Tag Archives: ps2

Why I’m Excited for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Filed under Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Previews

Blind Nostalgia or Just a Superior Game?

I first played Final Fantasy X over a decade ago. It was the reason I got a PlayStation 2 and it was the only game I owned until I completed everything there was to do (yeah even dodging 200 lightning bolts!) It was recently re-released as Final Fantasy X HD along with its intriguing sequel, updated graphics, beautifully remastered soundtrack and extra content from the Japanese versions. It is a bittersweet moment for me though as I keep asking myself why is this 10 year old ago game so much better than any other RPG I have played on my PlayStation 3 this generation?

Final Fantasy X HD Luca

Final Fantasy X is not my favourite RPG, or even my favourite Final Fantasy, but it is a fantastic game and transitioned the soul of the series wonderfully well from the PlayStation era to more powerful PlayStation 2 hardware. When people talk about modern RPGs, I have seen the argument that the often criticised Final Fantasy XIII is the exact same linear design first featured in Final Fantasy X. Initially I got the same impression, but the deeper you delve into each game, it becomes more and more apparent of how much superior FFX is and it really highlights the flaws in FFXIII and other modern RPGs in general.

Final Fantasy X HD Tidus

RPGs that tell engaging stories always have to have a component of linearity, but the ones that are elevated above the normal are the ones that still provide the illusion of freedom. The older Final Fantasy titles did this amazingly well that we didn’t even notice it was a feature until it was gone. Sure, you had to go from one place to the other as the story dictated, but the choice was always yours. You could explore other areas off the beaten track to find secret items, you could backtrack to previously visited areas to see how things had progressed, you could partake in mini-games at your leisure, you could fight endless battles to build your characters up to insanely powerful levels or when you were ready you could just get on with the story. The illusion of freedom was always there, Final Fantasy X had that… Final Fantasy XIII did not.

Final Fantasy X HD Group

Final Fantasy X HD has had a facelift and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the visuals. The backgrounds are magnificent, sharp and intricately detailed and the main character models have also been noticeably upgraded. There are plenty of elements left over from a game originally released in 2001, but for me this world is beautiful and endlessly enticing. FFX’s Spira is one of the most living and breathing worlds in any RPG and I found myself talking to all the NPCs around and often stopping to take in the extraordinary scenery. Again I have found it hard to be absorbed in the worlds of modern RPGs, but Final Fantasy X does it effortlessly. This is a fantasy I was more than happy to return to.

Final Fantasy X HD Besaid

I hadn’t played FFX for over 10 years so I couldn’t remember every single detail of the story, but I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. Having visited Japan recently, the themes and locations really hit me as having a more Asian feel than most games in the Final Fantasy series, such as the island-like setting, the temples and architecture, Yuna’s kimono and respectful/ reserved personality, Auron’s design etc. While lots of modern Japanese companies are striving to “Westernise” their games to better appeal to English speaking cultures, it is ironic to see how Japanese FFX feels and then how popular it is with said fans. The story is a big feature of Final Fantasy X and it is fantastically realised and implemented. Again to compare it to FFXIII, the backstory of Spira and its fate is easily and logically explained through gameplay itself, instead of having to read through a datalog to try and follow what is going on.

Final Fantasy X HD Yuna and Tidus

Just like the world, the characters are also full of life and depth. During its original development Squaresoft put a big emphasis on character emotion and this groundwork still shines through today. The interactions between the main characters are thoughtful and touching and I really enjoy the honest moments between Tidus and Yuna. Some of their conversations have an air of innocence and childlike perception and I can’t help but think this was the influence of Hironobu Sakaguchi as many of his games share this trait. Modern Square Enix RPGs including FFXIII definitely don’t have these moments and a lot of the staff are the same between these two games except Sakaguchi, it couldn’t just be a coincidence could it? FFX was also one of the first RPGs to feature extensive voice acting and while it is not perfect there are some truly memorable performances that helped elevate the experience. Viewing Auron’s emotional and thrilling speech before the battle with Yunalesca still sent shivers down my spine even today and the noticeable difference between Tidus’s whining voice during the first half of the story, compared to his deeper more mature voice during his narration is a great example of subtle character development that is not just thrown in your face.

Final Fantasy X HD Auron

The last thing I want to touch on is the battle system. I still think this is one of the best battle system in any RPG. The ability to switch out party members so that everyone can participate is genius and adds a lot to battle strategy as different characters are needed to deal with different enemies and it helps build attachment to whole party. Being able to control everyone in battle is a big feature for me and games like FFXIII that limit you to one only is a big disappointment. Seeing as you spend so much time in RPGs during combat, having a flexible, strategic battle system is a must. Square Enix tried to speed up the battle system in FFXIII but lost a lot of the strategy as I did find myself just hitting auto battle repeatedly, just waiting until I staggered the foe, switched combat roles and repeat. If they wanted to speed up the battles they only need to look at Final Fantasy X’s sequel that hit a great balance between speed and strategy/ control.

Final Fantasy X HD Battle

I am fully immersed and loving every minute of Final Fantasy X HD. I just wish they would still make these kind of RPGs with big budgets on home consoles today. It is just not nostalgia for me, they are just simply better designed games…

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Filed under Editorial, Final Fantasy Series

Review: Why You Should Play Final Fantasy XII

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.

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Filed under Final Fantasy Series, Reviews

Which Console Had The Best RPGs? (Part 3)

After the evolution from 2D sprites on the SNES to the limited 3D models on the PlayStation, RPGs on the PlayStation 2 finally featured fully 3D worlds to explore. The powerful hardware of the PS2 allowed RPGs to utilise more detailed character models and environments, exciting new battle systems and topped it all off with orchestral soundtracks and voice acting.

Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2)  

Gone were the days of pre-rendered backgrounds, games were now using fully 3D models with the ability to move the camera around and view the world anyway you wanted. RPGs such as Final Fantasy XII enabled players to roam around its massive world seamlessly, going to places ahead of the story and even finding enemies that were way above their level.

Cut scenes were made more realistic with the use of voice acting and motion capture and games like Kingdom Hearts even had Hollywood actors leading their talents to help bring characters to life. Musical scores where now orchestral and composers could add more depth and instruments to their arrangements.  Even with the advancements in other aspects of the genre, RPGs still had memorable stories to tell such as the wonderful journey through Spira in Final Fantasy X or the 3 part Sci-fi epic of Xenosaga. The improved presentation of PS2 RPGs allowed developers to fully realise their visions on screen and create immersing worlds.

With the popularity of the PS2 and the RPG genre during these years many niche games where able to receive widespread recognition such as Persona 3 and 4, that merged the modern settings of high school classrooms with turn-based dungeon crawls. Not everything became more realistic and the use of cell-shaded graphics in titles such as Rouge Galaxy presented art styles that mesmerised players. Action RPGs became more plentiful and battle systems such as the one found in Star Ocean 3 provided intense action with full control over character movement.

RPGs on the PS2 had a tremendous amount of variety enabling all players to find a game that would satisfy their tastes. The Best RPGs found on the PS2 include: Final Fantasy X and XII, Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, Xenosaga Episode 1,2 and 3, Dragon Quest VIII, Star Ocean 3, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, Rouge Galaxy, Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle, Persona 3 and 4, Odin Sphere, Suikoden III, IV and V and many more.

So what is your favourite console for RPGs? The SNES, PS1, PS2 or do you think another console has a greater collection of games? Let me know what you think!

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Filed under Dragon Quest Series, Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Kingdom Hearts Series, Persona, Rogue Galaxy, Xenosaga

Which Console Had The Best RPGs? (Part 2)

While the Super Nintendo is home to some of the true classics of the genre, the original PlayStation offers a huge variety of RPGs with more mature storylines, deeper mechanics and the introduction of mesmerising FMVs. The PS1 allowed developers more freedom to enhance the way they could present their stories which provided many new features to the genre.

Sony PlayStation (PS1)

With the extra power provided by the PlayStation hardware, RPGs such as the magnificent Final Fantasy VII amazed players with Full Motion Videos (FMVs) that helped depict important moments in the game in a more impressive way. Coming from 2D sprites, to seeing worlds realised in 3D was exciting for players at the time. Watching an emotional scene or intense action in more detail was something to look forward too, rather than a chore as in many modern games.

Stories became more ambitious too, involving more mature and complex plotlines, as well as adding more depth to characters. PS1 RPGs delved into themes unexplored by video games at the time and games such as Xenogears featured memorable characters, dealing with real issues that players could relate to. While Final Fantasy Tactics offered a plot filled with political intrigue, murder and heresy. More detailed character models and environments added to the sense of atmosphere and made the narratives more compelling to the player.

Art design and game mechanics were diverse, resulting in RPGs that provided unique experiences. Valkyrie Profile was willing to innovate on traditional mechanics, while Vagrant Story included a battle system and complexity unlike any other RPG before it. Worlds were bigger and more captivating and with the use of pre-rendered backgrounds they were full of detail and life. Designers explored different settings ranging from futuristic and modern, to medieval and even outer space. Experimentation was at its highest and it rewarded players with some the greatest RPGs ever made.

With the use of CD as storage media, RPG music was of higher quality and even vocal pieces were utilised. With voice acting still not common place, music was imperative to the experience and soundtracks such as Chrono Cross featured some of the best orchestral music ever to grace a video game.

RPGs on the PS1 were philosophical and ambitious, leaving players with stories they would never forget. It has a massive number of titles with the best of the best including: Final Fantasy VII, VII and IX, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics, Legend of Mana, Parasite Eve, Valkyrie Profile, Grandia, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, The Legend of Dragoon, Suikoden 1 and 2, Wild Arms, Star Ocean: The Second Story and many more.

The next article will explore the great RPGs developed on the PlayStation 2.

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Filed under Chrono Series, Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Mana Series, Parasite Eve Series, Vagrant Story, Xenogears