World of Final Fantasy Maxima Review – A Honking Good Time

    Title: World of Final Fantasy Maxima
    Developer: Square Enix
    Release Date: November 6, 2018
    Reviewed On: Xbox One
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: RPG

I think it’s alright to say that Final Fantasy fans are a difficult bunch. Some want classic retro RPGs and others want super high budget productions, but where’s the medium? When World of Final Fantasy launched in 2016, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted as a fan of the series. I tried to get into the game on PlayStation Vita, but at the time the craving for Final Fantasy XV was just too strong. I ended up sleeping on the title.

Fast forward to 2018, Square Enix doubles down on the spin-off title by bringing it to new platforms with more content as World of Final Fantasy Maxima. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to give the game my full attention and being an indecisive Final Fantasy fan I still didn’t know if this was going to be the Final Fantasy I’ve been craving. However, after a few hours that quickly changed after I realized that World of Final Fantasy was the Final Fantasy adventure that I’ve been waiting for all this time.

World of Final Fantasy begins with twin sibling Lann and Reynn, who wake up in their room in the sunny town of Nine Wood Hills. As they go about their daily routine something strange catches their attention…there’s absolutely no one in town. Well except a strange woman who goes by the name of Enna Kros, or god, and a happy Mirage named Tama. Evidentally, the twins have not only lost their memories but have been living in a dream for a very long time. It’s informed to them that their tattoos hold great power and give them the title of a “Mirage Keeper”, an individual who can capture mirages and tame them. They also find out that they must travel to the world of Grymoire in order to not only find out more about their lost memories and where they came from but to also help rid Grymoire of Brandelis, who is fighting against the realm with the power of the Bahamutian Federation.

Although the opening premise creates many questions, the story does a great job of answering them in some way or another, if the player puts in the extra time to learn about the world. As main protagonists, Lann and Reynn are actually pretty charming. Sure Lann can be a little immature, but his air-headed humor actually makes for some interesting conversations, no matter how cringy they are. On the other hand, Reynn’s maturity only goes so far and sooner or later even she shows her silly side. What I feel is genius about this type of character design is that it made it so easy for them to grow throughout the length of the story. No, it doesn’t get too dark, but as the twins learn more about who they where their maturity is very easy to notice. Furthermore, the supporting cast is just an enjoyable during interactions and make the story very enjoyable.

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During gameplay, players will explore dungeons and initiate battles with enemies upon contact. Battles take the form of that classic turn-based system that Final Fantasy fans know and love. There are also options for a wait or active action cycle depending on the playstyle of the player. Players will battle against Mirages and eventually be able to capture them. A captured mirage will join the party and be available to fight alongside Lann and Reynn. An interesting system introduced is the “Stack” system, this is where Mirages are able to be stacked on top of Lann and Reynn up to two high and combine their collective strength, Lann and Reynn can also stack on top of a large Mirage while they are in Chibi mode. Stacking takes some getting used and actually requires a lot of attention from the player to organize all four different stacks and which Mirages they want to include. Stacking also grants the player certain skills and increase their MP. However, stacked characters can also be knocked over, which will make the player lose a turn.

As much as I was confused by the stacking when it was first introduced, I easily jumped in and learned how to get the best of my Mirages within a couple of hours with the game. However, Mirages in the party also level up and gain SP after battles so taking time to use their SP and teach them new attacks took some getting used to because after the game tells you about the feature, it doesn’t remind you again. As for the battles themselves, I was hooked, the game even has a speed up time feature for those who don’t like to wait. It was always exciting going to a new dungeon and finding new Mirages to catch and level up. Similarly, I really enjoyed evolving the mirages and felt pretty connected with them, which made it difficult to leave some in the Mirage storage.

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One thing I’d like to point out is that the voice acting in World of Fantasy Maxima is incredible. Almost every scene and NPC has a voice and they all work exceptionally well. Story scenes can be long, so the combination of funny dialog and great voice acting held my interest and helped a ton with immersion. Also, the game’s music is outstanding, but after I learned that Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Mamauzu was behind this game, I wasn’t surprised.

A few grips I have with the game is a load of systems accessible to the player within the first 2 hours of gameplay which makes it feel as though every step you take brings you to a new tutorial slide while interrupting your game. The game loves to hold your hand through most of the systems and doesn’t really trust the player to understand them with a few lines of dialog and joke about how to use mirages or how to use warp gates. Over time, this does become less frequent, but it slows down the pacing of the first few hours of the game to almost a standstill this might be where most reluctant players put the game down after feeling overwhelmed.

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As for content, World of Final Fantasy Maxima has many optional activities for players who want it and doesn’t require the player to participate in them to complete the game. With that said, I felt like the Intervention side missions were probably the most interesting and gave me the chance to learn more about the game’s side characters. Additionally, there’s a coliseum to fight enemies for prizes and miniventures which are offered to players by NPCs.

When it comes to the content in the Maxima version of the game, the game adds a fishing mini-game with Final Fantasy XV’s Noctis as well as some new mirages and new battles in the Coliseum. I’m not so if this is enough for players to replay the game on a new console, but the free update on PS4 and PS Vita is a great reason to jump back in a complete some of those quests you’ve been putting off.

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World of Final Fantasy Maxima surprised me greatly, the game provided hours of gameplay with a balance of relaxing and challenging moments. What’s more important here is that the story begs to be completed. Being a relatively short Final Fantasy title, the game progresses chapters rather fast which act as perfect progress markers for players. Also, those who have played through past Final Fantasy titles will enjoy all the cameos from the characters of the franchise.

World of Final Fantasy Maxima is a beautiful game that I went in doubting and ended up feeling like I just played one of the best Final Fantasy games ever. Sure there are some cringy dialog moments and a long tutorial section, but if you give this game the time, it will surely pay off. To sum it up, World of Final Fantasy Maxima is a honking good time.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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