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World of Final Fantasy is an interesting anomaly. It’s Square Enix second attempt this year to try and recreate the former glory of their old school turn-based RPG days, after I am Setsuna. (Bravely Second doesn’t count) And, funnily enough, it’s their second one of these old school turn-based RPGs to apparently misunderstand what exactly was the most beloved element of their old school games: their writing and characters, even if it is a step up from Setsuna.
Now from what I can gather, I think the plot is basically The Chronicles of Narnia with a bunch of JRPG cliches thrown in because why not. Two siblings live in what appears to be our world, but have to travel to a fantasy world through a magical door when everyone in their world has mysteriously vanished, along with their memories. Thus the pair ends up in Grimoire, a fairly typical fantasy setting. You got your big evil empire, your benevolent rebellion, ancient prophecies and that stuff. Amidst all this, you take control of the siblings as they traverse the world of Grimoire, collecting monsters to battle the leaders of said evil empire and find out what exactly happened to their memories as well as where they came from, all while running across all...some...of your favorite classic final fantasy characters in adorable chibi fashion.
The story is about as basic as you get. And you know that actually wouldn’t be so bad necessarily, because the game actually has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s actually pretty funny….most of the time. There are a lot of puns and clever writing both in the dialogue and the menus. That said there is still plenty of the old square enix cringe to be found in some of this dialogue, but on the whole, the hits do outway the misses.
The other strength? I mean, just look at these guys.
Dey aw so adowable!
The fealing of these cute chibis spouting out such serious dramatic dialogue in what is clearly not meant to be a serious tone but yet giving it their earnest all, that comes across as incredibly endearing. It made me said every time the main characters had to change back to their “realistic” form. My favorite parts of the plot where when we got to see the classic final fantasy characters and what their up to with their personal stories. Even the characters that I didn’t previously care for like Refia, Tidus, and even Lighting were just more fun because of how endearing and committed the writing us.
To be fair, that is probably due to the voice acting which, is pretty good overall. It’s especially nice to hear previously silent characters like Edgar or Faris and for what they had, the actors did an excellent job bringing the characters to life in an admittedly appropriately chibi way. Even come of the new character’s like the Cactuar Conductor or the Tonberry that runs the Colosseum are so memorable and fun because of their actor’s performance.
That said, this leads to the biggest problems with the narrative of the game. All the old final fantasy characters are great and a ton of fun. The new characters suck.
Actually Reynn is alright, but the rest of them suck.
The brother, Lann, isn’t much more than a butt monkey who spews out grating dialogue and exclamations. He doesn’t have any charm, he’s just an obnoxious stereotype of what teenager trying way to hard to be cool is like. And then, there’s Tama. Now I don’t have quite the same level of bloodthirsty vitrial towards Tama as some others do, and her design is kinda cute, I still hate her. Putting aside the gratingly high-pitched voice, this character has a quick of inserting the word “the” randomly into sentences where they don’t belong. Look, I get that annoyance is subjective and an annoying character isn’t the same as a bad character. And Lisa Jennings, God bless you dear, I’m sure you’re a lovely person and you’re not even half-bad of an actress, but the writing for this thing was just not there.
Why is Tama even needed anyway. This is a final fantasy game. Why can’t we have mog as out helper. Mog is a classic character. Everyone loves mog!
Actually that leads us right into my other biggest complaint. This is supposed to be a Word of Final Fantasy right? So why are there so few of the classic FF characters? Don’t get me wrong, I love the ones that are there, and I’m glad to see some of the less popular games get some love, but there are still just so many great guys and gals that have just been sidelined for no reason. Cecil, Kain, Laguna, Kefka, Locke, Zidane, EVERYONE from XII. Would it really kill you, Squenix, to give Ashe just one more go at a spinoff game beyond a cameo in a DS sequel? She’s one of your best leading characters and you act like she doesn’t even exist. Even when you do throw 12 a bone you use Vaan as its representative? I DON’T LIKE VAAN! NO ONE LIKES VAAN! AND NO ONE LIKES THESE NEW IDIOTS EITHER!
I guess now we move onto gameplay. In a lot of ways it’s standard classic Final Fantasy ATB fair. You’ve got a meter on the side telling you when you player turn comes up, at which point you can select from various abilities to fight off enemies. The twist here is that you gain new abilities now by having your characters learn but from acquiring monsters, Pokemon style. You will then take these captured monsters and put them on you character’s heads to form a totem pole that will grant you new skills and stats depending on what monsters are stacked. For the type of system they’re going for it works rather well, as there is plenty of customization available, and the monster designs themselves are about as cute as the rest of the game. And, while not nearly as refined as it could be, I do prefer the use of the AP system to the traditional MP that can only be restored via items.
But the bottom line is, I don’t think this really matters. Because, again, this is a sort of love letter to classic final fantasy. So why aren’t I seeing a classic final fantasy system. Why aren’t I playing the classic characters that everyone loves? Look I get it, it’s not fair to judge a game for something other than wht it’s suppose to or trying to be. The problem is, without the Final Fantasy window dressing, this is just a stock JRPG with some occasionally funny writing. With that Final Fantasy window dressing, it’s better for sure, but it’s also a glaring reminder of what this game could have been, if the design philosophy was just a bit different.
How about this: Ditch the whole cross world traveling thing, and have a everyday schmoe living in grimoire who finds out they’re the legendary hero of prophecy and then goes out on an adventure recruiting all the classic fan favorite characters into their party. It’s be no less cliche than what you’re doing now and it would give all the “awww” and delicious fan service you could possibly want. Heck, make it like Suikoden where you get to recruit over a hundred classic characters and get your own castle and everything. Just something other than a half baked, thinly-written Pokemon-clone.
If the writers and designers at Square Enix want to make a new story and new characters that’s awesome. Do it, but only if it’s at least as good or better than what else you have to offer. World of Final Fantasy is a great fan service game trapped in a generic monster capturing tetsuya nomura designed JRPG without much interesting on it’s own outside of the FInal Fantasy monarque. I realize I’ve probably come off as really critical, but I do so because I want to see Square Enix make good games. And for all its faults I did enjoy World of FInal Fantasy for what it’s worth. I like the setting, the voice acting, most of the humor, the chibi artstyle and animations, and all the fan service and old characters. I just wish they were utilized better than they are here now.
That said, there’s enough here that maybe a potential sequel could be enough to fall neatly enough into one of those groups, even if this game doesn’t quite reach there on its own.