World of Final Fantasy is an odd duck. Everything from the game’s core mechanic to its somewhat preposterous story is seemingly designed to be equal amounts charming and annoying. The dividing line between the two is often thin, but the game ultimately uses the world of Final Fantasy — I know, I know — to its advantage.

That isn’t to say it always succeeds. The game’s two leads, Reynn and Lann, can be insufferable at times, specifically Lann. The number of times I’ve wondered aloud while playing if I could somehow ditch him, or have him otherwise disappear, is too many to count. Add to that the fact that they’ve lost their memories — not amnesia, really, but like … misplaced them — and exist in a space without time and it’s just … well, it’s a lot.

Your two buds for the next dozens of hours, Lann and Reynn, have sweet hand tattoos.
Your two buds for the next dozens of hours, Lann and Reynn, have sweet hand tattoos.

The basic premise is this: Reynn and Lann are tasked with collecting a whole bunch of Mirages — essentially cute versions of monsters that should be familiar to any Final Fantasy fan — in order to once again become incredible Mirage Keepers — people that, uh, keep Mirages — and regain their memories. Along the way, they meet Mediums which can channel heroes from previous Final Fantasy titles. (The very first being Final Fantasy’s Warrior of Light.)

If that sounds a bit off, wait until you get a load of the game’s core mechanic. Hint: It’s stacking. As in, characters sitting on top of other characters’ heads. You can craft two stacks of Large, Medium, and Small characters. Because Reynn and Lann can switch back and forth from a Large and Medium form, they can occupy two different places in stacks — meaning that players can be both versions, just in case they switch around.

What this means mechanically is ultimately simple. Stack composition determines statistics like defense or attack as well as available abilities. Two critters in the same stack with the ability to cast Fire, for example, allow the stack to then cast Fira. But be careful, because these stacks can be toppled by enemy abilities, dropping the three parts of it into weaker single characters that can then be picked off. (The same is true for enemy stacks, though, which can be handy.)

Stacks on stacks on stacks.
Stacks on stacks on stacks.

While the whole “stacking” thing comes across as pretty … incongruous, shall we say, with the rest of the game’s conceit, it’s actually something I found myself enjoying rather quickly. Who doesn’t want a baby Chocobo sitting on their head? Who doesn’t want to ride around on a golem, with a baby Chocobo sitting on their head?

The plot and core mechanic aside, the little tidbits are what make World of Final Fantasy an overall enjoyable experience. The goofy descriptions of the Mirages, the adorable chibi avatars of Yuna, Squall, and other classic Final Fantasy characters, and the new takes on monsters and summons like the Babyhemoth and Shiva all add up to a game that grew on me over time. I even started hating Lann less, though not by much.

The best way to describe World of Final Fantasy is by thinking of it like Kingdom Hearts, where Disney meets Final Fantasy, but replace the “Disney” with a second half of Final Fantasy instead. The combination is pretty much exactly as nonsensical as that sounds, and the ridiculous timeline shenanigans have come over from KH in spirit, but the experience itself doesn’t actually suffer under either circumstance. It instead embraces what makes it weird, and that makes all the difference.

Shiva, Ramuh, and Ifrit are just a few of the returning classics.
Shiva, Ramuh, and Ifrit are just a few of the returning classics.

Photos via Square Enix

Rollin Bishop serves as gaming editor at Inverse, though his heart is full of anime. Currently based out of Austin, TX, his writing also appears at the likes of Motherboard, Playboy, and Popular Mechanics. You might recognize him from that one time R.L. Stine tweeted at him.