Review by TheBlueMagician
"FFXII: Less than a great leap, more than a small step"
Final Fantasy XII, in all, I would say, is a good game. I enjoyed lots of it, but there were definitely some lacking parts. Specifically speaking: character development. But I will talk more on that later.
Graphics: The graphics in this game were pretty stunning, at least in my eyes. I have played my share of Square games, and this one had the best animation, cutscenes and the like. I loved how any time a character spoke in a cutscene, their mouth moved. And the eye movements also added a lot to communication. In the actual game, the environments were very well constructed, and very detailed. I enjoyed seeing something other than a dungeon wall wherever I went, or the same plains.
The world itself was also masterfully created. Everywhere was connected in some way. You could run all the way from Mount Bur-Omisace (In the far south east), all the way to the Phon Coast (Up in the central northern region) without having to teleport or fly. The only exceptions were the last dungeon, and Bhujerba, which were in the ocean (Or floating above it).
Sound: Holy cow. I LOVED this game's soundtrack. A lot of people are sad over Uematsu's departure, and don't like this game's music, but I loved this music more than any other Final Fantasy game's music. The boss battle theme was epic, all of the area themes were right on, and the cutscene background music made sense. It really made the game so much more interesting, because it made it feel like you were taking on the world.
Battle System: One of the hottest issues about this game is whether or not the battle system is a win or a loss. Personally, I loved it. The old FF games featured either an ATB system, or in FFX's case, a turn based kind of thing. FFXII's system, however, is almost entirely real time, except for when you open the menu to give specific commands to your party (This, however, can be changed to real time). You also have the ability to select your leader. So, if you prefer a front line fighter, you can choose the character who deals the most damage. If you prefer a more subtle role, you can select your healer and let your party members fight for you. This method also eliminates the classic "If Party Leader Dies, Game Over" scenario found in many RPGs. Another interesting thing about the system is the Gambit system. Gambits let you set conditions for your party members taking specific actions. For example, you could give your white mage the Gambit: "If [Ally's HP < 40%] then cast [Cure]" You can also set preferences so a fighter can prioritize enemies, a black mage can spend less MP, and a white mage can more effectively keep your party in top shape. This, as explained in the game, can be a good and a bad thing. If a member has the gambit to attack an enemy, if they see one, they WILL attack it. To counter this, you can turn gambits on and off at your will, making it easier to escape from enemies and to save time. However, this system is infinitely useful for long fights, long dungeons, and trekking across several areas, because it lets you focus more attention on whatever role you choose. If you, as I, choose to focus mainly on your fighter, healing is something you can't afford to do, or really spend time to pay attention to. So, the gambits tell your healer to heal you when you need it. If you choose a different role, perhaps Black Mage, you can tell your Fighter to immediately attack the enemy targeting you without issuing the actual command, making things flow more like an actual battle, and saving time.
Gameplay: The gameplay for FFXII was often tedious. A lot of the game revolved around get from Point A to Point B, then go to Dungeon X. This required MASSIVE amounts of time running, exploring, and backtracking, all of which got very annoying late in the game. Teleport Crystals do help this, but they are often located in inconvenient locations on maps, and teleport crystals (Needed to actually DO the teleporting) are scarce in the beginning of the game. Probably one of my favorite pieces of the system was the "Flee" command you could issue by holding R2. This sped up your party member's speed (Your leader, however, is forever faster than them) and stopped all actions they were performing. It also holsters your weapon (Which, even if your gambits are off, is still drawn in the area around enemies), increasing speed. I liked this new system, personally, because it let you pick your battles without having to wait for a successful flee attempt while you watch your party get slaughtered. It also let you run through previous areas without having to fight enemies, speeding up travel time. Another boon this game offers is that save crystals fully restore your party to top shape, filling HP and MP and removing status downs. This convenience is countered by one of my least favorite ideas in the game: MP regeneration is tied to how much a character walks, and the speed of the regeneration depends on how much they have to refill. So, say your White mage has 500 MP maximum, and you cast the Curaja spell for around 50. Your white mage is left with 450 MP. To charge this MP back up takes more than 3 minutes, making last minute MP recharging out of the question. Even if you had managed to spend all 500 MP, you would recharge maybe a hundred or so the first minute, and then be left with a painfully long time before your White Mage had full MP again. Another interesting point this game has is the money making system. No longer does a wolf carry around 42 Gil on its person, but rather, it carries a Wolf Pelt that you can pick up and sell for 42 Gil, which to me makes a lot more sense, adding a layer of depth to the game. Also, as you sell the "Loot" you pick up from enemies, the Bazaar (Which can be accessed from every shop) stocks more goods. To get the better weapons and items in the game, you have to hunt out rare loot and sell it to get the ability to purchase the item, which is a neat, although sometimes frustrating, idea. One thing that changed, and in my opinion, changed for the worst, is the summoning system. Like in FFX, the summon appears and stays to help in combat, replacing all but one party member. Early on, these "Espers", as the game calls them, are good, but later on they serve little point other than to say you've beaten the esper to obtain it, as you can easily dish out the damage they can. Along with Espers, is a new "Limit"/"Overdrive" system. Called Mysts this time, and specifically Quickenings, this lets a party chain together powerful attacks without taking any. Each character can earn three attacks, and three "Myst Bars". The lowest level Quickening costs one Myst bar, the middle, two and the last, three. During the quickening chain, you push either Triangle, Square, or X to launch another random attack that a character with Myst Bars in your party has (As long as you have enough charge. So, for example, if you pulled off a level one attack to start off, that character has 2/3 charges left, and could either use two more level one attacks, or one level two). If you have spent all your charges, you will sometimes get the option to "Myst Charge", which lets you fill all of the Myst Bars that character has. If you have no attacks that can be preformed, you may opt to "Shuffle" the commands, and try to get either Myst Charge or an attack you can unleash. Three characters with 3 Myst Bars, in turn, will deal a lot of damage. However, this system also gets fairly lengthy, as you must wait for the attacks, and then often shuffle around for attacks you can use.
Level Up System: The new system in FFXII is License Points. As you level up, you gain more HP, MP, and the likes, but if you neglect your licenses, you will be stuck wielding your beginning equipment. The way licenses work is super cool, and also really dumb. For example, if you want your tank to wear this new heavy armor, or helm, he can't just stick it on his head or body, respectively, like a normal person would. He has to obtain a license to wear it, and then have the item (For heavy armors, it makes sense, but for some of the less complicated items, like a hat or necklace, it seems ridiculous). However, this license system also opens up TONS of possibilities. For example: Tank died? No problem. Your healer suddenly takes off their priestly robes, and reveals a shining suit of armor, matched by a lengthy great sword. You can teach every character to use ANY magick, and ANY weapon/Armor, adding lots of diversity to one character, and letting you prepare for specific situations. Early on, this system limits you to certain roles, as you get little License Points (LP) so you most likely won't want to outfit your White Mage with full plate armor until she can cast lots of good spells (Or at least, has the license to) and has the augments to reserve MP to let her cast more spells. Later on, however, when they complete the path they were initially on, you can branch them out to acquire more schools of magick, and to wield weapons and armor not usually available to them in other RPGs.
Character Development and Plotline: I'll group these into one, because these are what keep this game from coming to a 9 or 10. First, the worst out of the two, Character Development. In FFXII, the character development is HORRIBLE. As probably most of these other 80+ reviews mention, the characters are a blatant stereo-type. And little is done to change this. Backgrounds are also fairly, or completely obscure, depending on the character. But worst of all is the way the characters act in relation to one another. One second, the game seems to indicate the development of some feelings between two characters. Then it switches back one of the characters paying more attention to someone else. Characters also change their habits often. In one scene, the main character, Vaan might say something incredibly brave, or insightful. And then he goes back to being a moron. And in another scene, Ashe might be in favor of one thing, and then change her mind. These switches left me very dumbfounded sometimes, because they were so ridiculous. The plotline doesn't help much either. In fact, it seems like almost every other FF plotline: Party vs. System. FFVII was versus huge corporation. FFX was versus universally accepted necessary ritual. FFX-2 was versus some huge organization. And this one is versus an empire. While the mystery and deception add depth to the plot, it still felt a tad generic as I played through.
Overall, I found this game enjoyable, and huge. The story covers but just a fragment of all the material available. The game offers loads of sidequests outside of its easy-to-find "Hunt Board", which sends you after big monsters. So, all in all, a great game with a fresh, enjoyable battle system, backed by stunning graphics and music, and with a decent plot line. Just don't pay too much attention to how much you don't know about the characters, and you'll have a great time.
Final score: 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/04/07
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