Review by BakaOrochi
"Finally, a Final Fantasy to look forward to"
Back in 1990, I was enamored by Final Fantasy, even when it first came out on NES. I thought it was unique, the music was catchy, and the story...well, the first FF's story was honestly nothing to write home about, but it defined the classic gaming RPG next to Dragon Warrior. Since then, I (like many other FF fans) became crazy about the series, but after about Final Fantasy 7, I really stopped caring. Maybe it's because I felt the fans ruined it for me, or perhaps I felt the game was so mainstream that it just wasn't unique anymore. Thus, I really didn't have high hopes for any Final Fantasy game that I played after 7; 8 had a good story but gameplay was too mundane and repetitive, 9 just couldn't catch my attenion for more than 30 minutes, 10 wasn't bad but still had it's flaws in the game play that resulted in me using a Code Breaker to finish the game...X-2 I won't even touch with a 50 foot long pole. Of course, 11 was...11. I don't really get into MMORPG's (simply because I don't have the time).
I had to give XII a try since my friends were pushing to give it a play, and I honestly have to say that it's almost like 10, but better. In fact, I ended up playing for 7 hours straight because I couldn't put it down.
Graphically, it's definitely better than the previous FF's. It's not the epitome of PS2's 3D capabilities (in terms of in-game rendering), but the FMV are...well it's Square-Enix. Square has had a good track record with beautifully done FMV's and XII doesn't disappoint (although it's not quite as in-your-face as 10's "Blitzball" opening sequence). The in game speaking, the characters' mouths actually move! As silly as this may sound, it seems silly when you hear talking, but the character's mouths are closed. Even the character designs are neat and elaborate, although sometimes I prefer traditional. I guess I don't have an eye for art.
Musically, I felt it was less synthesized music and more orchestra; it gives it more of an epic battle feel. For a Final Fantasy game, it's more fitting. I don't feel like I'm just running around mindlessly killing monsters with tinny Yahama keyboards playing in the back.
Speaking of killing monsters, the gameplay. I was skeptical when I heard about "auto-fighting," but that term seems to apply to the "Gambit" system, which thankfully you can turn off. The fighting system is indeed unique; it's implementing MMORPG-style fighting (where you tell your character what to do while you still have free-range movement), so you are able to also avoid fights; no more random encounters...for better or for worse. Me? I like it. It keeps battles more involved and since the game is more linear and not meant to be as time-consuming as MMO's, battles can last a lot shorter and you can still toss in come variety in your battles. Of course there's even side quests that you get to do right from the get-go of the game (which is basically being a bounty hunter), just to add to gameplay and keep things fresh (or an alternative way to gain levels).
The Gambit system (as so far I'm into the game) is useless to me; I prefer to have control over my party. Some players however, may feel it's too overwhelming with this style of gameplay. I do think it's a good idea for those kinds of players, so props to Square-Enix for keeping in mind all kinds of fans and players.
The story as I can understand it is a lot more involving while a bit chaotic (since it starts you off in the middle of a war). But the characters are fun, not too deep at first though so you might have some trouble finding a character to like. Plus, if war and politics isn't your thing, you may get a little thrown off with what's going on in the first hour or two of the game. Bear with it though, and you'll figure it out.
The replay value is about the same as FFX. Since you can customize your characters ala the license system, it's something to look forward too if you like replaying your Final Fantasy games with different variables or choices. Of course there's also some mini-games to occupy your time.
All in all, when the U.S. release comes out, whether you used to be a FF fan, play RPG's but not FF, or just straight up love the series, FF XII is definitely one to pick up and check out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/10/06
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