Travel to Grymoire and catch them all in this quirky Final Fantasy spin-off game!
During a vacation, I relied on the PlayStation Vita to hold me over during the dull moments. The game I played was World of Final Fantasy, which proved a shockingly entertaining video game. The Final Fantasy trappings mixed with collectable Mirages was a winning combination that kept me hooked for a while. After finishing World of Final Fantasy though, I simply forgot about it altogether. Until now, that is. Adding the subtitle “Maxima”, the game has come to the Nintendo Switch. The experience I got was a bit crisper and enjoyable, but I also get why I had forgotten about it in the first place.
To put it more bluntly, the reason is the following: the story simply wasn't all that memorable. The plot is your standard ''save the world'' fare that we know certain Final Fantasy games all too well for. The sibling dynamic of the protagonists gives it a twist, but it doesn't go far enough to give it impact. That is not to say World of Final Fantasy Maxima does it poorly. I enjoyed the individual pieces like the characters, their dialogue and how story beats develop. Reynn and Lann are very likable stars that try to understand the world around them. By throwing them into new scenarios constantly, they usually match my level of amazement or surprise.
What I think is the true star in World of Final Fantasy is the locations you explore. Grymoire is such a vast world with fun locations to uncover. The developers put a huge amount of effort into giving every area something special, and ensuring sequences don't drag on. Admittedly, these places are a bit on the linear side of things, but they give what you're doing purpose. If you aren't traveling to the next story event, you will find yourself going for items or fighting more creatures. Every town has its fair share of side quests and NPCs to talk to, while environmental puzzles help to keep you on your toes. With that being said, I do feel that the game's unique mechanics would've lent themselves perfectly to more special situations.
The game’s unique quirks can found with its collectable creatures, known as Mirages. During random encounters, you will fight against a variety of monsters that can be captured. The best way to understand the system is to think of Pokémon, but with less control over the random number generator. The right opportunity is decided for you, and even at that, it is no guarantee that you will be able to capture the Mirage. The unpredictability factor of this system is what absolutely impressed me the most. Every time you net a new Mirage, it really feels like you put effort in. After that though, the real fun begins.
After a successful capture, you can level and train Mirages to your heart's content. Most of them have evolutionary steps, allowing them to grow into stronger beings. In addition, each creature has multiple skill trees to get through. This will allow them to add new attacks, increase their stats or add field abilities. The field abilities, sadly, mostly come down to following you on the journey or opening up a few hidden item locations. In battle, however, Mirages become unstoppable allies that team up with the main characters. That is where they truly shine.
Speaking of the battle system, it is mostly unsurprising. Final Fantasy games are known for their usage of the Active Time Battle mechanic. This system sees character icons slowly rising up a meter, and once they reach the top you will be able to choose their next move. By combining characters in stacks, you will have access to a variety of magic abilities that can be used at will. You will need to string those together with regular attacks and items to be successful. In addition to the Mirages, the characters can summon various Champions from Final Fantasy titles past and present to pull off some extra-ordinary moves. The results are truly something to behold as they reference key moments from these games.
While the campaign is rather beefy, there are plenty of other activities to partake in. My favorite, by far, is the Coliseum. In this environment, you will find unique sets of Mirages that will truly test your planning skills. Each of the Mirages has an element type, which plays a major role in your strategy. If successful, the game grants you access to difficult to find items as well as exclusive Mirages to give your team a bigger edge. With this being the Maxima version of the game, you would expect some new content. Well yes, there are new Mirages and the ability to actually change into various heroes. By transforming into a legendary hero, it changes all of your skills and even the background of the battle for good measure. My favorite new touch, however, is a fishing minigame that you play together with Noctis from Final Fantasy XV.
World of Final Fantasy Maxima looks quite good on Nintendo Switch. The texture work can be somewhat blurry, but the journey is quite beautiful otherwise. There is a vast usage of color that just fits the tone so incredibly well. It is clear that the focus was on making every environment look very unique, ensuring that it is never visually draining. This theme continues on with the music, where the team saw fit to redo a large collection of classic Final Fantasy tunes. There is a lightness to most of the compositions present, which I found quite charming.
World of Final Fantasy Maxima remains a rather fantastic game. Despite the story not being much to shout about, there is so much to like about the journey. The interactions between characters as well as the gameplay are incredibly well crafted. Maxima's presentation is halfway there between the higher-end versions and the PS Vita release. The textures aren't as flat as on Vita, but there is some blurriness to be seen. Overall though, this is one of the better full-blown RPGs on the system, with a no-nonsense approach that kept me coming back.