World of Final Fantasy Maxima Review
Square Enix seems to be going all-in on ports and re-releases for their catalog of games, allowing new audiences to experience the publisher's array of titles. World of Final Fantasy Maxima is a bit of an interesting release, as it amounts to a paid update in addition to a port to Switch and Xbox One. Further thoughts on World of Final Fantasy can be found in our original review, as well as our impressions of the PC version.
Maxima’s story is a simple one that re-treads familiar ground and story beats from the Final Fantasy titles it pulls inspiration from. While the narrative does dive into some more serious conversations - some of which include the topic of military occupation and invasion - everything is treated with a fair amount of levity that reflects the cute and colorful visuals. In some ways Maxima greatly benefits from this; it's clear Maxima doesn’t take itself seriously and just wants to have fun, which isn’t anything the game should be condemned for in my opinion.
However, it is the clear disconnect from moments of absolute seriousness in which the story flounders. Everything is extremely clear cut, and any & all exposition to the narrative is given immediately. An extended epilogue scene included in Maxima alludes to plot elements that might be explored in a potential sequel, but it's difficult to say that it was especially riveting. Instead of improving on common tropes, Maxima folds into them to create something predictable and in a less than interesting way.
The soundtrack for Maxima is stellar, but probably because like a majority of the game it samples from already great games. The stand-alone tracks for Maxima aren’t to be acknowledged without some praise, but I found my favorite bits of the soundtrack to be the re-orchestrated versions of songs I was already familiar with. The voice acting is also pretty top-notch, if not venturing into the territory of sometimes being overacted and campy, it suits the tone of the game well enough.
Mechanically, Maxima is a great turn-based RPG, appropriately using an ATB system similar to classic Final Fantasy titles. To learn more about the fine details of this system, feel free to read our initial review of World of Final Fantasy. As for the new additions made by the Maxima update, the most significant new addition is the ability to carry an additional two monsters with you at all times. This makes leveling your party easier, as all monsters on hand gain EXP and you can maximize your time on the battlefield to speed up grinding out your characters more effectively.
Having two additional monsters also helps make environmental puzzles much easier to deal with as well. Players won’t need to manage their overall parties as heavily as they might have in the base game with this new inclusion. Which means you might end up with a surplus of gil like I did since I didn’t have to use the Seraphina phones (which cost a hefty 3,000 gil) to deposit or withdraw monsters you might need to progress.
Another notable addition is that of Avatar Change, which allows Reynn or Lann to transform into various Final Fantasy characters by equipping special Mirajewels. Equipping a Champion's Jewel will not only change their appearance, but also alter the battle music to suit the transformation, as well as giving one appropriate battle skill. It's mostly a fun cosmetic addition to the game, but offers even more fanservice for a game rooted in it.
Most of the rest of the updates included in Maxima don't materialize until after the conclusion of the main game. Most of the new monsters and new cameo FF heroes can only be obtained once the credits have rolled. This might be a small bonus incentive for completionists, but has little change on the main experience of the game otherwise. A handful of optional superbosses have also been added to the post-game, acting as a roadblock for those wanting to see the new ending. These superbosses are the toughest test for players, requiring well-constructed stacks in order to be vanquished. While the main game tends to fairly breezy in terms of challenge, these new opponents do not hold back.
As with the original version, World of Final Fantasy Maxima also performed perfectly fine during my time with it on the PlayStation 4. There were no glitches, errors, or crashing from when I played and everything ran incredibly smoothly. The PC version is also functional, but lacking in common PC version options as discussed in our original PC version impressions.
On Nintendo Switch, Maxima is an unoptimized experience. While the gameplay experience remains the same despite some expected sacrifices in graphical fidelity, the port is riddled with peculiarities that have remained unaddressed in the weeks since release. The most problematic is in how the game affects the Switch's operating system, not only impacting the speed at which you can take screenshots and record video clips, but, when suspended, slowing your movement between menus to the point requiring a reset of the console. The playful charm holds true, but there's room for improvement when comparing the powered-up version with other platforms.
Overall, World of Final Fantasy: Maxima has a handful of new features to differentiate it from the base game, however outside of the ability to carry an additional two monsters in your party their inclusion is fairly minimal. Maxima doesn’t offer anything of any real substance beyond this as an expansion - as the inclusion of Noctis generally feels like fanservice for fans of Final Fantasy XV and the colosseum challenges are fairly easy with a properly leveled party. However, those who enjoyed the story and gameplay of World of Final Fantasy may find value in this expansion.
This review contains contributions from Alex Seedhouse and Adam Vitale.