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Thursday, June 29, 2017

World of Final Fantasy Review!

Well, here's some food for thought. Last time I published a blog post I made a Final Fantasy VII reference (comparing the Destiny 2 Dawnblade subclass to Sephiroth). And now I'm reviewing an actual Final Fantasy game. I somehow never made the connection until just moments ago.

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For those of you who have never heard of Final Fantasy (and if you actually haven't the what kind of rock have you been living under?), it's a very long-running and immensely popular franchise of RPG games created by Square Enix (who also own/created the Kingdom Hearts franchise!). Granted, some of the more recent games in the franchise are more akin to Action Adventure games than actual RPGs, but for the most part, the roots are firmly planted in Role Playing soil. The irony of this franchise is the original Final Fantasy was meant to be the creator's last project before retiring (hence the "Final" part of the title). But like I said, it's hands down one of the most popular video game franchises of all time and has spawned dozens of sequels and spin-offs.

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World of Final Fantasy is a rather curious installment in this series. It exists to kill two birds with one stone. First and foremost, get the younger generation hooked on Final Fantasy (and as such, it's much more lighthearted than the rest of the franchise), and secondly, overwhelm long-time fans of the series with nostalgia via clever cameos from fan favorites like Cloud Strife and Gilgamesh and neat little easter eggs and in-jokes that only Final Fantasy fans will understand (complete with spoony bards and laughing at beaches). And I know some people hate the cutesy kid appeal aesthetic but all the people that hate it are the people who are outside the game's target audience. Although, that would include me, since I am neither a longtime fan of the series, nor I am a child mildly interested in the series. But I got to say, it's a pretty stellar game, and I actually like the artstyle, but this is also the guy who watched every episode of the Pokemon anime series up until Pokemon Black & White because Black & White was so bad that it almost killed the anime. So I am no stranger to watching/playing shows/video games with kid appeal at their core.

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World of Final Fantasy stars a pair of twins, Lann and Reynn, who after learning they both have amnesia (Final Fantasy is infamous for using memory loss as a plot device), are given the task of exploring an alternate dimension called Grymoire and building an army of monsters called Mirages, which just happen to be the hundreds upon hundreds of enemy types from the main series, for the mysterious Enna Kros, which "might" restore the Twins' memory and "maybe" reunite them with the rest of their family.

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While brand new characters are normal sized,
returning characters like Cloud are chibi-fied.

One of my few gripes with the game was the terrible pacing towards the beginning of the story. It does get better later on but early on the adventures literally consisted of the Twins navigating the world of Grymoire with literally no story development whatsoever. And not even the twins charming banter can make me turn a blind eye to the final story arc, since that has a lot of moments that come right out of nowhere (such as the identity of the two masked knights working for the main villain). Granted, I wouldn't mind this if it did a better job at foreshadowing those two characters' identity reveal better.

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Oh, and speaking of which, I know some people have mixed feelings about the Twins. On the one hand, the banter between the two is charming and either endearing or simply humorous. On the other, some folks refuse to see past the fact that Lann is a bit of an idiot, while Reynn's sarcasm and snarky attitude makes her appear to be a lot ruder than she actually is. But Lann's character development during the Postscript arc redeems his character for me, personally. And while Reynn is a very snarky and sarcastic person, I can think of some video game heroines that are even snarkier *cough cough* Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn *cough cough*. But on a whole, there are likeable. And the story is decent, once you get past the poor pacing (but again, the final arc makes so little sense it leaves you going "...What?"). But what I'm about to say might be perhaps my most unpopular opinion ever...

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This here is Tama. She's the very first Mirage that joins the Twins' team, kind of like a Starter in Pokemon. However, SO many people despise Tama for an admittedly understandable reason. First of all, her adorably squeaky voice, combined with her the-habit of the-including the-the word "the" in random parts of her sentences makes her a mood killer at best and extremely annoying at worst... Unless you are me, because I actually kind of like her voice and verbal tic. I understand why they would do that as well, seeing as how Japanese!Tama ends every sentence in "nano-desu", and Square Enix's localisation team thought the best way to translate this verbal tic was to make Tama add the word "the" at random parts of her sentences. Plus, her true form looks pretty dang awesome. Why do I not consider her true form to be a spoiler, you ask? Because it shows up in the opening cinematic. And the game makes it painfully obvious that Tama has a true form.

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90% of World of Final Fantasy is exploring dungeons, collecting Mirages a la Pokemon, and bad punning your way through a *70+ hour long story campaign. The other 10% is backtracking to Nine Wood Hills, which is basically a hub world, to stock up on consumable items such as healing potions. Something I must give appropriate praise for, is how you actually get new Mirages. You see, in most Pokemon-lite games, you wear down the monster in question and use insert device here to trap it. World of Final Fantasy is much more specific, as a Mirage will only become possible to catch (or Imprism, as it's called in game) if specific criteria are met. While some just require their health to be lowered, others require that you reflect one of their attacks back at them, or heal them instead of hurting them, or attack them with a specific element. It requires you to be more strategic, and makes every encounter more varied and interesting.

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Oh, and there's a Power Ranger Shiva. Because 
why not?

Also, something that older Final Fantasy fans will appreciate is how combat works almost exactly how it worked in the older games. That is, turn based combat with a bar with icons representing party members and enemies, and when an icon reaches the top of the bar, that marks the start of the turn of whichever character was on that icon (like Lann's turn, for example).

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The most interesting aspect of the combat comes from the Stacking mechanic. The way this works is you can have a Mirage riding on top of another Mirage or one of the Twins, and given that the Twins can switch between normal size to chibi size, it's possible to have a chibi Twin riding on a Large Mirage and then have a Small Mirage riding on the Twin. The stats and abilities of all of the Stack's components are added together, so the simplest way to think of it is as like, the Power Rangers Combining into a MegaZord. And while Tama does mention there are times where you DON'T want to Stack (you can Stack and Unstack with a push of a button), in my experience, the only time you don't want to be stacked is when you are trying to not one shot that pesky Cactrot (a Cactus that is Trotting) so you can finally get one after two hours of grinding. An interesting thing about the Mirages is as they level up, they earn SP, which can be used to buy upgrades along Skill Trees. The upgrades vary from one Mirage to another, and can be anything from stat boosts, to passive abilities like healing every other turn, to simply being new attacks and spells. It's nice and all, but it leaves to the game's biggest flaw gameplay-wise. It encourages you to find a team you like and stick with it, since only Mirages that are in your team earn EXP, which means if you want to experiment with new Mirages you are going to have to grind EXP just to make the new guys even remotely viable. This design choice makes the game needlessly tedious if you are trying out different Mirages to see which ones you like and which ones you don't. What makes this even worse is instead of being at the level in which you encountered it, the Mirage's level is somehow reset to Level 1 (even if you caught it in a level 65 area!), and thus if it's a Mirage you would like to use on your team, it becomes EVEN MORE tedious to make that Mirage strong enough to keep up with the rest of your team.

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Chibi Sephiroth!

You can also use Champion Medals to summon iconic characters from across the franchise, such as Cloud, Lightning, Tidus, Yuna, Squall, Bartz, Terra, Shantotto, and more. As a thorough lover of over the top and visually impressive animations, I can say that almost all of the Champion attacks are a joy to watch, especially since they play remixed versions of music from the previous games when you use them and are often ridiculously overpowered.

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Outside of combat, you are mostly exploring various dungeons inspired by locales from the main series. However, most of these dungeons are extremely linear. The worst offender to this is Big Bridge Alexander, because that dungeon is LITERALLY a straight line. A straight line with mob encounters. The linearity makes a lot of places overstay their welcome, and the one dungeon that isn't that linear is painful to navigate because not only is there no map whatsoever, but every room looks identical, and thus you wind up accidentally backtracking without realizing it.

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As for the presentation, the music is, as far as I'm aware, mostly remixes of soundtracks from the main series. Which is actually pretty good, since the only soundtrack I don't like is the default battle theme, due to how generic it sounds. The voice acting is also alright. Some lines do feel kind of forced, due to some characters adding overly long pauses every time a comma shows up in the captions. But there wasn't any downright bad acting, though whether or not you find Tama's voice to be annoying depends on whether you can tolerate squeaky voiced foxes with strange verbal tics. The visuals are also pretty good. I mean, yeah, it's a lot more cutesy than the rest of the franchise due to the whole "bring-in-the-kids" goal the game has on a meta level. And some cutscenes cannot be taken seriously because returning characters are cute-as-a-button chibi versions of themselves. On a positive note, I like how expressive the characters are in cutscenes, since regular sized characters have surprisingly good facial animations, and almost everyone moves with grand, exaggerated gestures while talking (except maybe the main villain). The design of the Mirages are also really nice, since they are not quite as cutesy as the rest of the game, and even have some intricate (read: Totally Kick-booty and Bodaciously Awesome!) designs, such as Bahamut or Magitek Armor. The area designs are also beautiful, even if most of the areas are painfully linear.

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Some Mirages, like Cerberus, are so large that
both of the Twins can ride them simultaneously.

But the big question at the end of the day is, should you get World of Final Fantasy? The answer to that, is it depends. If you don't mind the kid-appeal-iness of the game, and can forgive terrible pacing and a somewhat nonsensical final story arc, World of Final Fantasy is a nice 70+ hour romp through all things Final Fantasy. But something to keep in mind is your milage will definitely vary based on whether you are in the game's target audience (younger gamer with a mild interest in the franchise or longtime fan wanting to see how a modern take on the older games' style would be like). Since I have never played a Final Fantasy game before now, and am almost a legal adult, I am perhaps the worst case scenario as far as a potential audience is concerned. I will give World of Final Fantasy credit though, for being a decent Pokemon-lite game, and it even succeeded in making me curious about the other games in the franchise. And thus, it earns an 8/10.

*I say it's a 70+ hour game, although it's entirely possible to beat the whole game in 30 hours or less. 78 hours was my playtime, largely inflated by grinding EXP because like I said earlier, if you want to experiment, you are going to have to grind. A LOT. And I LOVE to experiment.


  1. 78 hours is a long time.... Imagine if you had a twin 😎

    1. I don't think the world is ready for two twin Spencers lol.