Review by Matsuura

"New Look! same great taste!"

This review is for the Japanese version of the game Final Fantasy XII.

Graphics - 8/10

The graphics are very good of course - the less polys but more textures approach worked out well. In some places the texturing is a bit too much though, muddying the image, and in others a texture that attempts to simulate shading and dimension is applied to an obviously flat surface, which just looks bad. FMVs are very nice, but few.

Music/Sound - 6/10

The music is serviceable, though nothing really stands out. The Big Theme Song this time around is "Kiss me Goodbye" and is appropriately over-wrought and dramatic, though not as good an actual song as say Suteki Da Ne. It never gets annoying, and that's the important part. I can't comment on the VA since I have no knowledge of spoken Japanese, but they sound like they mean it. Ambient sound and sound effects are good.

Gameplay - 10/10

This is where FFXII shines. The ADB battle system is great fun, and while it may look very new and different at first, it is still essentially ATB with much better animation and no screen breaks for random battles. The flow of battle is much faster paced without being unreasonable, so I actually end up fighting far MORE enemies in FFXII than in previous FFs, but never get tired of the battles. The Gambit system is a godsend. Many games have attempted an "auto-battle" system in the past with varying degrees of success, but none of them ever hit on the balance of complex player-created AI and ability to take manual control at any time that the ADB/Gambit systems provide. Like FFVIIIs Junction system, it's going to take some getting used to before you can master the complexity of what it offers, and some may never be comfortable with it.

To compliment the excellent battle system, Square-Enix has given us a long ton of sidequests and optional bosses to fight this time around. Many players have estimated that if one plays just the story as is required to complete the game, they will have only played 40% of the content available. I particularly like the fact that you can take on at least a few side quests at almost any point in the story, unlike previous FFs where you'd have to wait till near the end before doing any.

The License Board serves as the main character advancement system. You must acquire a license to do just about anything in FFXII, from using equipment to casting spells. There are a few basic stat increases, but character power is based far more on equipment, levels, and abilities that they can use. This means the License Board is vital to advancement without being exploitable to the point of god-like stat-maxxed characters ala FFX.

Characters - 7/10

The characters are mostly cliches, but they are done so well that you have to love them anyway. Vann is a pickpocket from the streets caught up in events bigger than himself, Fran is a mysterious demi-human from a reclusive forest-dwelling race, etc. They each bring their own motivations to the story, and various relationships develop between them through out, but to a FAR lesser extent than in past FFS. They each have interesting personalities, but we rarely get any clue as to why they are the way they are, and they change very little over the course of the game.

Story - 6/10

A serviceable politically based story centered around very powerful magical relics, ala FF Tactics. While I didn't like it at first, I now find the story fairly interesting, but some may be put of by its less epic feel and downplayed character development. The driving force in FFVII is to liberate a kingdom and stop an Evil Empire from gaining a legendary power, but it is not so grand in scale as the past FFs "save the entire world" story lines. Still, it is a semi-complex narrative with interesting and fun characters, and it moves the game along nicely while providing reasons to do the sidequests. The fact that it never really makes you feel one way or the other about the characters is a low point in the game.

Overall - 8/10

For good graphics, decent sound, likeable characters with little development, a story that serves its purpose, and absolutely phenomenal gameplay, FFXII gets an Overall score of 8/10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/30/06

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