It’s April Fool’s day, which is usually the time of year where it’s fun to lie on the internet. However, I was not sure what to write about this year. Last time, I wrote about Eidolon Playtest as if it was a playable RPG Maker game, and while it finished its season 2 earlier this year, I felt that repeating it would be too cheap. I honestly couldn’t figure out what to do, so I decided to just pull up a game to play for a normal review.
Today, we’re looking at Final Fantasy, by Square-Enix, the creators of hit indie RPG Live-A-Live, which is getting a big Switch port later this year. Final Fantasy is an RPG that released last year to some acclaim and since I’ve had RPGs on the brain lately, I thought that it’d be best to check this out.
The game’s writing is a bit threadbare, at least compared to its contemporaries. A group of heroes referred to as the Warriors of Light have been called on to restore the world’s elemental crystals to save the world… and that’s kinda it, for a while. Final Fantasy definitely feels like it’s trying to mimic the sensibilities of old NES RPGs, like Hoshi wo Miru Hito, which isn’t a bad thing. Besides that of old NES RPGs, Final Fantasy seems to chase the sensibilities of Dungeons and Dragon. In fact, there’s some straight up mindflayers in this game? Wack.
At the beginning, you’re presented with a screen where you name and choose a class for each of the four characters. I get stressed out about party building, so I just went with the default options. I will say though, the non-mage classes are kinda boring at the beginning since they don’t really have options beyond “attack” and “use item”, but I suppose that’s the minimalist sensibilities they were trying to target.
As for the mages, magic works in a rather unorthodox way that reflects the spell charge system of Dungeons and Dragons. Instead of working off an MP system where spells have set costs, spells belong to tiers and you can only use a spell within a tier a set amount of times until that tier is out of charges. It’s… weird. You could say that it’s to force you to manage using your more powerful spells more carefully or to encourage you to fall back on lower-ranked offensive magic, but around the time you restore the first crystal, it becomes trivial to just buy ethers to constantly refill those good skills.
Final Fantasy starts out pretty tough, especially around the Marsh Caves area. However, as your characters get stronger and money becomes a non-issue, difficulty severely drops as long as you remember to use items. However, even when you become busted, the last stretch of the game goes back to being hard. Hell, even with a full level 50 party outfitted with the best armor, the final boss was a contrition. Personally, that’s fine by me. I personally prefer difficult RPGs, but it feels good to settle into a groove to watch videos to then finally get sucker punched by something tough.
Final Fantasy also has a bunch of quality of life features that casual and completionist RPG fans would appreciate, though its usage is kinda weird. You can open up a map at any time and you can see everything with it. On the world map, the map function shows you whether or not you got all the treasure in an area, which is good for completionists. Though more confusingly, using the map in a dungeon shows you the full dungeon, which completely downplays the dungeon design. Dungeons have a lot of paths that lead you into dead ends to intentionally waste your time, but if you open the map, you can see where the dead ends are in advance and you can just go the right way. It’s weird design. It’s almost as if Final Fantasy wasn’t developed without a map system in mind.
Also, there’s a bestiary for more completionist vibes, as well as an art gallery featuring the original sketches of the game’s characters. It’s weird that the bestiary is in the title screen’s main menu and not something you can bring up in general gameplay, but I guess it’s still neat.
Stylistically, Final Fantasy is mainly a fantasy game with anachronistic elements like the occasional robot. It’s kind of a call back to stuff like The 7th Saga. It’s honestly a bit refreshing since indie RPGs these days are trending toward portraying surreal versions of modern day life that gets called “Earthbound inspired games about depression” based on surface-level analysis. This is definitely a game that won’t be called that, at least.
Presentation-wise, Final Fantasy is pretty good. The pixel art is pretty strong, though I personally prefer the looks of your characters before they get their big class upgrades. A lot of the enemy designs are cool, though it ends up falling back on recolors for a lot of them, which I guess is some real NES RPG stuff – the boss designs rule, though. The spell animations are a bit jarring because it feels like it was made in a completely different style, but it is cool to look at. I get the vibes that Square-Enix would go absolutely apeshit with attack and spell animations if they had the power and resources to do so.
However, if there’s something I hate about the game’s presentation, it’s definitely the font. It just does not fit everything else at all. I mean, I’m personally not one to talk with regards to my own works, but it just contrasts so strongly with everything else. It’s also the fact that it’s utilized so inconsistently too. I mean, look at the above screenshot, why are the numbers so big compared to the letters? It drives me nuts.
The aspect of Final Fantasy’s presentation that knocks it out of the park though has got to be the soundtrack. RPGs gotta have good soundtracks, and Final Fantasy nails it. From the simple and engaging normal battle theme to the tranquil theme of Matoya’s Cave, Final Fantasy’s soundtrack is just excellent. This is definitely one of those soundtracks for casual listening in my spare time.
The soundtrack supervising composer is Nobuo Uematsu, most known for his work on Blue Dragon. It’s certainly better than Square-Enix’s later release, Dungeon Encounters, whose soundtrack that he also supervised that I thought was mid as hell. But then again, that’s just my general opinion of Dungeon Encounters.
Making the ability to send people back to the Academy on floor 72 out of 100?? Come on guys.
…But yeah, this Final Fantasy game is pretty good! While some of the decisions are weird, I feel that Square-Enix is onto something here. I 100%ed the game and it was a nice cool 14 hours, which is a time that I think more RPGs should aim for.
While relatively light on story, Final Fantasy provides a good foundation if they ever make a sequel. Personally, I’d prefer if they made a sequel to their lo-fi beat-em-up, The Bouncer, but it’d be cool to see Final Fantasy developer further.