Commemorating 30 years in the limelight, World of Final Fantasy is a welcome trip down memory lane that showcases the best of the franchise's past whilst embracing a cute new look destined to captivate younger generations. The title may be standing in the shadow cast by the long awaited 15th instalment, but it shouldn't be overlooked as there is much to be enjoyed with this jovial take on the classic formula.
You take command of twin protagonists Laynn and Reynne who awaken after an ominous dream to discover that they're suffering from a nasty bout of amnesia. Desperate to recover their fleeting memories they are instructed to venture to the mystical land of Grymoire which is heavily populated with allies and villains from the franchise's past. Whilst searching for clarity the pair find themselves caught between warring factions and join the fight to resolve the conflict. It might not hold the most original narrative, but its story is brought to life through its well-scripted dialogue and hilarious pun-ridden humour.
A key new addition to the series is the ability to capture and train wild creatures (here they're called mirages) that are found lurking within Grymoire's many dungeons. The comparison to Pokémon here may be inescapable, but Square Enix has fortunately used this borrowed mechanic to great effect both in and outside of the battlefield. When encountering these creatures, you'll have the opportunity to 'inprism' them by performing a specific task and then preceding to weaken their health. Some mirages require you to inflict status conditions upon them and others require you hit them with a certain type of attack. There over 200 mirages that can be found scattered across Grymoire offering plenty of variety for your team and offering an addictive fix for obsessive collectors.
All mirages in your party can be stacked strategically to give you the upperhand on the battlefield. There's defiantly strength in numbers as your stacked creatures total HP and attack stats are fully accumulated. But battling in a stack requires a degree of caution as oncoming blows could send you hurtling towards the ground and left watching the stars dance above your head. At any point you can also choose to disassemble your team, which proves to be effective when steadily reducing a wild mirage's HP to prepare its capture. Both protagonists can also shift between Jiant and Lillikin form, affecting their position within the stack.
Just by sitting comfortably within your party your mirages will gain XP after battles regardless of whether they've been active or not. This allows you to train weaker fighters in the background without having to switch out key players on your team. Levelling up awards SP which can be exchanged for new abilities and attacks within each creature's respective mirage board. Here you can also learn to ride on top of larger creatures within the overworld and unlock abilities like stroll, where mirages can follow you around and uncover hidden items on your behalf.
Combat sees the return of the classic turn-based ATB system which was originally introduced in Final Fantasy IV, but there have been a few minor tweaks. Enemy encounters can now be fast forwarded and there's even the option to set your turns on autopilot, which helps to reduce the tedium of grinding. But possibly the largest flaw with battles is that items such as Dragon Scale are unbalanced and can be easily exploited to gain a swift and undeserved victory. These items are obtainable without much of an expense and can inflict a crippling base damage of 1500. Sure these can be completely avoided, but the temptation is always present especially during tight situations.
Whilst trudging through a dungeon's spiralling network of twists and turns you'll encounter puzzles and obstructions that require you to use particular mirages. Hoarding many different types of creatures is essential as puzzles usually demand you to match a set threshold of weight and elemental resistance. Icicles and rock clusters also stand in your path and require you to use mirages with special unlocked abilities to clear. But what the game fails to stress is the importance of capturing specific types early on and it can be quite time consuming and monotonous to venture back in search of them.
Outside the ample 30-40 hour spanning campaign there a few additional activities to help keep you hooked. These include optional side quests where you work to fulfil the requests of villagers, and coliseum battles, where you face off against waves of fierce opponents in exchange for bonus XP and exclusive items. As well as being short in supply when compared to many other RPGs, side quests feel awfully shallow as you'll usually find yourself completing basic errands for townspeople, like collecting items and defeating certain enemy types. Coliseum battles, whilst a great test of your skills, don't differ too much from anything encountered before and a lack of modes hold it back from being a truly worthwhile experience.
Visually the title is brimming with charm, from its adorable toy-like character models to its joyfully vibrant landscapes. Its cartoonish style marks a landmark departure for the series and although it may not be totally impressive from a technical standpoint, its visuals are still a joy to behold. Composer Masashi Hamazu (Final Fantasy V + XIII) returns to the franchise delivering a mystifying soundtrack comprised of both new and revised classics. While none of the arrangements really managed to pop out during gameplay, they still help to reinforce emotion and help to solidify the new tonal shift.
After three decades at the forefront of the RPG genre it's refreshing to see that the franchise is still experimenting with new ideas in a ploy to branch out to new audiences. An excellent new stacking mechanic, Pokémon-like monster catching, and an alluring new visual style are just a few of its triumphs. It may be largely targeted to younger audiences with its simplistic combat style and juvenile sense of humour, but there's enough depth here for anybody to enjoy. Some may have gazed upon World of Final Fantasy's perky visuals and unfairly dismissed it as just another budget spinoff, but those who delve deeper will realise it's much more than that.