I love role playing games, but playing one is a huge commitment, and increasingly I’m finding myself without the time or energy to power through epics that span dozens of hours. Unless it’s a major release like a new Fallout or Final Fantasy, it’s hard to fit a big RPG into my life. Having a full-time job and kids make saving a virtual world a lot more challenging than it used to be.
World of Final Fantasy, on the other hand, fits my life perfectly. On the surface, it looks like one of the more cute and colorful takes on the Final Fantasy series. And it is! Compared to its contemporaries, it’s a light romp that’s easy to get into and playable in brief spurts. But underneath its candy-coated facade lurks an inventive and engaging role playing experience — one that gives you the satisfaction of a huge RPG without all of the work.
You wouldn’t know it from the game’s set-up, though. World of Final Fantasy has a fantasy premise that feels ripped out of a Japanese RPG playbook. It stars a pair of amnesiac twins, Lann and Reynn, who have lost their memories but have the power to capture monsters — called mirages in the game — and use them in battle. Without much else to go on, they set out on a quest to capture as many mirages as possible in the hopes that it will somehow jostle their memories. Very quickly they’re pulled into a quest to save a fledgling kingdom from an evil federation, as is typical of these games.
What makes World of Final Fantasy different from most modern RPGs is its structure. It doesn’t take place in a vast open world with quests that span multiple hours. Instead, the game is made up of a series of separate locations connected by a central hub, and you can simply warp to anywhere you need to go. The dungeons are all fairly straightforward, making it nearly impossible to get lost or stuck, but they are still relatively large and feature environmental puzzles that instill a sense of adventure. Meanwhile, the game’s chapters often take less than an hour to complete. The plentiful optional side quests are even shorter.
This all means that, unlike most RPGs, World of Final Fantasy is a game where you can play for an hour or a dozen, and still feel like you made some satisfying progress either way. And if you step away for a few days the game makes it easy pick up right where you left off. It’s constantly pushing you in the right direction with subtle and not-so-subtle nudges, and features a built-in encyclopedia so you can refresh yourself on everything from who certain characters are to how to pull off certain moves in battle. (The encyclopedia is not only useful but also hilarious, making it a good read even if you aren’t in need of a refresher.)
You also don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by a myriad of complicated systems. The characters don’t wear gear or armor, and you don’t have to spend hours tweaking their stats or abilities. Instead, the game uses a much more distinct and inventive way to let you customize your characters. Just like Pokémon, you’re able to capture and collect many of the monsters you’ll come up against. But unlike Pokémon, you don’t use them to battle each other. Instead, World of Final Fantasy uses a system called “stacking” where you can stack monsters on top of each other — and on top of your head. Stacks can be three characters high, yourself included, and depending on the monsters in your stack, your stats and abilities will completely change.
Both Lann and Reynn can alternate between two different forms — one where they look human, another where they resemble adorable toys — which essentially means that you can create two different loadouts for each character and then swap between them at will. It not only gives you a lot of flexibility for how you customize each character, it’s also a much more fun way of doing it. Instead of fussing about with numbers and complicated charts, you’re literally stacking cute creatures on top of each other.
World of Final Fantasy has largely been billed as fan service, and in a lot of ways it is. Many of the places you’ll explore and characters you’ll meet are pulled from past Final Fantasy games, except here they’re rendered with a chibi art style that makes them look like Funko Pop figures. Combine this with the plentiful monster characters and it’s like you’re playing a game full of adorable plush toys and collectible vinyl figures. It really gives you a new appreciation for intense characters like Squall and Lightning.
Even though the game is much deeper than its bright and colorful exterior would suggest, it’s still incredibly approachable and respectful of your time. World of Final Fantasy still thrusts you into an epic quest — but it’s finally one you that fits your schedule.
World of Final Fantasy is available now on PS4 and PS Vita.