I have written in the past that I hate iOS gaming, phone gaming in general. Mobile games always struck me as either shallow, or mechanically incompetent. For every game like Doodle Jump, that used the format of a phone well, but was shallow, there would also be the iOS port of Chrono Trigger, a deep and satisfying game, but with a horribly wonky control scheme, usually involving a virtual D-pad. It seems as time marches on, mobile developers are finding more and more of a happy medium in the genre, especially within the once totally hellish “Free to play” space. While these games on their best day use to be nothing but exploitative, summed up perfectly in a South Park episode, it seems there are more and more titles that take the free model and craft a game around it that doesn’t feel like some sort of racket.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper is such a game. Seemingly learning from all the mistakes from the horror show that was Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, Square, and mobile developer DeNA (Nintendo’s mobile game partner) have made a game that brings forth great waves of nostalgia, while gently tapping you on the shoulder from time to time, and saying, “Hey buddy, wanna throw some money my way? No? That’s cool, keep playing and enjoy.” While not as totally benevolent as something like Crossy Road, FFRK lets you amass a veritable army of beautifully rendered 16-bit Final Fantasy heroes from games past, arrange them however you want into a party of four, and wade into battles reminiscent of Final Fantasy IV or VI. All of this happens without a virtual D-pad, and brings with it things like pretty backgrounds, well-drawn enemies, and battle themes from every mainline Final Fantasy title.
While there is a stamina bar that refills either with time, or with a precious resource, that resource is gained at such a clip, or the stamina extended naturally enough that money never really becomes an issue if you want to marathon some content. But even if you don’t, the bar fills quickly enough on its own that you don’t feel like the game is being unfairly gated. It’s a phone game, it’s not at its best in marathon sessions anyway. Yes, there is also a roulette-style way of getting better items, but they can use either “gems”, which yes are purchased with real money; or the precious resource you gain naturally, mythril. While I have dumped some money into the game, most of my best items came without spending a penny, so I really cannot say the game is exploiting me.
That is really the key to a mobile game, isn’t it? Playing it, feeling like I am having fun, and that I am not getting screwed. While I am waiting on a long line at the bank, or a 40 minute line at this great deli by me, that is really what I want. So I have to say, while I may have hated mobile gaming in the past, it seems people out there have found a way to make a stodgy old gamer like me into a believer.