Preview: World of Final Fantasy is bursting with chibi charm

by on September 8, 2016

It’s not often that you see a Final Fantasy game that favours comedy over drama. There have been plenty untimely deaths throughout the series — some which have shattered players and become iconic moments of gaming. But World of Final Fantasy plans to turn this perception on its head by introducing a new sense of humour, a lighter narrative, adorable chibi characters, and some of the most cringe-worthy yet strangely heartwarming dialogue ever written into the series.

You assume the roles of Lann and Reynn — a pair of twins who find themselves in the Mirage-filled world of Grymoire. All enemies and characters encountered have been taken from previous entries in the series, but in this dimension, they are rendered in chibi style with tiny bodies and comically oversized heads; making them entirely adorable but also strangely out of place. During NPC conversations, chibi fellas talk with deep, gruff voices which is humorous — it is almost physically impossible for a being so infinitely cute to produce such a grim tone. Only Lann and Reynn can switch between full-sized and chibi form, with each variation affecting the rules and flow of the random encounters that ensue throughout the game.

World of Final Fantasy preview screenshots

A rather strange addition to the series is the ability to capture these Mirages — enemies which inhabit the world. Lann and Reynn can “imprism” these tiny beings and equip them once captured, stacking them on their heads to allow for more powerful, elemental attacks. Seeing this is all rather comical — a tiny little character balancing up to three Mirages on their craniums, being aware of enemy attacks that may topple the tower and make them all individually weaker until they re-stack. Mirages have specific criteria to become capturable: say you have to damage it using a physical attack, or make sure it’s the last enemy standing on the battlefield before you can snag it. This adds a strange, rather random element to gameplay which allows World of Final Fantasy to feel fresh, even if it’s perhaps inspired by other franchises.

The graphic fidelity of the outside world is really something, with the scenes found in my demo highlighting the artistic value of such a cutesy style. The one dungeon that I saw, and this may be too quick of a judgement, was rather bland until the climax in which you must choose to battle one of three historic summons which have appeared throughout the series — Ifrit, Shiva and Ramuh. The character models of these summons have been designed wonderfully, looking different than previous incarnations but not so much so that they become indistinguishable. Choosing your elemental opponent is supposed to be the toughest part of the demo — the ultimate battle almost. However, I fluked it, ending Ramuh in just two turns by using an Earth Hammer which decimated him with 3000 damage.

The battle system will be familiar to die-hard Final Fantasy fans as ATB is back, with purists being able to revert to “Classic Mode” instead of the slick revamped battle UI. While brand spanking new, this fresh UI can take a bit of getting used to, involving using the D-pad to select enemies and the PlayStation buttons to select battle actions. It can be hard to distinguish who’s turn it is as well as who you’re attacking: the pointer quickly disappears and all battle participants will have individual targets, meaning you must manually select the enemy you want to attack with each new character. Purists will instantly choose Classic Mode as their default, while uninitiated players will be more tolerant of the fresh UI — opening World of Final Fantasy up to a wider audience.

World of Final Fantasy preview screenshot

New players should not be intimidated by the range of lore and previous characters featured in-game however: World of Final Fantasy understands that not everyone will be a mastermind on the series, and presents each new layer of depth with care and simplicity. Lann and Reynn chat away while you explore, ending almost every sentence with some sort of pun or joke, which stops the game from ever delving into the more serious territory broached by titles like Final Fantasy VII. But this isn’t a bad thing — the perky dialogue was personally appreciated, blending well with the chibi art style but some returning players may not appreciate the juvenile tone.

World of Final Fantasy isn’t Square Enix’s next masterpiece, and it’s certainly not the defining moment of the Final Fantasy series. The nice thing is, though, is that it’s not trying to be any of these things. It is fully aware of its quirkiness and parades it proudly — when else have you seen RPG battles made up of squishy little characters balancing weird-looking creatures on their heads? Some fans will overlook it; others will adore it, but underneath all that chibi charm is a commendable RPG that plenty will surely enjoy.

Preview based on time spent at Square Enix offices. We paid for our own transport.