Final Fantasy XII PS2 Review

Whereas each new Final Fantasy game usually brings new mechanics to the series, the game traditionally had, up until now, featured random skirmishes and anime esque storylines. On the other hand, the twelfth iteration of the popular and ever fantastic series is a complete Resident Evil 4 style reinvention of the franchise.

This overhaul is largely thanks to Vagrant story and Final Fantasy tactics luminary Yasumi Matsumo, who, due to an apparent breakdown, famously left development halfway through, but did however leave his stamp firmly on the game.

Following a ruthless empire, who in the opening events of the game capture the small kingdom of Dalmasca, the narrative is vastly different to anything in the franchise that has preceded it in both execution and theme, and actually has more in common with Suikoden than your ordinary Final Fantasy title. The script, which has characters talking in a sometimes cheesy, but nonetheless, well written medieval tone and the excellent voice acting, both do their part in making what seems to be a generic storyline into so much more.

The all important characters on the other hand come secondary to the story itself, but that isn’t to say that they’re a completely bland bunch. The wise cracking Balthier is our favourite by quite a margin, instantly reminding us, with the delivery of his often humorous lines, of James Bond. Others fare worse than this though, lead character Vaan and his friend Penelo, whilst still likeable are dull in comparison to the rest of the primary characters.

The random battles are out and enemies can now be seen roaming the field, allowing you to pick and choose your fights as you see fit as opposed to the game itself rudely interrupting your exploration with a swirly screen that signifies the beginning of a battle as in the FF’s of old.

The combat system itself is unlike anything the series has offered before, at least the offline versions anyway. The new system has plenty of familiarities with an MMORPG, namely Final Fantasy XI itself. Whilst involved in combat, players are free to move around. It’s not as action RPG as that may suggest though, and in reality actually shares much with the system of old. Actions are still governed by a time bar and characters are only able to carry out actions once that bar has reached its apex.

The Gambit system is an important addition to combat, allowing you to essentially program the AI of your party, requesting Fran to cast curaga, only once an allies HP has dropped below 30% for example, or telling Balthier to cast Firaga only if an enemies HP exceeds 10,000. Such a feature has been seen in many past games, but never quite to this extent. There are over 100 gambits that can be found or purchased and each character will eventually have up to twelve gambit slots, which gives some idea of the scope of this mechanic and the potential to, with time create the ultimate automated fighting force that can handle any situation thrown at them.

Additional gambit slots, like just about everything else must be purchased from the licence board, with licence points that are earned by defeating enemies. The Licence Board functions similarly to FFX’s popular Sphere Grid, with the largest differences being that weapons, armour and accessories must – before you’re able to wield and don them respectively – all be purchased here, and unlike FFX where, characters started in different locations from one another on the grid, here they more or less start in the same area and for this reason we favour the Sphere Grid over the newer Licence Board.

Quickenings (the games version of Limit Breaks) and Espers (Summons) can also be purchased from the board. Characters can have up to three Quickenings each and these can be chained together in a single attack resulting in destructive results, that can see even many bosses defeated in one blow. Summons on the other hand fight alongside you and only after certain conditions are met are they able to fire off their strongest attacks.

As is usual with the series, there are plenty of often rewarding diversions, which you can busy yourself with. The largest of which are the clan hunts that as the name suggests, requires you to hunt down some often powerful monsters and get rewarded with some useful items and cash in the process.

Whilst, over the last few months we’ve been spoilt with stunning looking Xbox 360 games, for a PS2 game Final Fantasy XII still manages to impress. Every town is sizeable and bustling, giving the impression of a living breathing environment, the characters, who possess a wide range of authentic looking facial expressions are amongst the most detailed ever in a game and whilst the game doesn‘t feature a 60htz mode, the conversion is as with the companies last few products, excellent. The soundtrack though, whilst pleasing enough with a handful of standout tracks sadly can’t compete with Nobuo Uematsu’s best work.

Final Fantasy XII is certainly in no way the best FF yet and a lot of long-time fans, will inevitably not be happy with all the changes, but we still think it’s an exceptional RPG that MMORPG fans in particular will enjoy, provided they can live without the social aspect of course.