2016 has been a big year for game giant Square Enix. The publisher is launching several games in 2016, including the heavily hyped Final Fantasy XV. And that’s hardly the only Final Fantasy title of the fall. Alongside that more mature adventure is October’s World of Final Fantasy. Just as core FF games are getting more realistic, World of Final Fantasy is an aggressively adorable throwback to the series’ past, as I found out playing it at PAX West.
World of Final Fantasy's tone certainly fits the cutesy visuals. You play as twin tweens Reynn and Lann, a pair of siblings stuck in a chibi-fied universe made of people and places from multiple Final Fantasy titles. Folks like Cloud, Terra, and Bartz are all waiting in the land of Grymoire to help Reynn and Lann find their lost memories. Along the way, the forgetful twins are accompanied by the talkative cat-like creature, Tama.
Get Ready For Pun-ishment
My brief time with the game gave me ample time to get to know Reynn, Lann, and Tama, and my biggest takeaway is the trio loves puns. Seriously, World of Final Fantasy's sense of humor is firmly in the dad joke groaner category, and honestly, that's a big part of its charm. I've seen many an RPG follow around sullen, amnesiac teens, but not one that puts so much work into stuffing in as many corny jokes as possible.
The colorful worlds, goofy tone, and extra cuddly versions of classic characters would make you think that the game is aimed squarely at kids. But World of Final Fantasy's nostalgic combat and references had me thinking differently. Reynn and Lann battle Mirages during their journeys. These Mirages are monsters that look like iconic FF beasts. You can collect the Mirages and have them battle on your team, putting more than a little Pokémon spirit into the game.
A Blast From the Past
But the fights also use the classic Active Time Battle mechanic made famous in the SNES Final Fantasy games. Recent FF games had abandoned this system, but now the standard turn-based mechanic from 20 years ago is front-and-center here. It's strange Square Enix would build a kid-friendly game around such a retro mechanic. Still, as a crusty gamer myself, I applaud any return to ATB in a Final Fantasy title.
I don't know if something this cuddly and this retro can find a huge audience, but the attempt to mix the two tones is certainly intriguing. And if I know FF games, things will get darker before the story is complete. World of Final Fantasy comes to PlayStation 4 and PS Vita on Oct. 25.