Retro Review: Final Fantasy XII (2006)

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Retro Reviews, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,
Rating: 6.5 stars
EU Release Date: Feb 23, 2007 (for PlayStation 2)
Total play time: 120:00:00 (approx.)

FFXII Cover ArtYou’re a wounded soldier fighting to save his King and country from an invading empire. You’re the last of the resistance forces. You fight the enemy bravely alongside famous knight Captain Basch fon Ronsenburg, battling to reach your king before it is too late. Basch encourages you, teaches you everything you need to know and gets you to the monarch safely. And then kills him. And you. Bummer.

The story of FFXII centres on the Kingdom of Dalmasca, invaded and taken over by the Archadian Empire two years ago. The game’s protagonist, a teenage boy named Vaan, is an orphan, his brother killed by a traitor captain in the war. Spurred on by dreams of becoming a sky pirate, Vaan rebels against the Archadian Empire and finds himself and his friend Penelo caught up in a battle that could change the fate of the entire continent of Ivalice. Along the way, he meets dashing sky pirate Balthier and his moody partner Fran, the traitor Basch himself and the rightful Princess of Dalmasca, Ashe, who is supposed to have killed herself after the war. Together, they fight to see the Kingdom of Dalmasca freed from Archadia’s rule. There are plenty of twists in the story along the way and nothing is ever quite as it initially seems.

Final Fantasy XII is an often overlooked game in the Final Fantasy series. It was the last to come out on the PlayStation 2, just one month before the release of the PlayStation 3. As a result, the game’s graphics are less than impressive when compared with those of the next-gen consoles (by which I mean PS3 and Xbox 360). Compared to the gameplay graphics of Final Fantasy XIII, released just four years later, even the FMVs in XII may as well have been finger-painted by four year olds. However, you should not let this put you off, especially if you’ve still got a PS2 knocking about. It’s certainly a brilliant starting point for anyone who has never played a Final Fantasy game before.

Gambit screen

The gambit screen: Possibly not the most useful gambit setup in the world…

Final Fantasy XII is the only game to date to use the Active Dimension Battle (ADB) system. Whereas in previous Final Fantasy instalments battles were triggered randomly with time-consuming intro/results screens, in XII all enemies are visible at all times. If you want to, you can avoid engaging enemies, run from battles or fight at will. The turn-based element is also gone, replaced with the gambit system which allows you to automatically cue actions for each member of your party based on a wide number of conditions. It can be more hands-off – but by no means does that make it easy!

Personally, I loved the new battle system. It meant I panicked less when health was getting low because the gambits had it covered. If I was just trying to get from place to place quickly, I didn’t have to worry about triggering battles – just hold the escape button and avoid them all. Let’s face it, possibly the most annoying part of all previous Final Fantasy games was the random encounter. They’ve even changed the way you acquire gil, making the battle experience more realistic. When defeating a humanoid enemy, you collect gil and items but when facing a monster, you pick up other loot, such as wolf pelts or feathers that you can sell for cash at shops.

I loved the story too. Okay, so Vaan and Penelo seemed almost entirely superfluous to the plot beyond introducing the world of Ivalice but they were in no way unlikable. Balthier’s cockiness kept me amused when the party were in danger and the ending was very bitter-sweet.

I’d recommend this game to anyone who wants a good fantasy adventure and has 120 hours or so to spare. It’s not hugely replayable, although there are certain things you are guaranteed to miss first time round if you’re not using a walkthrough. However, because of its age, you can now pick up a copy for less than £5, so its more than worth the cash even if you only play it the once.

 

 

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