World of Final Fantasy Maxima Review — Stuck Between a Bahamut and a Hard Place
World of Final Fantasy Maxima's additions are disappointing, focusing on post-game, with few ergonomic improvements. It stays, nonetheless, an enjoyable RPG.
Final Fantasy is in some kind of dilemma. Unlike Dragon Quest, the other popular long-running JRPG series of Square Enix, Final Fantasy, tries to reinvent itself constantly, making each entry quite different from the previous one. Needless to say, the series still is a brand which sells like croissants, with Final Fantasy XV having sold nearly double the number of copies than Dragon Quest XI worldwide.
However, because of its ever-changing state and with few or no remakes available for some of the most beloved entries, in the long run, fewer and fewer people of the newer generations will get into Final Fantasy. And I think Square Enix knows this is bound to turn into a major problem one day. This is why Final Fantasy VII Remake is coming, and why World of Final Fantasy Maxima exists. The game is Square Enix trying to get kids into Final Fantasy, all while catering to older fans with some fan service. Sadly, this didn’t end too well.
World of Final Fantasy Maxima is an enhanced version of World of Final Fantasy, with a few quality of life improvements and many post-game additions, like bonus super bosses and a new secret ending. The story is still the same as the base game. It stars a pair of twins, Reynn and Lann, who used to be the very best, like no one ever was. Sadly, after some kind of incident, they lost their memories and all their Mirages, the creatures at the base of World of Final Fantasy‘s game systems. Reynn and Lann must capture again all Mirages in the mysterious world of Grymoire, and are accompanied by Tama, one of the first Mirages they get back. All three travel to Grymoire, which is populated by many characters, including Final Fantasy characters, and Mirages who can speak human language.
Since game systems including Mirages were skillfully explained in our original base game review, I’d like to focus on the game’s philosophy as a whole and the additions in Maxima.
This brings us to one of the first self-contradictions in the game. The game’s story deals with some pretty serious themes but is very light-hearted. I think it’s a good thing — stories for children shouldn’t take them for idiots. However, the game fails at blending these serious themes together with the lightheartedness and comedy, sometimes going abruptly from one to the other. I’ve found myself wondering if a scene is supposed to be comedic, only to realize it isn’t after a good handful of seconds. The comedy itself is high level though, with the bonus mini-chapters focusing on Final Fantasy characters having some particularly funny moments and well-written side characters (Zombie Princess being my favorite).
The dialogues as well, are almost purely made of never-ending comedy banter from Reynn, Lann, and Tama, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall. I actually liked it myself, and the English voice actors have done a great job (though I prefer the Japanese voices). I’m sure most people and children will get fed up with it and abuse the fast-forward button, though. Some of the jokes are quite ingrained in Japanese anime, games culture too, and may fly above some heads.
Still on the story, while it is overall simple, the game has a typical JRPG way of storytelling, with some plot points being presented in an overly complicated way. I actually love this, and as I said, I also love it when kids-oriented media doesn’t take kids for idiots. But this approach might not have been the best for a game like World of Final Fantasy, where the main purpose is to introduce players to the series. You’ve got dozens of story-related keywords to remember, masked and unknown characters, and the like. Most Final Fantasy characters are barely expanded upon as well and some will leave as fast as they appeared, as the game’s story chapters are quite short. This is a double-edged sword: players who don’t know the Final Fantasy characters won’t get lost by their inclusion, and will quickly “get” them thanks to their quick introduction scene. But at the same time, they will barely learn anything about them.
As I said, Maxima is an improved version of World of Final Fantasy, which also brings it to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch for the first time. Sadly, in many ways, the game doesn’t feel like an “improved” version. Sure, being able to carry 12 Mirages instead of 10 greatly improves the game experience. This greatly cuts on grinding time, as all mirages carried gain EXP. This also makes it easier to always have the right Mirage on hand for the dungeons puzzles.
Sadly, besides this point, many other points which could have been improved have been left as is, starting with the menu. Navigating the menu is slow and tedious, mostly because of a lack of shortcuts. Building your teams of Mirages is tedious as well. A “formation by result” kind of option, allowing you to choose skills first and make automatically create a formation with Mirages owning these skills would have been much simpler and natural. Being able to save favorite formations as well.
Lastly, this is a minor detail, but one that gets quite annoying in the long run: you cannot directly close the menu with the push of a button. Once you’re done arranging your Mirage’s formations and learning new skills, you must close each sub-menu, one by one, before returning to the game. It’s quite puzzling to see the amount of work put into the game, with every single dialogue line being voiced including minor NPCs, beautiful graphics, nice rearranged tracks from Final Fantasy games, and how they included elements like being able to report completed sidequests from the menu and yet they forgot simple ergonomic improvements like this.
Moreover, the Nintendo Switch version of World of Final Fantasy Maxima, in particular, had some kind of problem at launch, which was now been fixed. You’d immediately notice it when you’d try to take a screenshot or video and how awfully long they would take to save. Sometimes, when accessing the Switch’s home menu with the game still open, resuming the game wouldn’t be instantaneous and would take many seconds as well. The Switch’s home menu itself would also get excruciatingly slow. This was the first time I encountered such problems playing a Switch game, and it was especially frustrating as I believed something was wrong with my Switch’s SD card, or even the Switch itself. After googling it, I realized many people were experiencing the same issues. I’ve also experienced a freeze while going out of the menu; This was particularly annoying as it was after spending a good 10 minutes learning new skills.
However, it seems all of these issues have been patched as of December 11, slightly before this review’s publication. Then again, it’s weird and a disappointment a game published by a company as big as Square Enix had such issues in the first place, and how it took over a month to fix them.
Other dubious ergonomic choices include the lack of an autosave option, even though only one save slot is available anyway. Sure, except for dying on a boss battle, you can’t actually get a game over, but I’m sure most kids nowadays are more accustomed to autosaves, and this would have made things easier for them. Next, the optional Mirage battles scattered through the game’s dungeons. World of Final Fantasy Maxima tells you outright these guys are over leveled, and you must come back later once stronger. Problem is, there’s no way to go back easily unless you have a really good memory and remember each of their locations. The world map doesn’t have some sort of “powerful Mirages left in this area” indication. This is some of the many examples of things that I wouldn’t call flaws, but it will get on your nerves in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, World of Final Fantasy Maxima by itself isn’t a bad game, nor even a mediocre one. However, my appreciation of it is low because of a combination of factors. The way it tries to half-bakedly satisfy both older and newer Final Fantasy fans. The fact that it doesn’t deliver on what an “enhanced version” should. And lastly the Switch version’s problems, which were only fixed more than a month after release.
If you can disregard these, World of Final Fantasy Maxima is a decent game. Yes, the main story is short compared to most JRPGs and will only take you around 35 hours to complete, but you’ll need many more to 100% the game and unlock the secret ending. Hopefully, a possible sequel will fix these issues and feel like an actual improvement.
In any case, if you want to introduce Final Fantasy to someone younger with a recent game, because they think all 2D games look bad, I think going with the Kingdom Hearts series is a better choice. Or, you could give up entirely on Final Fantasy, seeing how the latest main games in the series turned out, and introduce them to a much better JRPG series like Persona.