Review by Ze_Rhino_
"The already incredible series just took a turn for the better."
Final Fantasy XII has some very mixed opinions about it. The game totally reworked everything that has been practiced throughout the whole series in terms of gameplay. Many people enjoy the new twist on the series; some hate it to death. I picked this game up a bit after launch and played it a huge amount, and that's because I LOVE the way the developers went with this series.
GRAPHICS ----- 9/10
Honestly, Square Enix has been king of graphics for a long time; back when they were still Square Soft many of the titles on the SNES and PSX boasted exemplary graphics for their time. This game is no different, but has a few flaws. Field/Town graphics are very nice and detail is somewhat texture-oriented; you'll learn to love the big explorable areas and cities. There is a lot of detail put into scenery models in most areas and they are enjoyable to explore as well. Enemy models are sharp and to the point, and some look quite detailed, especially the bigger monsters.
Cut scene graphics are stellar for the most part, many background objects have not really been sharpened or anything of the sort, but character models are gorgeous generally. Some characters look much better than others. But, Vaan... Vaan looks REALLY messed up, and being the main character that's not too good. His face looks like it got smashed in, and his ribs look like they got just the opposite. Being the main character, his model is what I think of every time I think of the game, and it's probably one of the worst in the game. Other characters look absolutely beautiful (Al-Cid comes to mind) and most characters are outright good. Some supporting characters you only see once or twice have some flaws, but it's alright. Overall, I think Dirge of Cerberus had better character models than this, but of course, these are comparable.
FMV graphics are, or course, very next-gen anyways, and all character model flaws are very nicely fixed. Great emphasis on special effects during FMV's since they are dazzling. FMV's are also quite frequent (just like any other Square game), usually during important sequences where there is mostly action and less talking, or in transition from part to part in the storyline. Very, very nice.
SOUND ----- 10/10
The new composer of the music is no Nobuo Uematsu, but he gets the job done incredibly. Most overworld musics are comparable to the areas they play in. Ozmone Plains music and a couple of others come to mind. Boss music is very intense and a good listen. Generally, there's constantly music playing throughout the game, and with so many areas, the composer did a great job with providing such a wide variety of music to match the game's needs.
Sound effects, well, there's nothing wrong with them. We mastered the sound of sword clashes quite a while ago in the video game industry ^_^ Other sounds, like guns, bows, and the like, are realistic, but spell effects are probably the best here. Spells being casted sound so... uhh... magical, I guess. As you would think, yeah, Fire sounds like some flames, Blizzard sounds like some icicles, but even spells like Dark, Decoy, etc have sounds to fit the spells perfectly. And there's not one spell that has a messed up sound to match it, they are all great.
The voice acting is great just like it's always been, but it sounds a little muffled and compressed. Rumor has it the voice acting is compressed in a different format to save disc space, but either way, it sounds fine. Each character has a different and good voice fitting their personality. The voices are easily recognizable and give a certain type of life to the characters.
STORY ----- 10/10
Many people argue that the story is bland and has no depth whatsoever, but I don't agree. The story starts off with enough twists and suspense to keep you playing, if the game itself doesn't. Most characters have quite a bit of backstory revealed about them throughout the game, only a select few are ones that you wouldn't feel like you knew personally at the end of the game. The story concept is basic; big war between some nations, and you're caught between it. It gets MUCH more deep than that. Sometimes you just have to stop and think, okay, how is the story progressing? What just happened? And in a general sense, video games (excluding Square games) aren't deep enough to make we want to do that. Throughout the game, the story takes many unexpected twists. You have to keep your eyes open for them ^_^
GAMEPLAY ----- 10/10
Brand new turn for the Final Fantasy series (offline, anyways). Welcome to no more random battles. That's right, as you explore the field, you will find monsters just roaming free, not waiting to catch you in a predetermined battle sequence. And since random battles were the annoying part of older games, this new system is great. Think of it as Final Fantasy XI, offline, if you will. FFXI carried the same concept of no random battles. So, instead of waiting for a random battle, just run around the area and find a monster yourself. Don't want to fight that one? Avoid it. Want to run away? Run, but you'll be trailed ^_^ It's so simple and great that it's brilliant.
Many new twists have been added to the character development aspects. First, instead of learning abilities while leveling up, and equipping whichever weapon you want, you'll need to acquire a license for it. You do this by progressing across the license board. As you defeat enemies, you'll get license points. You use the license points to get the ability to USE skills and weapons. But, that's not it. Just like always, you have to buy or earn somehow the skills/spells/weapons/armor/espers just like in ever other game. But once you buy/earn them, you have to get the license for a certain character to use them. It's simple enough, right?
There is still leveling up, just like there always has been. In fact, you'll have to do quite alot of it to avoid having massive trouble with tougher enemies and bosses. Boss battles are epic and include alot of strategy...of course "massive quickening chain" is the general way people like to easily dispatch bosses. Quickenings are this game's limit break/overdrives. You learn them on the license board and can use them once you acquire them. Basically, they are a very powerful attack, but by inputting a couple buttons, you can chain the attack with other people's quickenings for a VERY powerful chain, usually ending in a "magic burst" (for FFXI players ^_^) that will damage all enemies in a radius. Quickening chains are very helpful and generally considered overpowered. In addition to doing this, you can summon espers (summons, GFs, whatever) that you have found over the game (of course, you need to get the licence for them first!) When these big beasts are fighting, the only people on the field are your summoner and the esper. They can do massive damage and do situation-oriented attacks. In order to make them do their final move, you'll have to set up the battle just right. The espers are powerhouses when fighting, but you'll have to keep them alive, too ^_^
One great feature of Final Fantasy XII is the hunt system. Basically, you either go to a local bar, or a clan house, and read notices posted for dispatching rare monsters. People at clan houses can give you tips and the like for defeating rare monsters and strategies for killing the hardest ones. Once you accept the hunt, you'll have to find a person to tell you where to find the monster. Once you find them and kill them (beware - hunt monsters are pretty tough for the most part) you'll get rewards and new hunts to accept. Hunts are not required (except one) to complete the main game, but are a fun break from the storyline. There are quite a few hunts and later ones are very difficult (hi Yiazmat ^_^)
FINAL SCORE ----- 10/10
Like I said, Final Fantasy XII is a very controversial game. Some love it, some hate it. I love it, I love almost everything about it. The game has great graphics, fitting sounds, a deep and interesting storyline, and gameplay that will make you want to play again and again. This is one of the games you just don't want to miss, there is too much good stuff in it. The series definitely made a turn for the better, and if Square's epic RPG franchise stays like it is in Final Fantasy XII, we are in for some incredible games in the future.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/07/07
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