With the impending launch of the juggernaut that is Final Fantasy XV it may be easy to overlook the little nostalgia experiment that is World of Final Fantasy (WoFF). But by missing out on this title, fans of the series (young and old alike) would be doing themselves a great disservice, as WoFF might just be one of the best entries in the series (alongside the MMO Final Fantasy XIV) that the developer has released in years. From the outset WoFF looks like it might be aimed at kids – what with its cute little characters and little beasties waiting to be captured like a gloriously souped-up Pokemon game – but dig a little deeper and what you have is a JRPG that not only captures that classic (and sometimes complicated) feel of the turn-based titles from the 90s, but reimagines that formula in ways that keep it feeling fresh again for a new generation of players (or for those who still can’t get the taste of XIII out of their mouths). World of Final Fantasy is a brilliant return to form that deserves the attention of any gamer with even the slightest interest in the classic JRPGs of yesteryear.
wonderful seeing all these characters from previous games and also getting a chance to play as them again (albeit very briefly). Also very cool is that Squeenix brought back a lot of the original voice cast too, which makes the experience hit those nostalgia strings even further. Speaking of voice casts, in a nice touch WoFF features both the English & Japanese VO tracks. I know a lot of the hardcore fans swear by playing JRPGs with this feature solely in Japanese, but the game has quite a brilliant Western cast too. It’s perhaps not on a level of the brilliant Persona 4 actors, but it still never feels phoned in or unbelievable.
Follow the yellow brick road
The game tells the story of two siblings, Lann and Reynn, who have left their daily lives of running a coffee shop (yep) to embark on a magical quest to the world of Grymoire in order to uncover memories that they have lost involving them being quite literal superheroes. At the same time they are dealing with the outsider threat in the form of the Bahamut Army, a force that is bent on taking full control of all of Grymoire. As you would expect, these two have a special power (due to tattoo-like marks on their arms) that allows them to capture and control the creatures that inhabit the world of Grymoire, known as Mirages. Much like Pokemon or Ni No Kuni they can be caught and trained to aid you in battle. A cute fox-like Mirage called Tama is your spirit guide of sorts and the banter between her and Lann is especially humorous. Along the way, the two bump into all sorts of wonderful characters, both all-new as well as drawn from the classic Final Fantasy timeline ranging from the very first late-80s NES title to XIII. It was wonderful seeing all these characters from previous games and also getting a chance to play as them again (albeit very briefly). Also very cool is that Squeenix brought back a lot of the original voice cast too, which makes the experience hit those nostalgia strings even further. Speaking of voice casts, in a nice touch WoFF features both the English & Japanese VO tracks. I know a lot of the hardcore fans swear by playing JRPGs with this feature solely in Japanese, but the game has quite a brilliant Western cast too. It’s perhaps not on a level of the brilliant Persona 4 actors, but it still never feels phoned in or unbelievable.
The tone of WoFF is on the whole much lighter (as you would expect given the visuals), and it really is a nice change of pace from the darker tone the series has taken of late with the Heavensward expansion, Type-0 remaster and of course XV. Lann and Reynn are charming characters with distinct personality that you will root for throughout the journey. They have a lot of depth in how they react to each other which makes the banter so much more believable (despite how goofy/cute it looks at times). The story itself is also quite funny at times, simplistic but full of heart.
The world of Grymoire is incredibly gorgeous and bursting with colour; I often stopped running around to just spent some time looking out across the magnificently vast landscapes. In fact it’s a pleasure just immersing yourself in Grymoire, and I relished finding every morsel of information I could from the various NPCs scattered around the settlements. The music from legendary composer Masashi Hamauzu is also a huge draw for creating such a vibrant world, and it is nice to see Hamauzu being able to score a Final Fantasy title that isn’t such a bleak affair; majestic orchestration and lullaby-like composition flow effortlessly in exploration and key story points to help nail that sense of wonder.
The real bread and butter of WoFF however is the aforementioned little Mirages, and the combinations of strategy you can use in battles can be damn fun (and at later times happily daunting). As previously mentioned, the game has a lot in common with Level 5’s Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch, and it feels like that title may have served as a bit of inspiration for the aesthetic feel of combat and battle flow (this is certainly not a bad thing as Ni No Kuni rocked). These Mirages will join your party and (literally) stack up on your head during battles. You can have multiple Mirages stacked in the logical order of largest, medium, smallest, or the baby forms of Mirages (you cannot have a giant Chocobo stand on your noggin for example). It’s quite funny to look at on a visual level, but the strategy in some of the boss fights that is needed with different elemental Mirages and combinations of abilities and spells in a specific order makes the novelty just a tad more serious. For instance, if you are coming up against a fire elemental type, you can stack up on various water types and use the attacks they have to perform an elemental super attack instead. Obviously AP (Attack Points) come into play here, as the more damaging an attack or ability the more expensive it is to cast and the less AP you will have in subsequent turns.
Ha. The irony
Battles are great fun, and as mentioned borrow from that turn-based battle system we grew up with in the 90s. The system has been reworked however in a way that feels fresh. The ATB (Active Time Battle) meter is back for those players who want fast and furious gameplay that requires quick thinking, but the ability to simply play at your own pace is there too as you learn strategies or want to take some of the pressure off. The battle meter is similar to how Ubisoft’s Child of light worked in that it builds over time depending on how agile (or speedy) your stack is. This certainly gives an edge and is worth keeping in mind when creating a stack, especially for something like quick healing. The stronger the stack the harder the attacks and various abilities will be, but the longer they take to build up, which leaves you vulnerable. Sometimes it works well to unstack and use abilities separately when the situation calls for it. As I already mentioned, this a game that is deceptively deep in how a battle will play out, you will die in the tougher fights but it makes you go back and rethink what you can try better (and a healthy dose of save points before a hard fight is never a bad thing).
WoFF can actually be difficult at times if you are not paying attention to the Mirages’ strengths or weaknesses in battle; simply just spamming attacks without any thought in some instances will certainly lead to your demise. For simpler battles you do have the option to auto-attack and speed up battles which is nice, making the grind a little less tedious in the late game. In the early game you’ll be collecting low-level mirages and participating in fairly easy battles, but later on as the story progresses the need for spell combos makes a huge difference in how your band of little misfits will perform, level up and be utilised. You have a great amount of customisation options as to how you will stack your little buddies, and the various stat upgrades are great for each Mirage. The ‘Mirage Board’ (where you assign new abilities and skills as you level up) is kind of similar to the skill tree in Final Fantasy X, but a little more simplified. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as the vast amount of Mirages you capture would simply become too much to keep on top of with endless skill lines a la Path of Exile. Another addition to the game is the inclusion of various zone-based puzzles that, while not requiring too much thinking to get around, can still become slightly tiresome. I have never been a puzzle-loving kind of gamer, and although I was occasionally frustrated with how some of them were presented (or the need for additional grinding simply to unlock a path), they never felt too overused to the point I switched the game off in a huff. Of course this is pure personal preference and some might find these puzzles endearing.
World of Final Fantasy is the nostalgia hit that fans have been pining for. A perfect blend of the old skool, yet with enough fresh ideas to make it stand out as not only one of the coolest FF games in years, but also one of the best JRPGs all year. It is brimming with heart, personality and above all else, fun. A few minor technical glitches aside, WoFF successfully recaptures the childlike wonder I experienced when I first played Final Fantasy VI all those years ago. It is a truly wonderful stroll down memory lane, and fans both old and new are in for a spellbinding adventure.