World of Final Fantasy Maxima Review

By Kevin Tavore,
World of Final Fantasy. The name alone evokes a reverence for a franchise so massive it has spawned over 70 games. It also brings immediate questions: how could it pay tribute to a series with so many facets and does it alienate anyone but the most hardcore fans in doing so? The answer to the first isn’t simple, but the second is. This is a game that manages to be everything it should have been to fans while also being so accessible and unique that it could stand alone as someone’s first introduction to the series. That’s a magical quality, but this is Final Fantasy after all. Or maybe it’s Pokemon. Yeah, about that.

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This the story of two siblings, Reyna and Lann. They awaken with no memories in a strange world full of Mirages, which are all the enemies of Final Fantasy lore along with a few new faces, all teeming and ready to be captured as the twins discover they are able to “catch” these Mirages in little balls and then subsequently level them up and release them in battle. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s kind of like Final Fantasy XIII-2. Okay, it’s also maybe a touch like another JRPG series called Pokemon. At the end of the day, the game’s goal is to capture these Mirages, train them and ultimately conquer all your foes. The journey to get there is what makes this game unique.

If you want to be basic, World of Final Fantasy tells the same story pretty much every JRPG does; unlikely teenage heroes save the day. The male hero is a bit of a loveable idiot while the female hero is intelligent and watches over the male with care and compassion hidden under a veneer of irritation at his antics. Sure, there are copious references to past Final Fantasy games, none of which require you to be familiar with the previous games, but it's mostly a story we’ve seen literally a hundred times in JRPGs. But it’s not so simple as that. The game knows and recognizes exactly what it is on the surface, and it lets you know it knows.

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It does this through humor, both subtle and overt. This is a game that toys with breaking the fourth wall, with comments about its tropes so in your face that you can’t help but smile. It’s this humor that makes the game something more than its individual parts. Reyna and Lann are constantly making jokes, jokes that are actually likely to bring a smile to your face or even have you burst out laughing as the characters weave through the conversations. If you’re receptive to it, this humor will certainly take you all the way through the game with joy, and the best part is that these references don’t require any knowledge of Final Fantasy — they’re hilarious on their own. It’s a take on the JRPG genre similar to Deadpool’s approach to comics, except family-friendly.

The journey through the world is extremely linear, which should please players who want to maximize their time by getting in and out. The dungeons have twists and turns and offshoots, but they’re normally very short and only provide non-essential items. Likewise with the side quests, which offer no additional story and little in the way of rewards. The only side activities of note are a Coliseum featuring standard rewards and Interventions, whereby you step into the lives of Champions, who are characters from Final Fantasy lore like Cloud, Lightning and more. These Interventions offer fun little slices of story that are over quickly. This side content may not be full to the brim, but it’s dense enough to be worth your time. While some might say the game feels barebones, I would say it’s simply not full of fluff to pad out the experience.

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The gameplay itself is a different spin on the Pokemon formula. Instead of using single Mirages at a time, you’ll send out two “stacks,” which are literally stacks of two Mirages plus Reyna and Lann. It also features an Active Time Battle system for fans of the series (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically turn-based). Theoretically, you'll mix and match elemental abilities to suit your opponents and field a variety of different teams to tackle all of the game's bosses and other content. This makes it sound more complicated, but it’s really not. You’ll choose your stacks in the menus beforehand and then simply play through like you would any other JRPG.

The best word to describe the combat is simple. You could also say easy. The vast majority of fights will devolve into pressing the auto-battle button and holding fast-forward as your characters use “Attack” over and over again. That’s not fun. Sure, occasionally fights will pop up that require a bit of thought, but they’re few and far between. Even when you are thinking, you’re primarily just using spells of the correct element that your enemy is weak too and healing as needed. The bottom line is that World of Final Fantasy is so easy that it actively hurts the game. Even with the fast-forward function, you’ll be sitting around bored as your characters auto-battle out boss fights and that’s not a good place to be as it also means diving deep into all of the strategic aspects of the Mirage system is a gigantic waste of your time. Still, simple and easy are not always bad — as long as you know going in that this is going to be a relaxing, story-centric experience, the game can still be a joy to play.

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The achievements will, of course, see you completing everything the game has to offer. While the story itself can be finished in 20-30 hours, earning all of the achievements will take substantially longer. You’ll want to have a guide out while you play so that you can find all the treasure chests in the world, capture every single Mirage and complete all the side quests. You’ll want to invest time into completing every fight in the Coliseum in record time. You’ll need to play through all the Interventions to unlock everything related to that. Most of this is full, reasonable content that a fan of the game would likely want to see, but it’s certainly going to take a while.

Summary

As a vessel to transport fans of the series back through its many stories, World of Final Fantasy Maxima is an unqualified success. The game is filled with old friends to meet and side content to play through with them, but it's also completely accessible as an entry point into the series for new players thanks to a forgiving combat system and a story with great humor and characters. The combat can be a bit easy, and there's not a ton of side content to keep you busy, but these drawbacks are far outweighed by the special experience of playing through the story and getting invested in the world. If you come into this with eyes wide open regarding the combat, there's plenty to find and enjoy in this world.
4 / 5
World of Final Fantasy Maxima
Positives
  • Humorous story and character interactions carry the game
  • Accessible to new players
  • Lots of fan-favorite characters return without the necessity of knowing their original stories
Negatives
  • Combat is altogether too easy
  • Not a ton of side content
Ethics
The reviewer spent twelve hours fighting enemies, capturing Mirages and laughing along the way through the story. Nine achievements were unlocked along the way. The game was played on an Xbox One X. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.