Saturday, April 11, 2015

Final Fantasy: Record Keeper (iOS/Android, 2015)

Today I'm looking at a very cool phone game from Square Enix. ...did I just type those words? I believe I did.

We begin with our hero, Tyro, having to re-construct the historical records of the Final Fantasy series. This is sorta like going into The Matrix and re-inacting great battles of olde. Along the way he'll meet a host of FF characters both beloved and ehh.

His guide on his journey is Dr. Mog. Unfortunately for Dr. Mog, Tyro is like six years old. The good doctor asked for a legendary hero, and instead he got a tyke. He's probably pissed, to say the least.

Porno for Tyro. Dr. Mog will make great pet! He will make great pet.

"Fucking hell," says Dr. Mog. "Do I have to explain everything? What grade are you in, kupo?"

The first real battle is against the Guard Scorpion, of FFVII fame. It's pretty cool to see FFVII foes in 2D like this. The game plays like your standard ATB FF game, with gauges that fill and abilities to use. It's pretty shallow (every character can equip only two abilities at a time), and there's close to zero story to speak of here, but it's Final Fantasy gameplay distilled down to the brass tacks.

Lose the fight, and Dr. Mog bails you out by summoning Bahamut (and swearing a lot).

I got my first party member! It's just a generic-type, though.

"They cast spells! What do you THINK they do, kid? I have a doctorate, I don't need this shit!"

There's a Dr. Feelgood joke to be made, but instead I'm going to point out that Cid is GRIZZLED. What a rugged individual. He's responsible for refining your items and abilities.

My first named character is acquired, and it's none other than FF's biggest star. Really cool that they put him in so early (rather than making him DLC, which I fully expected out of modern Square Enix).

Before long, Tyro gets Tidus (FFX) and Fighter (no idea...seems like another generic). Even with a party size of five, it's difficult to include everyone that you might want to, and sacrifices must be made.

The next boss is FFVII's Air Buster. The boss theme from that game plays for the fight, which is really cool, and it even uses some of the same attack patterns. It's like they put some actual thought and effort into this game.

Next up is FFX, also brought to the 2D realm. Currently there are only a few battles to fight, but they're bound to add more to these chapters in the future. You go from battle to battle with nothing in-between, which makes this an ideal game for hopping in and out of on the go. The only issue is the stamina meter. Battles use up a set amount of stamina, and once you run out, you can't fight anymore until you regain some stamina. The stamina meter recharges at 1 per three minutes, or you can pay to recharge it instantly (which, I'm sure, a lot of people do).

Early fights aren't really an issue at 2 stamina per fight, but later on when fights cost 10 stamina it becomes pretty annoying. It's a free game and I know they have to make their money, but I'd pay $15 upfront for a version of this game without a stamina meter, seriously. It'd be much, much more fun.

Sinspawn! Between the visuals and the music, this is bringing back strong FFX memories. I like the way the character and enemy models are all styled after FFVI graphics (except when they're from an earlier game), too. If you're gonna convert later games into 2D, it makes sense to do so in the format of the last 2D game.

...not sure how volume control got into the screenshot. Get outta here, volume control!

Winning these fights nets you exp, gold, orbs (for creating abilities), and weapons/armor. Each character can equip one weapon and one armor, and every piece of equipment is from an FF game. This one is apparently from FFV.

Kimahri was a boss at this point, and I figured that meant he'd join the party. No such luck, but I did acquire Wakka. Too bad this game doesn't have dialogue, I was hoping for some of his "ya?" comments.

The various Sinspawn enemies were interesting in FFX and they're still interesting here. Some very unique, alien designs on these foes.

I barely survived that fight due to Tidus having an affinity boost (that blue glow). What's an affinity boost, you ask? Using a character native to a game will give them a huge boost in power during stages from that particular game. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% more HP and 2x attack power, so it's a big deal. Using equipment native to a game also boosts the equipment, so the Poison Axe from FFIV will have a higher damage output in FFIV stages. Have a character from that game wield it, like Kain, and you'll obliterate.

Next up are some FFV stages. Wing Raptor here is one of those fights - like Guard Scorpion, Mist Dragon, and Whelk - where you have to back off when it turtles up or suffer a blistering counterattack.

Between fights you get a bit of context from the game in question. Unfortunately none of these chapters go very far into their games (the FFVII chapter goes to the second boss). Looking forward to further expansions of the main story chapters in the future, assuming they're on the way.

FFIV is next. You're seeing "AUTO" on a lot of these shots because I'm making heavy use of autobattle. It's a godsend of sorts because these fights would be very tedious without it. Most of them can be won without any input from the player, so I load them up and fire off autobattle for the win. Boss fights, on the other hand, definitely require input.

Octomammoth here is a fierce opponent, for instance. He's weak to thunder magic, but we're somewhat lacking in the magic department right now. None of the casters are particularly good (though Tyro is a good healer) until you get Rydia. She's a summoner, which means she can use both schools of magic (plus summons). Once she is acquired, it's a good time to start building up for some second-tier spells.

I notice that the screenshots for FFIV are from the 3D remake of the game as opposed to the original 2D version. Interesting.

Antlion is, as always, NOT TAME AT ALL. YOU LIE, EDWARD!

Aside from the stamina meter, the other big problem in the game is... this stuff. The game has always-on DRM, meaning you can't play it offline. If you don't have a stable connection, it's totally unplayable. It's already somewhat glitchy, and frequently drops you to the desktop. However, the main lure of this game is that it's ideal for playing on the go, and can't really play it on the go unless you live in a city or a place with very stable internet. Connecting the phone to wi-fi seemed to be the way to go, but that means no traveling around with it. Forget about playing this in the car on a long drive, too.

Some of the bosses have entirely-new models, like Kain here. They also have motion as opposed to being still-shots, and it's pretty awesome to see. These fights are nostalgia-blasts, regardless.

Cagnazzo is one of the tougher fights, especially since you get Baigan right before him. I'd say this is the toughest part of the early-game, easily. In retrospect with better understanding of the game (and Thundara), this guy ain't shiet. At the time, though, he's nothing to take lightly.

Got Kain, and he'll be a party mainstay from now on. The main appeal of this game is being able to mix and match characters from different games. I wish there were more variety, but it'll happen in time.

Growth Eggs are very useful for leveling up characters that are behind, as demonstrated by Kain here. Some events drop Growth Eggs, but they're generally uncommon. Thing is, lowbie characters don't gain exp much faster than highbie characters, so they're doomed to lag way behind on levels unless you power them up with these eggs. Taking a character into a battle by themselves is also a good way to rocket them up, since they get all the exp that way.

Sierra! Hotel! India! Echo! Lima! Delta! SHIELD.


Er...yeah. Here's the quintessentially perfect armor for your FFVII based characters, in my case Cloud.

I took the time early on to farm up orbs to create the Blade Bash ability for all of my characters. It's basically an attack with a stun component, and I heard it works on bosses. Problem is, it almost never works. If it does work, the fight is over, but... IT. almost NEVER. WORKS. I can't say I recommend it after all. One ability I definitely DO recommend is Double Cut, which is...well...a double attack. It always does 2x damage until you run out of it for a given battle, which is great. The ingredients for it are a PITA to farm until you get to the end of story mode, though.

Protip: The Double Cut ingredients are Lesser Power Orb (Figaro Castle Entrance) and Lesser Wind Orb (Imperial Camp North). In parenthesis are the best places to farm them, after extensive testing. Soon as you've got FFVI in the can, go for it.

 It's worth noting that there are also "elite" versions of the story dungeons. Even the very first elite dungeon, featuring Guard Scorpion here, is MUCH MUCH harder than the regular version. These elite dungeons are suitable for parties that are like level 25 and up (which is about when you'd be finishing the main story). Well done, timing-wise.

The next (and final) story chapter is the hallowed Final Fantasy VI. This one doesn't miss a beat, starting you off with the venerable Whelk. Don't attack the shell.

No, seriously, it misses zero beats. Here's the second boss from FFVI, Marshal. Unleash limit breaks!

...oh yeah, this game has limit breaks. They're pretty snazzy early on, but they tend to get pretty underpowered as the game progresses. I've read that there are advanced limit breaks that are more useful later, but I have yet to find any.

Even the twin Magitek Armors get their time in the sun as a boss fight. Rydia absolutely destroys them with Thundara. Oh yeah, I got Rydia. Out of the three -ara spells, Thundara is the most useful by far. Rydia is extremely useful as a healer and damage caster, plus she has summons (though they're difficult to farm the ingredients for, to say the least).

 The hardest fight since Baigan is Vargas, seen here with his pet bears. This guy really should have been the final boss of story mode, because the difficulty of this fight is way beyond the few fights that come after this. I was hoping for Sabin to drop in after the fight, but no dice.

The final boss of story mode is Tunnel Armor, a somewhat anticlimactic battle. Rydia demolishes it with Thundara in a couple turns, and that's a wrap.

A preview of future updates. Looks like we're getting some FFI and FFII content, as well as the next stage of FFVI. In the meantime, there are some temporary event dungeons to check out, levels and abilities to grind, items to farm, and elite dungeons to die on.

At this point I took on Shinra Tower. It's the first "event dungeon"; apparently they're going to switch event dungeons around every couple weeks. Event dungeons are much, much lengthier than regular story dungeons, and take a pretty extensive amount of time to beat. They also ascend in difficulty as you go and surpass the main story dungeons later on.

Getting halfway through Shinra Tower netted me another character I really like. She has great attack power, but her defense is awful. Maybe because she isn't wearing pants. Put on some damn pants, Tifa! Regardless, Tyro finally gets bumped from the group for good now that I have too many superior characters. He'll be in the waiting room, making Dr. Mog miserable.

 This boss was an extremely difficult fight, and the first real "power check" in Shinra Tower. Since your characters default to attacking the instant-regenerating adds, this fight is a test of your ability to target the boss before issuing commands.

It's probably a little harder than anything in the main story, with the exception of the Vargas fight. Nothing wrong with taking a few losses now and then; my party is hardly optimized, and fights like this are going to force me to figure out how to make it better.

The big swerve of Shinra Tower comes on Floor 60.

...yes, there are 70 floors (and about twice that many battles).

 The swerve in question is the fight with Hundred Gunner. This is the elevator fight from FFVII, which means no physical attacks unless they're range-based. You have to rely on magic attacks, specifically Thundara. I actually did this fight before the last few main story fights, and hadn't built up Rydia yet. This was the fight that made me stop and build her up with Thundara and Cura. Before this, I was content to just build up a bunch of physical brawlers and autobattle everything into oblivion.

Five floors later is another ranged-only fight, Heli Gunner. This one has more HP, but it's pretty much the same deal. When it comes down to it, you need to be able to do about 7000 ranged spell damage in a single battle. Which means getting a weapon for Rydia that enhances her spell power. Another good idea is to hone Thundara so you can use it four times instead of two.

The final battle of Shinra Tower (and really, the game itself for the first month it was out) is Rufus and Dark Nation. And a fitting final battle it is. This might have been the crescendo of FFVII's story for me, as the Shinra Corporation never reached this level of main-villain prominence again.

Kain managed to proc a poison on him with the Poison Axe, and that poison is dealing out a lot of damage. JUMP FOR YOUR LIFE, KAIN

After Kain's narrow victory, I get the most prized of characters. Sephiroth has the highest attack power of anyone in the game, and wreaks havoc with his physical attacks.

Only problem is, his 2D FFVI-style sprite kinda looks like a slightly-modified Setzer. I think they could have built this guy from the ground-up for better effect, honestly.

I now have my final party for future content, I think. You can see the side-characters below; Ranger and Bard can be added to the generic roster.

Sephiroth gets all the Growth Eggs I had. I got him just in time before they took Shinra Tower down. No idea when it'll be back up, as the game seems to rotate between special events as time goes by. I'm sure it'll be around again by next year. For the time that it is, here's a Protip: Several Kazekiris drop in Shinra Tower. It's very important to save these katanas for Sephiroth, since they can be powered-up with other items and then combined with each other until he has a level 20 Kazekiri (the highest level). I didn't realize their importance and ended up getting stuck with a level 10 Kazekiri. Well, still better than throwing them all away and having nothing to equip him with...

Hell yeah, now that's a party. If any more FFVII content ever gets added, this party can blast through it with their affinity bonuses.

But wait! The next event dungeon is now up: Mt. Ordeals from FFIV. It'll be up for another week or two, from what I understand. This is another many-floored dungeon with ascending difficulty, but it's actually much easier than Shinra Tower. Bringing Rydia with Fira is very recommended.

 Defeating Milon/Scarmiglione results in getting Dark Knight Cecil, a badass physical attacker. He's second only to Sephiroth in the offense power department. Unfortunately, I don't really have any room for him at this point unless I want to switch Tifa (my weakest character defensively) out for him. I'd like to switch Rydia out and have a melee party for autobattling, but she has proven to be tremendously useful.

AFTER acquiring him, you fight him. He's leagues beyond any other foes in Mt. Ordeals, with a highly-damaging Darkness attack that can beat your entire party in two shots. This is a question of whether or not you have the burn damage to take him out before he takes you out. Nothing more, nothing less.

Victory over him nets you Paladin Cecil. That's can have TWO Cecils on your team. Now I'm faced with some tough choices, as I'd like one of the Cecils on my team (likely dark), but I'd need to bench someone else. My party is doing way too well to seriously consider benching anyone, but with some time before the next content update, I just might. I'm not too fond of the way the game starts characters at level 1, and the exp curve is more of a plateau so good luck catching them up.

There we go, I think I pretty much touched on everything. Well, almost. I didn't go into relic draws. They're what you should use Mythril on, as tempting as it is to use those on stamina restores. Mythril is finite, and every five of them gets you a relic draw. Relics greatly enhance the party. You get one free relic draw every day, as well, but those aren't guaranteed to give you good items like the Mythril draws are.

In summation, this game is awesome for fans of the series, and it's free. Check it out, but beware the microtransactions.

Read my post on last year's disappointing Final Fantasy: All The Bravest

What? You still want more? This game is still chugging along, and the character/item power levels have gotten pretty insane (especially with synergy).


  1. This was a lot of fun to read. It's rad that they took the one good thing from All the Bravest, 2D renderings of the 3D world, and took advantage of it for this title. It was so fun to read this and see fresh new portrayals of things I remember!
    Cloud's your main man I see!
    So this doesn't have an overworld, just status screens and battles, right?

    1. That's right, you go right from the menus to the battles. There's no moving around or anything like that.

      All The Bravest had 2D renderings of FF7, FF10, and FF13. This game made use of two of those right off the bat, but they haven't done FF13 yet. I'm really interested to see what 8, 9, and 12 look like in 2D, since they'll need to be made from the ground up.

  2. I thought this was just gonna be another All The Bravest deal and just generally not be worth it. But this is nice! :D

  3. Great post. I'm playing through this game as we speak, and everything you said here seems spot-on so far.

  4. I have a feeling some of these historical records might be slightly inaccurate.

    I wonder how many actual six-year-olds are playing this game.

    Actually, six would be how old I was the first time I played Final Fantasy. I wonder if that was the first time I had been exposed to a "mage."

    It's not the exact same, but Fighter looks closest to the PS1 FF1 version. Same with the White and Black mages. Since they have "crystal" icons instead of a roman numeral though, I'm gonna guess they're officially this game's native sprites.

    Wow, in 2D the Air Buster looks even more like that one Mega Man 1 enemy.

    Wakka would probably just call you a heretic. At least he's Bender.

    How do you build up spells?

    I like that you have a reason to give equipment that matches up game-wise with your characters.

    Oh, no wonder you said Rydia had white magic, she's still a kid.

    Two Cecils! I wonder how well my phone can read this...

  5. Just read through this again, and it truly is an amazing game huh? Has had us sucked in for months.