I imagine the development of Final Fantasy All The Bravest went something like this:
Square-Enix Offices, January 10th
Middle Management Boss Man: (slightly hung over) ugh… I need a project out by next week… BOY! What are the people saying on the Tweeter?
Social Media Intern: Uhhh some people are still complaining about our new games, sir! They want to see more games like the old ones, sir!
MMBM: Well make an old one then!
SM Intern: Sir, I tried that but you never gave me a budget…
MMBM: (rubs forehead) ugh… alright kid, tell me what people like about the old games and we’ll make something out of that.
SM Intern: But sir, I wasn’t even born when those games…
MMBM: YOU HAVE ONE HOUR!!!
(Forty five minutes and several Wikipedia searches later)
SM Intern: So uh uh uhhhhh this Active Time Battle thing sounds p-pretty cool, maybe we can use that?
MMBM: Fine, I want you to make a game that has so much of that Active Timing whatever that those nostalgic little sheep can’t resist paying for it.
SM Intern: Yes Sir! What will be the budget sir?
MMBM: (lights 1000 yen bill to smoke like a cigar) Boy, I don’t have time for this, just pull some pictures off the internet or something. Oh and the higher ups are riding me so I need this done by next week.
SM Intern: (stares defeated at his keyboard)
MMBM: (over his shoulder, halfway out the door) AND MAKE SURE IT HAS MICRO TRANSACTIONS! (slams door)
For some of you, that may be enough to cut bait and walk away and I don’t blame you. But if you curiosity is still not satisfied, let’s take a more in depth look at why this “game” is just so wrong.
Final Fantasy All The Bravest (iOS)
Release Date: January 17th, 2013
MSRP: $3.99 plus in game transactions
NOPE. There is no story, just a single screen at the beginning that says something about worlds colliding blah blah blah… basically all the Final Fantasy worlds are jumbled and you assemble a massive party of up to forty heroes to march around a map and fight various classic FF monsters. The more notorious villains will spout some brief dialogue to remind you who they are, and the descriptions in the character, item and monster catalogs make some lame attempts at humor, but that’s about it.
In case you didn’t notice from opening rant or the fact that the initials for the games subtitle are “ATB”, All The Bravest tries to build an entire game off the classic Active Time Battle system. It’s an old Final Fantasy battle staple that basically means you wait for a bar to fill up and when it does, it’s your turn to attack. In this game each of your heroes has his or her own ATB bar and when it fills you simply touch them to attack.
There is no skill, no strategy, no planning, nothing. Despite having all the classic Final Fantasy classes, none of them do anything but attack, even the White Mages! Not that it would matter since you can’t select your party members anyway, nor can you select which enemies to focus your attacks on. The entire game consists of tapping (or swiping if you really want to break the game) on your party members and hoping you win. The only slight wrinkle is Fever mode, which allows you to attack with no waiting at all for a limited time. Unfortunately, Fever mode can only be used once every three hours, without any means to use it sooner.
Should you find yourself NOT winning, which is inevitable because each party member dies after one blow, you are presented with two options: turn off the game and wait as your team respawns at the rate of one every THREE MINUTES or pay actual money to bring in a new wave of fighters. Whether intentional or not (I’m guessing they’re not that clever), it kind of activates it’s own meta ATB system where you, as the player, are made to wait your turn to play again. I don’t I have to tell you what a horrible idea that is.
Now you may be thinking, “but Jel, surely there must be SOMETHING else to the game???” and technically you would be correct. There is a collection aspect to the All The Bravest that should be cool, involving random item and character acquisition with an addicting quality like buying a capsule toy or pack of collector cards. Unfortunately they ruin this as well as the items and characters have little bearing on the game and the premium named characters (like Cloud or Cecil or whoever) can only once again be purchased with actual money. If you want your favorite character, you put in a dollar of your actual money into the virtual machine and hope he or she pops up. Sure you earn Gil in battle, but that apparently serves no purpose other than to… actually I have no idea what it’s there for. I’ll get more into this being a total insult later, but needless to say it hampers what is the only sliver of fun in the game.
Part of me would love to praise All The Bravest’s nostalgic presentation, including reinterpreting more modern Final Fantasy characters and music into pre-Playstation era goodness… but I’m not going to. Those few examples aside, everything is a complete recycling of already existing assets any intrepid programmer could pull of the internet, let alone someone with legal access to the Square-Enix graphics vault. Most of the music and graphical assets are exactly the same as they were 15-20 years ago, and by any rational measure it’s incredibly lazy. I can’t deny I still feel a little surge of nostalgia when I see and hear bits and pieces of my favorite games, but then I feel dirty because I know that’s exactly what Square-Enix is banking on.
As if the game didn’t sound bad enough already, this is where All The Bravest needs to be hammered the hardest. Let me start by saying I love mobile gaming, I even like some browser based gaming. I think in-app purchases and Free to Play models are great when done correctly. I also don’t mind paying a large up front sum for a mobile game, I’ve even purchased some of Square-Enix’s comparatively pricey iOS remakes. The problem with All The Bravest is it tries to do BOTH, which is both transparently greedy and completely insulting to the customer. Look at it this way: the total cost of all the content in All The Bravest (main game, premium characters, premium maps YES YOU HAVE TO BUY MAPS) is a bit over $50 US. For that same amount of money you could buy the much maligned (but far superior) Theatrhythm with all the base music and several songs or characters. All that money for an application that barely qualifies as a game.
I apologize for using so many words to come to such an obvious conclusion, but I want there to be no doubt: Avoid Final Fantasy All The Bravest at ALL COSTS. Even if you’ve got money to spare and want to see how bad it is for yourself, Square-Enix needs to know that this is not acceptable. I feel bad for purchasing it even for review purposes, but I’m glad I can at least be a part of the resounding chorus of bad reviews for this emabarassing title