It is no secret that I’m a Final Fantasy fan – the addiction started with Final Fantasy 10 and has worked forward and back from there (with the notable exception of Lighting Returns, but we don’t mention that). Having said that, World of Final Fantasy Maxima doesn’t seem to follow in the steps of games that came before it, so it is fair to say I approached with some caution.
The first thing you notice when playing WoFF is the charming art style; bright, and lively, and detailed enough to keep you engaged. It is completely at odds with the style used in Final Fantasy XV, and has a much more “Kingdom Hearts” feel – definitely more endearing than I’d anticipated.
After a brief introduction to the main protagonists it is straight into gameplay. Nine Wood Hills seems to act as a base of operations, allowing players to move into other towns, cities and regions to progress the story. The twins’ room can also be found here, where players can go to rest up and restore HP/AP or play any minigames that they may have unlocked. Minigames are played via a console sitting on Lann and Reynn’s desk too, which is a really nice touch!
The combat system is innovative and slick, with players being given the option to switch between a newer HUD with basic commands or moving across to the standard FF layout, similar in appearance to the one used in FF7. Combat takes an ATB style approach, with the ability to fast forward through lulls between turns – something I hadn’t even realised that I needed until it was there.
The imprism/stack/topple mechanic is also a thing of beauty. Being able to capture enemies (mirages) in the field and use them in battle (as well as during exploration in some instances) has been really well thought through. Mirages come in different size variations (small, medium, large), and players are encouraged to effectively build a ‘tower’ to play with two mirages alongside each player character.
Players can have two setups for this, either playing in lillikin form (chibi-like, medium sized so partners with one small and one large mirage) or Jiants (large, so partners with one small and one medium mirage). Health in you stack is cumulative, so HP for your player character and stacked mirages is totaled. However in battle your stack can be knocked down, meaning each component of the stack has their turn separately and has their own HP bar. Elemental weaknesses also carry over from your mirages to your stack, so should a stacked mirage be weak to wind for example, your entire stack will have that weakness. While this can be irritating it does mean you have to alter your stacks to accommodate for this, making it harder to brute force your way through.
The game gets you straight into the action upon leaving the hub world; while you get given a brief battle and imprism tutorial during the opening few minutes, it isn’t long until you’re into the token unwinnable battle that all JRPGs have – the battle is optional upon your return though so you can come back and trounce your opponent when you’re ready to do so. There are a few of these optional battles throughout the game which provide an additional challenge to those looking to stretch themselves.
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with Maxima. While it doesn’t quite have the feel of a standard Final Fantasy, I’m drawn in by the quirky approach that the game takes to battle, as well as the gorgeous environments and the witty character interplay. Safe to say I’ll be continuing to play long after this review is done and dusted.