January 2, 2020 at 9:02 PM #910
World of Final Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 – Good
Celebrates the franchise while still doing its own thing.
World of Final Fantasy is an adorable fun ride through a world populated by "lillikin" versions of classic Final Fantasy characters like Rydia, Bartz, Cloud, and Vivi that executes wonderfully on its plot, characters, and humor, but falls just short of greatness with some gameplay execution flubs.
In many ways, World of Final Fantasy ("WoFF") is a pretty by the book RPG. You have a variation of the ATB system, random battles, and amnesiac heroes. You have a party of heroes and monsters, called mirages, and defeat enemies with a mixture of physical and magical attacks. But what makes WoFF different, interesting, and worth your attention is that its adorable…and silly. To be clear, this isn’t a parody game. While there are a few jokes about the 4th wall and plenty of jokes overall, this isn’t a game make to poke fun at the tropes and conventions of the RPG genre. No, this is a love letter to old Final Fantasy games in every way possible. From its basic systems to the cameos and champion summons of old Final Fantasy characters that serve as your most powerful attacks, this game isnt’ made to make fun of those old games, it’s meant to have fun with them.
That philosophy in all-encompassing in WoFF. This is a game that wants to celebrate those old games and have fun doing it. Every line of dialogue is voiced and that dialogue is abundant. From NPCs to the host of classic FF characters everyone has plenty to say, though all of them pale in comparison to our heroes… Not only do they talk in cutscenes as you would expect, but they break out into conversation as you explore the field or during certain battles they’ll have banter to start the battle. You don’t lose control during all this talking, it just adds flavor and personality while you fight. You get lots of running gags and bits and little jokes about odd situations. Lots of language based jokes overall. It goes a long way to making even the more traditional elements more entertaining, as you’re not just fighting or walking around but getting to learn more about the characters.
The battles themselves are perhaps a good expression of the game as a whole; a combination of serious and silly. Battles are played out in traditional ATB fashion, with three modes available depending on just how often you want the action to pause. They make some improvements like giving you a Grandia style turn meter to the left of the screen, giving you a fast-forward button if you don’t’ want to watch every animation or wait between turns, and adding a quick menu that allows you access to up to 20 different abilities just by holding a direction on the stick and pressing one button (abilities auto-target under this mode, and it works pretty well 90% of the time). But instead of commanding your characters into battle, you’ll capture enemy monsters called "mirages" using an imprism command and then create "stacks" of characters to go into battle. Stacks are exactly what they sound like, characters standing on the head of each other to create a stack. It’s very silly, but since stacks combine statistics, abilities, and resistences/weaknesses, it opens up a lot of strategic options. Lann and Reynn are the building blocks for these stacks, and they can set up two different stacks each. One for when they’re in "Jiant" form, and another for when they’re in "Lillikin" form. Stacks are easy to understand, you just select a L size, M size, and S size character, with Jiant Twins being L size and Lillikin Twins being M size. Just pick the mirages you want and go. It’s a pretty good system and one where I found myself shifting monsters from the beginning of the game all the way through until the end. You don’t HAVE to, but variety is the spice of life, after all, and setting up the perfect stacks for different areas makes things much easier. WoFF is no pushover, and while it wasn’t terribly difficult to beat anything, I died several times to bad luck or poor stacks for an area.
The Final Fantasy characters don’t get that much screen time, with most of them spending a rather short time with our heroes before they move on. But the games gives them lots of spotlight through intervention fights, where you get to see how their lives are going while you’re away before fighting some monster. These were the biggest highlight for me. While I enjoyed Reynn and Lann, this is a game about celebrating the Final Fantasy franchise, and so getting to see more of those characters in odd situations was great. The characters all seem true to how you expect them to act based on their original appearances, though the relationships can be slightly different. They did a pretty good job with representations, with all of the main line games being represented except for II and XII. While my favorites didn’t make it in (Cecil, Locke, Ramza), they’re pretty good about featuring a wide range of characters. They even get a Dirge of Cerberus exclusive character and Crystal Chronicles character to jump in. Some of these characters you get to summon in battle for high powered attacks through their Champion Medals, but many are simply there to be a part of the story.
Without a doubt World of Final Fantasy is trying to be a comedy. There are a lot of jokes and sight gags throughout, and the personalities are ripe for the running gags they exploit often. But what’s impressive about the story is that it uses the comedy to endear the player to these new characters and make the drama that unfolds at the end of the game have weight. By the end, you care about these people and want the best for them, which makes the high stakes at the end and the emotional weight they put on them feel earned. The game feels kind of short, even though you won’t reach the denouement until 35 hours in and then wrapping things up took me another five hours, but I think this is a result of the story not wasting your time. You’ve got things to do, and WoFF doesn’t drag those things out.
Unfortunately, there are several little issues that hold the game back from greatness. Despite their efforts to speed things along in battle, things still feel a little sluggish and overanimated. The posturing before and after battle goes on just a bit too long, with the load back into the field is long enough that you’ll notice it. It’s not terrible, but you just want it to be a bit faster. I was also disappointed by my inability to change mirages in battle or shift between "Jiant" or "Lillikin" form once I was in battle. It just felt limiting in a way that was unnecessary, especially since you can change your stacks or your size at any time outside of battle. And while it works out ok, I’ve never really gravitated to monster collection RPGs that weren’t Pokemon, and this is no exception. And while you CAN unstack your characters to make them act independently, they all felt so vulnerable that this only felt like a smart thing to do one time in the whole game. Outside of battle there’s also one big complaint, the "Jiant" style characters, of which there was only a few of, feel unnecessary. The Lillikin were adorable and amusing, little people that looked like Funko POP! dolls. But the kingdom hearts looking "Jiants" just didn’t have the same appeal. At times I was forced to use the Jiant form because of my available mirages, but I always favored the smaller forms just because I like the aesthetics more. It’s the one flub in the presentation that I don’t quite understand. I thought that the Jiants would play a bigger role in the story, but such a role never materializes for them and so you just kind of wonder why they’re there.
In the end, I really liked World of Final Fantasy…but I wanted to love it, and I just found myself bored a little too often to really love it. There’s depth in that system that I don’t think I mined all the way, but I didn’t feel compelled enough to dig too deep. The best parts of the game are the humor and style, which is adorable and funny, and takes the game a long way. WoFF succeeds in what it sets out to do. It’s a fun game that celebrates the franchise while is also capable of standing basically on its own as a story and as a game. But if you can’t stand turn-based battle systems, the improvements won’t be enough to save it for you. As long as you’re good with that though, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the World of Final Fantasy.
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