Monday, August 7, 2017

World of Final Fantasy (Vita)

World of Final Fantasy is a celebration of the Final Fantasy series, going back to its roots using turn-based combat, random encounters and encountering familiar characters and monsters.  Released for the PS4 and PlayStation Vita, although if you are playing the Vita version, note that there are no voiceovers unless you download the free DLC from the PlayStation Store.  This is due to the game being too large for the Vita Card, the voiceovers alone are 600mb.  The game only has English voiceovers since the Japanese voiceovers were a preorder bonus only.

World of Final Fantasy has a vibrant, colorful and cartoony aesthetic.  The most noticeable aspect is the cute chibi style of the characters, which is that their heads are proportionally much bigger than their small bodies.  It's exceedingly cute, although the main characters, Reynn and Lann, can change size, becoming bigger, called "Jiants", which affects gameplay.  The graphics on the Vita isn't as flash as trailers have shown, there is plenty of jagginess and a washed out look at times.  The pre-rendered scenes look gorgeous though, the Vita version has less lighting effects than the PS4 version but it runs well enough.

Throughout your journey, you will get to visit a variety of areas, some of which are inspired by places from previous Final Fantasy games such as Mako Reactor from VII, Balamb Garden from VIII and Besaid from X.  The dungeons are quite linear in that you run down a corridor with some branching paths.  There are environmental obstacles where you need specific abilities from your party to get past, which can be quit annoying if you don't have the specific one you need and is forced to trek back to the save point and swap your party members, called Mirages, out.

Other puzzles such as the "weight puzzle", requires you to put Mirages greater than a specific weight and elemental resistances, which is frustratingly annoying and time wasting once again if you don't have the one it requires.  Random encounters make a return.  Triggering an encounter and the resulting transition to the battle screen is quite sudden and loud, it will probably shock you the first few times.  Random encounters is quite annoying here because since the dungeons are thin narrow paths which are relatively short, encounter rates are a little bit higher than you would like.

The random encounters breaks the immersion and ruins exploration, there is no way to ever remove random encounters, the best you can do is reduce it once you obtain an item.  If you party gets wiped out, there is no real penalty as you get sent back to the hub world.  You just warp back to the start of the dungeon again to retry, keeping all your items and experience.  There are some exceptions to this when fighting specific bosses but there's always a save point before these encounters.  Saving can only happen at Save Points, which is spaced out at regular intervals.

There are some later dungeons where there's only a Save Point at the start and end, meaning you may go for a while without saving due to exploration but as there is no penalty for dying, and you can warp out at any time, it's not a problem.  Your party consists of the main characters Reynn and Lann, then you fill the rest of your party slots with monsters that you "imprism" (i.e. capture), these are called Mirages.  All the Mirages you encounter can be imprismed at one point or later on in the story.

In order to imprism a Mirage, you need to first fulfil a certain condition such as dealing a specific type of damage, or inflict it with a specific status ailment, after that, you have to "throw" a Prism at it.  Whether it succeeds is random and you may be spending a lot of time throwing Prism after Prism (which has unlimited attempts by the way), only for it to keep failing.  It feels annoying that you have this random element when the player is going to capture is eventually anyway, and it's just wasting time.  A captured Mirage always start at Level 1, and will be weaker than whatever you've equipped it to.

To determine whether a Mirage is worthwhile to keep or not, you need to analyze their growth potential but the investment and risk of placing a new Mirage into your team compared to just leaving your existing higher levelled ones, makes it not worthwhile to constantly change your team.  You see, Mirages comes in four sizes:  S, M, L and XL.  You stack up Mirages and the main characters using one from each of the sizes S, M and L.  Their stats are pooled together, while you can unstack and have up to six characters at once during battle, they're usually much slower and weaker than it is not worthwhile to do so.

The stacking is a unique feature and gives you options, but also doesn't allow you to bond with all your party members.  Therefore, since World of Final Fantasy tries to go back to classic mechanics but revamps them at the same time, you will either like or hate it.  Menus take around 1 second to move your cursor every time you want to swap your Mirages or look at stats, which is horrible.  To make matters worse, quickly levelling up new Mirages to the point of where your party currently is, is very slow.  This is because experience is shared amongst your team.

The story focuses on Reynn and Lann, who are Mirage Keepers and can imprism Mirages to help fight for them.  They have lost their memory, finding themselves in Nine Wood Hills, an uninhabited city between worlds.  They can travel via doorways to the world of Grymoire, where they journey to find their parents and end up saving the world.  It is a typical story, with bigger consequences and stakes raising higher the further you go into the story.  The beginning is slow, and it never really picks up with heaps of boring cutscenes.

Reynn and Lann meet other characters along the way that helps them on their quest.  These characters span from most of the titles in the Final Fantasy series and use the same voice actors where possible so it feels authentic.  The music used in these encounters are also remixes which gives the player a strong sense of nostalgia if they have played those games before.  After meeting these characters, you have the option of summoning these "Champions" in battle to help out.  Your guide, Tama, has a verbal tick of frequently adding "the" in front of words which is really annoying, although you eventually learn to ignore it.

The story is told via cutscenes rendered by the game engine, 2D animated cutscenes and pre-rendered cutscenes.  There are heaps of gags, most of which works and is funny.  The game has a false ending which leads to the postgame, in which you fight the final bosses in order to unlock the true ending.  The story will take around 30-45 hours to finish, depending on how much of the additional side content and grinding you do.  There is a bit of an uneven difficulty where the story bosses are fine but it "encourages" you to return to old dungeons as there will be secret areas and enemies too powerful on your first visit.

The powerful enemies are lame since you skip them on your first visit but when you return, you're probably overpowered and they don't pose a challenge anymore.  There is a super cheap final boss that spams attacks inflicting all status ailments at the same time, and then is super fast taking three to four turns for every one of your characters, even when your characters are overleveled at 70.  It requires a specific strategy of casting haste to your characters and putting status resisting items beforehand or constantly casting reflect, sucking all the fun out of it.

There's plenty of side content with Intervention quests, which is basically pitting you against enemies but with a bit of additional story to the characters you've met.  There're Townspeople quests, which are your standard fetch or monster slaying quests, although the game has a disgusting habit of tasking you to defeat multiple rare random encounters.  Finally, there's the coliseum which has a lot of enemies to defeat but doesn't give you any experience points.  There are four minigames and they are pretty terrible due to a combination of bad controls and randomness.  They suck even more if you want to get the related Trophies.

Final Fantasy's minigames are usually terrible and not worth playing more than once, while there are some exceptions such as Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad, all of World of Final Fantasy's minigames deserve to go to the scrapheap.  Once you have fully completed the story, four bonus dungeons with powerful enemies and bosses appear.  Overall, World of Final Fantasy is a fun game but has so many flaws.  These flaws, while subjective, does ruin the fun, from the cheap final boss compared to the rest of the game which was a cakewalk, to Mirage mechanics that does not favor swapping them often or trying out new ones, to the random encounters and boring cutscenes.


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