When Square Enix releases a game on iOS, it’s almost a given that you're going to have to take a deep breath and dig deeply into your pockets to fund the purchase.

Previous releases such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Chrono Trigger, and Chaos Rings have all been accompanied by lofty price tags on Apple devices, so you'd naturally expect this latest opus to be no different.

But wait, what's this? Final Fantasy Dimensions is listed as a free download on the App Store! Sing Hosannas, right?

Not quite. In what could be construed as a particularly sneaky example of bait-and-switch, Square Enix only permits you to play the game's short prologue for free. Once you've completed the initial quest - which takes just under an hour - you're expected to cough up some serious moolah to continue your adventure.

How much? Well, that rather depends on whether or not you want to play the entire game to completion. Final Fantasy Dimensions is divided into chapters that you can buy separately or together.

If you want to grab the whole adventure in one fell swoop, you're looking at an eye-watering £19.99 - a figure so high it makes Square Enix's previous prices look quite reasonable in comparison.

Rock and role-play

How can it possibly be worth that amount? The answer depends largely on your personal preference towards old skool Japanese RPGs, but there's no denying that Final Fantasy Dimensions - despite its high cost - is a quality product.

The game is actually a port of Square Enix's Japan-only Final Fantasy Legends: Hikari to Yami no Senshi, an episodic series that launched on Japanese mobile phones in 2010.

While the visuals have been tidied up for this version, they remain sparse - deliberately so, in fact. Final Fantasy Dimensions takes a massive amount of visual inspiration from past entries in the esteemed franchise - particularly those from the early '90s, which appeared on Nintendo's 16-bit SNES console.

Despite the basic graphics, Final Fantasy Dimensions remains attractive. Bold colours, detailed locations, and cute hand-drawn sprites combine to create an aesthetic that's both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.

Other elements of the presentation - including a glorious soundtrack and cool retro-style sound effects during combat - further enhance the experience.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Square Enix has been careful to not tinker too much with the mechanics that made this evergreen series such a global hit. Final Fantasy Dimensions retains the same focus on exploration, turn-based combat and storytelling that has shifted millions of copies since the inception of the franchise back in 1987.

The story is centred on two groups of warriors, each representing light and dark factions. Player control shifts between the two teams as the game progresses and the world unfolds.

There are countless non-player characters to converse with, items to acquire, and enemies to vanquish. As ever, each hero is capable of levelling up his abilities and even switching job types to gain access to new skills and abilities.

The job system is surprisingly deep, and again harks back to previous instalments in the lineage. It's a good idea to have a balanced team of fighters, healers, and magic users, but the beauty of the system is that you can create a party which suits your personal preference down to the finest detail.

In fact, the job system is so in-depth that it's possible to fashion each team member into exactly the kind of warrior you want him to be - few RPGs offer such impressive customisation.

Internal conflict

Battles occur randomly when exploring the game world and its many dank dungeons and foreboding fortresses - a mechanic that seems archaic given today's level of technological advancement, yet one that still feels natural and right when placed within the context of an old skool JRPG.

Combat itself falls under Square Enix's famous Active Time Battle system, where turns are governed by the speed at which each participant manages to refill his battle meter.

While it remains turn-based in theory, it comes with one important caveat: time doesn't stop when you're selecting which command to execute. This lends the game a sense of urgency which is often missing from similar titles - if you take too long to decide what course of action you wish to take, your enemy will effectively be given more opportunity to inflict damage.

The computer-controlled 'auto' mode keeps battles swift and makes the occasionally high frequency of random encounters slightly less irksome, but it also removes tactics from the equation.

The automatic mode rarely makes sensible choices when your party is on the ropes, so it's wise to switch it off during tense boss encounters where healing spells and regenerative items are a requirement.

A matter of control

Final Fantasy Dimensions boasts three different control configurations, all of which involve an on-screen virtual D-pad.

The default mode makes the pad appear briefly wherever you lay your finger, allowing for a flexible approach. The slide mode is similar, but requires you to keep your digit firmly pressed on the screen for movement. The final mode fixes the D-pad to the left side of the display.

Of all the available arrangements, the standard setup feels the most comfortable, although there are predictably moments when you wish you had a proper pad in your hands. Thankfully, in combat the interface is entirely touch-driven - the D-pad is only needed for movement in the over-world view.

As you trudge through Final Fantasy Dimensions's lengthy quest - which could last as long as 30 to 40 hours, should you decide to explore every location and complete every optional quest - it becomes apparent that this is one polished JRPG, with an interesting plot, robust battle system, and excellent retro-style presentation.

It's not quite as grand as the sublime Final Fantasy VI and the groundbreaking VII, but it maintains a level of quality that is comparable to its 16-bit forebears.

The root of all evil

Even so, the question of whether or not this new adventure is worth the inflated asking price is difficult to answer.

While you could quite rightly point out that Final Fantasy Dimensions would cost the same on PS Vita or 3DS, there's no escaping that fact that it's an iOS game, and one that's over 20 times more expensive than some other iOS games.

Our recommendation is that you download the game and check out the free prologue. If your interest is still piqued when that portion of the game concludes, then stump up the cash for the first chapter (which costs a very reasonable £1.99), rather than buying the entire game outright.

That way, you won't be stung as badly if you find out it's not to your liking.

But, if you have any interest in Final Fantasy, it will be very much to your liking. Final Fantasy Dimensions takes all the best elements from the classic 16-bit era entries and mixes them together to create an outing which both celebrates and expands on what has gone before.

£19.99 might seem like a laughable amount to spend on a single iOS release, but - like so many things in life - you ultimately get what you pay for. Final Fantasy Dimensions is stellar stuff, and will keep you glued to your iPhone for weeks.