UPDATE: All of this was wrong. Final Fantasy Legends II ended up being a rebranding of the pre-existing free-to-play mobile game Final Fantasy Legends: Toki no Suisho. I was so very wrong and there’s little to no hope of a game like Final Fantasy Dimensions ever again and life is hard sometimes.
The past few years have seen a bumper crop of Final Fantasy titles for phones. I don’t envy anyone wading through their respective online store and trying to suss out exactly what any of these games are. Tell you what; I’m going to search ‘Final Fantasy’ in the app store right now and report back what I find:
FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS
FINAL FANTASY 6+1-in-one
MOBIUS FINAL FANTASY
FINAL FANTASY DIMENSIONS
FINAL FANTASY Record Keeper
FINAL FANTASY ALL THE BRAVEST
FINAL FANTASY VI
FINAL FANTASY IV
FINAL FANTASY IV Complete Pack
FINAL FANTASY PORTAL APP
FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS
FINAL FANTASY III
THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY
FINAL FANTASY II
FINAL FANTASY V
FINAL FANTASY VII
FINAL FANTASY IX
FINAL FANTASY IV: THE AFTER YEARS
FINAL FANTASY XIV: LIBRA EORZEA
PICTLOGICA FINAL FANTASY
And that’s just the titles that contain the words ‘Final Fantasy’ in them – Kingdom Hearts and Justice Monsters Five are a whole other can of worms.
Side Bar: Reading through that list, it actually took me a moment to realize that FINAL FANTASY 6+1-in-one isn’t a Square Enix Wacky Name™; it’s a bundle of 6 games but then also another game. Here in Canada we call that 7 but what do I know?
Anyway, that list is a mess of numerals, subtitles, words that aren’t real, and combinations of numerals and words that aren’t real. I don’t blame anyone who would rather swear off the experience of trying to find the right Final Fantasy for them entirely. But this list is as varied as it is confusing. Certainly there are cynical cash-grabs like All The Bravest and severely compromised ports of classics like V and VI. But there’s also a handful of really interesting experiments that show off how to make a rewarding free-to-play experience: Record Keeper focuses on customizing dozens upon dozens of classic FF characters and engaging exclusively in combat, Brave Exvius adds in map exploration and other traditional RPG elements, and Mobius takes the production value to an entirely new level.
Ugly ports and free-to-play games aren’t for everyone though. Luckily there exists a charming little oasis from it all in the form of Final Fantasy Dimensions. Originally named Final Fantasy Legends in Japan, Dimensions was rebranded to prevent confusion between it and the 1989 Game Boy title ‘The Final Fantasy Legend’ which was actually part of the SaGa series in Japanese. Names are hard.
Dimensions was a passion project by then head of mobile development Takashi Tokita, one of the driving forces behind Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV and my personal favourite, Live-A-Live. Dimensions represented his refusal to let micro-transactions become the only path forward for Square on mobile; it is a standalone game that doesn’t require an online connection, and it’s only in-app-purchases are the chapters of the game itself and an optional chiptune soundtrack. You won’t find any gacha-style mechanics marring this beauty.
The game itself isn’t the best 2D Final Fantasy in the world. It’s light on side-quest and content outside the main story, the touchscreen controls are a typical pain, the localization has a few too many ‘lol meme’ moments that wouldn’t be missed if they were sent to a farm upstate, and it is a linear affair given the episodic structure. That said, the job system from V makes a triumphant return with plenty of tweaks that make things feel fresh, the soundtrack is full of great work by series-regular Naoshi Mizuta, and the story is charming and full of interesting characters. And it’s a full-on 2D Final Fantasy. That alone is a novel enough concept in this era of gaming to give it a fair shake.
Astoundingly, Tokita announced this morning that a full-fledged sequel to Dimensions is on the horizon. Outside of the requisite Yoshitaka Amano art, little is known about the game, however, Tokita has mentioned that the title will be a ‘rebirth’ and a true sequel to Final Fantasy Dimensions. This might sound redundant to call a game with a ‘II’ in its title a true sequel, but he’s likely referring to Final Fantasy Legends: Toki no Suisho – a Japan-only mobile game also directed by Tokita that featured the usual mobile game trappings of stamina bars and luck-based item draws.
It’s not difficult to read between the lines and infer that Tokita is making a second attempt at crafting a traditional Final Fantasy experience. I could be completely off-base of course, but the language he’s used so far suggests that he’s returning to the structure and spirit of the original Dimensions.
Unfortunately, despite his attempts to assuage people’s fears of the ‘mobile Final Fantasy’, it seems like people online are quick to write off the announcement of Dimensions II. Just take a look at some of the comments and headlines that have cropped up before any information on the game has been revealed:
“Chrono Trigger Director Working on New Final Fantasy… For Mobile”
“I refuse to use, buy or play any mobile thing made by this company.”
“Your headline had me so excited then I saw mobile.”
“Not sure why…but this being a mobile game makes me feel like it’s not worth my time.”
It’s easy to see that there’s a disconnect between Tokita’s vision for games like Dimensions II, the chosen platform, and the perception of mobile games by Final Fantasy fans. Even comments on the mobile-friendly site Touch Arcade are overwhelmingly negative and already assume that the game will be a F2P social game.
My hope is for people to give games like the original Dimensions a fair shake despite being on a platform associated with micro-transactions and luck-based pulls. It isn’t that kind of game. It might not be a perfect 2D Final Fantasy game, but showing support for it, for Tokita, for games that buck monetization trends, means studios will see that there is a place for games like this. Mind you, maybe there isn’t. Maybe the 2D JRPG is destined to be unprofitable for big publishers. Maybe indie studios are the only ones who can afford to put their resources into projects like this. But I’m not convinced that people like Tokita and their visions can’t co-exist somewhere between the AAA behemoths like FFXV and the F2P money-makers like Brave Exvius and Record Keeper.
Hopefully Final Fantasy Dimensions II will build upon the high points of Dimensions and offer a full-fledged classic Final Fantasy experience. We just need to not let cynicism towards the mobile market distract us from the unique experiences that are worth checking out. Do it for Tokita.