FF12 Review (#1)
It has been just over five years since Square Enix has released a traditional Final Fantasy (Excluding FFXI, since it is a MMORPG). This much anticipated installment to the series has been highly anticipated over the last few years. With a solid production team (Yasumi Matsuno - Producer, Akitoshi Kawazu - Producer, Hitoshi Sakimoto - Music Composer, Nobuo Uematsu - Music) and a fever for 'going back' to the classics, Square Enix developed an epic work-of-art role-playing game. The game is geared to please the old skool gamers. It almost seems like a perfect blend of Final Fantasy VI (with the references to magicites and espers), Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy XI. Fans that started the series VIII and later may not enjoy the game as much, but will still have a good time.
On March 16, 2006, Final Fantasy XII became the sixth game ever to receive a perfect 40/40 score from the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, as well as the first Final Fantasy game and the first PlayStation 2 title to do so. From the second you turn on the game and watch the cut-scenes with Nobuo Uematsu's genius Prelude music, you know that the game is going to head in the right direction.
Final Fantasy XII finally breaks away from the traditional 'random' encounters formula that Square Enix made so popular. Instead, monsters are visible and you encounter them in an Active Dimension Battle System. This new system allows players to move seamlessly between exploration and combat. It seems that most people were reluctant on this change, but after a few hours, you learn to LOVE this new battle system. It is almost exactly like the older battle systems, just more intuitive and 'real'. It isn't like Kingdom Hearts where you just press 'X' to attack, there is an attack gauge that must be met before an attack unleashed. Other party members are easily maintained with a new command called "Gambits". With Gambits you can set a line of actions and reactions that your party must follow. You can have your Archer attack 1st priority, and then cast Cure on any Ally that falls below 50%. The combinations are endless, which makes the battle system so fun and enjoyable. You will find yourself wanting to continue to battle and level your party up as much as possible, simply just from the fun-factor.
The rich, intelligent monsters also make the new battle system tolerable. With an in-depth bestiary and new 'Hunting' options, foes have become a center-piece for this game's battle system. And don't worry... the FanFare music is still there! After dungeon bosses are defeated you will hear the most memorable Final Fantasy music to date. Gil is not dropped like old FF's... instead 'loot' is dropped and can be later sold at local item shops for gil, a much more real and effective way to gain gil.
Another new system is the "License" system, which reminds many users of Final Fantasy X's sphere grid. With this new system characters earn license points that be spent to learn new skills, magic, and allow your character to equip different types of armor, weapons, and accessories.
Vaan would technically be the 'lead' character in this game, but with such strong sub-stories and character development, you almost feel like every character is in the spotlight. In early stages of development, Vann was to be "big and tough", but as development continued, he became more effeminate. Vaan has received some critism from critics as not being a solid protagonist, such as previous star characters (FF7 - Cloud, FF8 - Squall, FF10 - Tidus). But despite the consensus, Vaan attributes a strong personality and curiosity to help keep the player involved. Other characters include: Ash, Basch, Balthier, Fran, and Penelo. Most of the supporting characters closely resemble characters in past Final Fantasy series. Balthier closely relates to Mustadio in Final Fantasy Tactics, while others remind us of other colorful characters throughout the series.
Unlike past traditional story lines, Final Fantasy XII has a very mature script. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics, Ivalice is a vast world full of stories. There is a lot going on continually in the game, and with such a broad vocabulary and 'med evil' contexts, keeping attention is a must. Of course, the story is very enticing and rewarding to follow. Discovering mysteries every other turn and learning of new twists and turns keeps you on the edge.
Much like Final Fantasy VI, the 'Empire' campaigns to subjugate its neighbors. Vaan, the main character living on the streets of Rabanastre, the Empire is a hated enemy who took the life of his brother. He then joins the underground Dalmascan resistance movement and participates in an assault on the royal castle, now occupied by Archadian troops. His involvement eventually brings him face to face with Ashe, the princess of Dalmasca and the leader of the resistance faction.
Solid music keeps any dungeon, town, or location entirely fresh and original. The majority of the game's soundtrack was composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, although the infamous Nobuo Uematsu helped compose "Kiss Me Good-Bye" with vocals by Angela Aki. Like most Final Fantasys, the music is so well done that it doesn't ever annoyingly stand out or pierce at your ears... It is as soothing as can be.
Finally a challenge! Final Fantasy XII has a difficulty level similiar to the Final Fantasy Tactics series. Gaining experience and gaining levels is absolutely necessary for success in this game. Unlike the older Final Fantasys where you can 'sneak' through the game, fighting foes is needed to gain sufficient gil, experience, and equipment to make it through the game.
Dungeon bosses are suprisingly harder and require the player to utilize specific skills in order to win the battle. The difficulty level is perfect, not too easy and not 'too' hard. Take your time in the game and enjoy gaining levels and you will be fine.
Final Fantasy XII is by far the best installment in the series since the popular VII (has already sold close to 4 million copies world wide). The epic storyline, compelling scenery, and new tactical combat system wraps this entire game up with a perfect blend of every imaginable A+ video game aspect. Ivalice is full of surprises and with all the sub-quests, hunting, and vast dungeons, you will find yourself flabbergasted on the size of creativity and mastery that Square Enix has packed into this game. This game is an instant classic. I was a little weary at first, but I am glad that Square Enix took the time and effort to create a phenomenal role-playing game. The First Fantasy series has grown exponentially with this installment. Critics will be silenced, old fans will be rewarded, and new fans will be nicely introduced. Final Fantasy has been in many of our hearts for over a decade. From the 1st release 20 years ago (Final Fantasy I), Square Enix still develops innovative games to keep the series alive. Simply said, if you do not have this game... GET IT!
Scoring: 9.5 / 10
Be sure to check out our complete list of other Final Fantasy Reviews.
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