Final Fantasy XII

The Archadian Empire has begun a campaign to seize its neighbors, among them being the small kingdom of Dalmasca. Two years after its fall, the people of Rabanastre, once capital of Dalmasca, await the appointment of a new consul from Archadia. Unlikely allies, afterward, will join to find a way to liberate Dalmasca while unraveling the mysteries of the Empire. Final Fantasy XII, released on Halloween in 2006, had been in development since the beginning of the decade, but luckily, justifies its long development time despite mixed anticipation.

Like many of its predecessors have done, FF12 shakes things up in the combat department, this time opting for an active-time battle system where enemies, for once, are visible on the game’s environs, with combat beginning when players draw near them. Playing a significant part in combat are Gambits, which are fully-customizable A.I. options the player can set for each character in the menus, with endlessly diverse options such as setting a character to try and steal from a foe when its HP is 100%, having characters use cure magic on undead enemies, and so forth. Players can purchase new Gambit options from specialized shops.

Characters can also obtain up to twelve Gambit slots from the vast License Board, dictating what skills and equipment they can use, enhancing the potency of certain healing items, and so forth. Obtaining new licenses requires License Points, gained from killing enemies alongside experience, loot, and occasional small amounts of money. However, players gain the bulk of money in the game by selling the diverse loot obtained from enemies, which can at times really adds up, and occasionally allows players to purchase Bazaar items from shops, random bundles of items and/or equipment.

Characters can also gain up to three Quickening abilities from the License Board, which are basically limit break-esque skills that players can chain together randomly against enemies, and which consume all MP of the characters who participated in the Quickening combo. One major benefit from obtaining Quickenings, however, is that when characters acquire their second and third abilities, their MP will respectively double and triple, ensuring longer survival on the battlefield. Characters, too, can occasionally obtain Espers from the License Board, although there isn’t a great number to obtain during the game, and Espers generally aren’t necessary to finishing the game.

FF12’s combat system is a nice break from the typical norm of the series and works surprisingly well, although the Gambit system isn’t foolproof, with characters sometimes making lousy decisions such as trying to steal from enemies with no items; turning off Gambits when necessary or manually inputting commands for certain characters, though, can somewhat resolve this. It’s far easier, however, to just let Gambits take control, and, as some players term it, “watch the game play itself,” though it doesn’t necessarily mean FF12 is a cakewalk, as there are certainly some challenging battles that may require some leveling and advancement across the License Board. Overall, combat is easily one of Final Fantasy XII’s high points.

Interaction in FF12 is generally clean, with easy menus and shopping as well as a decent direction on how to advance the main storyline, with yellow save crystals (which, along with normal blue save crystals, fully recover the player’s party) allowing rapid conveyance to other yellow crystals across the world if players have Teleport Stones available. There are some minor flaws, such as the tedium of reorganizing Gambits if the player hasn’t tinkered with them in a while as well as the vast distance at points between save crystals, but otherwise, interaction hardly detracts from the player’s experience.

Final Fantasy XII features many elements that set it apart from its predecessors, such as the Gambit system, the setting, the atmosphere, and so forth, though it naturally retains some of the franchise’s elements, and those who have played the Growlanser games might recognize some elements of the battle system. Even so, FF12 is by no means a derivative title.

Despite its overall complexity and somewhat awkward pacing at times, the story is another main draw to the game. The cutscenes, for one, are absolutely wonderful to look at and listen to, with a superb translation bearing a bit of a Shakespearean flavor really enhancing the dialogue and making intriguing the plot if players pay close attention and keep track of it. All the playable characters, as one should expect from any RPG plot, have some sort of influence in the grand scheme of events and a bit of backstory. In the end, the storyline is a nice treat whenever the player encounters cutscenes.

The voicework, perhaps the best of the franchise not to mention some of the best in the current generation of RPGs, enhances the plot as well, and the soundtrack by composer Hitoshi Sakimoto is never out of place, with plenty of epic, moving tracks. The graphics, furthermore, are easily some of the best on the Playstation 2, with few, if any, rivals, although they do suffer from some minor imperfections such as shadows just being simple circles and texturing appearing slightly bland close-up. Still, Final Fantasy XII is definitely a treat for the ears and eyes.

Finally, FF12 is a reasonably-lengthy game, taking somewhere from forty to eighty hours to finish depending upon how much time the player spends with hunts, progressing all characters across the License Board, and scouring the rare optional dungeon. All in all, Final Fantasy XII is a fitting swan song for the legendary franchise on the Playstation 2, taking full advantage of its visual capabilities while featuring a solid story, music, and of course, gameplay to back up everything. Those hoping for it to play like older titles in the series will be in for sore disappointment, although those willing to accept this next evolution in the franchise will be in for an enjoyable epic adventure.

The Good:
+Solid battle/Gambit system.
+Great control.
+Good story with excellent translation.
+Excellent soundtrack and voicework.
+Solid graphics.

The Bad:
-Story can be thinly spread out at times.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 10/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 50-100 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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