Review by discoinferno84
"No bravery in your eyes anymore..."
They should have known better. Despite all their efforts, the heroes of the Final Fantasy never realized how limited they were. Did they really think that the god-like evils they faced could be killed so easily? When you look past the magic spells, legendary weapons, and ancient prophecies, there is only one truth: evil is eternal. It must be fought and contained, but it cannot be completely wiped out. After the credits roll, it is still out there. Surviving. Waiting patiently for another chance to strike at the heart of all you hold dear. Now, it's chosen to strike in earnest. Every old school villain from the franchise has come back with a vengeance, and their nemeses aren't around to stop them. Instead, countless unnamed heroes from each Final Fantasy must rise up in a united front and save their worlds themselves.
At a glance, All The Bravest looks like an epic series-wide crossover...but it's not. Aside from the basic plot, there is no additional story. Instead, the game relies entirely on nostalgia by featuring some of the most iconic character classes in the franchise. The warriors, knights, monks, thieves, mages, dragoons, summoners, and others represent the original Final Fantasy all the way through V. You'll steadily unlock up to 25 different jobs, culminating in a party of 32 playable characters. The roster can even be increased to 40, if you use the in-game Facebook and Twitter options to unlock more positions. As you fight your way across the SNES-style map, you'll gradually level up your units, acquire new items, earn Gil, and face down the likes of Garland, Gilgamesh, Golbez, Kefka, and even Neo Exdeath. It's like every retro Final Fantasy combined into one huge, sprawling adventure At least, it seems that way.
Once you get past the thrill of the first couple of battles, it becomes that apparent that All The Bravest is bereft of any quality that made Final Fantasy so famous. Slaying monsters isn't done via turn-based battling, but by touching each party member on the screen. You don't even have to watch what you're doing, either. As long as you keep rubbing a finger over your iPhone, your party will keep fighting. Each character class has a unique attack; red mages get Dual Cast, summoners unleash Megaflare, monks have Iron Fist, etc. The problem is that they only have one move each. That's all. No job trees, unlockable spells, or anything that rewards your level grinding. Even white mages and bards classes normally reserved for healing and other party support abilities are given offensive spells to use. With no defensive options, your only choice is to dive straight into an all-out offensive and pray you kill your foe before everyone dies. Since there's no way to target individual enemies, efficiency and tactics are nonexistent. While there are several weapons to acquire, there's nothing in terms of equipment customization. Rather than dealing out status effects or additional bonuses, each weapon only boosts the attack stat of whatever character class can wield it. Also, the party is randomized for every battle; you're not given any way to arrange the units in a formation or develop strategies. It's even possible to get a 32-character party with all the same people. Thus the fate of Final Fantasy is left entirely to chance. Reassuring, isn't it?
You can get surprisingly far with these ridiculously flawed combat mechanics. As long as you do a healthy dose of level grinding between every boss, you won't have much trouble making progress. Once you max out the party's numbers, however, the most annoying flaw of the game appears. It's nearly impossible to beat All The Bravest with the regular in-game combat mechanics. Even if you fully level up it shouldn't take more than a few hours you'll eventually come across bosses that cannot be defeated with a single party. Each unit can only take one hit before being knocked out, and then require three real-time minutes to revive and rejoin the fight. If your entire party is wiped out, you have to wait over an hour and a half for it to rebuild to full capacity. That mechanic alone is horrendous enough to break the game. The designers tried to remedy this by letting you use hourglasses to revive the whole party at once, but you're only given a limited supply. If you want to complete the battle in a reasonable amount of time, you'll have to use in-app purchases.
Spending real money on revives is only the start of the game's morbid obsession with DLC. Rather than providing a complete, well thought-out adventure, Square Enix decided to give its fans the bare skeleton of a game with dozens of purchasable extras. While the most famous villains in the series are present, their heroic counterparts are not found in the regular gameplay. In fact, these Premium Characters must be purchased before they appear in your party. Also, you're not given a choice of which hero you get; fans clamoring for a retro sprite of Cloud, Zidane, or Tidus can only send a dollar in and pray that the Final Fantasy gods are feeling merciful. It's not limited to just heroes, either. Aside from the main campaign, airship tickets to VII's Midgar, X's Zanarkand, and XIII's Archylte Steppe cost four dollars apiece. When you add everything up, it comes out to around 50 USD. That's a lot of cash to spend on this pathetic excuse of a Final Fantasy title.
It's unfortunate, considering how even a few minor tweaks could have made All The Bravest into something resembling a game. The design makes using the touch screen a breeze, but more complex combat mechanics would have made it feel rewarding. If there was a way to combine attacks or choose and organize your party, there'd at least be a little bit of strategy to enjoy. Also, the ability to customize individual units with items and weapons would give you a chance to try different tactics and actually care about their effectiveness. On that note, you should have units capable of reviving their teammates. If revives are absolutely necessary, they should be purchasable with the Gil you earn from every battle. You know, like almost every RPG ever made? You shouldn't have to shell out even more of your own real-world money to get a basic resource within a game you've already bought. That's not just bad design, but a blatant rip-off as well.
That could be said for All The Bravest as a whole. It's not so much a nostalgia-ridden ensemble of Final Fantasy's greatest characters, but more like a horribly flawed boss rush designed by a deranged and sadistic fan. The premise is interesting enough; seeing the huge variety of character classes and all the call backs to the retro games is great. But despite its potentially huge scope, the game is hindered by the numerous problems inherent in its design. Every aspect of the gameplay is lacking in quality and depth; rather than going on some epic, satisfying quest, you'll spend hours rubbing a finger across your phone and watching the pretty lights flash onscreen. If you really want to enjoy retro Final Fantasy, do yourself a favor and play the actual games. Not only are they easy to find, but provide far more content and satisfaction as well. Bravery only gets you so far.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 01/23/13, Updated 01/24/13
Game Release: Final Fantasy: All the Bravest (US, 01/17/13)
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