World of Final Fantasy Review – A Flawed Wonderland

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Turn-based RPG
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: 28/10/2016
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


User Rating
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Positives


-Chibi art style is great
-Game doesn't take itself seriously
-Emphasis on fun and humour
-Capture requirements are varied and engaging

Negatives


-Voice acting varies wildly in quality
-ATB speed is frustratingly slow
-Mirage board system is poorly implemented


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Posted November 9, 2016 by

 
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It was a weird and wonderful time during E3 2015 when Square Enix took to the stage and announced a slew of new titles that nobody expected to see. A new Star Ocean game, once thought to be a dead series, Nier: Automata, sequel to a cult favourite that nobody expected to see again, a brand-new RPG focused studio and World of Final Fantasy, another spin-off title in Square Enix’s most important series. While the other titles announced stuck to their established genres, World of Final Fantasy was something different, a Final Fantasy game focused on capturing chibi-versions of classic monsters to stack on your head and use in battle. It seemed crazy, and it is, but the game embraces that same madness to create an unusual, compelling and invigorating Final Fantasy experience.

For many the main appeal of World of Final Fantasy will be the ability to capture classic monsters they have grown up fighting, like the Behemoth and Adamantoise, but let’s instead begin with the endearing silliness that forms the core of the game. From the very first cutscene it became clear that writer and director Hiroki Chiba was intent on avoiding the overly serious tones apparent in recent Final Fantasy titles. Instead, he embraces the fun, the humorous and the absurd. Gone are the brooding heroes of the past, replaced with two children (Reynn and Lann) who are completely out of their depth and act like it. Their reactions are exaggerated, their dumbfoundedness apparent as they listen to tutorial explanations and gradually become more slack jawed as tutorials and explanations are thrown at them. General dialogue is the same, as they let the puns flow with the speed and strength of raging rapids. It’s lovely to see a Final Fantasy game finally embrace the absurd, instead of trying and failing to be dark and brooding.

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One issue that does creep in on occasion is the mixed quality of the voice acting in the game. While Reynn and Lann’s voice actors deliver their lines with gusto, perfectly conveying the inherent stupidity shown by Lann and Reynn’s more introspective moments, other character suffer from subpar voice acting. The best example of this is Princess Sarah, whose voice actor either hadn’t read her script before or didn’t understand that she shouldn’t stop for a second or two mid-line. Other characters suffer the same stilted voice acting as well, seemingly pointing towards some really bad editing or numerous voice actors not knowing when to stop and start. On the other hand, you have Tama, whose voice actor did a great job of reading her lines, but the-Tama has the-quite the annoying the-speech the-impediment written in. Audio quality itself is excellent in World of Final Fantasy with a score filled with both original music and past favourites, and sound effects sounding excellent.

The silliness continues with the art-style in World of Final Fantasy. Gone are the uber-realistic character models of Final Fantasy XV, the highly detailed landscape textures are nowhere to be seen, instead replaced with adorable chibi characters and a colourful and simplistic world. Lilikins, the human characters in the game, are all tiny chibi versions of people, with adorably big eyes and rosy red cheeks. Stylised facial features are used to convey emotions during cutscenes and enhance the utterly charming look of the Lilikin. The same can be said for the monsters, which have translated perfectly into stylised, more simplistic versions in World of Final Fantasy. My favourite design is by far the simplest of all, the Cactuar Conductor. While that focus works for the Lilikin characters and monsters, it doesn’t work out so well for the environments. While the textures themselves aren’t an issue, the focus on clean simplicity has robbed the dungeons of any diversity within themselves. What results is a system of dungeons spanning multiple load screens, each screen following different paths, but ultimately looking the same. Seeing the same dragon’s nest 18 times throughout a dungeon causes them to lose relevance completely, so some extra dungeon props would have been welcome.

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While the dressings may be nice to read, listen and look at, the real meat in the World of Final Fantasy sandwich comes from capturing monsters, stacking them up like some weird looking snowman and using their abilities in turn-based battles. Unlike in other monster-battlers like Pokemon, you’ll need to do more than simply bash monsters on the head to capture many of them. Every monster has a specific condition that must be met for you to be able to attempt to capture them. This can range from a good socking in the face, to hitting them with specific elemental damage, causing them to be blinded or even leaving them to last and killing everything around them.

It’s an interesting system that keeps you instantly gets you paying attention whenever a new enemy appears, quickly formulating a plan to meet the monsters capture conditions while avoiding killing it. This interesting and engaging system is somewhat let down by an ATB turn based battle system that must be one of the slowest in Final Fantasy history. While you always have the option to hold R1 and make time flow at super speed, if you want to go for the pure experience then you’d better buckle in and get ready for a long ride. Even at its fastest speed the ATB gauge fills at an absolutely crawl, causing every encounter to take significantly longer than it should. The slow battle speed had me resorting to using the Wait battle style, instead of my preferred Active style, and having my finger constantly on the super-speed throttle to make battle times bearable, but also missing out on the music because of it.

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The other nuisance comes from the system used to power up your monsters and teach them new skills, the Mirage Board. While I loved the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X and similar systems in other games, needing to maintain this for 10 different monsters at all times can get frustrating. This is exacerbated by a relatively slow load time and needing to first confirm a monster on the front page and then confirming it again in a second screen before you can access the mirage board. You then need to exit back to the first screen to see which monster you’re changing to, otherwise you can mash R1 and L1 until you find the right one. It’s a clumsy implementation and had me avoiding it whenever I could, only levelling my favourite monsters. While the mirage boards are frustrating, the stacking system is an entirely different beast. Monsters come in all different shapes and sizes, just like real people, and to use them effectively in battle you need to create stacks with a good level of stability. Why is that, you ask? Because if you’re not in a stable stack, enemies can easily knock you over, leaving you and your monsters split up and the weaker for it. You want to stay in stacks as often as possible, because when stacked you and your monster’s powers all combine, resulting in a stronger character with more varied abilities. It was fun to try different stacks, seeing which monsters could combine with Reynn and Lann to create powerful and stable stacks.

In the end, World of Final Fantasy is filled with some great ideas, but is let down by some disappointing implementation. The Lilikins and monsters look adorable, but environments lack in variety to their detriment. The writing is humorous and silly, but some of the voice acting is frustratingly stilted and the-Tama’s the-impediment can become maddening. Capturing monsters is varied and interesting, as is stacking them, but levelling them up is frustrating and battles are much too slow. World of Final Fantasy is a humorous and interesting romp, and if you’re able to look past its imperfections then you’re in for a fun time.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.


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