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Final Fantasy XII the Zodiac Age this HD remaster brings a new age to a classic JRPG
So what game am I looking at in today’s hub Final Fantasy XII the Zodiac Age. Which is kind of the HD version of the Japanese special editions they use too release back in the day. Now Final Fantasy 12 has always been a hard one for me too really say if I enjoy it or not. Now I played it back in the day but you see I got it when it came out, was one of the unlucky few who had the controller bug happen with both of my controllers and had to swap them out with a family members controllers, and then by the time I got that done the Nintendo Wii released and I was absorbed into Zelda Twilight Princess and the Virtual Console games and it was months before I came back, and then I actually got a job that kept me pretty busy on top of that. Too say I played through this game the first time disjointed would be an understatement by the end I couldn’t make heads or tails of the story do to these delays, and trust me when I say the game gives you plenty of things to do to distract you from the games story. That said I played it over 120 hours and remember writing a review for it and saying the only really bad thing about it was there was no new game plus mode for those who want to go through the game to enjoy the story. So now that I have gotten a hold of it, put anything and everything on hold while I sat down and enjoy this game what do I think of it now. It’s easily the most ambitious of all the Final Fantasy games and I would say probably one of the best ones. But it’s not perfect, there are things that 12 stumbles on big time and when it falls, it falls hard.
Since this is a HD remaster time to start with the graphics. While you can complain that Square Enix doesn’t know that putting a mobile version of a Super Nintendo game Chrono Trigger onto Steam with an eye bleeding filter is a bad idea, they do know how to upgrade their PS2 games too look almost has nice has newer games. No exception here. I don’t have the original one right now to compare it too. But I can say this the frame rate is smooth, the color is absolutely gorgeous when you see all the environments that is around the land of Ivalice and just how much a living world this is having a good color pallet helps. And the character models don’t look too jaggy. The only complaint I have with this game graphically is an occasional slowdown that happen for a few minutes, and the fact that in some cut scenes where the camera gets too close to a character face where you can look them in the eye is a lot of the characters have the eyes of a corpse there is no life into them. And like a lot of HD upgrades sometimes you can also spot smaller mistakes in cut scenes you wouldn’t in SD. Hey Penleo I think you’re suppose too make eye contact when your speaking to people. I am told people think it’s weird when you just talk at them instead of too them. Still despite some of the age spots it’s important to realize how big a game and how detailed is on a console that is limited compare to now days, overall, I think it’s aged very well and it’s still a fun marvel.
The charecters eyes often time appear dead and souless making them distracting
Ok folks I am going on a rant on this one just a bit. The story is easily the most ambitious of the Final Fantasy story and they try to do a good job of telling a complicated yarn. (show FFXIII) I said complicated not convoluted. And I do mean that it opens basically telling a complicated history of the small kingdom of Dalmasca. Basically, the story starts out that a very large empire to the north called Arcadia is trying to expand its border and invading neighboring kingdoms. So, the king of Dalmasca weds his daughter to the prince of another small kingdom hoping that it will grow their forces enough so the empire doesn’t mess with either one of them, and she’s ok with this because she’s actually in love with the guy. However, before the two even get too enjoy their honeymoon Arcadia comes knocking at Dalmasca front door, Bausch and the just wed Prince go off to defend the kingdom. And if you’re wondering why I am not saying this guy’s name, well don’t get use too him he’s going to be dead before you even get done with the first cut scene. And yeah because the guy is an idiot and doesn’t listen to Basch manages to get himself killed and Dalmasca is taking over. On the way to the signing the surrender treaty though some knights find out that it’s all a trap to assonate there king and try to intercept the King before it’s too late. This time a young knight named Reks joins them in their siege of an enemy base. However, when they get too the top of the tower Basch betrays them, kills the king and murders Reks. This causes Arcadia too complete take over Dalmasca and for the Princess Ashe to kill herself.
Dead Prince Leading
Skip two years and Reks younger brother now an orphan street punk is tired of Aracdian rule decides to rob the royal palace of its treasure. Only to have a sky pirate named Baltheer show up and screw things up. They get caught, Balthier helps Vann break out of prison, they also find an imprison Basch who swears he’s innocent and he has a twin brother, and surprise, surprise they find out that Princess Ashe is still alive and is part of a resistance movement and they all kind of join together to see that they can do to restore Dalmasca. Has far has the plot goes really from there, it’s usually they get a lead on how the Princess can restore the power of her country if they can just get this item, or get to this one place in time. They show up, things go wrong, and they run towards the next thing they can hope too to accomplish their mission. It’s not a bad idea and I like the idea that the characters aren’t out too save the world, nor are the villain’s out to destroy the world. What makes the villain’s in this game villains aren’t there end goals which are somewhat benign, but there means of doing it which is basically starting a world war using magical nukes that makes them evil. It’s like I said complicated and not all the good guys or people your party ally with are what they seem and betrayals happen has well and I enjoy the set up.
So, what’s wrong with this game has far has the set up. You got a complicated set of villains’ who aren’t evil but are bad enough that you need to route for the hero to win, complicated set up and goals of the hero, there not out to save the world because there heroic. They want their kingdom restored and that means they must learn to play politics. What goes wrong is that the character’s and their relationships, especially along the hero’s is a bit too simple. There’s not enough there too really glue these characters together has a group, or enough to create drama. Take Basch for example both Vann and Ashe have reasons to hate this guy. I complain about the whole Hope trying to kill Snow in 13 when he has no reason to take it that far, Vann has plenty of reason to hate Basch this guy killed the only family he had left and he’s been basically being stuck on the street fending for himself ever since. Vann forgives him right away and that messy part is never mention again. Same thing with Ashe; Basch is responsible for the death of her father and of her husband to a degree. He has no evidence too really show he has a twin and Vann forgives him right away and the Princess complains about him being around once only to be silence by Baltheer about this. And we don’t get a proper conclusion too this until the ending, when we find out yeah, he’s telling the truth. They had a great time to grow some character relationships around this, have Vann be a bit harder to win over, have the Princess call Basch loyalty into question. Do something other than just blindly trusting this guy, and yeah, the resistance kind of just hands over their Princess to his protection also sound completely idiotic. And that’s just my problems with Basch, has for the two quotes on quote leads of the game Vaan and Penelo are worthless after the first act of the story. No, I am not joking if Balthier said well you guys have been rescued from your prison but now it’s time for us to go and do adult stuff see you later and booted the two out of his airship the story wouldn’t have changed on iota. And don’t compare this too Tidus, yeah Tidus may have lost is protagonist credit too Yuna the way the plot unfolds, but he has his reasons of traveling with her to find out if there is a way for him to get back home. He also finds a way to save the world and too save Yuna and pays the price for it at the end. Yeah Vaan doesn’t do anything like that, all Vaan and Penelo is do is stare at each new place and marvel and that’s the end of it. I will give compliments on the two real leads of the story which are actually Balthier and Ashe. Balthier is just beyond cool. Imagine if Han Solo and an old school version of James Bond had a love child together that love child would be Baltheer. He’s smooth, he’s cunning, he smart, and he’s witty and just a really fun character. My only complaint about the guy is he’s a bit of a furry. But then if I had a Chewbacca esc copilot that looked like Fran I would probably go furry too. And finally, Ashe who we do see the most development from. Starting out has angry and hopeless Ashe is confronted with numerous moral questions, areas where she can take an easy route to get her goals but it might cost her more down the line and see her give it up each time because she knows it will cause innocent people too to die speaks a lot about this character and I do enjoy having her around in cut scenes. And there are tons of other character’s you meet along the way Larsa who’s the villain’s younger brother who looks up too him but disagrees with his methods, the sky pirate Reddas who has a personal vendetta against Dr. Cid.
In the end I would be lying if I said didn’t enjoy it, but there are too many times where they had perfect set up for something huge and they never really follow through. It’s the most intelligently written and thought provoking of the Final Fantasy games but it in end comes off has kind of just there in the process. It gets an A for effort but only a B- in execution unfortunately
Bathlier is just beyond cool
Ok so on to the gameplay of this game, while the story and the character’s may not always follow through, Square Enix did a bang-up job in creating the world. One of the criticisms I heard from Final Fantasy XV was that it’s over world is empty and not very lively. And to a certain degree compare to 12 that’s right. Don’t’ get me wrong XV is bigger and better connected your always driving a car and they hide load points way better. But XII has a world feels like it’s lived in and there is something to do every step of the way. Yeah you have gate crystals you can use too teleport and while they are somewhat expensive to get, your never short on them either. But I never found myself using them, it was just so much fun to explore this world and just see the sights and thing you bump into on the road. And that is something that having a great narrative can’t get you. Saying exploring the areas and questing in Ivalice is addictive is an understatement. Even after I beat the game I went to do a hunt or two and wound up losing an entire afternoon just tromping through hills sides
So, let’s talk about the combat system. I remember this being frustrating the first time through, the great thing about being able to listen to the tutorials again and have time to practice is that the battle system is fun if you take time to learn how to use it. Much like Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories the battle system does have a steep learning curve, and like Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories some of the tutorials seem to be there to try to confuse you then help you. But basically, here how it works. On the outset this looks like your typical action RPG but no button mashing here. Basically, you have an option to attack or use whatever technique your character’s have. Attacking takes a little while, typical to old school Final Fantasy you got to wait for a bar to fill up to do then attack. You can control your entire party’s action by pressing the B button to pull up a screen so the whole party to a certain degree is in your direct control. However, if this seems exhausting to in almost real time to tell what party member what too attack, where and get the best timing out of it then you can set up gambits. Now this is what threw me the first time, however actually learning how to use them this time made the game a lot easier. You can buy these at places called Gambit shops but basically let you control the games AI. What level of damage do you want your mages too to start chanting cure spells do you, do you want to protect on all the time, what about Libra which is a handy technique. Set these suckers up and you never have to worry about going without a protect spell again, and it’s simple. Pick a condition, and pick a spell, then pick an order and then turn it on and off has you please. The more you fill up your license board the more gambits you can unlock, and yes while these are optimal and you can if you want to go full control freak and control each of your party’s battle move manually I do have this to say, this game probably takes anywhere between 60 to 90 hours of game time, it’s a marathon and not a sprint and if you try to play it like that you’re going to get burn out pretty damn quickly.
Best too learn Gambits
Anyways another thing the game has that I need to talk about is the license board, and they changed it quite a bit since the PS2 version, and the changes are for the most part improvements but I do have some gripes with it. Basically, has you go around Ivalice and kill monsters you will usually get at least one License Point, what do these do. Well they help you fill out your license board. You will need to fill these out in order to equip weapons, and abilities on to your character’s. For example, just because you picked up a good sword doesn’t mean you can just equip it, your character must unlock the license. The change here is rather than having one behemoth of a board to fill up like the PS2 version, each character now equips two smaller license boards to go each with a pre-determined class. I like this idea for the most part. It’s easier now too set up the party I want and now what path to travel down with what character to get some of the results I want and this trimmed my play time down by about 40 hours to complete the game, it also let me keep up with the events without grinding. And each person can have two of these license boards equipped and you can’t change after their done so choose wisely. So, what are my complaints about the changes. Well it does speed the game up and make outfitting my character’s easier, at the same time a bit too easy with only two boards per character if you go out and do the hunts and even a few of the side missions chances are your boards going to get filled up pretty quickly. Towards the end of the game I had filled out a lot of the boards on all my party members and was just twiddling my thumbs has most of the side quest reward you with a bevy of license points, and has many side quests has they are and there are tons of them; I wouldn’t mind if a few of these led to unlocking another board or two, just to have the extra customization for those who really want to grind their character’s. For the most part I think it’s a good thing but it’s not perfect.
The changes in the License Boards
The other changes to the game I wasn’t exactly a big fan of, rather than buying spells and techniques a lot of the good ones are now locked in random treasure chests in the dungeons, meaning you got to open every one of these freaking things you find if you want the spell. And overlooking spells like Haste which are handy is so easy to do so not a fan of that change. Next too that they threw in a new game plus option that starts your character’s up at a higher level. And the Steam port has some of Square Enixs infamous Boosters. The only ones I found was max out your license points which yeah will make the game easier but it won’t break the game or keep you from learning it. Unlike say having maximized attack damage like in Final Fantasy 9.
If there is one thing I can say I hated about Final Fantasy Xii would be the final two dungeons. Getting through Gurivegans and then out of Gurivegans crystal is a huge uncessary head ache. And while the Pharos light house is a bit more manageable the dungeon took me over 4 and half hour to climb, that’s a bit too long for my taste even for an RPG.
Overall though I enjoyed Final Fantasy Xii the Zodiac Age while the changes aren’t perfect and some people who really love customizing the characters are going to be disappointed with some of the new limits, a lot of people are going to enjoy the simplification. Get your head around creating decent gambits and the game is fairly easy and addictive too.
The voice acting in this game is decent and the actors do a good job handling the Shakespearian dialogue. Music wise we get remixes from classic Final Fantasy fare, and some from the Final Fantasy Tactics series has well remixed and it sound pretty good. I enjoyed the music and sound in this game.
This is probably the most fun I had with an JRPG in a while, I may not have been the biggest fan of FFXII the first time I played through it but doing so now was a lot of fun. I enjoyed most of the changes that comes with this new version. If you’re looking for a single player JRPG that will take away your free time for a month or two then you could do worst then this.