The Final Fantasy franchise has one of the richest histories of any game series, dating back to its initial debut on the NES back in 1987. Since that time, gamers have been given a variety of different style games, with more recent entries in the series tending to move more towards action based gameplay. There are some people that prefer a more classic approach to combat though, which is what the latest spin-off provides in the aptly titled World of Final Fantasy.
Like most of the series, World of Final Fantasy is a standalone outing from the rest of the series. However, this one is built around fan service that still ties it to the history of the series, even though the story is a completely separate entity. The two leads in the game, Lann and Reynn, are twin brother and sister that seem to be living a normal life in the town of Nine Wood Hills. However, things are not as they seem, as this is quickly shaken up by the duo learning that they are what is known as Mirage Keepers, and that they have lost all of their memories at some point. After they learn this, they head off on a journey to Grymoire, which has combined many of the familiar locations from the series into one large world.
At the start, Lann and Reynn, as well as a few other characters introduced in Nine Wood Hills, have an almost Kingdom Hearts-esque look to them. This is largely due to the fact that part of the game was designed by Kingdom Hearts series director Tetsuya Nomura. Upon venturing to the Grymoire though, Lann and Reynn adopt a chibi style look that fits in with the residents of this world, which are known as Lilikin, versus the normal looking Jiants. These chibi designs definitely take some getting used to, especially with how good the Jiant designs themselves look, but it definitely fits the type of atmosphere that World of Final Fantasy is trying to present.
The story itself has Lann and Reynn traveling across Grymoire and fending off members of the Bahamutian Army that is threatening the realm. Bringing in many classic characters into the mix in their Lilikin form like Cloud and Tidus is really cool for longtime Final Fantasy fans. Those that have not played the original games will not feel alienated though, as these characters have their own side stories built into World of Final Fantasy, rather than having them directly based on the originals. The overall pacing can feel a little off at times, with periods of not much happening, but the constant nods to the past is a real treat for Final Fantasy fans.
Presentation is always a key element in any Final Fantasy game and World of Final Fantasy does a good job at providing a familiar, yet still original world with Grymoire. The music is a fantastic mix of old and new as you travel to the different towns throughout the game, which really rewards those that have been following the series for years, while also being enjoyable on its own as well.
Moving away from the more real time based approach of modern Final Fantasy games, World of Final Fantasy employs a more classic based battle system. During combat, there is a time bar on the left side that shows the order that characters will be attacking, with it moving after each attack depending on the speed of the characters in that battle. The game defaults to where the active character attacks, then the next, and so on, but you can also adjust this to a more active approach if you want, though the combat is still essentially turn based if you are on top of everything.
While Lann and Reynn will mostly be using commands like Attack or utilizing special abilities, which are done through either a Classic or Basic command system, beings known as Mirages play a major role in the battle system found in World of Final Fantasy. While traveling around Grymoire, most anything you come across in combat is known as a Mirage. Taking on an almost Pokemon like approach, these Mirages can be battled outright and beaten, but you also have the option to capture them for your own use.
Unlike Pokemon however, this isn’t just as simple as weakening a Mirage and throwing an item at it. While this is partially the way it is done, World of Final Fantasy requires you to knock the Mirages into a prismtunity state first. Depending on the different Mirages, there are different conditions that need to be met to have them reach this state in battle. At this point, they will start to glow and you are able to use the Imprism command. This does not always work either, so you will often have to attempt this multiple times, just like with having to throw numerous Poke Balls in Pokemon.
As soon as you start capturing different Mirages in the game, the combat itself opens up even further thanks to what is known as stacking. Lann and Reynn can just go into combat themselves with their base stats, but you also have the ability to power them up by combining them with a different array of Mirages.
Up to three characters can be stacked together, which also depends on whether you are in Jiant or Lilikin form, of which you can switch back and forth between at anytime outside of battle with a simple button press. Stacking is made up of three sizes at a time, which are small, medium, and large. When in Jiant form, both Lann and Reynn are classified as large, but they are classified as medium in Lilikin form. As a Jiant, both characters can stack a medium and a small character atop them in that order, while the Lilikin versions can stack a small on their head, while riding on top of a large Mirage themselves.
A real treat for Final Fantasy fans
The appeal of the stacking system is that both Lann and Reynn can strengthen themselves greatly by combining their HP totals and other statistics with their stacked Mirages. However, you do also have to be careful, as this can also lead to increased weaknesses depending on elements and such. Adding in another layer to the gameplay, even the enemy can stack as well. Both sides can knock the other off balance and cause them to unstack as a result, so strategy definitely plays a big part here.
Each group can also be unstacked manually in battle as well, which obviously reduces the statistics, but it allows for extra attackers in that bout. The stacking system is definitely very unique and works very well in this type of game, with it opening up even further as you advance further in the game, where you can enhance your Mirages via a Final Fantasy X like Sphere Grid known as a Mirage Board for each individual Mirage. In addition, there are special Champions, such as Lightning and Squall, that can only be summoned and replace the party itself for an amount of time.
One very helpful feature that World of Final Fantasy offers is that of cross-save between the PS4 and PS Vita versions. Players will have to actually purchase both versions separately, but this is the type of game that is well served to be able to take on the game to do more of the Mirage hunting style tasks. This is especially nice considering how this game is quite long as well. And the saves can be set to auto upload to the cloud if you wish, making the whole process even easier.
Building a game around nostalgia can often backfire, but the development team manages to weave both old and new together almost seamlessly in World of Final Fantasy. The story itself isn’t among the best in the series, hindered partially by too slow of a pace. However, the classic style battle mechanics mixed with the capturing and stacking of Mirages make World of Final Fantasy a trip down memory lane that any fan of the franchise should check out.