Final Fantasy Dimensions Review
The initial signs don’t look good: a Final Fantasy spin-off released in 2010 on Japanese mobile phones, updated and ported to iOS two years later and expecting anyone who wants the full package to pay a penny short of £20.
However, the initial signs don’t take into account the massive power of nostalgia and the desire out there for a ‘new’ Final Fantasy of the 16-bit era.
Final Fantasy Dimensions plugs a gap that most probably didn’t even think existed, giving us a neo-16-bit entry to the classic RPG series.
Players are presented with sprites that can only move diagonally in cut-scenes, a chiptune soundtrack, what looks very much like Mode 7 scrolling on the world map and – as you might have just picked up – a world map.
If your favourite Final Fantasy came before three discs, the number seven and breakout popularity, you’ll find a lot to love in Dimensions. The game takes few cues from modern trends, only really bothering when it comes to saving your progress.
Is anyone complaining this is linear? No! (That’s a little dig and Final Fantasy XIII)
But generally speaking this is still Final Fantasy as the early Nineties would have it, with little in the way of influence taken from the likes of Penny Arcade Adventures Episode 3, for example, which served to streamline the JRPG experience.
No, this is a game where you will sit through line after line of melodramatic nonsense that you will either become absolutely enraptured with or simply not pay attention to.
It’s a game where you will be hit with random battles so randomly that you begin to assume it’s not random at all and the game is just going out of its way to try to kill you. It’s a game where you will hit a brick wall and will have to grind.
But that doesn’t stop it from being fun, nor does it stop Dimensions from engaging and becoming something of a time sink, should you let it get its claws in.
With each chapter of the 13 in total weighing in at two to four hours, they’re short enough that you feel you’re always making progress while at the same time long enough to feel like there’s actual substance in your speedy progression.
One area where it always feels meaty enough is in the jobs section. Taking cues from Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy Tactics, the latter of which is available on iOS and is highly recommended, players can assign and re-assign the roles of their four main party members as they see fit.
While each character has a clear affinity for one talent or another, be it warrior, white mage, summoner, thief or whatever else, the player can choose any job and soon fit that seemingly square peg in a round hole. Plus it means your main hero can be the aforementioned white mage, which never seems to happen in FF games.
As you progress, you unlock more jobs with more crossover specialities – a warrior being more suited to become a dragoon, for example – and more tactical thinking on the part of the player is necessary.
Final Fantasy Dimensions is as retro as they come, apart from the price.
It’s not taxing in any way, but is, in fact, a fun little system to help keep you tinkering throughout the game and provide something more personal in the experience of what is otherwise pretty linear stuff.
Classic Final Fantasy, in other words – you’re not going to be making split-second ‘who dies?’ decisions, instead sticking with the story of crystals, light and dark, dragons and airships as it trundles along at its own happy little pace.
But for its twee look and all-round cutesy feel, Final Fantasy Dimensions remembers its old-school, hardcore roots. It’s not exactly the sort of challenge that will keep you up sweating at night, but it’s hard enough to prove a genuine challenge at times.
Even if that challenge tends to be overcome more through the aforementioned grinding than by employing any real tactics in a fight.
Naturally, it is a case of learning an opponent’s weakness and exploiting it, and you’ll pick up a standard rhythm of buffs and debuffs to cast in every fight that could give you trouble, but the thought process doesn’t go far beyond ‘hit them more and harder’.
But to say that offers no challenge is to miss the point of what makes classic Final Fantasy – or any RPG, for that matter – great: the thrill that comes from getting back to a fight having levelled up and beating ten shades out of a previously unbeatable opponent.
The price is a sticking point and will put off many who might pick up the initial free prologue chapter, there’s no denying that.
Don’t forget to save up all your Phoeinx Downs for when you really need them.
In an era of 69p games that last hours, for a publisher to charge almost 30 times that for its game will be seen as utter madness by many – and in a few ways it is.
But there are three factors to consider here. First, it is not a game aimed at the 69p market; it is one for the dedicated, hardcore Final Fantasy fan.
Second, you get a hell of a lot more content for your money than you do in even the biggest iOS RPGs – dozens of hours to play through. Third, and most importantly, you get a very good take on the classic Final Fantasy fare.
It’s not a classic in its own right; it’s arriving two years later than its initial release; the price, while justifiable, has to be justified in the first place; and anybody weaned on the likes of Final Fantasy XII or XIII might not be drawn in by the retro styling and somewhat archaic design decisions in Dimensions.
But even with those caveats in place, it’s still a Final Fantasy worth dipping your toes into.