I am a fan of the love letter game. When I say a love letter game, I’m talking about those titles that play solely on the player’s familiarity with a series. These games require heavy nostalgia lenses to work through, and fail to provide any sort of meaningful experience to those unfamiliar with the series they’re writing to. That’s Final Fantasy Record Keeper, a title meaningless without context, but endearing to those who have long been loyal to the series.
I was 16 years-old when I last played Final Fantasy IV. That was eight years ago, but I remember it so well. The story often had me in tears. I hurt for Kain and Rydia, and worried about the fate of Rosa every day until I was able to rush home from school and play.
Without going into spoilers, Record Keeper takes you back to visit so many moments in Final Fantasy IV that made it such an enchanting experience. There’s a story tying Record Keeper together to explain just why you’re revisiting all of these worlds, but I’ve already forgotten it and completely ignore it all together. That’s not what makes the game special, the nostalgia of past games is.
Be still my fangirl heart, there’s Kain.
Every time I do my daily, free quest of drawing for an item, I’m greeted with Final Fantasy IX’s ending song “Behind the Door.” Familiar world overtures and classic menu effects are within every window. There’s not a thing about Record Keeper that doesn’t treat fans to something from the past.
Record Keeper’s premise is simple. It’s traditional Final Fantasy in the sense that you have an ATB gauge and must patiently wait to strike the enemy until it fills up. However, equipment is mostly locked behind a pay wall or way more grinding than players are accustomed to.
Every day, one free drawing for a relic item and a daily reward for playing is allotted. After that, players must use stamina points to fight through various levels to unlock anything else. Once you’re out of stamina, a mythril can be exchanged to refill the gauge or you can just wait a few hours for it to fill back up. Gems can also be used for more relic drawings or stamina, but that requires payment.
Initially, I thought the game was fairly generous with mythril. This was before I started wiping on some harder bosses and had to use them to revive, lest I lose all of my progress to that point. Now it seems I can never keep more than one or two.
All of this is understandable, as Record Keeper is free to play and gems can be purchased with real currency to keep you going. For the sake of the review, I considered buying enough gems for the relic draw pack. It’s 11 chances at a rare weapon for 3,000 gems, and I figured it wouldn’t be more than $10 USD. It was nearly $30.
I settled and bought 300 gems for three dollars, which I used on one relic draw. I got nothing of value from it and decided I would try one more time. Three more dollars, and I still had nothing of value. Higher level equipment seems so tightly locked behind the higher end of the pay wall that I cannot even casually enjoy spending a few dollars here or there. I wasn’t rewarded well for my initial investment, so there will be no third try. There was such a little reward for my first two purchases that I’m led to believe that the price to see anything worth while is much too steep.
Seeing newer characters receive the old school sprite makeover is a treat.
Yet this doesn’t completely ruin the experience. Even without high level gear, I still enjoy my few minutes with Record Breaker daily. This is more than I can say about my previous attempts to dive into mobile titles, or more specifically, failed Square Enix mobile titles.
Sometimes I have to go back to easier worlds and grind out orbs for new abilities or gil. This uses up my stamina for several hours. Later, I can proceed to harder content and make some progress towards a new character or world.
The waiting game doesn’t particularly bother me; after all, Record Keeper is free and is just something I do while waiting around day to day. I probably spend no longer than twenty minutes with it daily, but I do have a lot to show for the time I’ve spent with it for free.
This is not the travesty that was Final Fantasy All The Bravest. My interest in Record Keeper has not dwindled after a few days as it typically does with mobile titles, and I find myself looking forward to events that will give me new chances to grab another party member.
Record Keeper isn’t something I would recommend to all of my friends to play. Without the element of nostalgia, I don’t see much of an appeal. Sure, considering your next move as the ATB completes a cycle is entertaining enough, but the rewards rely on your previous connection with Final Fantasy. There’s no point in wading through the battles if you aren’t working towards a goal. The goal here being unlocking more memories, whether they be your favorite hero, your most hated villain, or revisiting that boss you couldn’t kill when you were 10 years old.
This is why I love Record Breaker, but what some may see as a reason to pass. Regardless, even if you’ve just had a pleasurable experience with one or two Final Fantasy games, it’s worth the space on your phone.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper was developed by Square Enix and published by DeNA. It is currently available for iOS and Android.