Disposed Hero's Blog

Posted on Dec 28th 2016 at 01:00:00 PM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Final Fantasy, Square, SquareEnix, SquareSoft, RPG

[img width=700 height=428]http://images.pushsquare.com/news/2016/10/world_of_final_fantasy_demo_is_out_now_on_ps4_vita/large.jpg[/img]

Many longtime fans of the Final Fantasy series have lamented the direction Square has taken with their beloved franchise, forgoing the classic turn-based battle system (or rather the active-time battle system) in favor of a more action-oriented approach featuring real-time combat.  While this rapid evolution of the series is no doubt an attempt by Square to garner new fans and compete with other AAA titles currently on the market, it has left some diehard fans feeling alienated and disinterested with the series.  Enter World of Final Fantasy, a new title in the Final Fantasy series that harkens back to the games of old, featuring a slew of familiar characters and mechanics that should make any old-school fan of the series feel right at home.

World of Final Fantasy was released worldwide in October 2016 for the PlayStation 4 and Vita and met with generally positive reception.  Published by Square Enix and jointly developed by Square Enix and Tose, it was designed as a celebration of the series and to commemorate the series' 30th anniversary.  As such, World of Final Fantasy largely returns to the roots of the series, featuring such classic staples as random encounters and the ATB battle system.  The inclusion of these gameplay mechanics, as well as various characters, creatures, locations, and music from throughout the entirety of the series, all come together to create what could be called a love letter to the franchise with plenty of fan service that should please any longtime fan.

The game begins with our two main protagonists, Lann and Reynn, as they wake up with amnesia in Nine Wood Hills, a place that is strangely familiar to them and also serves as a hub area throughout the game.  Shortly after, they meet a mysterious woman named Enna Kros that informs them that they were once powerful mirage keepers, and if they use a nearby portal to travel to the world of Grymoire, they can begin capturing mirages again and hopefully regain their memories in the process.  Once in Grymoire, they discover that many towns are under threat from the Bahamut Army, so during their travels they decide to help the people of Grymoire and try to put a stop to the Bahamut Army's nefarious deeds.

[img width=700 height=393]https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/victory_pose_fix.jpg[/img]
Meet the two main protagonists, Reynn and Lann, along with some mirage friends.

As you can see, the story in World of Final Fantasy is full of classic RPG elements that results in a largely throwaway story.  This may have been by design however, as this is a game whose sole purpose is to harken back to the mechanics of old, so it should come as no surprise that story elements would have been recycled as well.  Either way, it results in a story that is fairly uninteresting most of the way through.  The story does take an interesting turn towards the end that I won't spoil here that helps save it from being totally redundant.  Overall, the story is serviceable but is nothing particularly interesting or groundbreaking.

However, the story element that will likely keep most fans playing the game is the inclusion of many fan favorite characters from throughout the Final Fantasy series.  Each new location visited introduces at least one familiar character from the franchise, and it is a treat for any fan to see characters from one Final Fantasy installment interacting with characters from another installment.  While some of the characters only appear a couple of times throughout the game, most of the characters you encounter pop up frequently, especially towards the end, to assist Lann and Reynn throughout the game's plot.  Some characters can even be summoned during battle using a new mechanic called Champion Medals (more on that later).  The inclusion of all of these characters is definitely a highlight, and my only complaint is that they didn't cram more of them into the game.

[img width=700 height=393]http://cdn2.expertreviews.co.uk/sites/expertreviews/files/2016/10/woff_screenshot_tera-and_legends_25082016_1472140669.jpg?itok=z_cQKolL[/img]
Many classic characters from the series show up along the way.

Being a throwback title for the series, World of Final Fantasy incorporates many attributes and mechanics of the Final Fantasy games of old.  You visit towns and talk to the townspeople.  You explore dungeons, in which you will get into random encounter battles, find treasure chests, and defeat a boss at the end.  The battles are Square's own special brand of turn-based battles known as the Active-Time Battle system, wherein character and enemy turn orders are determined by a gauge that fills based on that character's speed attribute.  And lastly, you gain experience points and level up your characters, thus increasing their attributes.  All of these mechanics will be familiar to anyone who has played earlier games in the series, and probably to those who have played other early RPGs as well.

Where World of Final Fantasy mixes it up is with the inclusion of Mirages, creatures you encounter in battle that you can capture and place into your own party.  It is a mechanic that is obviously inspired by Pokemon, but it has its own differences that set it apart from that series as well.  Instead of using each of your mirages separately in battle (although this is an option, but usually not a viable one), you form stacks with your main characters and your mirages.  Stacks are made up of groups of three (one of your main characters and two mirages literally stacked on top of each other), and stacking these units pools and combines all of those characters' stats, abilities, and any elemental resistances and weaknesses to essentially create one powerful unit.  With a large variety of different mirages and multiple forms for most mirages, there are virtually unlimited possibilities for creating your own custom stacks, and experimenting with these combinations is a fun and engaging part of the game.

[img width=700 height=393]http://gamerescape.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Screenshots_11.jpg[/img]
Mirages and the stacking mechanic help breathe new life into a traditional battle system.

Your own customized stacks aren't your only options during combat however.  You also have access to Champion Medals, which summon a familiar Final Fantasy character to quickly enter the battle and either deliver a damaging blow to the enemy or heal your party.  Champion Medals can be bought in Nine Wood Hills using a special type of currency called Arma Gems which are typically earned from completing boss battles.  While Champion Medals can be used infinitely without consuming the medal, each use requires one or two charges from a slow-filling gauge that only holds three charges max, so using caution is recommended before summoning a champion.  Also available are especially large mirages that won't fit in your stacks called Mega Mirages.  Mega Mirages work similarly to summons in Final Fantasy X, with the mirage fighting in place of the party until it runs out of HP, depletes its AP, or is dismissed.  Mega Mirages are extremely powerful once leveled up, and its ability to absorb damage in place of the main party can be invaluable in tough encounters.

If you need a break from playing through the main story or experimenting with mirages, you can spend some time completing some of the extra content in the game.  By cashing in some of the aforementioned Arma Gems, you can take part in Intervention Quests.  Intervention Quests are short missions in which your characters can fight in place of other characters you've met throughout the game's story, usually gaining some worthwhile rewards in the process.  These quests are also accompanied by amusing cutscenes featuring fan-favorite characters from the series.  There are also Miniventure quests, which are initiated by talking to townspeople with a question mark over their head, and are usually completed by doing a simple fetch quest.  Lastly, there is the Coliseum where you can earn rewards by fighting various creatures and bosses from the game.  After completing the main storyline, access to four new bonus dungeons will be unlocked for those who haven't yet had their fill of the game.

[img width=700 height=393]http://assets.rpgsite.net/images/images/000/037/332/original/WOFF_Jun162015_06.jpg[/img]
A cool cutscene plays out whenever a Champion is summoned.

World of Final Fantasy is an appealing game to look at thanks to its bright and colorful art style.  A few of the characters in the game look like they were ripped straight out of Kingdom Hearts, while most of the characters (notably the inhabitants of Grymoire) have a smaller 'Chibi' look to them.  The chibi art style was a point of contention for many people, myself included, but after spending some time with the game, myself and most others grew accustomed to it.  I think it helps that although they may have a cute, deformed look to them, they still sound and act like normal people, downplaying the whole 'cute' factor.  Most of the mirages in the game are creature designs taken directly from earlier Final Fantasy games and will be familiar to fans of the series, and their incarnations in this game look great.

The soundtrack of the game has its share of original scores, but these are often hit or miss, with nothing really particularly standing out as great.  The real highlight of the soundtrack is hearing new iterations of classic Final Fantasy themes.  One great feature is that the game allows you to use the theme of any character whose Champion Medal you've unlocked, which allows you to use remixed battle themes from most of the games in the series.  Voice acting can be cheesy at times, and while it's definitely not on the same level as something like a Naughty Dog game, it is well done overall.  The classic Final Fantasy characters are given voices that match their personalities well.  Most of the criticism in this department has been directed towards Lann and a companion character named Tama, whose characters are largely intended for comic relief but sometimes fall flat.  Tama in particular has an annoying speech impediment that has her inappropriately placing the word "the" before other words.  I personally didn't have a huge problem with this aspect of the game, but it has been known to grate on many players' nerves.

[img width=700 height=393]http://www.game-over.com/content/wp-content/gallery/world-of-final-fantasy/20161020202738.jpg[/img]
Somebody needs to go back to English class.

Final Fantasy is possibly my favorite video game series of all time, and as such I greatly enjoyed my time with World of Final Fantasy, and I would highly encourage any longtime fan of the series to play this game.  However, fans of the series are exactly the target audience, so would I recommend it to those who are not longtime fans, or at least not familiar with most of the games?  This is still a solid game regardless of the fan service, so I think many RPG fans will still find a worthwhile experience here even if they don't have the experience and familiarity with the series to fully appreciate the game.  I for one am looking forward to finally getting my hands on Final Fantasy XV, but for those who don't like the direction the series has taken with recent installments, World of Final Fantasy should be a worthwhile alternative.

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Looks like a beautiful game, and it's amazing how good even the chibi-style characters look on the PS4, from those screenshots.  This will be on my list when I eventually get a PS4.
@MetalFRO:  Yeah, so many games today put such an emphasis on realism and graphical fidelity.  I always find it refreshing to play a game with a bright and colorful art style even if they're not the most technically impressive graphics.  I still maintain the opinion that Folklore for the PS3 is one of the most beautiful games I've ever played despite being nearly 10 years old.
@Disposed Hero: I've heard of Folklore, but only in name.  I'll have to look that one up.  Like 3D Dot Game Heroes, it's another game that doesn't have to rely on graphical wizardry, but instead, on the mechanics and gameplay.
Just got a PlayStation 3, and the first thing I see on the PlayStation Store is this game, which I cannot play.  Really bums me out.  This game looks super cute, without edging over to being suggestive or gross (I'm looking at you, Langrisser Re:Incarnation), and I super want it.  I guess I should get a Vita now.
I wanted to get into WoFF, but I have to sheepishly admit that it just didn't click with me.  As a FF fan from the NES original , I'm certainly in that fan service crowd.  I'm typically a FF apologist for (IMHO) under-rated titles in the series such as FF VIII, IX, and XIII, and I enjoyed IV and VI even more than VII.  I went into WoFF expecting to overlook annoyances and just have a fun ride.

I tried, I really did.  But it felt like a Kingdom Hearts game (which, again, I tried and they just didn't 'click' for me.)  I will admit to being endlessly annoyed with Tama and a few other characters to the point that I just wanted to skip dialogue, which I have never done before.  I guess I'm getting old!  But then, I also never got into Pokémon, and I know that style of game also drives WoFF. 

I expected WoFF to be the FF that hooked me this year while FFXV sat indefinitely on the backburner, but exactly the opposite has happened; I've been enjoying FFXV more than any FF since the original PlayStation era, and WoFF is now on the "I should get back to that" pile.

There is a ton to like about this game, and I do recommend it to fans of both Kingdom Hearts and Pokémon.

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