One of the difficult things with evaluating games on the App Store is how much they tend to evolve over time. It’s especially tricky with free-to-play games that are often set up to be gentle in the early stages and more punishing over time. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop a lot of the time, and I think that contributes to why some people are hesitant to get into those kinds of games to begin with. Even though I’ve played Square Enix and DeNA’s new social RPG Final Fantasy: Record Keeper more than anyone at TouchArcade, I won’t be doing the main review. We agreed it would be interesting for readers to get another point of view on the game, so my co-host on the RPG Reload Podcast Eric Ford will be handling that.
There is, however, a unique opportunity with this game that we’re not often afforded. I’ve played this game virtually every day for five months, participated in all of the events, and pushed my way through a huge chunk of the game, all without spending even a single yen on anything. I’ve been asked to write up my impressions of the Japanese version of the game up until now, to give you some idea of how the game shakes out over the long term. Consider this a supplement to the main review of the game. A glimpse at how the game looks way down the road, if you will.
So, let’s start by answering the question that’s probably on everyone’s mind. Where’s the paywall? The answer is that so far, I haven’t hit anything that has completely stopped my progress. There are some Elite dungeons I’m not quite ready to handle as of yet, but none of the main dungeons have stopped me for very long if at all. I’ve fully completed all but one of the stages up to the point that I’m at with the regular levels, and I could probably go back and finish out the one I didn’t get gold on pretty easily by now. I’ve been able to clear every event and earn every character save the one that was running when I first started playing. Luckily, the characters do occasionally repeat, at least in the Japanese version, so I was able to get that character later. Again, some of the Elite event stages are a bit too tough for my current party, so I haven’t been able to get more than a few of the precious Crystal Souls that allow you to break the level cap, but that doesn’t seem unfair.
In total, I’ve collected 40 different characters, 33 of which are named characters while the rest fill the role of the generic job classes. My main party is hovering around an average level of 48, while most of my other characters are between level 20 and level 30. I have tons of gil, enough five star equipment to fully deck a few complete parties, and all but the highest tier of abilities and magic. I’m also sitting on a massive stash of Growth Eggs, so I could certainly boost my character levels more than I have if I wanted to. As mentioned in the last paragraph, I have a few Crystal Souls, so three of my characters can go past the default level cap of 50, onto level 65. I’ve unlocked and played stages from every mainline Final Fantasy game except for Final Fantasy 11 and Final Fantasy 14. I’m not sure if they’re in there or not, but it seems like they haven’t been added yet.
Most importantly, I’m still having a lot of fun. I’ll admit, the events are the big thing that keeps me interested these days, but they change out regularly enough that I’m always checking in. Because of the events and the login bonus, the Mythril flows smoothly enough that I’ve been able to take plenty of swings at the relic draw while also expanding my inventory maximum to account for my hoarder mentality. I also like to pop in for certain daily dungeons, especially the ones that give bonuses to experience or high-level crafting materials. Whenever I load up the game to play these time-limited events, I also usually crank out a stage or two of the normal story mode.
I like that I haven’t hit a point yet where it feels like I have to spend a lot of time grinding for whatever reason in order to progress. Many other social RPGs start off strong but eventually land you in that kind of situation. Final Fantasy: Record Keeper, after this many months and countless hours of play, has only ever asked me to reconsider my strategy. It has asked nothing worse of me than many of my favorite traditional RPGs, and that’s not something I expected coming into it. Don’t jump in unprepared, and if you get beat, think about why and how you can avoid it next time. This is the very core of what makes RPG battles enjoyable, and Record Keeper reflects that proudly.
Even the dreaded stamina meter ended up being less of a factor than I might have expected. As long as you’re playing the regular story mode, you’ll constantly earn stamina crystals. Collecting five of those adds an extra stamina point to your maximum and refills your meter. You can obviously drain it doing events and daily dungeons, since they don’t give you any crystals, but if you stick to the regular stages, it’s kind of impressive how long you can play before you run out of stamina. It also refills quickly enough on its own that you don’t have to wait long before can have another battle.
The nostalgia aspect of the game is perfect. There were so many corners that could have been potentially cut, like glossing over using the right music for a special battle or reusing a generic background instead of recreating the proper one, but Record Keeper more often than not goes the extra mile in that regard. Contributing equally to the nostalgia is the fact that bosses and enemies behave in familiar ways. In many ways, this isn’t so much a new game as it is a remix, a bunch of rapid-fire memories from the history of the series, given a bit of spit polish and sent out to shine once more. For this long time Final Fantasy fan, it’s about the best I could imagine from a social RPG take on the series. Five months later, I still love it.
Anyway, that’s just where I’m at with Final Fantasy: Record Keeper at the moment. I guess I’ll be starting anew today with the rest of you on the English version. A chance to relive things again, and maybe raise up a totally different main party. Unlike many games where I end up having to do this, I don’t dread rebuilding at all here. Instead, I’m quite looking forward to it. I hope these impressions can set some worried minds at ease. This is very much a social RPG, but it’s a very good one, and for Final Fantasy fans looking for a little filler in their day, it’s hard to imagine it could have been better.