Final Fantasy XII was one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2. Released back in 2006, it revolutionised both the Final Fantasy series and RPGs at the time. It modernised the turn-based combat system the series had been using into a more real-time hybrid, while still managing to keep the strategic gameplay and allow players the time to choose actions if they wished. It also featured stellar voice acting for it’s generation and was backed up by the wonderful world of Ivalice, which had appeared in many other Yasumi Matsuno games.
Now Square Enix has announced a remastered version for PlayStation 4 under the title of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. So why am I really excited to revisit Princess Ashe and her crew on their quest to gain freedom for Dalmasca?
Well the biggest new feature here for English speaking fans is this remaster is based on the updated Internal Zodiac Job System version of Final Fantasy XII that was never released outside of Japan. More than just a simple update, it made huge changes to the fundamental gameplay of the original by including specific jobs you could assign to each character to further define their personality and role in the story. There are also many tweaks made to balance the game and the combat systems. Ultimately it will play like a familiar, yet vastly different game to the original.
Other less dramatic changes involve updated visuals and character models, the ability to speed up the gameplay, the inclusion of both the English and Japanese voice tracks and the always welcome re-orchestrated soundtrack by the legendary composer Hitoshi Sakimoto.
So if you want to experience an RPG that’s gameplay systems were ahead of it’s time, both updated for returning fans and new players alike, then you should be excited to play Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age.
Final Fantasy XII is a turn-based RPG for the PlayStation 2 that brought real time battles to the series, as well as an intriguing political storyline and gigantic open world.
Following the first online entry into the Final Fantasy series, the twelfth instalment saw the introduction of real time battles into the single player experience. It also brought Yasumi Matsuno’s world of Ivalice and all the interesting characters that inhabit it. Final Fantasy XII was a revolution and was unlike any Final Fantasy before it.
Against the back drop of the raging war between the empires of Archadia and Rozarria, the story focuses on the small kingdom of Dalmasca, caught in between. Two years after Archadia invades Dalmasca; Ashe, the Princess of Dalmasca and Basch, the Captain who was thought a traitor, rise up to take revenge against the empire. Final Fantasy XII focuses heavily on its political story, but includes some fantastic characters such as the charming sky pirate Balthier. The script is well written and elegant, while the excellent voice acting provides some of the best dialogue ever in an RPG.
While the battles are in real time, with no random encounters, the battle system is still turned-based. The player has the ability to open the battle menu at any time, pausing the battle and selecting actions for all of the party members. The player also has the ability to customise gambits, which are used to program actions for all the characters with incredible depth. The battle system strikes a great balance between turn-based and real time action. Character growth is handled by opening up licenses on a grid board, allowing each character to use new magic spells, equip new items or increase their stats. Final Fantasy XII contains a lot of depth, but also allows the ability to play it any way you wish.
Hitoshi Sakimoto is the main composer of Final Fantasy XII and like his previous work, Vagrant Story the soundtrack is ambitious and full of wide sweeping orchestral pieces. The music fits the narrative well, such as the glorious “Opening Movie” theme. Sakimoto may have also created one of the best renditions of the main “Final Fantasy Theme”. Overall the music creates a distinct atmosphere that works well with the unique visual style of the game.
Final Fantasy XII brings a massive open world full of political intrigue and mystery. If you wish to play an RPG that challenged the norm, then you should play Final Fantasy XII.
The PlayStation 2 had a massive library of games, which included many fantastic and diverse RPGs. Designers attempted to evolve the genre by improving 3D graphics and making voice acting a staple. These are my top 5 PS2 RPGs:
1. -Final Fantasy X-
When it was first released, Final Fantasy X was unbelievable. It took everything from past SquareSoft RPGs to the next level. The world of Spira was mesmerising; featuring fully 3D locations, the characters spoke for the first time in the series through the well implemented voice acting, the magical soundtrack had three composers and the battle system was intuitive and flexible. Final Fantasy X showed what RPGs could be like with the power of the new technology, while keeping the spirit of classic games intact.
2. -Kingdom Hearts-
SquareSoft had shown in the past that they could have success with mixing different creations together with Super Mario RPG. Kingdom Hearts was an action-RPG combining Disney characters with some original and Final Fantasy characters. The result was an unexpected hit, providing enjoyable combat, fun cameo appearances, great voice acting and a wonderful soundtrack. Kingdom Hearts captured the fun of classic games such as Secret of Mana while invoking nostalgia from classic Disney movies such as Aladdin and Peter Pan.
3. -Final Fantasy XII-
While Final Fantasy X was vintage RPG design brought up to the modern era, Final Fantasy XII tried something completely different. The whole world of Final Fantasy XII was one huge map that players could explore and enemies were fought without random encounters using a real-time, turn based battle system. It featured the customisable “gambit” system which allowed players to give their AI characters directions and the License Board was used to upgrade party members. Final Fantasy XII was a magical RPG with an intriguing political story and unique game play mechanics that have since been replicated in newer RPGs.
4. -Rogue Galaxy-
The first thing you will notice about Rogue Galaxy is its beautiful cel-shaded graphics. Once you have gotten further into the game you will be hooked in by the frantic and enjoyable battle system, imaginative world and characters and the deep customisation systems. Rogue Galaxy provides an entertaining Sci-fi RPG with plenty of content to keep players engaged for hours.
5. -Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King-
Dragon Quest VIII brought the fiercely traditional series into a fully three dimensional world, but retained all the features the fans loved about the older games such as turn-based battles, levelling up systems and the silent hero. The supporting characters are memorable and the dialogue is well written, providing an epic adventure with plenty to do. While other RPGs looked to change their core design Dragon Quest VIII didn’t try anything new, but every part was so well executed that players loved it anyway.