Mobius Final Fantasy Hands-On Review — The Oddest Duck Yet

Though it's not available in the west and Square Enix has not announced any intentions to make it so (though it probably will—just look at Chaos Rings 3), yesterday I had the opportunity to go hands-on with Mobius Final Fantasy, recently released in Japan on iOS and Android. The game was pushed as a full-scale console RPG on smartphones, but in the end it looks and plays more like a tech demo for the new Unity 5 engine than a direct companion to previous entries in the Final Fantasy series. The combat is fun enough—the controls are simple enough to execute with one hand (which is the intention—the entire game is designed in portrait orientation) and yet it doesn't sacrifice depth in being easy to maneuver. Of the Final Fantasy series it's most like Final Fantasy XIII's battle system, except it actually feels quite at home on a smartphone. The problem is...that's about all there is to the game. Despite its pretty visuals, Mobius Final Fantasy is more akin to Record Keeper than a console experience. At times it does try to convince you otherwise with excellent cutscenes, but the illusion is only ever very short-lived. Most of the time you'll just be watching Wol (or whatever you name the protagonist) walk from checkpoint to checkpoint, only to be interrupted by waves of enemies each time.

Then again, this is a free-to-play title; the base mechanics are designed to leave you wishing for more so that you will shell out some cash (yen, in particular) on in-game goodies that range from purely optional to completely essential. To be fair, you can play Mobius without spending a dime (err, yen), but the in-app purchases run deep enough to actually limit your daily time with the game if you don't pay up sooner or later.

The question is: will anyone even hit that limit? Yes, probably—this is Final Fantasy we're talking about—but it's abundantly clear Mobius was designed with a Japanese audience in mind. Despite the Final Fantasy XIII analogy, Mobius is heavily based on card battling and social features as well (which grants the player their actual abilities and equipment sets), and number systems abound, all appealing to that "gotta catch 'em all" style of mindless addictiveness.

That's not to say Mobius isn't engaging at all, though. It does have a story that is delivered at a reasonable pace in episodic form, but from what I grasped in my basic understanding of the Japanese language it's nothing very deep. Final Fantasy XIV's main plot came to mind on more than one occasion—which is good, but not the real reason anyone plays and loves Final Fantasy XIV. Does Mobius have that certain other element somewhere in being a combat simulator? It's hard to say. What I can say for sure is that this is the most wildly divergent game to grace the Final Fantasy series yet. It's surprisingly unfriendly to a western audience, and is the sort of game I only see myself playing on occasion to kill some time, not make a concentrated effort to actually clear. Again, this is an episodic game, so it could certainly get 'better' with time...but does it need to? This isn't exactly a case of a bad game in need of improvement. Rather, Mobius knows exactly what it's trying to be, and it plays the role well. It just isn't the Final Fantasy adventure most gamers probably had in mind. Coming off a strictly first-impressions basis, my recommendation is to anticipate Puzzle and Dragons and you won't be disappointed. Otherwise there's not much reason to give Mobius a go other than as a benchmark for your smartphone.