Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Posted: July 14, 2017 in Console Games
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Final Fantasy XII

Rating:
EU Release Date: 11 July, 2017
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Total play time: 02:01:00 (Chapter One)

Final Fantasy XII is my favourite game of the series. I love the characters, the story, the soundtrack… Everything. The remastered version keeps everything I loved about the game with a few improvements.

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 the traitor and kingslayer Captain Basch fon Ronsenburg in the war.  Spurred on by dreams of becoming a sky pirate, Vaan steals from the royal treasury and crosses paths with real sky pirates – the dashing  Balthier and his moody partner Fran. Along the way, they team up with Vaan’s childhood friend Penelo, the traitor Basch himself and the rightful Princess of Dalmasca, Ashe. Together, they fight to see their kingdom 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 THE ZODIAC AGE_20170801121834

An example of the gambit setup

One of the things I loved about the original was Active Dimension Battle (ADB) system. Similar to the battle system recently used by Final Fantasy XV, all the enemies spawn on the map and you can actively choose to avoid them if you don’t want to fight or know you are outmatched. Along with this, the turn-based combat was dropped in favour of “gambits”, a user-defined series of if-then statements (e.g. If HP falls below 20%,  then use a potion) that allow you to customise the behaviour of your team. Choose cleverly and your team can handle almost any battle by themselves. Choose poorly and you’ll waste items, cure the enemy or simply end up dead.

FINAL FANTASY Ⅻ THE ZODIAC AGE_20170801122138

The License Board.

One of the new features is the job system, which affects the equipment your characters can use and the actions they can take. As well as levelling up, your characters stats can be improved using License Points earned in battle to unlock spaces on the License Board. While in the original game, all characters had very similar boards and ended up with more or less the same stats by the time you were finished, the job system limits the choice and encourages you to focus on your party setup. Once you’ve chosen, you’re locked in, but you can add a second job later in the game. Although this initially crippled me with indecision (What if I choose the wrong job? What if I don’t have the right magick? What if they all die immediately because of my poor planning?), it quickly became clear that there was no wrong choice – but it definitely makes you think harder about your gambits.

The soundtrack too has been remastered and while a lot of it is only noticeable if you’ve become seriously intimate with the music (I’m a nerd, what can I say?), I have also stumbled across one or two significantly different, perhaps even new tracks.

FINAL FANTASY Ⅻ THE ZODIAC AGE_20170801134846Other new features include a very welcome autosave – a function not used by the PS2 that caused my hours of frustration when running unexpectedly into enemies six times stronger than the mobs in the area. There is also a New Game+ and a Trial Mode in which your party must battle through 100 levels full of increasingly powerful enemies.

Of course, the original game wasn’t without its flaws and some of these have been unavoidably carried into this remaster. Vaan and Penelo still pay only a very minor role in the story to the point that you question why the grown-ups are still letting them tag along past the training levels. And then there is the thing about the crystals, because it can’t be a Final Fantasy game unless someone is banging on about crystals when the audience couldn’t care less. However, these things are easily overlooked (and, I must admit, later forgotten) and do little to detract from the charm of the game.

 

Without going back to my PS2, it’s difficult to say exactly how much better this version is than the original, but I can say for certain that it is just as good as I remember it – and isn’t that what you want from a remaster?

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