I have a long history with the Final Fantasy series. For a good 20 years after the NES release of Final Fantasy, I’ve owned every game released in the US in the main series, plus most of the spin-offs. Some of these games I own multiple times over, even! It’s no surprise, then, that I grabbed the free-to-play Final Fantasy Record Keeper for my Android device. In this review, I’ll dig into the app and see if it’s worth the download.
Square-Enix isn’t shy about mining its back catalog – as I said above, I own several copies of some of their games on different platforms. Just this week they announced a remake of Final Fantasy 7 too. Record Keeper continues this “proud tradition” (hah) of reusing old content by taking all of its stories, monsters, and characters from previous Final Fantasy games.
The good part of this is that you can finally assemble your “dream team” of angsty, teenage, spiky-blonde-haired, oversize-sword-wielding badasses. Seriously, though, the nostalgia is in full effect here, and being able to revisit old characters and scenes is a real big draw for me. All the art has been standardized to the 16-bit SNES/GBA style, which makes the art from games released after that era feel fresh.
The downside, though, is that Record Keeper’s story is word-for-word the story of previous Final Fantasy games. A lot of Final Fantasy plots are pretty much utter garbage. They’re needlessly convoluted, long, and nonsensical. Here, for better or worse, they’re used mainly as a framing device for sequence after sequence of simplified Final Fantasy style combat.
Most of the gameplay elements are borrowed wholesale from other popular mobile RPG titles. If you’ve ever played Puzzle and Dragons (PAD) or similar games, you’ll immediately recognize the common bits.
There’s a sequence of “normal” dungeons that get progressively harder, but which are doable without a ton of grinding. There are also event dungeons and harder variants to grind on if you need specific materials. Playing a dungeon requires stamina, which recharges over time, or you can use premium currency to refill. You’ve got a roster of characters and need to select the proper subset of them to face each dungeon’s challenges. Fusing your gear together and collecting upgrade materials is key to growing more powerful. You can recruit friends’ characters to temporarily join your party and provide you with a quick boost. The most powerful gear is only available by spending premium currency.
Anyone with any familiarity with mobile RPGs is nodding their head by now. This is all standard stuff. That said, the PAD formula is highly addictive, and I find myself eagerly awaiting my stamina recharge so that I can chase down a new dungeon and get my hands on some new phat lewt.
Despite the fact that it draws simultaneously from decades of JRPG history, there’s not a lot of choice involved in what you play and how you play it. Since the dungeons unlock in a predetermined order, you’ve got to play them in that order to proceed. Characters and equipment from a particular game perform better when used in dungeons from that game, so your roster and loadout are largely predetermined. Characters are collectible and only unlock after certain dungeons, so chances are you’re going to get stuck with some characters you don’t like before you find ones you do – assuming they’re available in the game to begin with.
The exploration elements from Final Fantasy games have been torn completely from Record Keeper’s implementation, and what’s left is just a series of battles punctuated by the occasional boss or text window for story. There’s not a lot of interactivity for most fights. In my experience, most fights I’m either crushing the enemies on automatic, or I’m being crushed so fast that strategy doesn’t really factor in. I’m sure there’s more to it as you approach the endgame, but much like Final Fantasy XIII, Record Keeper doesn’t really put its best foot forward.
Death by 1000 Needles
There are other minor issues that kind of stack up to drain my enjoyment of the game. For instance, there are delays in almost every aspect of the game. Between levels, the screen goes black for 5 seconds or more, with no explanation as to why. If I let my phone go to sleep on some screens (notably the “dungeon complete” screen), when I return the app stops responding for long enough that Android thinks it has crashed and wants to kill it. Even in combat, the buttons aren’t always responsive, and there are noticeable pauses whenever an attack starts.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper’s menu screens are a mess. There’s a lot of moving between screens in order to get simple tasks done. For instance, if you get to a dungeon and realize that you need to reconfigure your abilities, you’re looking at a good half dozen or more taps to make the change and get back to where you were.
Similar issues plague the side quest feature. The idea that is cool, but you can only have 5 active quests (of hundreds), and there’s only one screen where the quests are shown. Trying to complete a quest that requires you to do things several menu levels deep from some other screen becomes needlessly frustrating.
|Final Fantasy Record Keeper|
|Links:||Homepage, iTunes Store, Google Play|
|Price:||Free to Play with In-App Purchases|
The combination of nostalgia and addictiveness makes Final Fantasy Record Keeper fun. Many issues plague it, though. A lot of these are things that could get patched, if DeNA and/or SquareEnix decided to make them a priority. For now, though, the real question is this – do you love Final Fantasy? If so, you will probably be able to overlook the issues and get some enjoyment out of Record Keeper. If Final Fantasy has failed to grab you in the past, give Record Keeper a pass.