Thursday 8 June 2017

World Of Final Fantasy

Square Enix love a good spin-off game – they’ve made quite a lot already for the ‘Final Fantasy’ franchise, and they’re not stopping yet. ‘World of Final Fantasy’ is the newest game to hit the PS4 and Playstation Vita, but for some reason this one feels less ‘Final Fantasy’ and more a combination between ‘Kingdom Hearts’ and ‘Pokémon’.

Set in Grimoire, a combination of all of the previous ‘Final Fantasy’ locations, the player takes control of twins Lann and Reynn as they travel the world in search of answers to who they really were. Up until now they’d just been regular people in a completely different world, until one fateful day where they discover that it’s not all as it seems and they’re actually part of something much bigger. With no memory of who they really are, the pair must search for clues to work it all out whilst also saving Grimoire and its chibi-like Lilikin inhabitants from the dark forces of the Bahamutian Army.

To celebrate the franchise up until now, ‘World of Final Fantasy’ has gone back to the previous battle style of turn-based, which die-hard fans of the series will love. It’s also borrowed a few ideas from Pokémon (or so it seems) – during these battles you can imprison the creatures that you fight, known as mirages, and train them to aid you in battle. You can keep a certain amount on you whilst you travel, and the rest go into your Prism Case (which is pretty much just Bill’s PC). What makes it different to Pokémon is a really interesting battle mechanic called stacking. Rather than just fight normally you have the option of quite literally stacking different sized creatures on top of Lann and Reynn, which allows you to combine abilities and become stronger. It seems complicated at first, but it adds an interesting element of strategy to the game and saves it from becoming too Pokémon-esque. You also have the ability to switch between your Giant and Lillikin forms, meaning that you can have multiple stacks on the go.

It's not just about battling though – mirages can evolve transfigure into others, and can also learn a whole host of different TMs and HMs abilities that they can use both in battle and during your journey. You can only access your Prism Case at the start of a dungeon, meaning that you must think carefully about what mirages you’ll need to hand before you go rushing into it (or just rush into it anyway and end up only getting halfway before having to turn back to find a mirage that knows Sizzle).

The problem is that the battling becomes tiresome after a while – unlike Pokémon, each mirage starts at level 1, meaning that getting them up to your current level takes some work. Also unlike Pokémon, it’s a lot harder to just get on with it with your one main team, and so maintaining a whole bunch of different mirages just gets too repetitive. Whilst it's exciting and new at the start, the prospect of doing pretty much just that for 80 hours plus is not something that fills me with joy. The constant backwards and forwards was also a tad annoying. You can only buy items from one location on the map (thus far), and it’s the same situation for your Pokédex (sorry, Mirage Manual). For some reason there’s no way of accessing your Prism Case and the mirages in your party at the same time, meaning that choosing your ultimate stack combinations takes way longer than it should.

Whilst the game is beautiful to look at and contains a whole host of interesting characters (throwbacks to older characters are great and Lann and Reynn are both endearing, despite being a little too slapstick at points), there just isn’t a big enough focus on exploration in each area. The dungeons and towns have very set boundaries, and the space for each one is smaller than it could be. There’s loads of paths to follow and secrets to find, but it just doesn’t feel open enough, and certainly doesn’t replicate the exploration of previous games.

That’s probably why the game feels overly linear, although there are extra things such as the Battle Tower Coliseum, a platform for multiplayer battling, and the ability to secretly jump into the battles of other characters to help them out for rewards. There are also side quests available, although not as many as I was hoping for, and again they still feel too purposefully placed. Ultimately the game is a good one, but it’s these little things that just let it down. It’s an interesting and unfathomably adorable homage to the 30 or so years or ‘Final Fantasy’ that have been released so far, but it doesn’t quite do it justice.

Hannah Read

World Of Final Fantasy at CeX

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