Square Enix Final Fantasy XII

An excellent Final Fantasy game

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Square Enix Final Fantasy XII
  • Square Enix Final Fantasy XII
  • Square Enix Final Fantasy XII
  • Square Enix Final Fantasy XII

Pros

  • Incredible gameplay, Active Dimension Battle System

Cons

  • In-game graphics often grainy and pixelated

Bottom Line

It is a rare, monumental gaming experience that should not be missed by anyone.

Would you buy this?

With incredible 3D environments, an epic story and an unmatched combat system, this long awaited title satisfies all our expectations as the best Final Fantasy game in nearly a decade.

It's been almost five years since we last saw a true Final Fantasy game. The online-only FFXI and underwhelming FFX-2 both strayed off the tried and true Final Fantasy path that VII so bravely forged and this left fans yearning for a return to the classic formula.

Well, the wait is now over as Final Fantasy XII has arrived and re-establishes the series dominance as the king of console RPGs. It is a rare gem of a game that simply radiates excellence and quality and has a shot at becoming known as the best Final Fantasy title to date.

A Legend Reborn

Nearly everything about FFXII feels new and masterfully reworked. The highly immersive, 3D world adopts the free-roaming feel of FFXI, thereby eliminating the static, pre-rendered backgrounds that have been a series mainstay since FFVII. By granting you control of the camera to survey the gorgeous architecture and impressive environments, the developers invite you to truly take in the world of Ivalice rather than to merely exist in it.

A quick stroll through the bustling city streets of Rabanastre reveals a crowded metropolis bursting with lifecitizens go about their day, shopping, talking and living. The realism and attention to detail are a welcome departure from the RPG norm and results in a wonderful sense of immersion and depth that augments FFXII's grand narrative.

The epic story follows Vaan, an orphaned teenager who lives in the capital city of a conquered nation struggling under oppressive imperial occupation. A clever thief and would-be sky pirate, Vaan attempts to rob the palace but finds himself quickly embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Empire. As epic as it is entertaining, the narrative that drives FFXII's action is as captivating as anything ever seen before in a Final Fantasy title.

Masterpiece Theatre

FFXII was produced by the same creative team behind two of Square's cult hits, Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, which explains the outstanding character design, stellar art direction, and soaring musical score. The characters themselves are brilliantly conceived and should stand up to fan favorites such as Cloud and Sephiroth. For instance, the cavalier swashbuckler Balthier's combination of rogue bravado and English social refinement make him a perfect example of the varied and multi-dimensional characters featured in the game. Top-notch voice acting propels the narrative forward, whether it comes from the mouths of British- and American-accented humans, snarling Bangaa or the curiously-accented Viera.

The cinematic sequences of the game are beautiful as expected, and occur fairly frequently in short bursts. The opening cinematic is filled with mind-blowing detail and thrilling action as it immediately draws you into Ivalice's state of affairs. Most notably, FFXII gives you the option to play in regular 4:3 aspect ratio or 16:9 widescreen, giving those with HDTVs an even more amazing experience.

As impressed as we were with FFXII, it does have a few faults. While the cinematics are absolutely gorgeous, the in-game graphics are often grainy and pixelated. They're not awful by any means, but they are less polished than those featured in FFXII's pre-rendered predecessors. However, the extraordinary detail in the nearby vegetation and outlying backgrounds are more than enough to make up for small defects.

Knowing Is Half The Battle

FFXII's new Active Dimension Battle System is the most innovative part of the game. By combining the visual presentation of FFXI with the careful strategy of the old Active Battle System, FFXII skillfully balances strategic maneuvering with tactical efficiency. The disruptive random encounters that punctuated the gameplay of past installments have been done away withenemy monsters can now be seen roaming the dungeons and wilderness, thereby eliminating surprise attacks and allowing you to size up your opponents before engaging them in battle. All combat takes place in real-time, with party members acting independently and concurrently against multiple enemies.

As great as the ADBS is, it's the new Gambit system that truly separates FFXII from the other FF games. This new system allows you to pre-select priority actions for party members to perform during battle. For example, some allies may focus on attacking the enemy while the others place restorative spells at the top of their list. This removes the tedium from battle and enables you to focus on the overall strategy. However, you can still select specific commands for every character's turn to override their Gambit commands when necessary.

Levelling up and acquiring new skills has also received a much needed reworking. You purchase new traits, abilities and equipment with money earned in battle, but each new piece of armour, weaponry or magic must first be unlocked as a usable ability before it can be equipped. Upgrading your characters is now a more involved process, requiring much thought and planning.

The Finest of Fantasys

With amazing improvements and incredible gameplay, FFXII is without a doubt the best Final Fantasy game in over a decade. Put simply, this is what all RPGs, regardless of platform or subject matter, should aspire to be, and serves as a teasing glance of is in store for gamers as the franchise moves forward into the next-gen future. Smart fans will want to grab the limited Exclusive Collector's Edition which comes in a slick metal case and includes developer interviews, an art gallery and trailers; the package is easily worth the extra ten dollars. But regardless of which edition you pick up, FFXII will have you enthralled.

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