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Final Fantasy XII

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Almost ten years ago, in 1997, Squaresoft (before the evolution to Square-Enix) released arguably the greatest game for the original Playstation in Final Fantasy VII. About two years later, Square released Final Fantasy VIII. While the eighth installment of the game was viewed as being just as great or better than VII by many, just as many fans with myself included thought the game just didn’t hold up to Final Fantasy VII. Almost ten years ago next September, Square set the absolute standard by which all future RPGs would be judged. Final Fantasy VII was the greatest game square had released since Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo.

Why a lovely preamble that has nothing to do with Final Fantasy XII what so ever? I begin that way because I have not completed a single Final Fantasy that has come out since FF-VII. I own FF-VIII; I still do, but threw it down in epic boredom and frustration on a slow moving plot many, many years ago. I passed on FF-IX, but from seeing my roommate play his girlfriend’s copy frequently, it is a very entertaining throwback game. I passed on FF-X. I passed on FF-X2. Not being able to afford an MMORPG hit to my budget every month, I passed on FF-XI. I’ve resorted to playing FF-VI on my SNES emulator, running around in Chrono Trigger, and picking up FF-VII about once a year in efforts to hold myself over in the belief that Square-Enix would soon deliver the next great RPG. Halloween this year was more than just a great day for Juggalos everywhere, it was a great day for gamers…because that RPG arrived.

By simply turning the game on and watching both the title screen intro and the opening movie, which are both absolutely beautiful, you see that the new great RPG is here with all of the sound and fury you would expect to be hit with. The game seems very straight-forward at the outset, but the story quickly grows more and more complex as you push onward through the world of Ivalice.

The story is simple. Ivalice is a continent long at war. The Archadian Empire in the east has conquered the small kingdom of Dalmasca and set up a stronghold in the Dalmascan capital of Rabinastre. The Rozarrian Empire in the west is now in stalemate with Archadia and a shaky calm before the storm of war looms throughout the continent. Vayne, son of the Archadian Emperor and newly named consul to rule Dalmasca, wants to seize power and take Archadia to war on Rozarria. Vayne intends to do this by gathering pure Nethicite, superior to the manufactured Magicite, and use the awesome destructive power to lay waste to the Rozarrian army with the dark and menacing Judges by his side. Enter the young Vaan who is on a quest to steal from Archadia in revenge for losing his home and brother, Balthier and Fran the sky pirates, Basch the disgraced Royal Guard, Penelo the best friend of Vaan, and Lady Ashe, the once thought dead princess of Dalmasca and heir to the throne out to avenge her fallen father and husband.

This Final Fantasy marks the return of some concepts, fresh changes to others, and brand new ones as well. Some of us who are die-hard Final Fantasy fans probably haven’t heard phrases like Magicite and Espers since Final Fantasy VI, but they’re back. By defeating a variety of Esper bosses scattered throughout the main story and side plots, you’ll gain the ability to summon them in battle including one named Zeromus, based upon the final boss of Final Fantasy IV. Enemies no longer drop Gil (the currency of the Final Fantasy universe) every time they’re killed, instead dropping loot that can be sold for cash to line your bankroll and unlock new items for purchase when you sell certain loot and certain quantities.

The old way of combat in Final Fantasy of turn-based combat is essentially over. The system in this game favors a more active-battle system. There is no switching to a different battlefield as we’re all used to and just swinging weapons in the air to attack an enemy. This time around the enemies get right up close and uncomfortable with your party and you’ll be relying on the new Gambit system to manage the attacks and actions of your party, essentially sticking the other two active members of your party on auto-pilot.

Gambits are essentially condition-dependent commands that trigger automatically. If you have 1000 HP and another party member is set to cast Cure on a party member with less than 70 percent health, as soon as your character hits below 700 HP, Cure is going to be on the way. I personally found setting more than five or six gambits overly complicated. I was over-leveling my party to better handle the battles with physical attacks only, allowing me to better manage the magic casting and item use on my own. And just so anyone who hasn’t played it or gotten too deep into yet knows, that does work very well 90 percent of the time if you over-level nicely.

Limit Breaks have been replaced by Quickenings and simply learning new skills has been replaced by the License Board. Eighteen Quickenings are available on the License Board. Every party member learns three and the spots you purchase on the License Board do not effect the Quickenings each member learns. The party members can then chain their Quickenings for a multi-hitting combo capable of severe damage and crippling some bosses. The License Board contains everything your characters will need. You can determine which types of weapons, armor, accessories, magicks, techniks (new skills that are generally free to use but have side-effects in many cases), and extra upgrades such as enhancing magic use and maximum health that you want your party to have…and each party member has their own License Board. Want a team of magic-heavy mages? You can build it! Want a team of raping and pillaging melee powerhouses? You can build that too? All ranged weapon users? Sure! Sick of annoying female characters and want a team of just three guys for the whole game? Go ahead! The board is one of the reasons that this game is truly so great. The License system gives you complete control over developing the course of your characters’ developments and, depending on how you play it every time you restart the game, it would be a long time before you would conceivably play exactly the same gaming experience twice.

What makes most of this game so amusing to play is that so much of it appears as a parody of the Star Wars films. Ships resemble Star Destroyers, the Archadian Senate building is in the arrowhead design of a Super Star Destroyer, the ‘Mist’ controls all magick energy in the world, Sky Pirates and bounty hunters are out to make fast money, and the evils of an empire that generally wasn’t so bad is on a devastating rise to power. Plus the Judges look like a troop of knights that pray at Darth Vader’s alter. A die-hard Star Wars fan will see even several scenes from the films loosely re-enacted and find it even more comical at times, but yet that takes nothing away from the seriousness and intrigue of the whole game and overall plot.

The graphics in the game are nothing really cutting edge at some times, but the Quickenings, Summonings, cut scenes, and design of the monsters at times, are all a wonderful thing to behold. The strategy guide is thick to say the least. It’s bigger than one of my college psychology textbooks. The one defining flaw of the game is that it really seems far too short. The game is only one disc, which absolutely shocked me. I was wishing and wishing by the time I finished the game to have had it been two discs at least to crank up the general graphics, expand the dungeons, and make the game longer. A lot of the side plots could have just as easily been figured into the main story but that’s the good news that comes with the main story being unexpectedly short…you’re up to your eyes in side stories and littered with optional quests and boss fights, including one extremely big and bad monster named Yiazmat who boasts fifty million HP. For FF-VII fans, those are Emerald Weapon numbers.

The game’s only other defining flaws are the quality of most of the voice acting, though some like Basch, Vayne, the Judges, and Balthier really balance it out. So it’s a case of taking the bad with the good more or less. Some of the music, a lot of it actually, gets tired and repetitive at times and you’ll find yourself turning to your CDs or MP3 player and just putting the subtitles on for the spoken dialogue just to get some reprieve, but there have been worse games with worse music so this is a drop in the bucket in my mind. Few games’ music ever doesn’t get repetitive anyway as I’ve stopped to think about it. The combat system including the gambit system takes some serious getting used to for those unfamiliar with anything like this and leveling up is hard early on until you’ve got a full party at your back. After that it’s generally not so bad and over-leveling is seriously recommended.

The Bottom Line: If you’ve played a lot of games along the lines of World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, City of Villains, and others in that vein, you’ll more than likely be feeling right at home immediately. The new features take getting used to, but once you’re adjusted it’s generally a whole lot of smooth sailing. Sometimes everything feels overwhelming when you consider all the new features to test, the side quests, and the faster-moving main story that will make you feel like you have no room to breath, but if you pace yourself and really take time to take it all in and immerse yourself in the experience, you’ll enjoy the lasting experience all the better. Final Fantasy XII echoes back to the old days of Square and will remind you WHY you love RPGs. From the beautiful graphics to the constant action, intriguing story, and near limitless extras to explore, it takes a hold of you and really captivates the die-hard fan as it did with me. If you’ve been unimpressed by the latest RPGs such as the Xenosaga series and other offerings that show up from time to time and really fallen out of the realm of RPGs, Final Fantasy XII will bring you back home…and just in time for Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3! If you don’t have this, put it on your Xmas list and get it while the getting is good.

Websites

FinalFantasyXII.com
Square-Enix.com/NA

Company:

  • Square Enix

Certificate:

  • T

Release Date:

  • 10/31/2006

Reviewer:

  • Walt AKA Devastator

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