Review by Malice

"A Final Fantasy Beyond Imagination"

A Final Fantasy Beyond Imagination: Final Fantasy XII

First of all, this is my first review so if there are anything bad about it, please don't be too harsh. I was so excited when FF12 was first announced and I'm sure a lot of you were too. FF11 was a MMORPG and not a lot of people like it or are able to afford it thus it was quite a disappointment. Now, the single player RPG that everyone loved has arrived, FF12 is definitely a contender for Game/RPG of the Year. After so many years of waiting, Final Fantasy is back, better than ever. Pardon my bad english mistakes. I hope this review will be helpful and informative for the people who wants to find out more about the game. I will try to review it in a perspective of the gamer and the experience out of it.

I present to you, Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII......

Story/Presentation

I'm sure all of you already read the prologue and basic story of FF12. I won't be posting spoilers and there are also not many things to talk about without spoilers. Like all previous FFs and SE's games, the story were always one of the best aspects of the game. Even if the gameplay may be very bad, the story was almost always great. This time was no different, although I have not completed the game yet, so far from what I played, FF12's story is awesome. This game have a great cast of characters and each with their own developments. The interactions between characters are good and not one character felt like it was added for the sake of one more character. The pacing of the game is just nice too, at the beginning, it was more of a tutorial style for you to get used to the game. Then, as you play on, it gets more serious and interesting, making you want to play more to find out more.

FMVs were always something that the gamers were eager to see because of the previous FFs. All the 3D FFs have great FMVs and not only in contents, but visually too. You can expect to see some amazing FMVs in this game that will wow you, but not only that, the cutscenes are even more awesome. FMVs tend to be short and impressive, but the cutscenes are everywhere in the game. The conversations and actions between characters are just great, there are not really anything to explain about. The overall presentations are beautiful, engaging and makes you feel like you are in the game, it enhanced your experience. Since the theme of FF12 is about war, there are many nice large scale battles on the ground and in the sky to watch, very cool. In conclusion, you can expect to see some great actions, characters, plot twists, scenes and everything else.

Gameplay/Systems

I will talk about the battle system first. There are two modes, wait and active.

In wait mode, when bringing up the commands menu, it freezes the action and you can take time to think. In other words, wait mode is kind of like the battle system of the previous FFs except that you can move around the field now. A lot of people complained about how this new battle system does not feel like a FF, but everyones definition of FF are different and people need to accept change. It will be so boring having the same kind of system everytime, new ideas need to be added in, but in a good or bad way is up to you.

In active mode, when bringing up the commands menu, everything is still going on in real time, monsters can still attack you when you are thinking of what to do. It is kind of like FFX-2, everything is going on non-stop and fast paced.This will make you feel more intense and you really need to plan your tactics on the fly. To make it even better, you are able to adjust the battle speed. Making the battles faster or slower, adjusting to your personal preference, you can now enjoy the battles at your own pace. If you saw pictures or trailers of battles, you will notice the obvious target lines, but you can turn it on or off so it will not ruin the experience. Like all other RPGs, you can attack, use magics, use items, use special moves and all that kind of stuffs, so no need to explain on that. Everytime you choose an action, the bar fills up and the action is performed. It will then repeat it until you have change the commands and this will make battles less tedious. You can also fully move the camera so nothing bad able the camera angles.

One major change of the battle system from the previous FF is that there are no more random encounters, everything are happening in real time. No more screen shattering annoying battles that appears every 2 steps you made and now, you can decide to fight or not yourself. All the enemies are on the field itself, you can see them moving around and sometimes attacking other enemies too. You walk towards it, bring up your menu and starts the battle. There are some monsters that are neutral and will not attack unless you attack it first. They are indicated with a green life bar. There are some monsters that will attack you no matter what when you are close to them and it will be quite dangerous if they are close to each other as they will all attack you. They are indicated with a red life bar. Your characters are indicated with a blue life bar. There are some monsters that are better to leave them alone because in some areas there are monsters that are way over your levels and can kill you easily. Sometimes, you may go to places that you are not supposed to yet, so obviously the monsters there are of higher levels. When moving around on the field, your MP will gain slowly and this may help you. Killing monsters will no longer get you money, only items. This makes the game much realistic, but at the same time, it's quite hard to buy things.

There is a new way to earn money, but I will talk about that in a while. Also, you will gain experience and LP (License Point) when you kill monsters. The level up system is the standard RPG one and I will talk about LP later on. When killing the same monsters again and again, you will create chains. The higher the chains, the better the items dropped and chains can level up too. When in battle, you are able to perform 2-3 hits combo or block attacks randomly and of course, the enemies can too.

There are special individual moves that you can use and this time, they are called "Mist Knacks". You are needed to press button sequences to activate it and you can chain it too. When using a Mist Knack, names of other Mist Knacks will appear at the right bottom corner with the corresponding button and when you press that button, you can chain to that particular Mist Knack. The button will not always be there though, it may flash by very fast and even not appear at all. A time bar is going down fast and if you don't chain in time, the whole thing will be over. If you are lucky enough, you can deal some serious damage by chaining a lot. After chaining enough, there will be a special move at the end and there are a lot of different ones.

All the Mist Knacks are extremely spectacular to watch and it will help you out a lot in the game. There are also summons in this game and I heard they are from FFT/FFTA, but I don't know as I have never played either. The summoner and summon monster stayed on the field while the other characters disappeared. The summoning system is kind of like FFX, but in the real time concept and things like that. They are actually quite useless and a waste of time compared to previous FFs. You will probably use Mist Knacks more than summons. All these are the basics of the battle system and now you should have a rough idea of what a battle in FF12 is like.

Another system of FF12 is the License Board and it is similar to FFX's Sphere Grid. Like I said earlier, killing enemies gain you LP and you can use them to license things. In FF12, you need to license things such as weapons, armours, accessories and magics to be able to use them. The board is like a very big chess board and every single square on it has an effect. You can't activate any square on the board as you like, you need to open it up.

When activating a square, the 4 squares surrounding it opens up and then you can be able to activate them. This system allows you to build your character as you like, making them into different classes with different abilities and weapons. At first, your characters may be more or less the same because their starting points are close to each other, but as you play on, you can make your characters more unique. It gives you the freedom to customise as you like and it is not troublesome at all. Some people may think that it sucks because you need to license every single thing you get, but it's actually much easier than you think. You just need a little time and patience and you can get a lot of LP fast. When you buy magics, you only need to buy once and everyone with that license can use it. This is a fun system and there are a lot of possibilities to it depending on you.

This game has some sort of mob hunting sidequest and since you can't get money through monsters, this is your fastest way to get money. By visiting the pub, you can go look at the notice board for the quest and then go talk to the client. After signing a contract with that person, you can now go to the place the mob is in and kill it. After killing the mob, go back to the client and you can get your rewards. Most of the time, the mobs that you are hunting tend to be quite strong so be prepared before facing it. The quests are a pretty good way to break from the story and make you do your own thing to not let the game feel so linear. This is actually pretty fun to do and train up.

The last new system is the Gambit system and this is the ultimate AI system. It gives you so much freedom and control that allows a lot of tactics. Making gambits are like programming, there is a target and an action.

First, you choose a target, for example, an ally.
Then, you choose an action, for example cure when HP is less than 50%.
The AI will now automatically cure an ally when their HP is less than 50%.

It is that simple actually and you can also do stuffs like steal until enemy's HP is less than 70%. Also, the higher the gambit, the more priority it is meaning the character will tend to do the gambits higher up more. There is a possibility that you will mess up the AI by placing them in the wrong orders or giving the wrong actions. It is up to you to test things out and see which one helps you the most in different situations. This system is much better than other RPGs AI because other RPGs AI commands are very general and not detailed enough. I dare to say that this is the best RPG or even best game's AI system yet and the potentials are endless. You can find gambits or buy them at places and there are a lot of it. With the abilities you licensed, combined with the gambits, you can make very powerful characters. How helpful they are to you, depends on you, so you can't say that the AI sucks. Of course, if you don't like how you can't control other characters, you can off the gambits and control on your own like previous FFs.

That is all for how the new battle system is like and now, on to the exploring part. It felt great to explore in FF12 because of the atmosphere. All the places are very huge and you will take some time to fully explore them. The cities are are so lively and realistic. Take the first city for example, all the NPCs are doing their own things and not just stand there. Some are buying things, some are chatting and some are working. You can't talk to everyone, only people with a smiley icon on their heads and I felt that this was great since talking to everyone can be tiring especially if they talk nothing about the world. Another thing of the first city was how that there are different sections and it felt like many cities in one. Some places were crowded with people and some were not. It is like one part of the city, you can find poor people and their lifestyles and another part is totally different. This made exploring less dull and it was just fun to walk around. I won't talk about the other cities to spoil you on how it's like, it is for you to find out when you play.

Next are the battle fields and dungeons. It is very big probably because of the new battle system and like I said, you can see enemies on screen. They will respawn, but not out of thin air, only when you are not in that range. It is big and linear, but you can wander off to places you are not supposed to and it gave you more freedom in movement. The environment doesn't feel repetitive, each place has a different feel and atmosphere to it. FF12 will impress you no matter where you go. That is all for the gameplay part of FF12 until I can think of more to write and make it more detailed. The gameplay is definitely the best part of FF12 and you will not be bored of it. There are so many great systems here that they can use and expand onto their future FFs. It also may be the best battle system of FF yet, but that is my personal opinion.

Visual/Audio

The graphics of this game is one of the best on the PS2. FMVs are great and all, so nothing to talk about. The ingame graphics are realistic and not plastic looking like some games. Everything are just so detailed and nice to look at. The facial expressions of the characters are more focused on so you can see their emotion through their faces. The cities are big, but the graphics are not dull or the weaken. Buildings, chairs, tables, people, stores and everything else are great. On the field and dungeons, the graphics are as impressive too. Water, fog, sand, trees and everything else are great. If you saw pictures and trailers, you should know what to expect. I can't really use words to describe how beautiful it looked, you just have to play it yourself to know.

The sounds in the game are very fitting, walking on different type of grounds create different sounds. The clanking of the soldier's armour or the slashing of your sword or the growling of the monsters, all are good. Voice acting in FF12 is very fitting too, the main party's voices or the NPC's voices are so perfect. It is the japanese VA though, so I can't say the same about the english version. Very nice to listen at and won't make you feel annoyed by it. Next is the music, there are nothing more to say. This is FF, the OST of previous FFs have been so amazing and some are just classics. This one is no different at all, the music used in the different situations add to your gaming experience. In battles, in the cities, during sad parts, during funny parts, there are a variety of music. The main theme song "Kiss Me Good-Bye" is great too and Angela Aki's voice is just beautiful. Visuals and audio have always been an important part of gaming and FF12 delivers the importance.

Conclusions/Overalls

After reading this review, I'm sure you will have an idea of what the game is like. This is of course my opinions on it, so you may not agree with what I wrote. No matter what, if you really don't like what FF12 sounds like, be sure to at least rent it and try. It may be a lot better than what you think and you may love it in the end. For those who like what I wrote, buy the game obviously and to import or not is totally up to you. If your PS2 is able to play JP games, then I strongly encourage you to import it. You may be afraid that it will spoil you when the english version is out, but if you don't understand japanese at all. I'm sure it won't spoil you that much and who knows when the NA version will be release. Treat it as a demo, you can test things out and fool around with it until the english version is out. If you want to play it seriously, it will be fine too, you can ask the FF12 board for help or use the FAQs or visit sites with translations. You can use your map to tell you where to go sometimes so it is actually very import friendly and there are no excuse for you to be stuck with all these help. Whatever choice you made, enjoy this masterpiece anyway. This is Final Fantasy and it changed for the better. There are only so much that I can tell you, the rest is up to you.

10/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/06


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