Posted By Shaun K. about 11 months, 1 week ago
Now of course Square Enix is no stranger to the iOS platform, having released any number of original titles (perhaps the most prominent of which being the Chaos Ring series) and classic titles (such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Chrono Trigger) in the past. With Final Fantasy Dimensions however the company has a game that is in some respects representative of both aspects of its mobile strategy. The game is wholly original, telling a new story set in an original world that has been split into darkness and light and featuring two separate groups of playable characters,the Warriors of Light and the Warriors of Darkness. The gameplay and graphics featured in the game however are clearly deliberate throwbacks to the classic 8-bit and 16-bit era Final Fantasy games. It’s an intriguing enough approach and while Square Enix has tried this kind of idea before (most notably with Final Fantasy IV: The After Years), my own experience with FFD at E3 this year made it clear just how much time and effort Square really has put forth this time around.
One of the most obvious and immediate examples of this can be seen via the game’s graphics. Whereas The After Years primarily reused old assets (at least in its original release, the game did get an upgrade when it was included in the Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection release), Dimensions features graphics that clearly have been created more or less from scratch. It is a subtle thing to determine at times I will admit and it can be easy to mistake otherwise (especially considering just how few images are currently officially available for the game) but once you see FFD in action this fact becomes inescapable. Everything from the game’s sprites to its backgrounds to its animations are all simply of a higher quality than that of the original games and even exceed the redone graphics employed for the re-releases of Final Fantasy I and II that have graced a variety of platforms over the last several years. Make no mistake, this is unquestionably a game meant to feature visuals that closely mirror the Final Fantasy games of yore but at the same time Square has put more effort into this game than simply digging out a bunch of old assets and slapping them together. Enemy sprites in particular show off some nicely done hand drawn art and include new versions of some much beloved faces to boot.
Since I was only able to play about thirty minutes of the game I will not go too much into story beyond to say that judged by the small snippets I got to view, this is the kind of stuff that will appeal to longtime fans (for example the demo picks up with one of the two groups of characters on the run from an evil empire and looking for some much needed crystals while other familiar elements include the presence of four divine generals, a mysterious masked man, and, in the Japanese version at least, the reuse of various names from the first three games)of the series while still feeling open enough to appeal to newcomers as well. Whether or not the game’s tale turns out to have strong enough writing to stand on its on feet or turns out to be little more than a mixture of pastiche and overly familiar tropes will remain to be seen. What I can speak about however is gameplay and controls and I have to say both of these came across very well to me in my time with the game.
Starting with the controls, more than one iOS game has struggled with this aspect (including previous efforts from Square) but Dimensions seems to have this area about as well covered as can be reasonably expected. Essentially pretty much every major function in the game has been mapped to multiple options in order to achieve maximum smoothness and ease of control. Thus players can either simply tap the screen to move their character, place their finger on the character and drag, or place their finger anywhere else on the screen and activate a virtual d-pad. Similarly, interacting with characters and objects can be performed by tapping the character/object in question or by facing the desired direction and taping the center of the virtual d-pad before it disappears off the screen (which it will do about four seconds after a player lifts their fingers). Menu navigation operates in a similar fashion as does the control scheme Square has devised for in-battle.
Speaking of battle, the game allows players to bring up to five characters into battle at a time with the classic take on the job system making a return in a big way for Dimensions. In a setup highly reminiscent of Final Fantasy V, each character starts with a base job and will be able to switch between unlocked jobs freely, with each job retaining any abilities and skills so far earned. The Jobs available from the beginning for all eight of the game’s main characters are (using the Japanese naming conventions for the purposes of this article) Freelancer, Warrior, Monk, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, Black Mage, and Summoner. Throughout the rest of the game, new jobs will then be unlocked as players complete key points in the game. As previously mentioned, the main characters make up two separate groups of warriors and so it is each group gets their own set of exclusive unlockable jobs. For the Warriors of Light, these jobs consist of Dragoon, Bard, Memorist, Knight, and Devout, while the jobs unlocked for the Warriors of Darkness are Ranger, Dark Knight, Dancer, Ninja, and Magus.
In the original release of Dimensions in Japan back in 2010, went it went under the name of Final Fantasy Legends: Warriors of Light and Darkness, the game was dived into episodes that were released on a monthly schedule. Thus it was the end of each episode that lead to the unlocking of a new job; Square however has been conspicuously mum on the exact details of the release plan for Dimensions so it has yet to be seen if it will follow a similar release pattern or simply be put out in one large chunk. If all this sounds like a fairly rich and deep system, that is because it is and honestly there were so many options in battle during the demo that I hardly knew what choices to make at times. This should not be seen as a complaint and I strongly suspect the characters were deliberately overpowered/overleveled for the sake of the demo.
Overall I found the combat highly familiar but for me it was more akin to stepping back into a pair of familiar old shoes not worn in many years. Obviously your mileage may vary, but for those who bemoan how far astray from the old formula the console Final Fantasy games have moved of late, Dimensions will as likely as not feel like a return to form. I of course have (rather infamously for some of you) had no problem with the console Final Fantasy experiences of the last few years but that does not mean I am not looking any less forward to a chance to get to play through Final Fantasy Dimensions once it is released this July for iOS. Stay tuned to Blistered Thumbs for continuing coverage of this upcoming game and be sure to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.