Platforms: Android and iOS (reviewed)
For those of a certain age, seeing Final Fantasy in sprite form brings back strong memories. If you fall into this age (late 20’s to early 30’s), Square Enix is counting on your nostalgia bringing you into Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. Nostalgia will bring you in and likely nostalgia will be the only thing keeping you going through to the end.
FF:ATB gives you a fun, simple premise at its start: take a trip down memory lane and beat up your favorite baddies using iconic classes from across the first six Final Fantasy games. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, it starts out fairly enjoyable. The further along you go, you unlock more party slots and classes, making battles seem quite large and varied. Then the realization comes that you’re really not doing anything at all in battle. You’re merely there to tap on the screen to launch your party members at the enemy with no strategy involved.
After you tap on a character, their Active Time Battle bar will refill over a couple of seconds leading you to fling those characters at the enemy again. The bigger your party gets, the more obvious it is that there’s exactly zero thought involved in these battles on your part. Use four fingers on one hand, tap from top to bottom (or bottom to top if you want to be unorthodox about it) and just repeat that until you win.
Leveling up gives you more slots for your party, unlocks additional classes, and more attack power. It would be a nifty little mechanic if you could pick your party. That’s right, your party is randomly generated with the classes you’ve unlocked. No selection on your part at all! Unlock some new weapons, making your party even stronger, by defeating enemies and getting them randomly dropped. Can you pick the weapons, you ask? Why, don’t be silly!
Aside from just doing the tapping on the battle screen, you can pick which “stage” you want to select. Go ahead and grind to level up, get those weapons that the monsters randomly drop, or try to defeat the monsters that spawn less frequently to complete the catalog. This leads to a whole mess of tapping that you can do while you watch your favorite TV show (or something you hate, if you REALLY want to punish yourself).
Say you go up against an enemy that’s too strong for you and it wipes out your party. You have three options. You can back out and level grind until you’re strong enough to kill it, close the app and wait a while and your party will be revived and you can go back in to where you were wiped out with the damage you dealt to the enemy retained, or use a token that revives your entire party. These tokens run $.99 for a three pack, which is a fairly normal cost for this sort of thing. Basically, you’re paying to not have to wait for your party to revive. In the end, it means you can’t lose in battle. There’s always an option to keep moving forward quite easily, be it by paying with your time or your wallet.
The most egregious sin is the bonus content. I don’t have a problem with paying to unlock additional maps to play. The issue lies in unlocking the special characters, which are the named characters from other Final Fantasy games. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of capitalizing on the idea of using your favorite characters from the series iterations. The idea of even making 16 bit sprites out of some of the characters from FFVIII through FFXIII tickled my interest. Not being able to select what characters you want to unlock is the problem. If you’re me, you’re going to want all of the characters from FFVI unlocked. The problem is that there are thirty-five of these special characters to unlock, and with no way of selecting who you get, you could potentially be spending $.99 thirty-five times to get the characters you want. Add in those unlocks with the $3.99 the game itself costs and the three additional worlds to unlock costing $3.99 each and you’re looking at over $50 for the complete package. Over $50! For an iOS game!
Before I close this out, I should say something nice about this though, shouldn’t I? The one thing done remarkably well in FF:ATB is the writing. The clever little descriptions about the classes, enemies, and weapons add the one reason to put your eyes on your iOS device for more than a second or two as you select stages.
You know, now that I think about it, I lied earlier. There is a way you can lose in Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. You can buy it. Do yourself a favor and just look up the item, character, and enemy descriptions online (Tumblr is a good spot for most of them). They’re fairly witty but not worth the cost of admission.