November 07, 2018
You’d be forgiven for thinking that World Of Final Fantasy is trading on fan service alone: at first glimpse, the game seems to be little more than references to past games, using moves and creature designs inspired by a series that’s been going as long as home consoles have existed. Thing is, in a world where we’re getting endless Final Fantasy content chucked out by publisher Square Enix, World Of Final Fantasy Maxima (a new version of the 2016 PS4 release with added features) is actually quite a refreshing and light-hearted change of pace. It’s different to anything that’s come before in the series, and that works out in both the game’s favour and to its detriment.
Let’s start with the narrative. Ugh. If you’re a JRPG veteran you’ll know how a vast glut of the genre’s narratives involve amnesia in some way. Nothing is different here: a handy bout of amnesia sees the game’s dual protagonists forget that they were once amazingly powerful, and the story basically sees you going out to get powerful again. Woo.
To make matters worse, you’re accompanied by a talking fox-creature that is probably the most odious and obnoxious character we’ve had to deal with in a game for a while. It’s got this disgusting way of talking, prefixing everything with ‘the-’ when there’s absolutely no need, and although it’s supposed to come across as a helpful guide, frankly we just found the damn thing patronising. We ended up muting the VO, to be honest. We couldn’t stand it.
So between your amnesiac twins Reynn and Lann, and your irritating fox companion, you’ve got the core cast. Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit to at least enjoying some of the jokes the constantly nattering pair would make - there is a lot of meta-narrative here, and self-aware jokes that kind of jab the sides of what makes a JRPG. We appreciate that - it at least lets us know the game isn’t taking itself too seriously.
When the game gets going, however, we found it oddly compelling: the battle system and the stacking gameplay are both highlights of this title, and once you’ve captured enough enemies to make use of the different tower types and elemental affinities, World of Final Fantasy shows you its true colours. Battles are often deep and complex, and almost always task you with weighing up the whole ‘powerful stack vs. more attacks’ logic.
Creature capturing will be instantly familiar to anyone that’s ever played any kind of monster game (it's fantastic) and has the benefit of added complexity in capture mechanics: you can’t just wail on an enemy and capture it with dented health, no - you have to use specific moves to weaken them and make it more likely to submit.
Balancing the right team to capture monsters with the right team to effectively defeat your enemies is the main gameplay loop of World Of Final Fantasy, and it’s one of the most satisfying we’ve experienced in a turn-based RPG for a while. If you buy your RPGs for interesting and different battle mechanics, we couldn’t recommend this more.
While we're on the upside of RPG tropes, we found the dungeons in this game amazing: they’re deep, complex, multi-layered and usually filled with enough different enemy types to stop the random encounters becoming a chore (be aware, though, that the encounter rate is bizarrely high in this game). Discovering certain shortcuts or dissecting specific puzzles carries a great sense of achievement - and that’s handy because the in-game rewards are usually pretty paltry.
Dungeons can be a slog (but they’re supposed to be, right?) but there's usually a worthwhile payoff by the time you've chewed through the content: Final Fantasy characters from across the series turn up in end-of-level cutscenes, and sometimes you’ll have to battle them, sometimes they’ll come to help you out. There’s so much fan-indulgence here it should be criminal, but we loved that - thanks to the game’s airy justification for basically everything, these encounters always feel natural to the world, too, and that made us smile even more.
Finding a new hero and unlocking their ‘champion quest’ is without doubt the most satisfying part of the game; they break up the monotony of dungeon crawling and give you specific tasks that highlight other game mechanics, and let you break from the main gameplay loop long enough to enjoy it again when you go back. Cameo-spotting and fan service abounds here, and that is always, always going to be where this title shines. This Maxima release for Xbox One also adds the new Nightmare difficulty, but the key addition is the new Avatar Change system that enables you to play as the champion characters. Nic.
World Of Final Fantasy Maxima is a fun romp through a series that has been bogged down in the seriousness of itself for a while. It’s a good refresh on some old mechanics, and introduces some new ones that are sure to get your brain whirring, too. World Of Final Fantasy has taken its cues from Pokémon and other classic JRPGs, but despite the inventive battle system, it occasionally fails to find its feet due to repetitive gameplay and some truly awful main characters.
We’re knocking points off for the voice acting. Some of it is amazing - and hearing classic FF characters with a dub is wonderful, but we just could not stand the three main characters here. Even some of the shop vendors made us want to vomit, too. The soundtrack is nice - though we questioned a couple of the remastered classic tracks...
The game sticks to its chosen art style admirably. It never tries to be something it's not, and the way the charming chibi graphics are rolled into the actual mechanics is inspired. Seeing pretty much every FF mascot remade in this style never really gets old.
Everything works and comes together well, it’s just a shame the narrative lets a game that focuses on story this much down. The combat system can be addictive and the world is charming as hell, but between some of the characters and some of the ‘filler’ content, we’re left thinking of how much more World Of Final Fantasy could have been under the right circumstances.
There’s a lot to do, and once you unlock all the different types of activity the game comes into its own. Don’t dedicate all your time to smashing the main quest and grinding monsters, is our advice: you’ll need something to break up the tedium. Luckily the game has that in spades.
Standard JRPG fare, here - a lot of rewards for story progression, a lot of rewards for doing everything, and a lot of rewards for statistical-based tomfoolery. Nothing super, duper hard in the list, really, but if you want the 1,000G, expect to be banging your head against the game for a while.
A fun distraction from the mainline Final Fantasy games, this is a game you’re going to want to digest in small pieces. World of Final Fantasy Maxima is so sickeningly cute and twee that it sometimes comes off as unbearable (thanks to the main characters) but when you get past that, there is a compelling and intelligent battle system waiting for you. And obviously, the new Xbox One additions are welcome, even if they're not particularly huge. If you’re a die-hard Final Fantasy fan and can put the time into this game, you’re going to get a lot out of it.