Thursday, April 6, 2017

World of Final Fantasy (PS Vita) Review

When World of Final Fantasy was first shown at E3 a year or so ago, I was intrigued.  Who where the twins?  Why is there a more "normal" style and a chibi style?  What are battles like?  When the game was released, I got a taste of it by using the shareplay function on the PS4, but I have recently finished up the Vita version and decided to review it.

World of Final Fantasy's battle system looks and sounds more complicated than it is.  Each character has their own skills and can fight on their own, although their HP is low and can be killed quickly.  To combat this, you can stack up to three party members, one of each size (S, M, and L) to add their stats together.  This makes them much stronger and harder to kill, but each stack only gets one turn, as opposed to each member getting their own turn.  Still, I went through the whole game stacked, and it usually went fine.  Some attacks will weaken the stack, and eventually knock it over.  This stuns everyone in the stack, making them vulnerable to a focused assault.  If the stack loses all of its HP, all three members will be dead.  Enemies can also be stacked, so knowing how they function not only protects you, but gives you knowledge to fight enemies.

Each member of the stack has their own abilities.  Depending on how they combine, you may get stronger abilities too.  This is the way to get stronger spells.  If two people have the water spell, then your stack also has access to watera, the next strongest tier of water spells.  It's actually a well thought out system that isn't too hard to figure out, and is rewarding when you use it.

In battles, there are two ways to give commands, the new style and the classic style.  New has each character's skill list as a separate button, or direction or something...and I hated it.  Classic puts it all in one list, so it is easy to see what you have available.  My only gripe with it is that you can't customize the order or sort it.  Also the game features the Active Time Battle that was a staple of Final Fantasy games for years, but you can also make it turn based by turning off the ATB.  While I did love that system back in the day, I have it set to turn based, so I have time to think about my moves, find the right skill, plan out my actions, or just knowing I won't get blown up if I have to deal with some child's emergency during battle.

To capture monsters, you need their prismarium (or elder box for the robots) and to fulfill specific conditions to make them capture-able.  These are listed in their info if you scan them, and range from doing damage, using a certain element/ailment, or even things like hitting them with a counter attack.  Some requirements can be met up to three times to increase the capture percent.  Thankfully, you only use up the prismarium or elder box if you actually capture the creature, so you can try multiple times until it is successful.  They also supply you with a prismarium (but not elder box) for each creature the first time you fight it.  In terms of monster catching, this is a great way to do it, and probably the best I've used.

Monsters that you take with you gain experience and level up.  When gaining a level, their stats improve and they gain a CP, which can be used on their mirage board to gain stats, abilities, and skills.  They very much remind me of the sphere grids from Final Fantasy X.  Many monsters can transfigure into other monsters that have connected boards, which share stats and some skills.  Some can turn into other monsters that have their own connected boards, which do not share stats or skills, but have the appropriate CP for their level.  Buying skills on monster's boards will up their sync percent, which gives bonus stats at certain intervals, and awards a skill at max.  This take in to account all boards, so those small stat boosts are shared, but the mastery skill isn't, so you can pick different ones.  However, the twins do not have mirage boards and instead gain skills depending on what mirajewels you equip them with.  There are numerous to find and earn, and you can freely switch them out of battle.

As you make your way through the story, you will come to many dungeons, each with a boss at the end.  There are also secret areas to find.  The dungeons can get pretty long, but the encounter rate feels appropriate so it isn't a slog.  However, a few of the dungeons have bad designs that are pretty much run forward in a (near) straight line.  I did enjoy the story, too, but some scenes had a bit too much unnecessary dialogue, which I've come to get tired of quickly in my older age.  It would be fine if you could advance it quicker, but the dialogue is voiced and I couldn't find that as an option.  But good news!  You can pause the cut scenes!  Thank you...this should really be a standard for games.

Though at one point in the story, it feels like it comes to a screeching halt.  To help the champions against a new threat you must...take part in some minigames.  These come out of nowhere, and are pretty terrible (at best).  You can't really skip them either, but some let you advance after losing.  I really hate this part of the game, simply because they lock off the actual game until you complete some stupid and terrible minigames.  It's annoying when games do that, and doubly so when it's a game I'm really enjoying.  Several of the games are pure luck based, so you can't even get good at them, just lucky.  You also unlock the ability to play them whenever you want, as if that is some sort of reward.  Instead of the minigames, they should have just made them all non-gimmicky fights.

On to better news, the game takes around 50 hours to get the first ending.  It took me more, but I was doing some grinding and other extra stuff that drove up my playtime.  The only time I felt I had to grind was before the final boss of each ending, but only because it's a fast little jerkwad.  To get the second, true ending, it takes maybe about 10 more, depending on how strong you and your monsters are.  When I finally finished everything but the post-game dungeons, I had put over 70 hours into the game.

World of Final Fantasy is definitely a love letter to fans of Final Fantasy, and an easy recommendation to JRPG fans.  It's still accessible to new fans, but you will get more out of it the more of the franchise you have played.  Even the secret boss...well, I don't want to ruin it, but I was super excited to see it.  I played the entire game on the Vita, and the only problem was the longer load times.  It's not terrible, but it is noticeable.  The game has a lot of playtime, monsters to catch and ways to customize your battle party.  It is easily worth the price for either the PS4 or the Vita.

The Good:
Battles, game length, customization, references...

The Bad:
When the story grinds to a halt because of mandatory minigames.

The SaHD:
Aw, man, that secret boss hits me right in the nostalgia.

(World of Final Fantasy was purchased by the reviewer)

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