It seems only “fair” that Zack makes an appearance.
One of the more pleasant surprises of 2016 was Square-Enix’s cutesy World of Final Fantasy, a celebration of Final Fantasy‘s legacy for the PlayStation 4 and Vita. As part of Square’s ongoing Microsoft outreach, soon to include Kingdom Hearts 3, WoFF is making the move to the Xbox One (and Nintendo Switch) and getting some brand new content with the launch of World of Final Fantasy Maxima. For existing owners on the PS4/Vita, Maxima is available as an add-on.
There are two setups available and two ways to play the game, and you can freely alternate between them. Actions can be selected through either basic or classic control schemes, with the former being more streamlined (singular inputs, ability shortcuts, auto targeting) and the latter offering added options (manually targeting foes, access to all abilities and items).
Final Fantasy‘s classic Active Time Battle (ATB) system is in place, although it’s up to you whether you stick with that or switch over to wait mode. Active means time flows continuously whether you select an action or not, whereas wait mode will pause until your input is made. It’s a nice choice to have, catering to those that want a brisk pace as well as those that prefer more tactical thinking.
Regardless of what you choose, there’s going to be down time during encounters when you’re simply watching icons race to the top of a meter to determine the next turn to be taken. There’s an option to speed up time — also present during dialogue if you’re in a hurry or would rather read than listen — that you’re apt to use liberally, particularly in wait mode.
While everything works effectively, the high encounter rate means lots of battles, and the simplicity of many of those fights can eventually make combat repetitive. There’s even an option to flip on auto-battle with the press of a button, though that simply repeats your last action as opposed to mixing in abilities or taking any strategic responsibility.
A fishing mini game based on Final Fantasy XV has been added as part of the Maxima expansion, requiring you to match button inputs on the screen to catch fish. It took us a while to get the hang of it, but it’s a fun little addition.
Without question, World of Final Fantasy is the cutest title ever to bear the franchise’s name. The chibi characters and collectable monsters (called “mirages”) are relentlessly adorable, and the inclusion of so many classic characters from the series’ lineage (several of which are new in Maxima) in these forms is almost too much. Level design doesn’t fare nearly as well, but the world itself is endearing.
Delightful soundtracks are a staple of Final Fantasy games, and although this lacks the grandeur of some more serious entries it’s still very well done. Voice acting is available in Japanese or English, and for the most part it’s quite good — occasionally a townsperson will sound funny — though the dialogue between the two main characters will induce groans a plenty.
Twins Lann and Reynn awaken in an almost empty world with no memories of their previous life. To recover them they must venture to Grymoire, where they find they’re much larger than the inhabitants and are able to capture and control mirages (read: monsters). That ability, coupled with their size, suggests they’re part of a prophecy, drawing the attention of the Bahamut Army. Now the twins must battle Grymoire’s oppressors by collecting mirages while piecing together their past.
It’s a decent enough story, albeit one that’ll be better received by Final Fantasy fans as many of the highlights are the inclusions of familiar characters from previous games (Cloud, Tifa, Lightning and more). Minus the nostalgia, you’re left with silly/annoying interplay between the twins and a narrative that’s heavy on RPG tropes.
Although the story embraces the franchise’s history, gameplay borrows from the Pokemon series. As noted, you collect mirages, up to four of which are then brought into battle to fight alongside (or, more likely, on top of) you. Mirages are sorted as small, medium or large, and stacks contain one of each size — the twins can toggle between Jiants (medium) and Lillikins (small) so you’ll have two setups per.
Given the sheer number of mirages you’re free to tinker with your group nearly ad infinitum, stacking divergent types to increase the number of ways you can strike or putting two of the same types together to amplify spells (e.g., fire becomes fira). What the game lacks in battle variety it tries to make up for by allowing tons of customization.
It’s under the banner of customization that most of Maxima‘s new content can be found as the add-on contains more mirages and champions (FFVII‘s Zack and FFXV‘s Noctis among others), a higher difficulty setting, some tougher bosses and more. One of the signature additions is the Avatar Change system that allows you to play as characters like Cloud and Yuna, rather than just summoning them for a quick cameo as champions.
While our final score will reflect the entirety of the package, when viewed purely as an add-on, it’s debatable whether Maxima brings enough to the table for those that have finished to reinvest in the game (and plunk down US$15) except for the seriously hardcore fans.
If you never picked up the game on another system, World of Final Fantasy Maxima is the best way to experience a strong, unique and endearing title with tons of replay value. It’s a nice pickup for Final Fantasy and RPG fans alike.