Here's some news that should brighten your week: You'll soon be able to play a retro-style Final Fantasy game adorned with gorgeous spritework. Now, some additional news that may dim your enthusiasm a bit: Said game is a free-to-play mobile title.
The game, titled Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, already has over six million fans in Japan. According to a press release distributed by Square-Enix earlier today, players of the English-speaking persuasion can expect the game to hit the US App Store and Google Play sometime this summer.
Brave Exvius features sprite-based graphics along with other classic 16-bit RPG mechanics, like turn-based battles and overhead maps that shift to a side view when it's time to beat up enemies.
Summons also play a big role in Brave Exvius. That's not surprising for a Final Fantasy title, but it's also fitting given the second half of Brave Exvius' inspiration -- namely Gumi's hugely successful mobile RPG, Brave Frontier (Gumi is contributing to Brave Exvius' development).
The narrative driving Brave Exvius smells of early generation Final Fantasy fare, but don't be fooled. Yes, there are Crystals that keep the world in balance, and yes, when that balance is threatened, it's up to a few spunky heroes to do something about that business.
But there's a little more to this story. Brave Exvius is set in Lapis, a world bristling with specialized Crystals that contain the hopes and memories of heroes from ages past. These heroes can take physical form within Lapis and help the game's main roster (two male knights named Rain and Lasswell, and a female archer named Fina) put down the evil presence threatening their realm. The trailer alone offers glimpses of Cecil from Final Fantasy IV, Cyan from Final Fantasy VI, Vivi from Final Fantasy IX, Yuna from Final Fantasy X, and many others.
If you're curious about what Brave Exvius has to offer, the game's in soft launch on the Swedish App Store. The rest of us will have to wait until the summer to play, though you can ease the sting by pre-registering for the game.
Square-Enix and Gumi are goading potential players into pre-registering the game by tracking "Milestones." Simply put, the more people who pre-register, the better the rewards for everyone who signed up. If this all sounds familiar, that's because Square-Enix tried something similar with its pre-orders for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It went over like a Fat Chocobo with cinderblocks tied to its talons.
Maybe people will be more forgiving about having similar reward tiers in a free-to-play game. The first Milestone is admittedly compelling: If enough people sign up to push the marker to 1,000,000 points (one sign up equals 30 points), early birds receive Magitek Armor Terra for their party. Who can say "no" to a half-Esper mounted on a death tank?
Granted, the answer to that is probably "lots of people," since free-to-play games -- let alone the free-to-play formula applied to retro-inspired RPGs -- make fans of traditional games uneasy. Moreover, at this juncture it's not easy to tell how Square-Enix and Gumi intend to manage in-app purchases (if you've played the Japanese version of the game, feel free to chime in). Final Fantasy: Record Keeper is another Final Fantasy game that blends past and present, and it usually plays fair -- though some weeks ago, there was major controversy revolving around accusations of loot drop tampering.
You have a right to be wary of Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius. However, those of us with weak wills are forced to admit those huge high-res sprites of classic monsters and bosses look mighty appetizing.