While some opinions of this twelfth instalment are jaded, Final Fantasy 12 was hands down one of my favourite game growing up. This remaster made me fall in love all over again. From its revamped graphics to the new soundtrack, smart decision after smart decision makes this remaster stand out as one of the greatest.
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age has aged like a fine wine. It’s a testament to the character modellers and environment artists that worked on this game. After so many years, this game looks incredible, aside from a couple of muddy textures, everything looks crisp and vibrant, it feels like a new game.
The story continues to be one of the best in the series. Instead of focusing on “the world will end if you don’t stop it”, Final Fantasy 12 makes its story more down to earth and personal. Vaan is just a dude out for revenge against the empire that murdered his older brother. He bites off more than he can chew when he meets Princess Ashe, the sole remaining heir of the Dalmascan Empire. Together, with a cast of lovable characters, they embark on a journey to route out the political corruption that’s plagued their homeland for far too long. This is one of many reasons XII is one of my favourites, the story is a smaller scale than most other Final Fantasy instalments and by doing so delivers a very memorable experience.
Along with a great story, crispy new textures and soundtracks, Final Fantasy XII brings an assortment of new features with it that make it stand on its own rather than feeling like just another remaster. The ability to tap L1 and watch as Vaan and company whisk through these giant landscapes makes grinding and traversal a breeze. You can speed up the game by x2 or x4. The new trial mode pits you and your party against wave after wave of increasingly difficult monsters. At first it’s not so bad but after a while it’s blatantly clear this is end game bonus content.
What makes this game an absolute joy to play is the revamped gambit and jobs systems. When Final Fantasy 12 first came out a lot of your team ended up having the same or similar jobs and skills. So you would end up with a group of tanks with only one or two that had a couple of healing abilities to help out. The addition of the jobs system eradicates any chances of that happening. Now, before you can even put “License Points” towards anything, you need to assign each member a job. From Knight, to Archer, to the more creative jobs like Uhlan or Machinist, the Job wheel lets you focus each character on a particular set of skills that make them an indispensable part of the team.
The game takes this a step further by allowing each character the chance to unlock a second job. Meaning you could have a White Mage/Knight build or a Red Mage/Samurai! The ability to combine two jobs allow the chance to have some truly heavy hitting characters.
Combat is another well thought out mechanic that Final Fantasy does better than most other RPG’s. While you can only control one character at a time, the fear of having half brained CPU’s is avoided by allowing the chance to program them with a set of commands to make sure your team acts like a team. The Gambit system lets you input a set of commands every character will adhere to during battle. While you can focus your tanks on dealing damage, you can just as easily make your support characters focus on buffing the team and de-buffing enemies.
Done well, this makes even the hardest battles easily manageable and lets you focus on doing what you want to do instead of stressing who is casting what or hitting who. The variety the gambit system allows is truly remarkable. What starts as vague commands like “attack the enemy closest to you” evolves into “attack the enemy with the most HP, but only after all allies have protect and haste and all enemies are afflicted with blind and poison.” The ability to stack these commands and decide when your support characters will execute them is a level of depth and strategy that few other RPG’s offer.
Minor missed opportunities include things like lack of fast travel, Hunts not being marked on your map and the transparent map being on-screen while simultaneously having the mini-map still pinned in the right hand corner. Having said that, the ability to have a larger, transparent map, imposed over more of the screen makes traversing areas a breeze.
Final Fantasy 12 initially came out at the wrong time, but now, it fits right in amongst the plethora of RPGs out today. From those that have played the original, to those that have yet to experience the triumph that is Final Fantasy 12, this game offers something for any RPG fan. The new look and mechanics make this one of the best Final Fantasy’s to date and one that should not be missed!