screenshot for World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita

Tetsuya Nomura's signature style is hard to miss in the designs of the jiants, screaming "Kingdom Hearts" all over them, although they do the job intended in this cartoony world and allow the characters to overexpress themselves. Honestly, if Final Fantasy VI were to ever be remade, this very engine with the jiant style used as the basis would be pretty much perfect to retain that balance of retro non-realism and the contrasting dark story at the heart of the SNES classic.

The light-hearted visuals allow for the writing to jump into comedic territory, where a realistic style may not have lent itself well to the risky dialogue. It is no exaggeration to say that the in-game jokes are genuinely hilarious at times, and this again goes hand-in-hand with the series celebration at play, evoking such fond memories of the 2D titles that were built on sheer wacky, outrageous, humorous situations. World of Final Fantasy could have so easily tripped and fell right on its face, but it uses its source material to perfectly parody itself, causing plenty of smiles and actual laugh-out-loud moments. Even non-fans will appreciate the writing, despite missing jokes that series veterans will love.

The humour wouldn't have worked half as well without good voice actors, though, and the two leads in Amanda Leighton and Josh Keaton nail the two juxtaposed twins. Whilst Lann seems a little over the top to begin with, his stupidity is played on to deliver the laughs, as the more calculated sister Reynn highlights Lann's misfortunes without being a bore; the pair are brought to life so well together, so much commendation must be given to those involved.

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Unfortunately, there are some notable irritants at play with the voice acting, with the biggest complaint being that of characters needlessly pausing mid-sentence in what seems to be a bid to extend the lines to match up with mouth movement. This is something that was highly noticeable in another Square Enix product, Dissidia: Final Fantasy, but is a real immersion breaker here. "Immersion" gets bandied about a lot, but it is incredibly jarring to be listening to and watching events unfold, when, suddenly, characters make unnecessary pauses during dialogue. What makes matters more confusing is that a lot of these pauses occur even when lip movement is still going on, and even when the character's back is facing the camera, meaning their face can't even be seen. Some effort and care has been put in to deliver lines that do match up with the lip syncing, but the inconsistency is difficult to ignore. Running some spoken words when mouths aren't moving isn't such a big problem, especially in a game where mouth movement isn't depicting English realistically, anyway.

It may be a PS Vita-only problem, but there are also some cases of voiced lines ending abruptly on the last word, cutting ends of sentences off slightly. It must be stated that the English dialogue is top tier, though, which is a refreshing thing to say for a JRPG, keeping true to the sort of writing expected of an old-school Final Fantasy, and taking risks with the referential humour. Should users prefer it, however, Japanese dialogue is available.

Screenshot for World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita

Able to freely transform into lilikin versions of themselves, Reynn and Lann use this to their own benefit in battle, and this is where Pokémon fans may find themselves drooling. As mentioned, sister and brother must travel Grymoire capturing and collecting monsters known as mirages, hence the Mirage Keeper titles of the pair. This might be something some series fans have been waiting for for a long time; with such a huge bestiary produced up till now, there was massive potential for some sort of monster capturing-like entry—and whilst it's sort of been done in the likes of Final Fantasy XIII-2, this is pretty much a like-for-like version of Nintendo's famous IP.

It works as expected. Walking the maps of Grymoire triggers encounters with monsters that can be weakened and then captured with prismariums. In a welcome twist, it isn't just about weakening enemies' HP bars, as some require other tactics, such as causing fire damage, healing them, inflicting blind status, or leaving them as the last foe standing. It mixes things up, where some preparation is sometimes necessary and places must be returned to later to attempt to bag the goods. Most locations have hidden areas with powerful mirages that usually require being a high level to beat, but getting them early will allow the reaping of many benefits. The whole monster capturing concept lends itself well to replay value, and it is admittedly a pleasing feeling when getting hold of a favourite monster, such as a behemoth, phoenix, moogle or chocobo.

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Naturally, these mirages can be used in battle once caught, but in a rather amusingly bizarre way. Reynn and Lann are the two main playable protagonists, but they are able to pile monsters on their heads to create two stacks of up to three units. Mirages are split up into three weight categories—small, medium and large (extra-large creatures also exist, but they act more like summons)—and this determines where in the stacking order they can be placed. With the jiant form humans being heavyweights, they must be placed at the bottom, with medium and small mirages able to stack up on top. Switching to the twins' lilikin forms knocks them down to medium class, so they can sit in the middle of the pile. The idea is to forge stacks of different mirages to best suit the battle situations in the area, where combining them allows for better stats and more abilities to use on any given turn.

The trade-off is that HP is combined, so once a stack is KO'd, the entire stack is inactive until revived. By unstacking mid-battle, each unit is able to act on its own individually, but with reduced stats and HP. However, in this instance, there may be better chance for survival, and learning when to stack and unstack is key to beating some enemies. It seems a ridiculous concept to begin with, but such is the freedom the developers have allowed themselves to go whimsical that Reynn riding a Tiamat with a chocobo on her head is standard fare. Importantly, though, the mechanic is worked into the battle system successfully, even if unstacking rarely feels like it must be used.


 
As a way of easing less experienced Final Fantasy players into the fold, there are two types of battle menu to use during combat, freely switchable at the press of the L button. The Basic menu lets users simply tap the face buttons to perform common commands, such as attacking, defending, capturing or (un)stacking. Admittedly, this hardly ever feels necessary, with the Classic menu being required to select actual abilities at the characters' disposal, anyway. It's fine to have the option for common quick moves, though, and may be preferred to those coming from the Kingdom Hearts titles, where the setup is similar. Additionally, an auto-attack function is available, and the flow can be fast-forward by holding the R button. Speeding up play is great, especially during those hours of grinding, but it is a strange decision to actually have to keep the shoulder button held down; why not make it a toggle feature, like the auto-attack command? Regardless, this all helps newcomers, and is always welcome as part of JRPGs in general—certainly, the speed-up function needs to stay standard in these types of games.

There are still some misgivings in battles. It isn't as clear as it should be whose turn it is when Reynn and Lann are stacked. Whilst their icons climb the ATB bar on the left side, if both reach the end at near enough the same time, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which character is at the top and whose command menu has been opened, such is the similarity of their faces when overlapping each other. There are little things that do indicate whose turn it is, such as the character's stats interface glowing a different colour, but it is not an obvious thing to notice at first, especially on the small screen of the PS Vita. There is no reason why an arrow couldn't appear above the active stack, just like old times. Others may not have this problem—and probably not at all on the PS4—but it is one that seemed to rear its head on too many occasions in this playthrough, before picking up on the subtleties.

Screenshot for World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita

Although it seemed like the FF heroes would be able to be placed in stacks and take part as units of their own, they merely act as special summons after building up enough of a meter to call on their help. Whilst most, like Cloud, deal heavy damage and grant boosts to strength, defence and more, others can heal and revive. Only three can be added to the battle list at any one time, so it will depend on personal preference and needs as to who to pick. Whilst it would have been great to use each champion as a unit in the party, they are treated as special warriors with extreme power in this world, so make sense as summons that can only be called limited times. A gripe is that the champion scenes can't be skipped, so they can wear thin after viewing them multiple times over—but they do provide some excellent remixed music from their respective games, which are even selectable as the default battle theme once unlocked.

Upping the list of available champions is usually done by completing side-quests, and it is normally in these scenarios that the humour of the game runs wild. Some of the funniest moments come from these side missions, which involve all sorts of characters from the Final Fantasy universe. It is highly recommended to take part in as many of these as possible to experience the charm and hilarity on offer.

World of Final Fantasy is designed to appeal to both sets of potential buyers: those with a strong love for the franchise and have come looking to absorb the nostalgia, and those new to Final Fantasy that may be put off with the current direction of the main series and find it difficult to get into. On top of that, the Pokémon mechanic at the heart of the gameplay will please both groups, because, after all, who never liked catching monsters and pitting them in battle? Since this is available on PS Vita, too, catching FF monsters on handheld just makes all the sense; it's pretty amazing it hasn't been done till now.

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Of course, some downsides exist in this portable version, with notable lag in menus, and naturally toned down graphics—there doesn't seem to be depth of field blur effects or any anti-aliasing going on—but it still looks utterly gorgeous on the PS Vita screen, with the art style owing itself to that. It would be remiss not to mention Masashi Hamauzu's soundtrack, too, which is far more light-hearted than most of his other works, but his trademarks are very apparent, with fantastic remixes of older themes, with some equally great original compositions that add to the delightful adventure.

Whilst there is no proper explorable overworld to traverse, despite looking like there would be one in the opening parts of the game, and with a lack of coherence to the story path in the sense that random places are visited, it isn't a problem for the type of game this is. It is exciting to see which Final Fantasy locations, characters and music will pop up next, and there really are some good choices all around. Dungeons can drag, the quest as a whole is quite easy, and the pacing does slip up in the latter stages with its confusing story that holds things back right till the end, but World of Final Fantasy hits so many other right notes that these things can be glossed over. If you miss classic Final Fantasy, have a love for the famous faces involved, want a light-hearted, simple monster-hunting RPG, or just want a few laughs, do yourself a favour and pick this up.

Screenshot for World of Final Fantasy on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It's a Final Fantasy straight out of the 90s and deserves the attention of every fan of the old-school games. World of Final Fantasy isn't a grand epic adventure, and its main narrative is probably a little too convoluted, but it uses its franchise's history to wonderful effect, blending iconic characters, a simple turn-based battle system, and a monster capturing mechanic that is sure to appeal to more than just Final Fantasy stalwarts to create a genuinely hilarious and enchanting RPG that might not warrant many replays, but fills a void that has been left abandoned in the series for too long.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This sounds more up my street. Really not enjoying FFXV so far as it doesn't feel like an FF game. It's just some random action title now with the name slapped on, and isn't tickling my fancy.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

If you love SNES-era FF, you'll love this. The writing is right out of the 90s - I can't stress enough how funny it is at times. Reynn had me in stitches at one point. It really does help to have that background experience with the majority of the series tho, or a lot of characters, places and moments will be lost on you, which is mostly what this is built upon, but I definitely believe this is a great entry point into the series, too. Certainly if you like Pokémon, but never played FF before, this is perfect.

( Edited 13.12.2016 22:21 by Azuardo )

the good final fantasy that came out this year.

I'm interested in seeing FFXV, but I'm beyond stoked about this one.  I love those graphics.

The chibi heroes quickly grew on me. Recommended to play the PS4 vers for the highest quality visuals and extra effects, but it looks great on Vita too.

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