Friday 19 August 2016

A Brave New Record: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Review (Reviewed on iOS, also on Android)

The Final Fantasy series has really made its way into the mobile gaming market. With a majority of the core Final Fantasy games available as paid apps on smartphones alongside free Final Fantasy apps such as Final Fantasy Record Keeper, there’s an experience for Final Fantasy fans of all budgets and tastes, ranging from the old school JRPG Final Fantasy style to the more modern 3D style seen in recent Final Fantasy games. The Brave Frontier inspired Final Fantasy Brave Exvius take inspiration from the classic Final Fantasy games with its turn-based battle system, pixel art sprites and town exploration that will be familiar to fans of the series. But it isn't all classic Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius balances bringing a new Final Fantasy experience to the smartphone space featuring an interesting story with witty dialogue reminiscent of the classic games and also brings in the fun collection and turn-based systems featured in other mobile and core Final Fantasy series games of old and new.

As someone who was a longtime fan of Final Fantasy Record Keeper but needed something to hook me in to continue playing, the story in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a solid answer to this problem. Brave Exvius is set in the world of Grandshelt and explores the protagonists Rain and Lasswell’s journey in balancing Grandshelt's powers of Lapis and Visions. This is the main premise anyway, as the pair seem to get sidetracked frequently, whether it be to save helpless citizens or, in true Final Fantasy style, to meet mysterious girls inside crystals. This kind of more lighthearted storytelling is great for the small story chapters in Brave Exvius as a game that'll live in most people's pockets, so the witty banter between Rain and Lasswell males each chapter feel enjoyable in its under 5 minute length and is a nice way to progress through its 'saving the kingdom' story.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius gets part of its name from Brave Frontier, another popular RPG game by developer A-Lim. But Final Fantasy Brave Exvius also places plenty of importance of the Final Fantasy part of its name, using plenty of mechanics, characters and aspects from Final Fantasy. As someone who hasn’t played Brave Frontier, I still felt right at home with the familiar gameplay elements featured in Brave Exvius. The spells, Espers, limit breaks and explorable towns and dungeons are all very Final Fantasy-like and are a much needed upgrade to the basic character battle used in other Final Fantasy mobile games. Brave Exvius features a touch-based interface that utilises swipes to give a variety of different commands during battle. A swipe to the left will allow you to use skills, a swipe to the right will allow you to defend. This kind of smart use of the smartphone’s touch screen take advantage of the available screen space and allow for a battle system pretty close to the one seen in older Final Fantasy games. Add in Espers and Limit Breaks and battles are pretty exciting. While it does have an Auto function that’s featured in most Final Fantasy mobile games, this kind of complexity encourages players to actually think out their moves and play like they would on a console Final Fantasy game or at least use the Repeat function to automatically use the same command you used before.

A really noteworthy thing in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is its inclusion of towns and exploration maps, something that I really enjoyed in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and was glad to see in Brave Exvius as well. Towns allow players to buy a variety of items at stores, including weapons, armour and healing items, along with recipes to craft all these things for those wanting to save gil and use materials in the neat crafting mechanic instead. Also in the towns are NPCs that give quests, an RPG feature that makes the world of Brave Exvius feel much more real and RPG-like than most smartphone RPGs I’ve played. The quests given in towns usually lead to visiting an Exploration area, which features a maze-like map littered with monsters and treasure chests for players to hunt out items for quests, crafting and character upgrades. The exploration is generally simpler than what’s found in console Final Fantasy games, but it’s still one of my favourite aspects of Brave Exvius because it makes it feel like a genuine JRPG world.

Along with finding items for quests and upgrades, there’s plenty to unlock, collect and upgrade in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius whether you’re into character collection or stat building. For those like myself who came from Final Fantasy Record Keeper, the character collection continues with Brave Exvius' gacha system that uses Friend Points accumulated by making friends or having other players assist you in battle to summon extra units to battle with. These units include characters exclusive to Brave Exvius and also characters from old Final Fantasy games, which I was delighted by when I got a Vivi. For those looking to strengthen their battle units, characters can be Awakened (upgraded) up to a 5 star ranking, providing plenty of opportunity for more powerful characters and grinding. Grinding is made easy with Brave Exvius' Vortex quests, which provide either materials, gil or experience depending on the type of dungeon the player chooses for each day. Whenever I was under-leveled for a quest, I really enjoyed how easy it is to find a way to get better units and upgrade my existing characters and found it really easy to understand as a JRPG player.

To accelerate unit collecting and upgrade material collection is Lapis, a material Grandshelt and also Brave Exvius’ in-game currency that can be bought with real world money. For those wanting to keep their experience free, there are plenty of opportunities to win Lapis in the game through quests and login bonuses and I never found myself to be out of them. A cool thing that Lapis can purchase are the weekly shopping packs released in Brave Exvius that offer materials that are more difficult to get. They also offer some of these packs for purchase with real money as well, but they’re never materials that are impossible to get just by playing the game.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is almost as dense as most Final Fantasy games, yet it fits perfectly on a smartphone due to smart mechanics and plenty of ways to collect and upgrade characters. With story, Espers and exploration, the experience features much of what Final Fantasy players enjoy on the console games in an easily accessible way for players on the go. As someone who was very into other Final Fantasy mobile games such as Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius feels like a clear upgrade to the mobile Final Fantasy experience and I’m glad I can finally enjoy the Final Fantasy battle system I love with enjoyable banter on days I leave my Vita at home.

Score: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy's best mobile game yet manages to balance great story content, an explorable world and mechanics that fit smartphones perfectly in this on-the-go adventure.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Are you playing Final Fantasy Brave Exvius? Who's in your party?
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