Final Fantasy XII is one of those games that came out in a time of my life when I just didn’t have the time to sit down and complete it. With being a young adult in college and just getting started in the land of Azeroth with World of Warcraft, my time for FFXII was cut drastically short. So much so, that I never made it further than ten or so hours into the game back in 2006. I had always been meaning to get back to it at some point, but that time just never arrived. We attended the Distant Worlds Symphony Orchestra in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back in 2015, where it was initially leaked that Final Fantasy XII HD was going to be a thing. Ever since then, I had been looking forward to getting back to the world of Ivalice, and man, it’s been such a long time. Read on for our full Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age review!
Title: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Available On: PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Game Purchased for the Sake of This Review
The story found within Final Fantasy XII has always been positively received by fans and critics alike, as it features a tale of conflicting nations and a power-struggle through war, as opposed to the traditional tropes Final Fantasy had been doing over and over again with previous entries. The story is helped along by a decent main cast of characters and supporting cast. I wouldn’t consider Vaan, Ashe, Balthier, Basch, Fran, and Penelo to be among the best casts ever produced for the franchise, but these six definitely have their strong points that are directly balanced out with some significant low points as well. In my opinion, Balthier should have been the main protagonist right from the start in the story, and that may have made all the difference needed.
One of the greatest additions added with The Zodiac Age, there is a fast-forward mechanic that speeds up the gameplay significantly. As a setting in the menu, you can choose either two-times the speed or four-times the speed, and this affects not only how fast you walk around the world, but also the speed at which combat takes place. This effectively makes a 50 to 60 hour game able to be finished and completed in roughly half the time. In fact, I left the speed of the game at two-times since the beginning, and would bump it up to four-times the speed every single time I had to run clear across the map or through multiple gigantic areas.
The combat system is definitely a drastic change that the series had not seen before it or since. It a manner similar to MMORPG’s, you run around a vast open-field and approach enemies at will to engage in combat. A connecting bar will appear from your characters to whichever enemy they are currently targeting. One of the nicest things about Final Fantasy XII is the Gambit system. This system allows you to set pre-determined actions for all six of your party members, and rank them in order of importance. So for Vaan, which is the main character I am normally controlling on the field, I have him set to attack the nearest foe that has the lowest amount of HP. Everyone else is set to attack the party leader’s target, or if there is no party leader’s target, than the nearest foe. Utilizing this, I can simply run around the field, and my preferred party of three will auto-engage in battles without me having to tell them to do so. Couple this with the fast-forward mechanic that is unique to The Zodiac Age, and zipping through these fields and quickly leveling up is a breeze and pain free.
While the game is basically one interconnected massive open-world, I highly recommend sticking to the main path as much as possible, especially early on throughout the journey. You can go out on your own adventures and explore areas you may not otherwise see until much later in the game, or not at all unless you partake in some of the many sidequests and monster hunts found throughout the towns, but doing so too early may be nothing more than a death sentence in terms of the strength the enemies are going to display when you engage with them. I found that exploring areas completely as you pass through them, and any areas that are directly connected to it, is generally a safe approach and one that can still wield some lucrative results in terms of treasures, experience points, and license points.
Now let’s start talking about some more of the features and additions that are unique to The Zodiac Age, and why these features make it the definitive edition to own if you ever want to play through the story again. And honestly, you should. It’s good. The first new addition is the complete overhaul the graphics received when porting the game from the PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 4. Much like how they did with Final Fantasy X and X-2, XII looks gorgeous running on the PS4, and the improved textures and models really do stand out and make a world of difference in terms of visual presence.
The other major addition I want to take on is the improvement to the job system, now featuring a fully fleshed out license board. How this system worked in the original game, every character could eventually unlock all of the same spots as the game progressed, which made all the characters feel very similar and took out a lot of the fun in customization and switching people in-and-out of the party. Now, every character can initially pick one job at the start of the game, choosing from Knight, Foebreaker, Bushi, Monk, Uhlan, Time Battlemage, Black Mage, Red Battlemage, Archer, Shikari, White Mage, and Machinist. Once each character picks a main job, they can eventually unlock a second job at a certain point within the story, and then that’s it. They are effectively locked out of all the other job boards, and you cannot respec at all in Final Fantasy XII, so choose wisely. You don’t necessarily have to take one of each job, but the option is certainly there since there are twelve jobs and six characters that can equip two jobs a piece.
In all, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a brilliant addition to the latest remasters that Square Enix has been pumping out, and has satisfied my thirst this year for more Final Fantasy adventures after finishing XV last year. Hopefully this train can continue to pick up speed as we move into 2018 and begin to hear even more on Final Fantasy VII Remake. Featuring an upgraded job system that actually feels rewarding, a speed-up mechanic which greatly reduces the time needed to run around and level up, gorgeous visuals, and an engaging and enjoyable story, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is perfect for anyone that skipped out on the original game like myself, or for veterans alike that just want to jump back into the world of Ivalice.