'World of Final Fantasy' Review: If Only All Nostalgia Games Could Be Like This

Cloud from Final Fantasy VII in World of Final Fantasy.
Cloud from Final Fantasy VII in World of Final Fantasy. (c) Square Enix

Reviewing World of Final Fantasy reminded me of a writers’ workshop. When those packets of other people’s stories get handed out, your goal is to find something wrong with them, maybe cushion the negatives with one or two lukewarm positives. Even a good story with a strong point of view, a coherent voice and perfect grammar can get torn up by a workshop witch hunt.

Likewise, World of Final Fantasy is a good game and a fun one. It’s made with love, its gameplay mechanic is cute and engaging, and you could easily spend hours absorbed inside its silly little world. But even as I lost myself inside the mysteries of Grymoire and Nine Wood Hills, a voice inside my head kept asking me to dissect the magic, to cut into the fun and come up with things to criticize.

So I’ll start off with the negatives for World of Final Fantasy: it feels kind of like a game for Nintendo 3DS (and is indeed available on the PS Vita). What’s more, there’s no slider to adjust the bonkers random encounter level, the dialogue between the two original main characters is childish and grating at times, Tama the fox-mascot character’s dialogue quirk is annoying and some of the dungeon puzzles are frustrating.

But I love games for Nintendo 3DS and find them more fun than fully-fledged console releases on plenty of occasions. Despite the 3DS feel, World of Final Fantasy looks beautiful and polished anyway. The bonkers random encounter level reminds me of Final Fantasy games I grew up with in the best kind of way. Of course, the dialogue between the two main characters is childish and grating sometimes: it’s meant to appeal to kids, to introduce young newcomers into the hallowed franchise I have known and loved since I was the age that dialogue was meant to appeal to. Tama’s dialogue quirk is not any more annoying than the Moogle’s iconic, compulsive “kupo.” And as a Zelda player, do I even have a right to complain about frustrating dungeon puzzles?

World of Final Fantasy's Lann (right) and Reynn (left).
World of Final Fantasy's Lann (right) and Reynn (left). (c) Square Enix

The plot of World of Final Fantasy is Kingdom Hearts -esque flim-flam starring our two original main characters, Lann and Reynn. They’re twins, and if you forget that Lann’s the dumb one, don’t worry, Reynn will remind you. They wake up one day to an empty world and meet an enigmatic figure who, while friendly enough, may or may not be a literal god. They discover that their powers and memories have been wiped and they’ll have to venture to another world called Grymoire to recover what has been lost.

Along the way, we’ll meet all the Final Fantasy characters we know and love: Faris, Refia, Tifa, Warrior of Light, Yuna, Cloud, Squall… every cutscene introduces a new fave in World of Final Fantasy’s chibi style, which is very reminiscent of the Funko Pop figures. Unlike many who are, apparently, too cool for school, I think the Funko Pop figures are cute, and I think the WoFF chibi style is super cute. I would happily buy my favorite Final Fantasy characters as World of Final Fantasy chibi figures any day. Square-Enix, I am waiting.

Chibi cowboy Tifa.
Chibi cowboy Tifa. (c) Square Enix

The familiar Final Fantasy bestiary also comes into play. Many of our favorite enemies return as creatures called Mirages, and the twins must catch as many as they can using a Pokemon-esque mechanic called “imprisming.” Mirages have skill trees that let you unlock special skills as they level up, and many of the trees have blank spots where you can have them learn whatever ability you like for maximum customization.

Some Mirages also have other, more powerful forms to unlock. Mirages can be Transfigured between forms at will, like if you could choose to swap your Pikachu into a Pichu and then into a Raichu and then back into a Pikachu whenever you felt like it. Also, Pichu might be a water-type and Raichu might be a fire-type. And if you got your Pikachu as a Pichu, it’ll be stronger when you transfigure it into a Pikachu than a wild-caught Pikachu would be, because it’ll have Pichu’s whole unlocked skill tree behind it as well as Pikachu’s.

When the twins are in a stack with their Mirages, the whole crew’s elemental and status resistances as well as HP and other stats stack together too. Mirages are assigned sizes from S to M to L (small, medium and large). The twins’ normal forms are L, so they can only stack one M and S; the twins’ chibi forms are S, so they can only stack one L and one M. There's also XL Mirages so powerful that all other Mirages disappear for the duration.

Cerberus in World of Final Fantasy.
Cerberus in World of Final Fantasy. (c) Square Enix

These size considerations must be taken into play when choosing to Transfigure a Mirage, just as elemental and status resistances are a factor when choosing which Mirages to bring along. Some stacks even give the twins new abilities, whether by stacking two Mirages that both have Fire to create Fira or by stacking two Mirages of totally different elements just to see what happens. With four different stacks to create and a massive bestiary to choose from, as well as “blank” ability spots in many skill trees, the possibilities feel literally endless.

If you’re a fan of JRPG-style tinkering, there’s plenty of that to get on with. But World of Final Fantasy also makes itself extremely accessible by offering two different battle menu styles, an auto-battle mode, blank ability slots that are endlessly rewritable, highly limited Game Overs, a hub world that you can easily go back to for safety and healing and more. You can only save at Save Crystals and in the hub world, but you can go back to the hub world whenever you want.

Even dungeons are no trouble, as a special item will take you back to the start of one, where an inevitable gate to the hub world awaits. It’s like a JRPG on training wheels, the perfect way to get a kid into the series or to turn on for some casual fun.

The Coliseum in World of Final Fantasy.
The Coliseum in World of Final Fantasy. (c) Square Enix

Outside of playing with stacks and pursuing the twins’ plot, there’s extra content as well. The Coliseum, staffed by a Master Tonberry, lets you take on challenging enemies for special rewards and even engage in limited multiplayer that allows you to trade Mirages with friends. A special Tea Room unlocks early in the game that allows you to “intervene” in the lives of special Champions like the Warrior of Light, guaranteeing their success in combat. You can also purchase Champion medals here to summon these very special characters in a fight. Hell, there's even some anime cutscenes.

Many of the original English voice actors even came back to work on World of Final Fantasy , making the voice cast a particular delight. The English dub is really good - even the voices for Lann and Reynn are fantastic. I’ve sat through a lot of bad dubs in my life and almost always prefer subs as a result. Anyone complaining about this voice cast must lead some kind of blessed life filled with the finest, most A-list of dubs, or is confusing dislike of the dialogue or voice direction with lack of voice talent itself.

World of Final Fantasy.
World of Final Fantasy. (c) Square Enix

At the end of the day, World of Final Fantasy ’s main appeal is in seeing our favorite characters in a whole new context and style. The world design is charming and appealing, our sibling protagonists are more than competent to the task of moving us from place to place so we can meet more Champions and Final Fantasy characters and the stacking mechanic is both cute and fun. World of Final Fantasy appeals both to fans of yesteryear and fans on the come-up, ripe for an intro to, well, the world of Final Fantasy .

And honestly? I’m looking forward to some Noctis & Friends DLC before the year’s out.

World of Final Fantasy is available on both PlayStation 4 ($59.99) and PS Vita ($39.99).

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