Final Fantasy Dimensions
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Modes: Single Player
I just had a chance to play through the free Prologue of Final Fantasy Dimensions, a newly released Final Fantasy game for mobile phones and iOS devices. This game is very similar in format to the older Final Fantasies, featuring a 2D plane, an overworld peppered with towns and caves, and an Active Time Battle based combat system, along with many other classic Final Fantasy staples. How did it hold up?
The story was probably the least satisfying aspect of the Prologue, because it’s pretty much a stereotypical Final Fantasy story. Four warriors of light are sent to investigate a disturbance at the Crystal Shrine, where the Crystal is ultimately shattered by a masked villain. There are jobs in this game, though they aren’t available during the prologue, and presumably they’re given to the main cast after the Crystal shatters. The plot of the prologue is almost identical in many aspects to that of Final Fantasy V, but it isn’t a bad story, just one that’s been done before. However, once the Crystal shatters, the world is divided into light and darkness, and along with the four Warriors of Light, there are four Warriors of Darkness. So it really seems that they’re taking the classic Final Fantasy formula and putting a new spin on it with a very interesting concept. It seems as though it’s setting up for a very fun game.
As for the characters, I’ve only had one chapter to get to know the main cast, but they’ve seemed pretty lukewarm. The main cast is pretty much thrust upon is with little explanation of who they are, and a lot of the dialogue is a little juvenile and seems a bit fanmade. Altogether the story and characters were not particularly compelling but also not entirely uninteresting. I think the concepts are there and it’s much too early to make any judgement.
This is my only real complaint about this game, the presentation is less than stellar. This game really, really looks like it was made in Windows RPG Maker, from the sprites to the areas down to the window color. It really doesn’t look like a professionally made game, and the world map is completely flat 2D. Even in the Super Nintendo Final Fantasy games the towns and trees appeared to have depth and be standing up on the overworld map, but in this game the towns and trees look like they’re just painted onto the ground. There are some fantastic-looking iOS games, and pulling the nostalgia card for this game by using outdated graphics was, in my opinion, a pretty cheap move. It makes me as a player and a consumer feel that Square isn’t invested in creating a game that a player will love.
Sqaure Enix has released the PSP ports of Final Fantasy’s I and II, along with the DS port of Final Fantasy III, for iOS, as well as the iOS exclusive game Crystal Defenders, and all of those games have great 2D graphics. It’s clear that the developers put very little effort into the visuals of this game, probably releasing this game in 2010 in Japan in an attempt to drum up some extra money for the stellar production values of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and releasing it in the US two years later to do the same thing and shore up some funds for Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. It’s not the in-game graphics are atrocious to look at (because I have no problem with RPG Maker style graphics), but for an officially released Final Fantasy title from a reputable company who clearly has the resources to make a visually impressive game, this is a big let-down and seems like an attempt to get some free money out of fans without providing a visually high-quality experience.
I would like to point out, however, that the promotional artwork for this game is beautiful; I really like the art style they’ve used, so if I have any compliments on the visuals of the game it’s for the official artwork, all of which looks great.
As Final Fantasy games go, the soundtrack of this game has so far been very nice, although I will say that the boss battle music is so similar to Final Fantasy VIII’s boss tune “Force Your Way” that it almost like the same piece rearranged. The only problem with the music so far is the lack of it; during serious scenes or just about any dialogue, the music disappears entirely, and only comes back when it’s time for exploration. The sound effects are mostly ripped from older Final Fantasy titles, and at certain points when there should be sound effects there are none; for example when opening a treasure chest, all you get is a window telling you what was inside, no chest-opening sound, no item jingle, nothing.
This game is structured exactly like the classic NES and SNES Final Fantasies. The party is on the right side of the screen, enemy sprites are on the left, and when a character Active Time Battle gauge fills up, they get to attack using whichever abilities apply to their native job class. On a cosmetic note, the players characters all stand horizontally no matter what order you have them in, so that they’re never in a single file line. When you factor in that some characters are magical and go in the back row, you have a very strange looking setup with your warriors just standing at random spots on their side of the field. It isn’t very aesthetically pleasing.
Because the Prologue doesn’t include jobs, certain characters who are jobless do innately have the abilities of a certain job; for instance Diana innately knows White Magic abilities, Aigis knows Red Magic, and Sol knows Cover, abilities of the White Mage, Red Mage, and Knight, respectively.
An interesting battle feature is Auto Mode, which I first rolled my eyes at, thinking “Great, Final Fantasy has given us another auto-battle so that we can sit back and do nothing while the game plays itself.” However, this version of Auto-Battle is pretty forgiveable, because all that it does is make ATB gauges load a lot faster and all characters use the attack command endlessly. This is really helpful when you’re tired of battling loads of enemies in random battles, because you can get through them quickly and easily doing what you would probably be doing if you weren’t in auto-battle: spamming the attack command. Although I can see how as the game progresses this could be used somewhat as an unfair advantage at level grinding. In role playing games, your level and abilities are usually a result of how much time you’ve invested to level grind, but by removing the time factor, the game is basically handing out level-ups.
Incidentally, Final Fantasy VI enthusiasts may find it comforting that the character naming ritual is the same here as it was there: the screen fades to black around the unnamed character and you’re given a description of their personality before choosing a name.
Final Fantasy Dimensions looks as though it’s shaping up to be a fun Final Fantasy experience. Though the presentation is very under-par for what Square is capable of, even for a mobile phone game, the story seems pretty solid, even if some of it’s foundation is an outright repeat of older titles. The battle system is largely unchanged from the classic Final Fantasy formula, and I can only assume the job system works the same as it always has. Though I doubt Final Fantasy Dimensions will go down in video game history as a cornerstone of 2D RPGs, it is a cute diversion from reality for iOS devices that is bound to at least give you something entertaining to do on your iPhone in waiting rooms.
It should be noted, though, that the game is played in episodes purchased individually, and the total cost of the game is almost $30. I have not, from my experience with the game thus far, found myself convinced that this game is worth that, but at least you don’t have to purchase the entire game, and if you decide a few chapters in you don’t like it you’ll have made out without paying full price. Still, $28 seems a little steep for a game with such low production values that it looks like it was made in RPG Maker. I do think that the story concept has a solid foundation though, and I’d like to see how this plays out. I’m not sure if I’ll purchase the full game, but I also can’t say I won’t either. Now if only Square would release Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII in America…
Altogether, the story and characters are nothing great to speak of. Dimensions bares a basic Final Fantasy plot with characters that are less than lovable, but a twist that could turn into something great. Presentation is the games biggest drawback: though the graphics are in many ways better than the pixelated sprite games of yore, it all looks like it was pulled right from Windows RPG Maker without much originality, and the world map looks like a big flat plain with mountains and towns plastered onto it. Square Enix is capable of much better. The music sounds great so far, when we get to hear it, and is very reminiscent of past Final Fantasies, though at times pulling directly from them, and the gameplay is a tried and true formula, and a return to the classic system many missed after experimental battle system like that of Final Fantasy XIII. Overall Final Fantasy Dimensions’ Prologue is nothing fantastic, but a cute adventure worth playing for a little light gaming.