It's also worth mentioning how fully realized every character is in Final Fantasy XII. While the game features a few characters I didn't care much for, none of them are so bad that you would want them completely left out of the game. Even the worst character ends up growing on you by the end of the game. Better yet, just about every character is introduced within the first few hours, which gives the game plenty of time to flesh them out and explain their motivation. There are more than a few times in the game where you'll actually have to reevaluate the people in your party because of the new information you get, people that you once thought were selfish and evil actually have a heart of gold, and vice versa. While I'm not a big fan of Vaan (who is the closest thing to a main character in this game), I did end up being surprised by how his story played out. Final Fantasy XII isn't about just one or two people; it's an ensemble cast that ends up getting a lot of screen time.
Interestingly this game takes place in a world you've probably been to before. Most Final Fantasy games seem to set up a new world for every sequel, but Final Fantasy XII takes place in the land of Ivalice. If that name sounds familiar then it's probably because that's where all of the action took place in Final Fantasy Tactics on the original PlayStation. The name may be the same, but the world of Ivalice is completely different than it was a decade ago when it was 32-bit. The Ivalice of today is full of amazing locales, European architecture and a whole lot of flying machines. In fact, the first few minutes of the game reminded me more of the recent Star Wars movies than Final Fantasy Tactics. Either way, you will not be disappointed by Ivalice, the diversity of the locations alone make this one of the most interesting games released this year.
I could spend ten pages simply raving about how deep and complex the storyline is, but most people are going to be far more interested in the new combat system than the plot (at least at first). Final Fantasy XII does not play like your average Final Fantasy game, they've completely retrofitted the turn-based system and created something that manages to be easier and more difficult all at the same time. Gone are the random battles, you will never again be taken away from the world map and thrust into a turn-based battle. Instead you do all of your combat on the map itself, similar to how things worked in the online (and incredibly dull) Final Fantasy XI.
Another thing that is new is that you do not directly control all of your party members. Actually, that's not entirely true, if you want to you can micro-manage the various people fighting at your side, but the game seems to point you to simply controlling the party leader (which you can switch to whatever person you feel the most comfortable with). But just because you aren't telling everybody what to do, that doesn't mean they are just going to stand there and do nothing. Final Fantasy XII features a Gambit system that allows you to program in what each character will do before a battle. This means that you can give them tasks, such as only attacking the enemy that is closest or healing a team member when they are low on life. That's the simple explanation of the Gambit system, but as you play through the game you can program in a lot of extremely complex characteristics. You can really narrow in on what you want out of your party, which frees up your time to do what you need to with the one character you are controlling.
Even with a lot of different enemies on screen, it's usually pretty easy to figure out who is fighting what character. When a character is getting ready to attack a blue line points at the enemy they are going to attack, which means that you will some times have three or four blue lines pointing at once. A red line points from an enemy to the character they are planning on attacking, which means that you can get ready to defend, attack and prepare a healing potion for that player. When you push the "X" button you freeze everything, giving you some time to figure out who (and how) you're going to attack. At first this all seems a little confusing, but it won't take long before you are using the lines to your advantage and have a real sense of the combat. I'm still a bit mixed on whether I prefer the old style of turn-based combat or this new style, but I have to give Square Enix credit for trying something new that ends up working surprisingly well.
I cannot stress enough how refreshing it is to not have to deal with random battles, instead you will see the enemies long before you actually get close enough to battle them. If you don't want to deal with these battles then don't, all you have to do is hold the R2 button and run for your life from one area to the next. It's easy to see the influence Final Fantasy XI (and all other MMO's) had on this newest installment, but thankfully the enemies, quests and locations are a lot more interesting than the last online outing.
Final Fantasy XII delivers everything you could possibly want in a role-playing game; it has a deep story, a ton of quests, great graphics and a brand new combat system. It's one of the few games where you can actually say that it's well worth the wait!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!