In 2017, Final Fantasy will be celebrating 30 years of entertaining audiences with an amazing set of role playing games that have changed the very fabric of gaming.  As with anything that is 30 years old, the franchise has changed and evolved and in some cases, the barrier to entry is too high for a new player.  Enter World of Final Fantasy.  Two-fold in its approach, World of Final Fantasy is the game that is meant to appeal to new players to the franchise, as well as delight the long-term fans of the franchise.

The story of World of Final Fantasy surrounds a set of twins – Reynn and Lann – who awaken to find they are the only two individuals in the world of Nine Wood Hills.  They are encouraged to head to a place called Grymoire to collect Mirages and find their family. In Grymoire, the twins find all sorts of these Mirages (read: monsters) they can collect, with all of the creatures being monsters straight out of previous Final Fantasy games – everything from Moogles to Cactuars to Behemoths.  Besides the familiar monsters, the twins all run into many of the main characters you have likely already played as in the previous games.  Heroes like Cloud, Tifa and Shelke from Final Fantasy VII to Tidus from Final Fantasy X to Squall and Quistis from Final Fantasy VIII to the Warrior of Light from Final Fantasy I and the list goes on and on.

Right off the bat, you can see that there is a ton of fan service for the dedicated fan, but it is clear, that while the fan service is in place for the long-time supporter, World of Final Fantasy is meant for the newcomer to the franchise. The first thing you notice is there is a strong leaning towards the Pokémon crowd.  By having players collect and use the Mirages to fight with and grow, and yes, in most cases you can evolve them into other Mirages.  This is a familiar to fans of that franchise and Square Enix baked it in nicely.  Square Enix also went back to a slower-paced true turn-based combat mechanic.  That is not to say it is slow or boring, but by removing the constant go, go, go of a recent active time battle system, you remove the stress from combat, giving the player the necessary time to understand the mechanics and take the correct action.  Lastly, they severely cut back on things like grinding, collections and side quests.  By keeping all these aspects to a minimum, it allows players to focus on the gameplay and fun.

As a huge fan of the series and not ashamed to say I’ve put in hundreds of hours into this franchise, I really enjoyed going old school and diving into this Japanese Role Playing Game.  I even turned the menus to the “Classic” mode, which resembles that more of Final Fantasy I menus than any other game.  I loved collecting Mirages, meeting the heroes, and hearing all the inside jokes from the previous games.  There are ton of these little nuggets of nostalgia throughout the entire game.

That is not to say the game is perfect by any means.  The story – like many Final Fantasy stories – is rather convoluted and sort of gets lost in all the jokes and flippant remarks made at the expense of many of the male characters.  The game is considerably too long, especially for a game that aims to capture new gamers to induct them into the franchise.  Once I made it to a major plot point at the 40-hour mark, I felt like the game had run a healthy course, only to find out things “had just begun.”   It’s not as if I wanted to stop playing necessarily, but rather I felt like I was ready to wrap things up and start a New Game+.  Lastly, is the art style.  It was not necessarily a turn-off for me, personally, but I certainly could understand how the chibi/anime art style would turn away some of the franchise veterans.  It’s cutesy style evokes more child-like reactions rather than hardcore jRPG.

Overall, I believe World of Final Fantasy almost achieves its goal of appealing to both the newcomer as well as the long-time fan of the franchise.  I say almost because the game really attempts to serve two masters and that detracts a tad from each.  If you have never played a Final Fantasy game and were in the market to do so, this is a great introduction into the entire franchise with a low barrier to entry.  Longtime fans of the series will enjoy all the hidden gems and easter eggs in the game, though you may still be turned off by the art style.