If there’s one thing my friends these days are surprised about, it’s the fact that despite being a 90’s child, I have never owned a Final Fantasy game. I’ve had every PlayStation, but I never played what is a cornerstone of the RPG genre.

Curiosity kills.

Still, I wasn’t sure what I would be getting into with World of Final Fantasy. From first impressions, it looked like a cutesy game that was meant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise, while introducing it to a new generation at the same time. How does it hold up?

The plot centres on two protagonists, Lann and Reynn, siblings who wake up one day to discover that their hometown is suddenly devoid of anyone else, save for one person - a woman named Enna Kros, who quickly leads the pair on an adventure to the world of Grymoire. The story quickly grows to encompass many familiar faces from the series - albeit in chibi forms known as Lilikin - and is clearly meant to evoke a lot of nostalgia for veterans of the series, but for those unfamiliar with the series, it isn’t hard to understand why they were, and still are, icons of the franchise, and the genre. Sadly, the storyline feels a little weak otherwise, with little to show you besides reminders of the past. It feels like a bit of a letdown for what could have been a much better crossover with all these characters involved, and Square Enix has done good crossovers before. Kingdom Hearts, anyone?

For a start, the gameplay is a complete U-turn from the most recent entries, including the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. You play out the battles in the old turn-based format that long-standing fans will be familiar with, including turn order being decided by stats rather than a fixed order. It’s a refreshing change from what has been a turn away from this method of combat over the years, as action-based RPG combat becomes the norm. The system is well-tuned for all levels of play as well, with both a classic menu system for veterans and a recommendation-based action wheel for newer players, where you push a corresponding direction for a character, followed by a face button for a specific ability or attack. Even better is the ability to switch between the two at any interval, so you can try out the two systems at your leisure.

Another major gameplay mechanic of this game is the Stacking system. With this, you ‘stack’ allied creatures (called Mirages) on top of (or below) main characters Reynn and Lann to pool their abilities together, although this can also bring weaknesses with it, which forces the player to strategize with who they match who with. The two siblings can also switch between Lilikin and Jiant forms to allow further customization of the stack. As for the Mirages themselves, they are caught in a fashion not dissimilar to Pokémon games, as you use Prisms to capture them at prime moments, and from there on use them as your own. The variety of available moves and strategies is impressive, but the art of capturing your allies could be hit or miss for some, particularly if you’re already not fond of the Pokémon series gameplay.

As for the game’s looks, they’re not as amazing in terms of detail compared to the upcoming FFXV, but they still look great for what they offer. The game is very bright and cheerful with its palette, bringing life to everything around you, from the characters to the landscape. The Mirages all look varied and, while some may be too cutesy, the effort to make as many unique creatures as possible both old and new is a joy to look at.

So overall, World of Final Fantasy offers nostalgia up to the gills, gameplay that will resonate well especially with fans of the earlier games, and it looks great to boot. It’s an easy recommendation for those that haven’t played a Final Fantasy game before, are ok with the cute aesthetics, and don’t want to pay full price on Final Fantasy XV just yet. I am a little surprised however, that no-one from XV makes an appearance in this game, if only to drum up just one last burst of hype for a game ten years in the making.

Not that Final Fantasy XV needs anymore hype. The wait is almost over… and this game will keep fans busy until then.

++ Classic turn-based gameplay
+Nice, colourful design and graphics

+- Pokémon style gameplay
+- Aimed at younger audience

- Uninteresting storyline

A PS4 copy of World of Final Fantasy was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review