When it comes to nonogram games, there’s one name you can’t escape. It is Jupiter Corporation, the developer behind games like Mario’s Picross, Mario’s Super Picross, Picross DS, Club Nintendo Picross, Picross e, Pokemon Picross, My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and now Pictlogica Final Fantasy. The studio is no stranger to themed puzzles, to be sure. It has even taken time to implement elements from the original series into the games, with Pokemon Picross allowing you to take a team of Pokemon you have unlocked into battle with you and make use of their abilities. With Pictlogica Final Fantasy, they do it again. Except this time, it makes the game feel a bit like an RPG.
First, a bit about Pictlogica Final Fantasy. This is a Final Fantasy-themed nonogram game that is free-to-play. It originally launched on Apple iOS devices back on November 5, 2013 and has never been released outside of Japan. The 3DS version made its eShop debut on July 12, 2017. Puzzles are inspired by Final Fantasy enemies, equipment, heroes and miscellaneous items. There can be missions in puzzles, as in Pokemon Picross, where you will need to have certain characters, abilities or equipment to meet an objective. Where the game really shines, however, is with its battle system.
Yes, Pictlogica Final Fantasy is a game that bears quite a bit in common with RPGs. By completing certain puzzles and doing well, you will earn new party members. Bartz from Final Fantasy V, Eiko from Final Fantasy IX and Palom from Final Fantasy IV are the first four characters you will earn in the tutorial areas. These characters can be leveled up by feeding them stars, which you earn from completing objectives in other puzzles. You might also get item drops, which allow you to forge new equipment for them. Leveling them up will give them new skills. They are all very typical RPG elements.
Battles take place every few stages. Players will need to survive a few rounds of a fight, providing answers to 5×5 Picross puzzles as quickly as possible. Here’s the clever part. Your party can have up to five characters in it, and each horizontal line is tied to a different character. Filling in that line accurately sends that character to the top screen to fight. Each successful attack also fills a gauge that lets them use special attacks or spells that could help allies or hurt enemies. Your goal is to get through all enemies in that gauntlet without dying. Success in one of these stages earns you a new party member and items.
It really captures the feel of the original Final Fantasy battles. After all, Pictlogica Final Fantasy’s battles are turn-based. You have a group of characters. It’s possible to level them up and equip them. You can even call about classic skills and spells. And the enemies you’re facing? They’re all iconic basic and legendary foes. Even the leveling, though limited, makes it feel like you are “grinding” your way through basic puzzles to prepare your party for the real challenges.
Pictlogica Final Fantasy really stands out. Jupiter’s puzzle-craft is on point. All of the fundamentals we expect are there. What really makes it special is the care in crafting something that feels similar to the standard Final Fantasy games. Each of these battles requires the kind of quick thinking and strategy you would expect from the main games, only here it is about solving those 5×5 challenges quickly and knowing when to use special abilities to dispatch enemies swiftly. It is quite a delightful experience and, fortunately for those with Japanese 3DS systems, you can sample it for free.