Fan service is something in media that is quite often looked down upon. From the outside looking in, it’s a bit like an inside joke from a group of friends that aren’t your own. If you don’t understand what’s being referenced or what everybody is alluding to you can at times feel a bit lost. When it comes to games that are propped up in fan service alone, the whole product can end up feeling incomplete, with the gaps being filled in by empty jokes and references to things that might not be all that important to you. World of Final Fantasy doesn’t do this. It’s a game that with solid foundation who’s fan service only serves to supplement the already great systems to line underneath it.
World of Final Fantasy is not a traditional Final Fantasy game, for whatever that may mean. It’s RPG mechanics aren’t class based like Final Fantasy Tactics and it’s active time battle system isn’t as special or as well thought out like it was in Final Fantasy IV. Instead, World of Final Fantasy’s battle system is more akin to Pokemon or Persona than anything the series has seen before. A change that, while a little unexpected, is something that helps differentiates from other entries in the series and fits the style of the rest of game.
The most biggest thing in World of Final Fantasy from the start is its over-the-top cutesy tone. This mood applies to more than its adorable art style and character designs. The dialogue, the quest lines and everything in between are filled with candy and sunshine as much as any one game might be able to handle. The designs of the Mirages, (the game’s version of Pokémon) are just as adorable as the nostalgia-inducing cast of characters. The cuteness of the characters isn’t just for show, either. The two main protagonists, Lann and Reynn, can switch between their cute cuddly selves to a their full-figured size outside of battle. This allows them to either be in the middle or the bottom of three-tiered pyramids of Mirages, things that dictates what elemental types or strengths and weaknesses effect you in battle. For being a Pokemon-esque type of RPG this makes the combat surprising deep and more thought out that is has any right to be.
This combat system is really at home among the PS1 era blue menus and other nuanced nods at the JRPGs of yesteryear. While it doesn’t rely on it fully, the nostalgia elements do play a part in making World of Final Fantasy one of the best JRPGs of the year. Something that is only heightened by the fact that it’s fully playable on the PlayStation Vita, a system who’s best moments are spent grinding away hours on the road or just on the couch with the TV on. The game’s visuals do suffer a bit compared to the PS4 version, but it’s well worth the graphical downgrade for the opportunities that the portability of the system allows.
With a slick combat system and a crew of likable characters, all of the ingredients are there to make a game that lives up to its series namesake. The biggest problem World of Final Fantasy faces, however, is its environment and its failed attempts to make you care about its bloated plot.
Dungeons are often times in meaty RPGs a time in which you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of all of your labor. They don’t have to be easy per say, but wiping out hordes of enemies on your way to a tough boss fight is often times the best parts of the of turn based RPGs. The scenery and enemy types that come along with your journey through these dungeons make up a large portion of the game in World of Final Fantasy and while they aren’t out right terrible, they often fall of old tropes and from areas past without bringing anything new, or of substance to them. Yes, there is a cave level, a forrest level and so on, but the way these paths are set up and the creatures that inhabit them don’t do anything to move the genre forward. They act more as comfort food to the JRPG soul without really doing anything groundbreaking or noteworthy.
Despite fully voiced cast of characters, the overarching journey that is central to every Final Fantasy game isn’t always at the forefront at what’s driving a lot of the action. At times the narrative can fall a little bit on the back burner, in lieu of wanting to to max out your Mirages abilities. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least attention was paid to making the games systems meaty and deep. But at the same time, an epic journey full of twists and turns isn’t going to be the primary reason you’ll want to stick around for the full 50+ hour experience World of Final Fantasy has to offer.
In a fall where the Final Fantasy related news on everyone’s mind is how the ten-year-in-development Final Fantasy XV will turn out, World of Final Fantasy is comfort food for any traditional JRPG fans. What it lacks in some key aspects, it makes up for by leaps and bounds in the design and charm put into its nostalgia-tinged landmarks and characters. World of Final Fantasy isn’t going to be the Final Fantasy related experience people remember from 2016, but it’s a fine ode to the classics that have been with us for almost 30 years.