Square Enix has attempted quite a few “love letters” to Final Fantasy fans with their FF spin-offs. They’ve brought all of the characters together to duke it out in Final Fantasy Dissidia. They chibi-fied them and made them move to the beat in Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. Now World of Final Fantasy has shuffled them together once more in one giant (or is that Jiant?) turn-based RPG. But this is unlike any RPG Square Enix, or really anyone else, has crafted before. The developer dabbled a bit in merging Final Fantasy with popular creature-catching RPG Pokemon in Final Fantasy XIII-2, but now they’ve gone ten steps beyond anything Pokemon has come up with thus far. In addition to catching these adorable FF monsters and training them to fight for you, you also stack them on your head. How can you not love a game that lets you run around with a half-hatched chocochick on your head?
Of course there is more to it than simply piling on cute little bihydragons and werebats at your leisure. And there’s actually a reason why your goal is to catch as many of these monsters (called Mirages in the game) as possible; thankfully, it’s not to be the very best like no one ever was. A set of twins, Reynn and Lann, wake up one morning in their perfectly ordinary world of Nine Wood Hills to find that everyone is gone, and a talking fox named Tama is perched on Lann’s head. A woman who calls herself Enna Kros explains that they have been trapped in this world for a long time in a bit of a dreamy fog, and they have finally woken up. However, waking up also includes a complete loss of their memories from any time before they were in the Hills. Enna Kros sends them to the world of Grymoire to find out who they are, what happened to them, and why they are destined to save Grymoire from a possible prophecy of disaster.
Yes, it’s so very Final Fantasy. You could easily play JRPG Checklist Bingo with this title. Go on ahead and check off “amnesiac lead” from your game board.
Don’t Stack Your Mirages Against You
The twins learn that they are Mirage Keepers, those with a unique ability to capture and bond with Mirages. It’s different from Summoners, those like Rydia and Yuna who bond with one ginormous Mirage and summon them into battle. Reynn and Lann are able to use prismariums to capture the Mirages and essentially keep them in their back pockets until they go into battle. While they can capture as many Mirages as they want, they can only hold a set number on their person. All other Mirages have to go to Selfie’s Prism Case, and these Mirages can be swapped out as much as you like. If this couldn’t sound any more like Pokemon, then get ready for transfiguration of Mirages, which is essentially an evolution of a Mirage. Not all Mirages can transfigure, and transfiguring them is completely optional. Here is where the similarities between the two franchises end.
Each time Reynn and Lann go into battle, they bring their set stacks of Mirages with them. Even though they may have other Mirages in their personal possession, only the Mirages in their stacks participate in combat. If the twins are in their Jiant forms, they can stack a medium and a small Mirage on their heads. If they’re Lilikin, the cutesy chibi forms, then they can stack on top of a large Mirage and stack a small Mirage on their heads. As Lilikins, they’re the medium-sized creature for their stacks. The twins’ stats do not change at all no matter if they are Jiant or Lilikin, but the Mirages they can use will change, and depending on the Mirages abilities, you may want them to swap between their Jiant and Lilikin stacks.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the stacks do more than simply look cute. It’s the Mirages that give the twins their abilities, and it’s the Mirages that gain new abilities when they level up. A proper Mirage stack will arm the twins with the needed elemental resistances as well as elemental abilities. As the Mirages level up, they will sometimes award the twins with a Mirajewel with a specific ability, and once equipped, the twin will have access to that ability no matter who is in their stack. As much as I may want that Babyhemoth to stay in my stack because he’s just so gosh-darned cute, he doesn’t always have the elemental resistance or attack I need to battle Mirages in a particular region. At least all Mirages the twins carry gain experience in battle, although they won’t gain as much experience as those in the stacks.
By the way, I hope you all love the sphere grid/crystallarium system the FF series has in place for learning new abilities and increasing stats. With every level the Mirages achieve, they earn one sphere point. In their individual Mirage Boards, you will manually purchase sphere abilities with these points. Certain spheres on the board will unlock the transfiguration or access to the transfigured Mirage’s board, so it’s possible to gain all of those other abilities without ever transfiguring your Mirage. These spheres are special, though, and often have level prerequisites as well as requiring certain items in the twins’ possession.
Blow Their Stacks
If you’ve played a FF game in the last ten years, then the combat is fairly simple. It’s similar to Final Fantasy VII‘s Active Time Battle system, but players can choose if the gauges will continually run in the background or if they will stop when it’s one’s turn. On the left of the screen, the gauge runs like a slider, and the individual character’s agility determines how fast they run up the slider. Because I like having more time to decide what to do with my turn, I chose for the gauge to stop running whenever a turn started. But if you like the crazy fast action from FF7, then you can throw in your commands and watch them fly when it’s that particular character’s turn.
With each dungeon battle, there’s always a chance to imprism a new Mirage. If you’ve never encountered this Mirage before, you automatically receive that Mirage’s prismarium type, but only one. If you want more than one of that Mirage, you’ll have to unlock additional prismariums. Capturing a Mirage is not always a simple task. Sometimes it’s as easy as knocking down their HP to a low point to trigger their imprismunity (I’m not making up these terms, I swear). Sometimes you’ll have to inflict certain elemental damage or status ailments on them. On rare Mirages, the requirements are far more extensive.
What’s really a challenge is capturing a Mirage stacked up on others. Yes, Mirages can form their own stacks too with the same benefits the twins gain from stacking. In order to capture one piece of the stack, you’ll want to inflict attacks that will topple the stack. It’s also just as possible for your own stack to topple, which can be halted with items or Mirage abilities. But if your stack topples, you’ll want to stack them back up as soon as possible as now you will be the easy pickings for the hostile Mirages.
How Does It All Stack Up in the End?
Square Enix may have tried to write those love letters to Final Fantasy fans in the past, but World of Final Fantasy is the true love letter to these fans. It’s nigh impossible to play for any amount of time without getting excited about new Mirages to collect and stack, running into favorite FF characters from past games, and witnessing how creatively the development team wove all of these worlds together, including Final Fantasy Tactics. Players can even summon these champions from past games to run in with an incredibly powerful attack or ability. The dialogue itself appears to be a personal love letter to me, because it is filled with so many fantastic puns and non-pun humor, I can’t stop taking screenshots of the hilarity.
If there is one downside to the game, it’s that the side quest elements are rather shoe-horned in. They’re mostly fetch quests or random opportunities to “assist” other champions in the game during their particular journeys. On the one hand, it breaks up some of the repetitiveness from dungeon crawling, but on the other, there never really feels a need to complete these. If you want to grind a bit, there is plenty to do in past dungeons that you can do at any time when you obtain new abilities. Retreading old areas is often ten times more rewarding than any of these side quests anyway.
When Square Enix announced World of Final Fantasy at E3 2015, many of us in the audience and watching at home thought this game would be a complete joke. This would be yet another wasted effort when they should have focused on other more anticipated titles. The dialogue may be funny, but the game is far from being a joke. It’s in the running for RPG of the year, if not game of the year and is, by far, the best Final Fantasy title the company has put out in several years.
World of Final Fantasy review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.