Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age | Review

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (herein referred to as FFXII) was originally released in 2006 on the Playstation 2. Those of you that know Aussie Gamers Express well enough will know that I (Lucas) am about as far as you can get from a Final Fantasy "fanboy" and it should be well known that although I do like the lore and stories told, the gameplay in each Final Fantasy game hasn't really resonated with me. So it should be known that the details within this review has been populated by playing FFXII remastered on the Playstation 4 coupled with a lot of research as to what the game was like when it was new.

While this isn't everyone's opinion, research shows that the FFXII original wasn't initially well received for its time regardless of it being a competent RPG in the Final Fantasy world. Fans of the series often refused to accept it as a proper addition to the Final Fantasy line up.
FFXII takes place in Ivalice. Dalmasca is a kingdom which is smack bang in the middle of a conflict between Archadia and Rozarria. Push comes to shove and a resistance is formed within Dalmasca by a Princess named Ashe. During the setup of the game, Ashe meets up with Vaan, a young boy aspiring to be a Sky Pirate and to one day command his own airship. Even though there's a fair bit of despair when it comes to FFXII, this story and gameplay scored the game a bunch of Game of the Year awards and sold over two million copies in Japan alone. The success of this little giant of a game has also lead to it becoming one of the latest remastered games for the Playstation 4, with a focus on the International Zodiac Job System, hence the subtitle of the game.

For the time when FFXII was originally released, it pushed some boundaries which probably aren't too fancy these days, but these pushes also saw departures from the original Final Fantasy formula, which is likely where the distaste came from. FFXII introduced real time enemy spawns, which meant that you could see the enemies roaming around in the semi-open world arenas before you engaged them in combat. Previously battles were launched when enemies approached you which would trigger a battle sequence where you would fight using turned based moves. The turn based fighting isn't completely gone in FFXII, it has just been tweaked to bring the game more into the new age. During combat you will select the enemy by looking at it, followed by queuing up an attack or action. After each action, a meter will deplenish which needs to fill back up before you can attack again. All this time you are still able to move around your enemy and attempt to block or avoid incoming attacks.
FFXII is a third person action role playing game which like many Final Fantasy games, has the potential to have hundreds of hours of gameplay for those keen to experience everything. Travel can be via walking, running, Chocobo or air ship. You complete Hunts, Missions and side quests along the way through the story line.

What's new in the remaster? Well the easiest thing to notice is the brighter colours and smoother textures that are visible on characters and scenery. The game definitely looks a lot better than it did in the original, but those things are expected considering the PS4 is two generations more advanced. The musical score has been remastered and sounds amazing, however the option to keep the original soundtrack is also there. There is the addition of a fast forward mode too, which can see you either playing through the game, or sections of the game at twice the speed, or even four times the normal gameplay speed. This makes some of those long walks, or tedious fights that you know you're going to win, play out just that bit faster. It also helps for those who aren't big fans of the grind. Not everything is better now though. Draw distances are still still very short with characters popping into screen very nearby by today's standard. It would have been nice for this to be tweaked to allow for more use of the power available on the PS4, however it's likely that the game just wasn't programmed for this kind of use.

FFXII is a competent remaster but it's simply just that. A remaster. The game itself is what is needed to sell the game. If you haven't played FFXII before and you consider yourself to be quite a buff in the world of RPG's and extreme team management, then FFXII is probably going to be your go to game for the next 300 hours.

The Gambit system lends its hand to those that love a little bit of light coding for in game battles. The Gambit system is a series of 'IF THEN' codes that allow you to do things like IF a character HP is below 10% THEN use POTION. This kind of freedom to customise your characters can be a lifesaver in battle, but it can also be overwhelming for players that just want to play a simple game.

I don't believe any Final Fantasy game can be called simple, so I would feel comfortable in claiming that those that will enjoy FFXII, will be those that have either enjoyed it before, or have a particular love for other games in the Final Fantasy world.

I can't really say that I would recommend this game to casual gamers, because there probably isn't any fun to be had here without a massive time investment or without a major interest in all things that make a game tick.
As far as remastered games go, FFXII stands up quite well on its own feet without too much reworking which is commendable for a game of over ten years of age. The gameplay is smooth and the controls are still relevant today. The colours pop and the cutscenes look amazing also considering their age. For fans of the original release and also fans of the Final Fantasy games, FFXII is very likely going to be worth your time. I'd say give it a go if you think this fits your interests. Beware, the grind and the time investment is grand and very real.

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
26th July 2017
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