Final Fantasy XII
I must be dreaming. I’m dreaming about a game. I can’t remember this happening before. Which game? The game you’re reading about. It’s a classic. The best Final Fantasy in ages. The emperor reigns back in his RPG empire. It’s all true
I was sceptical, and I wasn’t the only one. After a few years, the series wasn’t what it used to be. Square-Enix didn’t made the extreme quality it made with Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy X was ok, but nothing more than ok. Final Fantasy XI didn’t succeed in it’s mission: bringing MMORPG’s to the masses. I think Square-Enix reacted to early, because the game had a certain charm. The sequel to Final Fantasy X was a load of nonsense to be honest. Too many screaming women with guns dancing like a Japanese Idiot if you ask me. The pointless story didn’t help either. So there I was, a big fan, waiting for a great Final Fantasy to come my way.
Suddenly Final Fantasy XII appeared. I hoped the game was excellent. I hoped it was a game to remember. It is a game to be remembered. But it could just as easily turn wrong. XII is really different from earlier parts. It all goes well for Square-Enix luckily. The experiment with their concept and that’s brave. One could say Final Fantasy X-2 was some sort of experiment. But let’s be honest: that game sucked like deep throat in the seventies.
I insert the magical disc into my PS2. Excitement and expectation fill the room. When watching a short introduction to the game, it’s not hard to notice one specific thing. Ivalice is an atmospheric world. Your new virtual environment is breathtaking. Square-Enix worked hard on the world they created with Tactics to make it even nicer. XII really takes the last bit of power left in the old PS2 and uses it to the max. I don’t know how they did it. The architecturale masterpieces are rapidly followed by another. The cities are so big you can lost. This is never irritating because Ivalice lives. There’s always something to do. Final Fantasy is a mixture between good old fashioned romance and cutting-edge technology. That’s no different with XII. Technik, magic, dusty old Persian villages and flying islands. It’s all in the game, EA would say.
At first you think XII is just repeating the old story about good and evil, right and wrong. This really isn’t the case. It’s a real thin line between these two and that’s surprising for Final Fantasy. When are you fighting for a just case, what’s honour, what’s loyalty? Why are we fighting. All these questions could be asked when playing XII. The storyline has never been this complicated. There are a lot of cliffhangers and many unexpected paths in the storyline.
These could get complicated because the names in XII are all much more difficult than in earlier stories. Especially in the beginning, it’s hard to remember who is who and what he or she just did. It takes a while to really get into the game, but it’s all worth it.
There are no main characters anymore. Off course you’re going to presume Vaan is the main character but this isn’t so. The adventure takes off with him, but that’s it. You can’t really say he’s more important than other characters. The game focusses on the interaction between different persons. One could argue about this. Do you prefer earlier games with a love story between the main characters? I did. But I also like this model, where the stories of all the characters are better modelled.
Besides the playable characters there are also a lot of non playable animals and persons living in Ivalice The Moogles are back to help you through your journey. They even have a complete new look. Off course no Final Fantasy would be complete without the lovable Chocobos.
The most important change is the gameplay. It’s totally different than you’re used of other Final Fantasy’s. No more dreadful random encounters. Away with those stupid invisible creatures with their black screens and zooming noises. It’s the most bold decision in the history of the series, and also the best. This time, you can see enemies coming closer. It’s still hard to avoid a battle, but at least you can go prepared. It smooths the gameplay, making it faster and nicer to play.
The basics are still unchanged though. It’s still best to act strategic. You can’t flee every encounter. And concerning the tougher enemies: it’s wise to think before acting. Bashing without defending will lead to a certain death. You still have to use items, magic and attacks. But there’s one difference: Gambits.
Gambits are chosen designs allowing you to install them with the littlest details. For example: if a enemy is vulnerable to ice, you can install a gambit that automatically casts blizzard. Or you can install a gambit that heals your ally when his HP reaches less than 40 %. You can install up to 12 gambits for each character. For every possible action there’s a gambit prepared. This doesn’t mean you can play the game with your eyes shut. You will always have to use tactics and you have to think about your actions. The gameplay can be difficult and some fights ask your maximum capacity.
Final Fantasy X had a sphere grid and XII has a license board. You can easily compare those two. It all starts with some sort of board. You can individually decide where you want to go with your character. Every character is able to learn new abilities. This means you can turn magicians into sword fighters and sword fighters into healers. It’s a nice way to create a better replay value. ,
The graphics in Final Fantasy XII are extraordinary, as said. Ivalice comes to live with a lot of detail. Special occasions are guided with a FMV. Normally, you’ll get used to these full motion videos but with Final Fantasy it’s another case. Me likes. Musically speaking, Final Fantasy XII doesn’t reach the top. Not bad but looking back at soundtracks of Final Fantasy VIII this just isn’t good enough. The incredible voice acting makes up for this.
Final Fantasy offers you 60 till 100 hours of plain fun. It gives you everything you expected of a great Final Fantasy experience. I’m sure this game will change the way we think about RPG’s in a couple of years. It has certainly changed the way I play RPG’s. I discovered I don’t like them. I like Final Fantasy.