As the acronym of its subtitle makes plain, Final Fantasy: All the Bravest is intended as a celebration of one of the great JRPG ideas: the ATB, or Active Time Battle. The result, however, could be mistaken for a deliberate act of self-sabotage. Perhaps Square Enix is conducting a social experiment in how far it can test the loyalty of its fanbase with exploitative monetisation of a game barely more interactive than a screensaver.
Fleetingly, it recalls Half-Minute Hero’s reductive take on the genre, albeit without a hint of that game’s satirical affection for its genre. The idea is to repeatedly battle enemies with a large party of characters that increases in size as you level up. Tap a character and they’ll leap to strike their monstrous opponent, a bar above their head letting you know when they’re next available. Mages, thieves and various other classes join your party, but none of them can perform the tasks for which they’re known. All you do is tap quickly and repeatedly – we’d liken it to Whack-a-Mole, though that implies a level of sophistication that’s absent here – until you realise that scrubbing the right-hand side of the screen is a more efficient method of attack.
Arbitrary difficulty spikes regularly halt your progress, and revival requires a wait of three minutes per party member. And if you’re not prepared to hang on 90 minutes for your 30-strong squad to replenish, your only other option is paying to expedite the process. Alternatively, you could make life easier by spending more to recruit one of 35 Final Fantasy legends, though even these are randomly chosen. That Square-Enix should rely on the kind of gacha mechanic Japan rightly saw fit to ban speaks volumes about one of the most contemptuously cynical games we’ve ever encountered.