Gamers can be forgiven for not being entirely sure just what the hell World of Final Fantasy is. It’s a huge jumble of characters, settings, and monsters across the franchise, in the trailers, and it looks like fun, but baffling at the same time. It turns out that what it is, though, is a mash-up of Pokemon and Final Fantasy, going back to basics. And that’s both good and bad.
While this game won’t exactly strain your console, it does look pretty good. The mix of art style between adorable giant-headed chibis and a relatively more restrained anime-esque look won’t turn every head, but it’s serviceable and executed well. The environments are often incredibly bland, however, which detracts a bit from the feel. The same can be said of the audio, which mixes a fairly standard soundscape and a strong but slightly generic score touching on the history of the franchise with remixes, motifs, and references. If you love the series, it’ll be a nostalgia bomb, but it’s not particularly innovative.
As we said above, it’s Pokémon meets Final Fantasy, with Pokémon filling in the broad strokes of capturing and training monsters, and Final Fantasy filling in the details with the Active Battle System, levels, and so on. The two complement each other well, with the deeper, more granular mechanics offering a bit more to do.
If you remember booting up an NES and slotting in Final Fantasy, then in a lot of ways, this will feel like coming home. This is an entirely new game, but the dev team behind it has been fairly exacting in replicating just what it was like playing all those old games, including inconveniences like having to drag yourself allllll the way back to the beginning of a dungeon because you have the wrong item in your loadout. That bit of nostalgia was unwelcome, but, overall, the game is tough without being unfair and it’s a pleasant throwback with modern graphics and sound. It also has a fun “stacking” mechanic that, in addition to goofy images, lets you mix and match your abilities in an unexpectedly fun way. Provided, of course, you can handle the tone.
This game has not one, not two, but three strikes. One, it’s part of a series that’s never been known for restraint. Two, any Japanese developer will tend towards the cute because cute sells merch, and merch keeps the lights on. And three, this game is aimed at the entire family, from decrepit old console grognards like me who remember when “battery backup” was magic to young children who (correctly) dismiss decrepit old console grognards as tiresome cranks.
It’s not just cute, it’s cutesy-wutesy icky-poo-woo-woo. Kawaii, if you’re familiar with Japanese culture, does not even begin to cover it. This game is just so unrelentingly saccharine that after a few hours you’ll want to skin Tama, the adorable little starting creature/tutorial guide, and wear her bloody pelt as a loincloth as you ride on Cornelia with an orc army. Seriously, if you’re not twelve, you might have to grit your teeth to get to the good stuff. And stretch your fast-forward finger, because those long, long cutscenes are back and as uninteresting, and unskippable, as ever.
This game is enormous; if you want to delve every dungeon, finish every sidequest, and find every Mirage, you’ll be chipping away at it for hours. We spent a week playing before release and didn’t find everything.
There’s day-one DLC, although none of it is essential unless you have to summon Sephiroth or must hear the game in its original Japanese. Still, it is a bit irksome for basic features to be locked away.
Underneath the thick, thick layer of sugar, there’s a really good game here, and the ultimate goal, of being a tribute to thirty years of gaming history wrapped in a fun, family-friendly package, is achieved with skill. This game genuinely took me back to the days of staring at a Game Boy, trying to beat this last boss. But the overly sweet tone may overwhelm any nostalgia you have for the series, even if it introduces a new generation to what NES fans used to love.