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Final Fantasy Record Keeper Review: Nostalgia Overload In A True Free-to-Play Package
Square-Enix’s mobile game releases are quite a story. They are a bit of an oddball on mobile app markets with their higher-than-average pricing, wonky update philosophy, and… well… Final Fantasy All The Bravest.
All The Bravest is most likely enough to make you stop and wonder if Final Fantasy Record Keeper is even worth looking at and I really can’t blame you. That game is nothing more than a blatant rip-0ff. The way they handled in-app purchases in All The Bravest is quite bad, even among some of the more despised “free-to-play” games.
With both Apple and Google cracking down on these “freemium” mobile games, by labeling them what they truly are, it is a breath of fresh air to see Square-Enix not only learn from their mistakes but overwhelming exceed where there could have only been the lowest of expectations.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a very fun and simple turn-based mobile RPG. It’s been out in Japan since September of last year and released in the US, Canada, and Europe this month. The Japanese have had this game for a while now and right before release there were plenty of players telling potential downloaders to not be afraid of the in-app purchases, as well as the “GET” and “Free” labels. Quite hard to do with Square-Enix within the mobile world.
They couldn’t have been more honest.
Being a Record Keeper
This game is all about being your very own Record Keeper, someone who stands watch over history and its greatest stories. These stories happen to be from the main Final Fantasy games, excluding XI and XIV for some reason. The game quickly introduces you to the problem at hand and throws you into the thick of battle. Basically, you’ll be going through key moments in the main Final Fantasy games in order to defeat an evil inside. These evils are represented by each game’s most infamous mini and main boss characters.
You choose a historic moment within a game and then begin the journey to the boss. There are multiple battles that you and your team will have to go through before facing the big baddie at the end. Each battle takes stamina away from you. However, stamina recharges fairly quickly without paying a dime.
Once you defeat the boss you’ll be given an overall rating and then be rewarded. You’ll find items, elemental orbs, equipment that comes straight from the games, and possibly even a new character to recruit. This all happens while battling through a very faithful and nostalgic trip through the main Final Fantasy games.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper does an amazing job at faithfully representing each game through sprite-based graphics. Each game’s original music is here and there are at least 3 characters that can recruited from them. The only exception to this is Final Fantasy I where you can only recruit the Warrior of Light, which makes sense as that is the game’s only real personified character.
I will say, I am disappointed that both XI and XIV were left out. While I was not much of an XI player, Shantotto and Prishe would have represented it very well. In regards to XIV, there are many characters who could have been recruitable here. Hell, Square-Enix is putting Y’shtola in plenty of games nowadays. Where is she?
Nevertheless, they did a great job with the characters that they did include and each are faithfully recreated in the game’s sprite style. Unlocking new characters is exciting and happens at a well enough pace. Record Keeper wants you to unlock these fan favorite characters, not lock them behind pay barriers.
As your Record Keeper fights through each game’s historic moments you’ll be rewarded and find yourself unlocking new games to journey through. You’re tasked to saving all of the historic moments and it will take you a bit of time to do so. It also helps that there is plenty more to do aside from just shuffling your way through the story. You’ll never find a shortage of things to do.
Keeping Busy in History
Aside from saving history, Final Fantasy Record Keepers gives you a multitude of things to do in order to keep you busy. There are daily dungeons with three difficulty modes and elite dungeons.
The daily dungeons come in easy, normal, and hard flavors. You should start out with easy. My characters were level 11 when I first tried normal mode and I was wrecked easily. The daily dungeon gives access to pretty decent rewards that will help you along your way.
Elite dungeons are harder versions of the story missions. For instance, a story mission may have a level rating of 8 but its elite version may be 24. Yikes. Still, these elite dungeons are tough but very rewarding.
Aside from the battling content, you’ll have plenty of equipment and abilities that will need upgrading and combining. This requires a bit of a grind, but only if you wish to do so. You will find good enough equipment to go through the story as you play normally. However, if you want to prepare your group for normal and hard daily dungeons, as well as the elite dungeons, you’ll need to gather materials and gil.
To upgrade equipment you select equipment that you don’t want to use and then meld it with the target piece of equipment. Basically you trash the unwanted items and their “item essence” goes into the target equipment. This also costs gil and the more items you choose to meld, the higher the cost.
The process to meld ability orbs is similar. To create new abilities you need certain orbs to meld. To make certain orbs, you need lower quality orbs to meld together and create higher tier ones. Let me explain a tad.
Each usable item has a rating. These ratings go from 1-star up to 5-stars. In order to create certain abilities, you may need higher rated orbs. You can create such orbs by melding together lower rated orbs. Once you see it in-game, it’s pretty straight forward and easy.
Melding items and orbs to create the abilities an upgrade the equipment you want will take a lot of gil and materials. You’ll be grinding through missions and dungeons to get those. It isn’t a massive grind but depending on how many characters you want to have ready and able, it may be daunting.
Lastly, Final Fantasy Record Keeper has occasional events which will provide even more to do with your chosen team of historical guardians. The game gives you plenty to do and all of it is free. You may need to grind a bit or wait for stamina to replenish (which isn’t slow) but it’s all free.
Overall Experience From A Final Fantasy Fan
I’m not much of a mobile gamer. Dungeon Raid, WWE Supercard, Star Wars Force Collection, Bit Dungeon, and Game Dev Story are the only ones that ever really kept my attention. Even then, I’ve only ever reviewed two of those. These games normally just don’t hold my fancy.
With that said, I am quite fond of Final Fantasy Record Keeper and the main reason for that is nostalgia. Each game is faithfully represented here with music, equipment, story, and characters. Going through the story missions is fun and facing enemies that I remember from the real games is cool. They did a fantastic job in making me feel immersed in collected Final Fantasy lore and worlds.
Plus, it’s damn cool to have a team of Cloud, Wakka, Lightning, and Kain. It’s even better if you get lucky and pull one of their 5-star equipment pieces from the Relic pool.
I am having a lot of fun with Final Fantasy Record Keeper. It’s simple, easy to get into, and have plenty of depth to keep me locked in and interested. It’s also one of the most honest free-to-play titles I’ve ever seen on the mobile platforms. You honestly don’t need to spend a single dime here. You’ll be able to play, unlock, earn, and enjoy without in-app purchases. Of course, if you want to dip into the Relic pool more often, you can throw some money away for more currency but you don’t need to. All you need to do is play story missions and earn Mythril, then go Relic hunting!
I recommend this game to Final Fantasy fans who own a supported iPhone or Android device. It’s the perfect trip down nostalgia lane.
- Free-to-play actually means free-to-play.
- Nostalgic missions following the pace of past games.
- Faithful sprites of favorite characters.
- Original music from the Final Fantasy games.
- Each game included is faithfully represented.
- A "stamina system" that isn't too limiting nor slow.
- Some great characters missing.
- Varying difficulty despite what rating a mission may say.
- Expensive equipment upgrades, requires a bit of a grind.
- Final Fantasy XI and XIV not represented.