Gotta imprism ‘em all!
Someone somewhere in the great headquarters of Square-Enix cooked up a brilliant concoction for a new video game concept – at least as far as Square-Enix is concerned. One of Square’s lesser advertised titles (how could you hope to be seen when smothered by Final Fantasy XV’s shadow?), World of Final Fantasy snuck onto shelves to average critical success. The question is, with Final Fantasy XV looming, is World of Final Fantasy worth the purchase, or should you wait for its price drop?
World of Final Fantasy is a monster catching game in the vein of Pokemon. In fact, nearly every aspect of its monster catching feature seems to be a page ripped from Pokemon. Nearly every enemy in World of Final Fantasy is obtainable through the process of imprisming. To imprism a monster, you must figure out how to trigger its capture conditions (if you use the ability Libra, it will show you how). For example, one creature may require a simple physical attack to become imprismable, while others might require you to reflect magic at them or counterattack. The possibilities for imprismable conditions vary, and there are nearly as many as there are creatures to capture. Once you capture each creature, you can hold up to eight in your party, and the rest are sent back to your prism case.
But what is World of Final Fantasy outside of monster catching? The narrative follows the two teenage siblings, Reynn and Lann. Disturbed from their peaceful existence in Nine Wood Hills by the mysterious Enna Kros, Reynn and Lann discover that they live in this world alone – where time stands still. Enna Kros needs the siblings to help save her world of Grymoire, and in doing so, perhaps save their missing parents. Unfortunately, the twins have no memories, but they do have the unique ability to be Mirage Catchers – someone who can imprism and wield Mirages (monsters) in battle.
Throughout your journey, which clocks in at over 40 hours, you’ll venture through entire realms of nostalgia. World of Final Fantasy thrives on its ability to tap into the hearts of Final Fantasy fans; it glosses over most non-Final Fantasy newcomers, which makes it less accessible to those unfamiliar with the series. Each town, dungeon, or region are pulled straight from a Final Fantasy of past, relying heavily, in areas, from Final Fantasy VII and VIII (yet each game is, in fact, visited). As the narrative unfolds, champions awaken in the form of heroes and heroines from earlier Final Fantasy titles. Not only can you fight alongside the likes of Cloud, Lightning, or the Warrior of Light, but you can use their champion medals to summon them in battle, dealing massive amounts of damage to your enemies (each medal comes with a very nostalgic scene accompanied by a new rendition of classic Final Fantasy music).
Combat in World of Final Fantasy is both traditional and new. It’s traditional in the sense that each battle casts Lann, Reynn, and their various Mirages in classic turn based combat, something that many Final Fantasy fans have been missing. In battle, however, you can stack your party into new combat positions based on the sizes of each creature. Since Grymoire is the land of the Lilikin (tiny characters with enormous heads), and Reynn and Lann are Jiants (normal sized characters) who can change from Lilikin to Jiant with the press of a button, your stacks for combat can vary. Reynn and Lann will be either the medium or large part of the stack, and mirages range from small to large. Stacking your team allows you to maximize attack and defensive ratings, but it also compounds and shares any elemental strengths and weaknesses your team may have. In other words, the right combinations can make life a lot easier, and changing your stacks based on your location or enemies will maximize combat efficiency.
While the combat in World of Final Fantasy is refreshingly new (stacking) and traditionally classic (turn based combat), my biggest gripe is with how long it takes to ‘get your turn’. World of Final Fantasy offers players the ability to fast forward through battles or turns by holding the R1 button. This is much needed, as waiting for your turn feels like trudging through molasses. On top of this, if you hit the touch pad on your DualShock 4 controller, you can sim through battle (you still watch the battle, but the characters make their own battle choices). My biggest concern with these features, however, is that if you need to incorporate them, perhaps you should streamline the gameplay instead. Why should players have to speed through combat using R1 when the battle system could have simply been quicker?
Still, with fast forwarding through every battle, I still was able to clock in over 40 hours of gameplay before I finished the ‘first’ ending. Included in those 40 hours was 30 coliseum battles and every intervention battle that existed before the first ending (about 30 there, too). In other words, World of Final Fantasy offers a lot (over 50 hours) of content for your less than full priced adventure. I didn’t mention the plethora of NPC quests that you can undertake, too, because I hardly completed any of them on my first run (maybe a handful). The best part of this game, too, is that its first ending finishes on such a dark note that I wanted to continue through it and see what happened next – and the intro to your second playthrough is even darker than the finishing moments of your first.
What World of Final Fantasy offers consumers is a callback to Final Fantasy games of old, stroking the heart strings of its many fans. With an incredible soundtrack that breathes new life into classic Final Fantasy songs (my favorite is its rendition of “Ami”, the Balamb Garden song), a return to classic turn based combat with a fresh twist, and a story that appeals to adults as much as children – not to mention the addictive monster catching aspects similar to Pokemon – World of Final Fantasy offers lovers of Square-Enix’s chronicled series some serious fan service that is well worth your money and time.
A little video of the characters exploring Balamb Garden (warning, possible minor spoilers below):