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As soon as I’ve sat down to play the demo of World of Final Fantasy (to be released in October) at Insomnia 58 Gaming Festival, I felt I was a kid again. Oh, the memories. Not only all those characters I have grown up with were there, but also the classic vibe that has been missing in the Final Fantasy series since a long time.
But why? Why had the demo of World of Final Fantasy put a smile to my face when the most recent games in the series haven’t?
You start the game in the awesomely cute world of Grymoire. You are in control of these two siblings (Lann and Reyne) who both have the ability of shifting between their chibi and true forms. As you progress through this chibi-style world, you have your first battle and your first surprise: The battle system makes use of the iconic ATB (Active Time Battle), and allows you to alternate between classic and basic mode. If you stick to the classic visuals to input commands, it feels like playing any of the oldies again! Plus, did I mention, random encounters?
Battle dynamics wise, you are also able to capture and befriend these cute monsters called Mirages, which can then be stacked on top of each other in combat. I had lots of fun stacking and unstacking mirages during the limited time of the demo, and specially summoning the well-known Tidus from Final Fantasy X. Apparently, you can summon Final Fantasy champions (and get to see the familiar faces) the same way we have been used to summon the likes of Ifrit and Shiva.
We know already that Mirages will play an important part navigating the world itself, including the ability of riding them (sounds all very exciting to me). Now worry not, this is not simply Pokémon with Final Fantasy creatures (maybe just a tiny bit?). Monster hunting doesn’t seem to be the core of the game – this is classic RPG at its best.
The gameplay is so reminiscent of early Final Fantasy games that it’s even hard to believe that this is Hiroki Chiba‘s debut in the series as director. According to him, with all the adorable Fantasy looking art, this is an attempt to bring the younger gaming audience into the Final Fantasy franchise. While this is a smart way to introduce Final Fantasy to a new generation, I have a strong feeling that this approach will also appeal to us old-school hardcore Final Fantasy fans.
I didn’t get a chance to experience much of the story during the demo, but there are rumours that the story was written to have the same relevance and volume as Final Fantasy VII and other earlier games. That’s another thing that has been missing from the most recent games, a relevant storyline that can speak on its own, independent from the gameplay. And specially, a storyline which is easy to get into. The bright visuals say it all: We will most likely have, once again, a quality story with both light and serious moments. And how I miss that!
Amongst the iconic monsters designed by Yoshitaka Amano, World of Final Fantasy is full of elements from the epic series. You’ll get to see many familiar faces, even those not as popular (I’m looking at you, Quistis Trepe). If you have grown up playing the Final Fantasy series, then everything will feel incredibly familiar and special.
World of Final Fantasy was the best experience I’ve had from everything else I’ve played during the gaming convention. I can’t remember the last time I have been this excited about a Final Fantasy game. I am excited about being excited! I’ve ended up pre-ordering the Day One Edition (for PS4) which comes with extra digital content, including White Chocobo, Glow Moogle and Red Tonberry Mirages, a Sephiroth summon and a Japanese voice-over option.
Overall, I think World of Final Fantasy made all the right choices to welcome a new generation of players into the ‘real’ Final Fantasy world, the one we’ve all grown up with. And at the same time, it gives us, old players, the chance to experience it all over again.
Thanks, Square Enix.