My goodness I have used a lot of parenthesis (brackets) in this review!
The Final Fantasy series is one from my youth. Beginning properly with Final Fantasy IX (after a failed attempt at VI), I have worked my way through the majority of these brilliant JRPGs. True, in recent years, the FuhFuh name has taken a bit of a sting, what with some iffy releases and angry fanboys, but with the hype surrounded Final Fantasy XV, Type-0 and Kingdom Hearts’ recent releases, the series seems to be slowly but surely climbing its way back up into the hearts of fans. Sure, FF definitely isn’t for everyone – but most of the tribulations come with the wacky JPRG genre…crazy hair, cliched yet somehow convoluted stories, anime physics and so on. But that’s what makes it so great!
Now, Squeenix have released several mobile games before, including re-releases of games and the somewhat underwhelming All The Bravest, which pretty much consisted of you furiously swiping your phone in a blind rage to kill enemies. But Final Fantasy: Record Keeper is different. The premise: in a quaint little world exists a museum that holds depictions of various key events across various Final Fantasy games (excluding the MMOs). Outta nowhere, a strange darkness (obviously) begins to corrupt the pictures. It is up to protagonist Tyro (who is basically your starter Pokémon that you instantly deposit and never play with) to save the day by entering the pictures and DESTROY THE EVIL! The game itself is split up into a series of game-related rooms (world) which can be completed in a semi-linear order. When you enter a room, you then enter a painting (dungeon). Once you have entered the dungeon, you choose a level. So, game -> dungeon -> level. Once you’ve entered a level, you fight against various FF enemies inspired by that particular game in a turn based Active Time Battle (ATB) style combat system, much like Final Fantasy games of old. Essentially, that’s all the game is…and the fighting can become a tad stale, buuut, as with most mobile games, it’s a fun pastime to dip in and out of. Each level requires you to pay stamina. You have a finite amount, but it recharges every three minutes or so, so unless you’re quickly blitzing through the game, this shouldn’t really be an issue. There are RPG elements too – you can combine/assign abilities and upgrade various weapons in true JRPG-over-complicated fashion, but I’ve made it a fair way through the game without really bothering with any of this, apart from equipping different weapons and armour. You build up a team of five characters – characters taken from various Final Fantasy games. They all pretty much do the same thing, though some can only have can only have specific weapons, armour and abilities equipped. That, and they have their own unique ‘soul break’ (this game’s variation of limit/trance/overdrive etc.). But it’s fun to build up a team of characters that you know and love so well from different worlds, working happily together to vanquish evil. Which leads me on to my next point – weapons and armour are taken from the FuhFuh games that inhabit Record Keeper, which is cool. However, some are crazily unbalanced and overpowered. Cloud was hitting for about 300 damage with one weapon, whilst Tidus was going for 150. Now, yes, we all love Cloud #FFVIIFanBoyLeetGamer and so on (jokes, IX is the best), but srsly. Levelling up is also a bit of an issue, because when new characters join your party they start at level 1 it seems. You can use irl money to level them up quicker, but who has that kind of cash? Fortunately, though, Record Keepers is not a particularly pay-to-win game, which we see so much now with moby games. It does, however, require a constant internet connection for whatever reason, so play via WiFi when available…
Each Record Keeper world comes with its own enemies and music directly from its origin game. For example, the Final Fantasy X world begins with you fighting your way through the streets of Zanarkand, in the same was as X begins. Whilst each world only has about five or so different monsters, you do fight unique bosses from that area of the game – so at the end of this Zanarkand section, you fight the Sinspawn boss that serves as a tutorial in X. It’s pretty rad. It’s also lovely to hear the brilliant scores from the various FF games as you’re playing. It can become a little grindy, what with you seemingly either being mega over- or under- (but never appropriately) levelled for dungeons, but that’s just a weeny factor.
As it stands, this game has only been released outside of Japan for a couple o’ weeks, so here’s hoping we get some more updates soon; currently, you can only play as about ten or so different characters, whereas Japan’s version has close to 50 from Final Fantasy I to XIII (not including XI). Combat can be a bit tedious, and the permanent internet connection does mean that this isn’t a great play-on-the-go kind of game, but all in all it’s a wonderful nostalgia experience for any fan of the series – as I said, the true joy comes from fighting bosses that you know with a smorgasbord of characters you love. For a free game, this is pretty darn good. Yes, there are microtransactions available for you millionaires out there, if you want to get the better equipment, and there is even an auto-battle feature if you enjoy playing games by not playing them! All in all, Record Keepers is a fun, harmless little addition to the series. Well done, Square Enix. Oh, it’s also been developed by a company called DeNA, who have recently teamed up with Nintendo to create mobile games for them, so there’s that!
I originally decided to write this review in verse, as Child of Light is presented. However, it was shit, so I scrapped that idea and will just do a plain, vanilla review. I’m so sorry.
It must be said that Child of Light is a truly beautiful game. From the art style, to the score, to the story…just beautiful. You play as Aurora, the daughter of a duke in 19th century Austria. One day, Aurora falls into a deathly sleep, and everyone assumes she is dead. But, plot twist, she is not! Aurora wakes up in the strange land of Lemuria; a land in which the sun, moon and stars have been stolen by the dark queen, Umbra. It’s up to you to restore it, as Aurora, the Child of Light! The game is developed and published by Ubisoft, and isn’t their usual MO, but don’t let those nasty sceptics put you off – they did a bloody good job! It’s also written by Jeffrey Yohalem, who wrote AssCred: Brotherhood (the best one) and FarCry 3.
The game is presented like a mixture between a children’s bedtime story and an opera. Just looking at the unique art style reminded me of books from my childhood, illustrated by artists such as Mick Inkpen, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. There isn’t much more I can say about the art style that does it justice – just check out some of my screenshots. It’s like a picture book come to life, and if that isn’t enough just to give this lovely game a go, the accompanying score is just wonderful. The game is a love letter to older JRPGs in numerous aspects – the music being one of them. Composed by Canadian artist Cœur de pirate, it seamlessly blends serenity with peril, tranquillity with jeopardy and even, dare I say it, light with dark. Once you have finished the game, the soundtrack is definitely something that you will not let go of. I have it playing right now (for scientific purposes)!
Aurora is joined on her journey by a firefly named Igniculus, who can be used to reach far off objects, heal, and slow down enemies in battle. The game also features a co-op mode, where a younger sibling can control Igniculus (because they won’t be controlling Aurora, will they?). There are seven colourful party members to unlock in total (eight with the Golem DLC) as the game progresses, each with a wide variety of skills such as healing, offensive magic, status magic, tanking and so on.
Fans of older JRPGs such as some of the older Final Fantasy games, notably VI, will feel a wonderful sense of nostalgia. Well, at least, I did. Combat follows a turn-based battle system in which combatants must wait until they reach the appropriate point on the battle gauge. Once they get about 3/5 the way down the gauge, you can select an attack. The rest of the gauge is ‘casting’. If a character is attacked whilst they are casting, they will be interrupted and sent back down the gauge. Igniculus can slow enemies down, allowing you to manipulate their battle gauge. As such, the battles require quite a lot of tactics and timing. Two members of your party can be in the battle at any time, but you can swap in and out whenever you want to issue an action, meaning that you can chop and change and tailor your combatants to suite the battle’s needs. There is a wide variety of enemies, and every character has their uses (albeit some more than others) so battles rarely feel stale or tedious. I played the game on the higher difficulty (obviously), which made it a lot more challenging but not impossible. It required me to think about fights tactically, and always be one step ahead, planning my next move. There were a few enemies that posed a bit of a problem, but in the end once I worked out their patterns it was quite straight forward. Bosses are often accompanied by a couple of ‘basic’ monsters, so my advice is always get those goddamn adds first! Outside of combat, players control Aurora through the nicely painted levels in a kind of Limbo side-scrolling puzzle solver way (just with much less child death…). The game also features an impressive skill tree which, whilst appearing quite dautning, is very straight forward so both veterans and newbs can grasp it. Once the story is completed, New Game Plus is unlocked, allowing you to restart the game with your current party and skills and fight even tougher enemies! #replayvalueOne unpleasantry is that the game uses Uplay. Yh. Once you get past this, all is well, but there is that initial moment when you start the game and you’re filled with dread as you have to sign in to yet another account using some annoying client that no one cares about.
As I said at the beginning (which feels so long ago now, doesn’t it?), all of Child of Light’s dialogue is written in verse. It follows a rhyme scheme of ABCB, and whilst an interesting and mostly well written approach, some rhymes do often feel a little forced and lazy, and as a result completely breaks the flow of dialogue. But writing a whole game in rhyme is pretty darn challenging I’m sure, so I can let them off for that mostly. Mostly. The story if endearing and thought-provoking, but it’s the overall experience that makes Child of Light a must-play. It’s just beautiful. Have I said that already? Probably. But it is. Beautiful. Go play!