World of Final Fantasy may not be the big drawcard title for Square Enix like the upcoming Final Fantasy XV, but it certainly has its own unique charm. Although World of Final Fantasy may appear nothing more than a cutesy adventure, the imaginative character design and creative gameplay mechanics provides a rich and deeply engaging gaming experience. I had a chance to play it last month, but how does the finished product stack up? Geddit?
Developer: Square Enix, Tose
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita
Release: (AUS) October 28th, 2016
There’s plenty of new faces and maybe even a few familiar.
The first thing you’ll notice about WoFF is just how cute and stylized the characters and environments are. The adorable chibi character design extends from the main characters right on through to the NPCs and monsters that inhabit the world. WoFF refers to super deformed appearances as Lilikins and standard proportions as Jiants.
WoFF begins with you in control of twin siblings Lann and Reyne. The twins awake one morning to discover they are the only two residences in the small town of Nine Woodshill. Not only is no one else around, but the twins have also been struck down with amnesia. Upon meeting the mysterious Enna Kros and fluffy Mirage Tama, the twins are instructed to venture through an equally mysterious magical gate to the world of Grymoire in order to recover the memories of their past.
The game doesn’t divulge too much information about the central plot at first, opting to walk players through an in-depth tutorial/introductory gameplay to get you acquainted with how everything works. As you journey through the various chapters, side stories and more details is gradually revealed as new characters are introduced. There’s plenty of new faces and maybe even a few familiar. I can’t help but feel some of their introduction borderlines on Kingdom Hearts in a way but that’s totally ok with me.
Gameplay is very much in line with classic Final Fantasy titles, employing an Active Time Battle (ATB) system. Players can choose to play with a one button action mode, or opt for a more tradition menu-based system similar to what you may have experience with past Final Fantasy games. ATB can feel slow running at its regular pace, but thankfully combat can be sped up by holding down the R1 button on the controller. Spells and abilities can be cast with Action Points (AP), which slowly regenerate over time.
Borrowing from the Pokémon philosophy of capturing monsters, WoFF lets you befriend, or rather Imprism creatures roaming Grymoire. Imprismed creatures are referred to as Mirages and stored in a Prism. Capturing Mirages isn’t a simple case of just damaging a creature enough as in Pokémon, as some creatures can only be caught once a pre-requisite has been achieved. One Mirage I encountered could only be captured once all other members of their party had been disposed of.
Building on top of the gameplay, both figuratively and literally; is the stacking mechanic.
Mirages can be levelled up and taught new abilities and specializations via a Mirage Board, a levelling system very similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid. Mirages will also follow your party on the world map, providing beneficial perks such as sniffing out hidden items. Mirages can also evolve from small, to medium and large sized creatures. If that wasn’t enough, there are also super-powered Mirages that can be summoned during battle. Unfortunately they don’t remain a permanent addition to your team but are quite the spectacle when you get to unleash them on unsuspecting foes.
Building on top of the gameplay, both figuratively and literally; is the stacking mechanic. Imprismed Mirages can be stacked on top of other characters like a totem pole, improving stats and unlocking new abilities. Characters are categorized into three sizes – small (S), medium (M) and large (L). Smaller characters can only be stacked atop of larger characters, up to 3 levels high. Twins Lann and Reyne are able to switch between large (Jiant) and medium (Lilikin) forms meaning they can be the base of a stack, or the meat between the sandwich. This makes for an interesting concept, from playing a pivotal role in a stack, to being able to ride around on a Mirage for faster travel.
Being in a stack has benefits and drawbacks. Naturally if each character isn’t stacked, you have more members in your party and hence, more frequent attacks. On the flipside, each attack is significantly weaker than a triple stack so you’ll have to decide when best to stack, unstack, or be in Jiant or Lilikin form. Stacks can also be toppled over if hit enough times, leaving a collective group of characters stunned for a short duration of time. In most cases, it’s better to unstack before collapsing like wood blocks in a Jenga tower.
The world of Grymoire is vibrant and full of life, but the linear designs of dungeons, grassy plains and such are a little simplistic to my liking. Perhaps WoFF is skewed more towards a younger audience as I didn’t find myself ever getting lost on where I had to go or what I needed to do. Even when venturing from the obvious path to nab a treasure chest, it doesn’t take too much thinking to backtrack back to where you’re supposed to go. Save points are abundant and readily available before each major encounter. That being said, boss fights aren’t exactly going to push you to your limit provided you heal often and take stock of your enemy’s ability set.
WoFF doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a good helping of humour thrown in. Lann’s goofy and often at times cluelessness is balanced by Reyne’s straight-to-the-point attitude. The English voice-acting is top notch that you can forgive the out of sync character models trailing off even when the audio has stopped.
World of Final Fantasy is a wonderfully refreshing take on the Final Fantasy universe. Drawing inspiration from classic Final Fantasy titles of years gone by, while building some intriguing stacking mechanics on top make for a fun and highly addictive experience. Sure, it draws inspiration from Pokémon, but World of Final Fantasy does it with such a degree of polish that I really don’t mind. There’s plenty to love and very little to hate about World of Final Fantasy.