Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: price. Final Fantasy: Dimensions (Free) is a free download, but the full game is ~$30, depending on whether you buy the chapters all together or one at a time. We both know that you have a “friend" who spent more than this on one of those Farmville-esque free-to-play titles, but otherwise, Dimensions is one of the most expensive games currently available on the App Store. So, is it worth it?
I can’t tell you that.
What I can tell you is that the game’s price is about half of what it cost in its original Japanese release two years ago. I can explain the odd pricing of the game’s four chapters: Chapters 2 and 3 contain what were 4 chapters each in the original release, and Chapter 4 contains 3, whereas the “Prologue" and the first chapter are identical to the original. If you’ve played through Chapter 1 (5-6 hours), you’re about 2/13 of the way through the game.
So it’s a big game, many times the size of your typical iOS RPG, and comparable to Square Enix’s re-released classic games on iOS. If there was a strategic mistake in their marketing, it may have been releasing the game all at once and bundling it together as much as they did. If a new chapter (one of the original 13 Japanese chapters) came out every few weeks, and each chapter was $2.99, the game would be more expensive but the price would probably be less contentious.
Paying your way though the game a chapter at a time is probably a best-bet for most players: the price difference ($4 if you unlock everything) is small compared to the “commitment" of the complete unlock for a game this massive. The game itself is pretty much exactly what it looks like and is billed as: a big, classic, Final Fantasy game. Let’s break that down a little.
There’s an epic, high fantasy plot with lots of twists, a large cast of characters whose appearance and abilities vary wildly, tons of random combat, lots of leveling-up and abilites to unlock, a gradual opening up of the world, secret items, bonus dungeons, and a lot of looking inside pots and barrels in order to pilfer the worldly goods of the townspeople you run across. There are a number of variations on these themes, a few of which actually surprised me, and hints at broader themes that never become too pointed or political.
The game’s jobs system, familiar to players of Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics is the signature mechanic, and there’s the twist that while your “core" characters can change jobs, none of the game’s large cast of “guest" party members can, so they represent familiar Final Fantasy archetypes like the Dragoon and the Dark Knight alongside the “I can be anything" potential of your core characters. The characters’ ability to change jobs is explained in-game by their affinity for the crystals, and this combined with the fact that you’ll have to make some tough decisions about where to spend yout “Job Points" gives this game a sufficient degree of min-maxy crunchiness without overemphasizing grinding.
Changing equipment and skill sets to suit a new job or situation is a regular activity, and, as we suggested in our review of the Prologue, the game’s flexible inventory and menu system becomes a godsend. With all of this supernaturally guided training and wardrobe-swapping, the game could have been titled “Final Fantasy: Career Counseling is Magic."
The cast of Dimensions is full of comfortable old Square Enix archetypes, to the point that I often found myself going “oh, she’s the Rydia / Terra of this game" etc., and a few interesting wrinkles, mainly in terms of characters who have good reason to mistrust each other. I’d hoped that the light/dark split in the plot would lead to a little more moral tension, but the plot is, as one might expect, pure melodrama. Subjectively, I’d say that the plot and characterization hit that same Final Fantasy V note as the job system: more nuanced than IV but not as compelling as VI. That might be subjective, as the legend of Final Fantasy VI inflates it to larger-than-life status, something hard to compare to a new game in the same style.
Final Fantasy: Dimensions is exactly what it wants to be: a new story in a familiar setting and system. For gamers who want to return to those long hours they spent with old-school Final Fantasy games, it will be like discovering a new book by their favorite author. For many, it’s a whole lot of expensive game they weren’t going to play anyway, and Square Enix has made it clear that they’re passing on that audience. In the end, the thing I like best about Dimensions is that it isn’t a remake or re-release of an already-beloved game. It’s an attempt to establish a high price-point for a big, mobile only (albeit not iOS-exclusive) JRPG. If it succeeds, it will encourage other less well-known ports and maybe even the original development of iOS games that require a $10+ price point.
That said, an extra $10 for chiptunes? Totally bogus.