Final Fantasy XII has earned its place as a fan favorite of the long running series, with many players counting it as their favorite to date. However, when the game released for the PS2 in 2006, it also received its fair share of criticism from the dedicated fanbase. The game was largely the first in the franchise to feature real time open worlds and a real-time combat format. For some, this dramatic departure from the gameplay found in the franchise’s signature titles like FFVII and FFX was too much to accept. As the next 2 console generations redefined the expectations, allowing for more normalization of real time, open worlds, Square Enix saw an opportunity to reintroduce FFXII to the current crop of gamers, taking advantage of modern hardware as well as longtime fan feedback on the game’s mechanics. As a result, the remaster Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age was announced, and more than just a pretty coat of paint, the remaster is looking to make some significant overhauls to the game’s core mechanics.
Developed by: Square Enix
Published by: : Square Enix
Release date: July 11th, 2017
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age Features
- Includes several all-new enhanced gameplay features.
- Latest-generation HD graphical capabilities, including characters and movie scenes fully remastered in high definition.
- True 7.1 surround sound, including high definition voicing and newly recorded background music utilizing the current generation of sound production.
- Modern advancements including PlayStation®4 trophy support and share functionalities, auto-save and shortened loading times.
- An endless amount of gameplay and adventure including Hunts, Battles, and mini-games.
Story & Setting
If you’re new to the story of Final Fantasy XII, the game’s events revolve around a war in the world of Ivalice. The small kingdom of Dalmasca has been conquered by the Archadian Empire and left in shambles. The only heir to the throne of Dalmasca is Princess Ashe, who becomes a freedom fighter to free her land from Archadian rule. She crosses path with Vaan, an orphan dreamer and they embark on a journey of liberation, gathering allies along the way.
Final Fantasy is known for its memorable characters and FFXII is no different with it’s main party of Vaan, Ashe, Baltheir, Penelo and Basch as well as memorable villains and NPCs. The story is distinctly more political than some of the other games in the series, and has a bit more nuance, but many of the series’ trademark elements are present.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age retains the core of the original and gives it a makeover, upgrading its graphics and audio in line with modern expectations. The modern appointments extend into things like trophy support, auto-save (yes!), shorter loads and more. With the game originally released so close to the end of the PS2’s life cycle, it had bigger ambitions that were ultimately held back by the limitations of the console and these improvements make a lot of sense. The necessity of remasters is a debatable topic but in this case FFXII will definitely benefit from an upscaling that it seemed to need from the start. Just these changes alone may be worth giving the game another look.
But, the game does have some brand new features added in that will surely entice those fans who are on the fence and wondering what’s the value in double dipping. The first area where there has been significant revision relates the game’s balance and difficulty. FFXII was considered a pretty difficult game as far as Final Fantasy games go, and this had something to do with the brand new combat system and way you would go about exploring the overworld all of which unfolded in real time. With the formula so different from the past, the game became a slog for some accustomed to the random encounter, turn-based gameplay. Hearing these critiques gave Square Enix a chance to address them with the remaster and the overall difficulty balance has been adjusted to make the progression closer to a classic Final Fantasy game.
To maintain a stiff challenge, Square Enix has instituted a brand new option called Trial Mode. Trial Mode is a separate menu selection from the main game and the goal when launching it is to battle your way through 100 battle encounters that increase in complexity and difficulty as you progress. It’s designed so that it is impossible to get through all 100 of the encounters with the same gambit settings, so you are going to have to go in and tweak your gambits as you go, in order to give your party the precise kinds of commands they need to execute. You will be able to load your save data and use the party you’ve been leveling up in the main game, but beyond that, Trial Mode is going to be a true test of your combat mettle.
One of the bigger criticisms of the original was that the game’s speed was not fast enough, and it made exploring the vast world and backtracking through quests incredibly tedious. In some instances you’d simply just get lost en route. The limitations of the platform at the time hampered the game’s ability to serve a massive world that was also easily navigated. To amend this, The Zodiac Age features High Speed Mode which lets players move significantly faster by holding down a button. Additionally the game will now also feature better navigational guides to prevent instances of players getting lost as well as autosaving between maps to mitigate the crushing failure of forgetting to save and dying in some far flung area.
One of the bigger new features implemented is the incorporated job system. The job system is an element that has appeared in past Final Fantasy games and allows you the ability to assign a character to a job or role. These jobs give your characters unique skills and stat progression allowing for some fine tuned specialization. This is a departure from FFXII’s original progression system which was called the license board. The license board was a grid layout that let you unlock abilities and stat boosts as you leveled up. The major critique of the system was that every character used the same grid, muddying your party by removing specialized roles which are so paramount in party based RPGs. By endgame, most of your characters were all progressed similarly and had no overt weaknesses.
The job system’s goal is to not necessarily weaken characters, but to make the game more diverse and interesting by allowing the jobs to determine specialties. There will be about a dozen jobs to choose from such as Archer, Knight and Mage. Adding to this depth of customization is the ability to equip 2 jobs simultaneously on a character, allowing you to in essence multi-class a character, giving you back a little more of the freedom that the original possessed.
Final Fantasy XII is a game that was ahead of its time, as many of its elements that seemed jarring then: open world, real time combat, are commonplace in modern RPGs, including the Final Fantasy series. Releasing so late in the PS2’s life cycle certainly placed it in a tweener realm of gaming development, because of its more forward thinking concepts running on the limitations of older hardware. Because of this, the overhaul of the remaster treatment just makes sense. With modern hardware able to deliver graphical and processing power and modern tastes looking for open, action focused gaming, FFXII The Zodiac Age is getting a second chance to make a first impression. From the looks of it, it seems like they’re maximizing that opportunity.