• Final Fantasy XII 9th Anniversary Review II: The Empire Strikes Back

    Outside of Final Fantasy XII's deep, complex story, the gameplay really stands out. Being the next Final Fantasy to come out after the first MMORPG in the series, Final Fantasy XI, it borrows many elements from that style of gameplay and makes it playable in a single player platform. To control your party, you use Gambits, which sets commands in a pre-arranged order based on certain circumstances. If you have a gambit for enemies that are weak to fire, you can set it up with your magic user so they can use Fire whenever they’re near an enemy that has that weakness. You can set up a gambit that will have them heal your characters if they are below a certain HP threshold and put it in order before the weak to fire one to prioritize that gambit.

    The Gambit System creates a nice balance between action and active time battle. The biggest beef one might have with it is it makes the game kind of “hands off”. Unless you decide to set a small number of Gambits per character, you’ll rarely input commands for most of your characters (emergency healing/resurrecting/use of Quickening aside). In the International Zodiac Job System (an as of now Japanese only release of the game) you get an even wider array of gambits to use.

    The system works well, but there is a bit of a learning curve. The tutorials are helpful and Balthier’s advice should be heeded. You’ll find yourself in situations, where you wish you had a particular gambit that’s currently unavailable or that just doesn’t exist. Fortunately, the IZJS edition not only adds more gambits, but makes them available earlier on.

    The IZJS also differs from the standard version through the use of Licensing Boards in its Job System. In the standard edition of the game, the Licensing Board is a large chess-like board where you gain jobs through Licensing Points. Each character starts off with certain licenses already available to them. Others get opened when you use points on them, and it reveals the adjoining spaces. These can be unlocked until the whole board is filled.

    One thing of note, that may annoy some players, is that weapons, armor, and accessories also must be unlocked on the license board. So finding the latest sword isn’t enough to use it, you have to unlock the license (as well as one of the conjoining licenses) as well. This works well as it creates the illusion that characters have to work on their skills before they can use a more advanced weapon, which creates a sense of realism.

    In the IZJS, though, you have to choose a job for each character before you get to see their board. Each job (based on a sign from the Zodiac), has its own board and you aren’t allowed to change jobs after you’ve selected one. So if you make Vaan a White Mage, you’re stuck with him as a White Mage until you
    start a new game. You also have to choose wisely, as if two characters have the same job, they also share the same Quickening licenses. With each job having only four available Quickening slots, you can’t give two characters of the same job all three of their licenses. So, in the IZJS, it’s better to give each character their own job, as the only thing that’s shared through different jobs are the Esper licenses, which is the same as the standard edition.

    The standard edition allows much more freedom in creating your characters’ roles, but you’ll often find yourself using them interchangeably. IZJS gives them set in stone roles, but for those who are used to the fluidity of the standard edition will find themselves a bit handcuffed. The IZJS in this way offers an interesting challenge and the game makes other changes (controllable guests/espers, easier availability of items) to balance this out.

    As for Quickenings, these are super moves that you can chain from one character to another. It’s kind of complex to explain, but a good chain of these can wipe out the baddest of baddies. A lot of it is based on luck, but much of it is quick thinking skill. You have to cycle through them by shuffling through the other characters. If another is ready, you can use theirs next. If nobody is available, you can quickly try a Mist Charge that will fill the mist gauge and make them available again. In the standard edition, Quickenings use MP and can be blocked with silence. In the IZJS, they don’t use MP and have their own gauges, so silence no longer affects them. See, complex.

    Like the battle system, maybe even more, Quickenings have a learning curve. You have to get your timing right, shuffling the Quickenings and tactically using Mist Charges. If you find yourself wanting to fill everyone’s Mist Charge up, you’ll end up running out of time to perform any Quickenings. The clock is fast and you have to be faster. Practice is the only suggestion for this.

    Espers aren’t so complex. Short story short, they once were scions created by the Occuria. 12 of them rebelled against Gods. As punishment, they were sealed within the Mist and could only be summoned by those who use their glyphs. A thirteenth was given this fate as well, but not for rebelling, but because it was made too powerful. The first Esper you cross is Belias, who is sealed in the Dynast-King’s Tomb. Others you’ll fight and gain on your way and a few are parts of side quests.

    Many of the Espers you come across are inspired not only by the signs of the Zodiac (as the Aries associated Belias is with his ram-like horns), but also the Big Bads of former Final Fantasys. Chaos is obviously from Final Fantasy, Mateus is inspired by Emporer Mateus of Final Fantasy II, Famfrit the Cloud of Darkness from Final Fantasy III, Zeromus from Final Fantasy IV and Exodus from Exdeath in Final Fantasy V.

    Espers in the standard edition are computer controlled, and use attacks based on circumstances (they have their own set of gambits). In the IZJS, they are player controlled, so you can choose which attacks they resort to (so no more having to turn your character to stone or any of that trite). This is a vast improvement over the standard edition.

    Still, the Espers seem to serve very little practical purpose. In Final Fantasy X, the Aeons made nice Meat Shields when fighting something ferocious, like a Malboro. Here, at least in the standard edition, they spend such little time in battle before they disappear it seems like a waste of time to use them, when there are spells and abilities that your characters can use even more efficiently.

    There are a ton of Magic spells in this game, classified under Green, White, Time, Black, and Arcane (many spells are reclassified in the IZJS). In spite of all these different type, it’s still incomplete (only two air spells and one water spell, while there’s no earth spells). Also, a handful of spells are truly useful (Brave, Faith, Haste, Decoy, Curaga, etc.).

    For the non-magic abilities (Technicks), there are plenty, but again, only so many will be used. Steal can be useful (works pretty well), Libra is good, and Telekinesis (which turns your melee weapon into a range attack) are probably the most helpful. 1000 Needles, Shades of Black (random Black Magic spell at no MP cost) and Souleater will find some use. The “break” abilities (Shear, Wither, Addle and Expose) are more useful in the IZJS, as they can be used against bosses (another change to balance the game).

    Overall, this game is a blast to play. The story is intriguing, the characters are cool (even Vaan, to some extent), and the gameplay, once you get used to it, is really smooth. The different races add a nice variety, as the non-essential Humes seem to all look alike anyway. The enemies range from fearsome to fun, which is nice. The abilities are cool, when useful.

    All in all, this is a very story-driven game. It’s also very political, so take that in mind. The characters might not develop really deep relationships, nor do they evolve a great deal. But for what they do, it fits perfectly with the story. Gameplay, there’s a lot of exploring, even if the whole world isn’t available. It’s really a fun game, with moments of levity and offers something different from “Let’s save the world from Chaos”. I would Highly Recommend Final Fantasy XII.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Final Fantasy XII 9th Anniversary Review II: The Empire Strikes Back started by Colonel Angus View original post
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Sephex's Avatar
      Sephex -
      [feeling of being old intensifies]
    1. Colonel Angus's Avatar
      Colonel Angus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sephex View Post
      [feeling of being old intensifies]
      Attachment 65911
    1. Formalhaut's Avatar
      Formalhaut -
      I remember a Final Fantasy XII T.V advert actually. Gosh, that was long ago. A Final Fantasy game getting T.V coverage, goodness.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      I remember all that pre-release footage and how exciting and mysterious it all was... Oh my God, how long it's been...
    1. Ayen's Avatar
      Ayen -
      All of you shaddup! I can still remember when FFVII was brand new. YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT OLD IS!

      inb4 ppl who remember when Final Fantasy 1 was new.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      No but I like literally remember being offended by the battle system.
    1. FinalxxSin's Avatar
      FinalxxSin -
      I'm waiting on the remaster for this title to come out. I'd like to take a shot at the 5 judges in the International version that I am hoping gets remastered, since I didn't in the NA version.
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