World of Final Fantasy: Maxima is the latest Final Fantasy title to land on the Nintendo Switch, but is it a worthy addition, or should we just wait for Square Enix to port the originals?
I want to start with an admission; I am a Final Fantasy fanatic. My obsession may have wained slightly in the last few years, coincidentally roughly the same amount of time I have been in a full-time relationship with an actual living human being. I have been playing Final Fantasy games long enough to remember when Final Fantasy VI (the best one) was still confusingly known as Final Fantasy III in the English speaking regions. There was a short period, back in school, where a tiny group of us pretended to each belong to a different job class, I was always a summoner, Richard a Mage and Steve a Monk. I have played Tripple Triad with actual cards and proudly own a Cloud amiibo. Most embarrassingly, there was a time when I thought the hoverboarding Zell was the coolest character ever set to polygons. So like I said full disclosure; this will not be an unbiased review.
The worlds of Final Fantasy (the various locations that the games take place on not the title of this game) are filled to the brim with bizarre alien creatures and concepts, with stories that may just make you think differently about the world we live in. World of Final Fantasy: Maxima (game title this time) is a game that has made me rethink my ideas and philosophies about every Final Fantasy I have played to completion and got to level ninety-nine with every character. In my mind, Summons or Guardian Forces should be able to speak and communicate with the player characters, but Flans and Marlboros are beastly monsters and should not be holding discussions with everyone.
It’s truly bizarre to hear a Tonberry speak and makes me feel especially guilty for murdering them over and over again when farming XP in every other Final Fantasy title. I mean it was bad enough playing as terrorists and planting bombs in Final Fantasy 7 (could this be one of the reasons the remake isn’t coming on so well?). Now that I know that all of the enemies I have ever sliced in half with a gunblade or melted with a Firaga was an intelligent, loving creature defending their families and homes from a passing beautiful spiky haired misery guts I feel like the real monster.
One of the great things that World of Final Fantasy: Maxima has allowed me to do and entirely by accident, which made me feel like a double genius, was recreating the opening of Final Fantasy VI (the best one) in glorious HD. As soon as I had access to the Colosseum I knew I had to get my greasy mitts on a set of magitec walking armour and boy was it worth it. No longer did I feel like a toy wondering around a vast world suddenly I was a cybernetic killing machine roving a snowy tundra in search of my next mission. That is just the tip of the nostalgic ice-burg.
Rather than learning spells, using weapons, armor and abilities everything is done by your mirages. Mirages are monsters that come in one of three sizes: Small, medium and large and can only be stacked in that order. The creatures you can capture are made up of recognizable, perennial Final Fantasy monsters and characters that you may recognize from the biggest franchise in RPGs, although some compromises have been made to make characters, monsters, machines, and gods one of three collectible sizes.
Something I wasn’t expecting was the anime opening that kicked in after the prologue finished; this did not help to ease my incorrect assumption that I was playing a Final Fantasy-flavored Pokémon rip-off. Oddly enough, World of Final Fantasy: Maxima seems to be paying great homage to Power Rangers or Voltron more so than Pokémon, you can almost hear the translators scratching their heads searching for an English word for super sentai that is not Power Rangers.
As with Pokémon, you cannot catch a monster that has another master or in the case of World of Final Fantasy: Maxima you can not catch a mirage that is the puppet of another general. Makes distinct non-copyright infringing sense, right? There are some parallels but in all seriousness there where creature hunting games long before Pokémon and it is excellent for some other character to get their time in the spotlight other than Cloud (he and his giant sword-wielding nemesis are both recruitable as Mirages) and you can’t get more obscure than some of these former NPCs. The monsters you catch can learn abilities that help out in battle, navigating the field, finding hidden items and speeding up movement.
In an unexpected fourth wall breaking info dump, the characters discuss what it is like inside of World of Final Fantasy: Maxima’s equivalent of a Pokeball very early on, suggesting it is like a tiny world all of its own or a snow globe. Getting a mystery sorted out right away that has been plaguing the Pokémon community for two and a half decades. The slowly filling hub world further compounds the notion of an abandoned, dystopian world inhabited by no one at all except the amnesiac twin protagonists, made up of a coffee shop, a castle, and a park.
Like many of the Final Fantasy re-releases Square-Enix has been generous enough to include auto-battle and fast forward functions to ease the grind, but overuse of this crutch may spoil you to other Turn Based Battle Systems in the future.
I mostly enjoyed my time with the twins with only a few things that made me question the developer’s choices. What is the jump function used for? I haven’t seen every ending for the game, but I have played an awful lot of World of Final Fantasy: Maxima, and I am as yet to use the jump button for anything other than reminding me I have pressed the wrong button to interact with something. I don’t understand why a button input was wholly dedicated to just jumping when the developers should have made it a contextual button prompt on the rare occasion it was necessary. Why not make it sprint? Also now and then you will get a button prompt request “press x to continue” what button you gotta press to close this window? X? Nope, B to exit, then X to activate! Like a big dope every time I forget.
These are just minor niggles in an otherwise expertly constructed game. One real complaint is that the custom face controls (that are turned on by default) are horrible, forcing you to always manually update what you what whenever you add a new monster in your stack, which often happens once the game opens up and you can get exploring across time and space. Stick to the classic option for a far more intuitive experience that resembles Final Fantasy V more XIII.
World of Final Fantasy: Maxima is a wonderful trip through the history of Final Fantasy with familiar and new characters to escort you on your breezy trip to save time and the cosmos. If you are a compulsive collector of all things Final Fantasy and can tell your Antlions from your Zuus, then this game was made for you. If not you can always hold out until 2019 when the authentic numbered entries begin appearing on the Nintendo Switch.