Assemble, brave Warriors of Light. Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is now available on iOS and Android. It's very much a meeting between the Final Fantasy series and Gumi's Brave Frontier, which means players can expect a lot of nostalgia-driven action in addition to a lot of free-to-play trappings.
It's worth saying right from the outset: If you're unimpressed by mobile game mechanics like rare loot drops, hard currency, and stamina bars, not even Brave Exvius' lovely sprite work will tamp down your gorge. This is a free-to-play game through and through, though it is worth noting Brave Exvius is quite fair about handing out cool stuff for free (especially though the game's launch window, which should last for another week or so). Regardless, stamina bars are stamina bars.
On the other hand, if you're A-OK with Square-Enix's earlier mobile hit, Final Fantasy: Record Keeper, you should be fine with Brave Exvius. It more or less runs according to the same ruleset, except the game itself offers a more traditional JRPG experience.
Yes, Brave Exvius is a Final Fantasy game. It has dungeons, towns, shops, Esper summons, turn-based combat, and a hero with daddy issues seething just below his carefree façade. There's an entire narrative to play through; this isn't like Record Keeper's purposefully disjointed scenarios. When you're moving your character freely through an ice cavern, opening up treasure chests, and getting into random battles, you can easily forget you're engaged with a free-to-play title.
Brave Exvius never lets you forget for long, though. The loot drops you need to synthesize the game's higher-tier weapons, items, and spells require a lot of grinding, as you might expect. That's fine – except entering an exploration dungeon costs stamina, same as it costs stamina to engage in story-driven battle dungeons (which offer several fights in a single go, very similar to Record Keeper's fights). In time, the random battles in an exploration dungeon actually peter out. If you're hunting for a rare drop, or if you're looking to eliminate an assigned number of monsters for quest-related purposes, you have to exit the dungeon and spend stamina ("NRG" – yes, seriously) to enter again.
When you first realize that Square-Enix and Gumi are purposefully throttling Brave Exvius' random encounter rate, you may feel a bit used. You may even get kind of angry. Luckily for both companies, Brave Exvius' main draw is hard to quit: Character collection.
Brave Exvius takes place in a world stocked with crystals that contains the memories of legendary heroes (and villains) from other realms. You can summon these "Visions" in a Gashapon-style game to fight alongside the game's main characters (two knights named Rain and Lasswell, and a female archer named Fina). The main characters drive the game's narrative, but they don't have to be in your party. In other words, if you want a party of three Sabins and two Terras, go for it.
(Sidenote: Since your characters' powers greatly increase if you fuse them with their own clones, it's not necessarily a good idea to hoard Sabins and Terras.)
Individual Visions don't contribute to Brave Exvius' story, but each one comes with a detailed character bio and a moveset that reflects their specialties. Vivi's an expert magic user, Sabin can use Blitzes, Cyan knows SwordTech moves, and so on.
Unsurprisingly, game-specific characters are primarily summoned through the Gashapon game that accepts hard currency (Lapis), whereas the Gashapon powered by renewable Friend Points tends to dole out weaksauce characters created especially for Brave Exvius. Hopefully Brave Exvius will do like Record Keeper and host events that reward players with beloved characters.
I enjoy Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, but I went into the game knowing what to expect from the likes of Square-Enix's free-to-play stuff. If you're already a fan of Final Fantasy: Record Keeper, you'll almost certainly dig Brave Exvius' attempt to combine a traditional RPG with the free-to-play system.
If you're not a fan of Record Keeper's mobile trappings, however, you'll probably want to steer clear of Brave Exvius. Seeing its gorgeous sprite work confined by stamina bars and countdown timers will just make you sad.