Square-Enix are fully aware of how to make the most out of a series, having published over fifty Final Fantasy games, including spin offs. I can’t pretend to have played all of these games, but the ones I have played, I’ve spent probably thousands of hours over dozens of playthroughs in various Final Fantasy universes. It didn’t come as a surprise then, when I became hopelessly addicted to the latest mobile addition to their repertoire.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper (FFRK) is a free-to-play game available on Android, iOS and Windows Phones that gives you a chance to revisit all the bosses from past Final Fantasy games with a slight twist. You’re thrust into a world where the stories of all of the Final Fantasy tales from the past are told through the medium of paintings, and it is your job to travel through the paintings to ensure the records are kept safe. It isn’t exactly a ground-breaking story, but it is true to their tried and tested formula – though there isn’t ever a defined end to the game. The game appears to be getting fairly regular updates to it, releasing new events and dungeons to plow through, as well as more of your favourite Final Fantasy heroes.
I wasn’t really expecting much from FFRK. I never really think of phones as devices that can provide me with a brilliant gaming experience, but after seeing my friend play it, I really wanted to give it a try. I was pretty much enthralled from the moment I opened this game, from the masterfully created cut scenes to the music and sounds familiar from their previous titles, everything came together brilliantly in this edition. Graphically, the game returns to its roots and contains battle scenes from many of the past games remade in a form reminiscent of the Super Nintendo games. Even the enemies have been lifted straight out of the games and drawn in the older format, and some of them come out brilliantly. The sound has had the same treatment, hearing the confirm sound from Final Fantasy VIII made me incredibly nostalgic. All the battle music from the games has also made it across, adding to the idea that you’re back playing whichever Final Fantasy game you are in.
There are a couple of differences in this game to other entries that I’ve played. The first being the method of getting abilities; in this game you have to gather orbs, which can be done via random enemy drops or by completing daily dungeons. You can then use these orbs to create newer abilities or “hone” your abilities to use them more frequently while in a dungeon. This is a really cool feature because it prevents you from becoming too overpowered at a low level, as appropriately levelled orbs will drop for you during dungeons, meaning you’ll get the lower tier of orbs at the start, and then once you progress to doing the harder levels, you’ll start picking up the ones that can give you the upper tier of spells and abilities.
Another interesting mechanic is the battle completion meter. Depending on how well you fight, you can get additional experience for the battle, either 150% or 200% standard experience. With the normal enemies, this will just be based on how quickly you beat them and with minimal damage, but bosses provide a different test. Some of the bosses have tasks that you need to complete to get maximum rating – and they are all based off of what they are in the actual game. So, for example, when fighting Cagnazzo from Final Fantasy IV, using a lightning-based spell while he’s preparing for Tsunami will get you a better completion rating. A nice throwback to those who have played the game, and to those that haven’t, it provides a little tutorial about how to beat the boss!
As with most phone games that I’ve played, you have a timer which prevents you from blasting through the game in one sitting. In FFRK, it’s a stamina bar, which regenerates every three minutes, and is used up in various amounts as you fight in dungeons. Depending on the difficulty, your stamina can disappear fairly quickly, leaving you with quite a long time to wait between battles. The good side is that you can increase your stamina if you loot enough items to do so. Unfortunately these are very few and far between, so you may be waiting a while to progress with the game.
The way to improve your characters equipment isn’t always the easiest to do, but it does provide a nice challenge. You have three main methods of getting equipment: completing dungeons or events; getting random loot drops from enemies; or generating a relic. The first is the only actual way you’ll be certain of what you’re getting and by far the least frustrating. The loot drops don’t seem tied to the dungeon you’re in. If you’re fighting in a Mako Reactor from Final Fantasy VII, you’d expect to loot some weapons from that game, but you actually can end up looting items from any game in the series. This makes upgrading your equipment very difficult, as you need copies of the item you have to upgrade it. It can lead to endless grinding in dungeons to try and get a drop you want. Relic generation also suffers from this. You can get a random relic every day, or you can pay 5 mythril to generate another random relic – but this one has a slightly higher chance of being something somewhat useful. Neither of them are too likely to spawn what you actually want or need, so it can be a frustrating experience to get the items you need.
Despite its foibles, FFRK is so incredibly fun for someone who has played any Final Fantasy game, and likely has a lot of value to someone who hasn’t played them. It’s entirely free, and although there are micro transactions available in game, they are never pushed onto you and you never reach a part in the game that requires any investment on your part. Since I’ve downloaded it, I’ve probably used my phone more than ever. For a game I wasn’t really expecting that much from to captivate me as much as it has is astounding. Simply put, it’s a must play.