Final Fantasy XII was something of a departure from the norm for the Square-Enix series. Gone were many classic main-stays, in favour of several new, shiny features. Naturally, this was met with much furore from the fanboys who liked things just the way they were, with the similar gameplay styles that had been handed down from FFVI to FFX, but is change really such a bad thing? Story:
Set in the land of Ivalice, as featured in the Matsuno-directed FFTactics, FFTactics Advance and Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII starts off with an awesome looking seven minute long FMV, followed by a prologue game section, all setting up the events that shape the world's political layout at the beginning of the game proper.
While the game seems to follow the standard RPG clich� of the main characters fighting against an evil empire, it's actually a rather different animal altogether. To me at least, it's about the perils of power and the danger of corruption for those who seek it. Ashe's desire for revenge over the Archadian Empire's invasion and the loss of both her husband and father, Vayne's quest to free Ivalice from the Occurian puppetmasters, Doctor Cid's thirst for knowledge; all somewhat noble quests for each, but their methods to reach them are what drives the game's plot.
The characters in Final Fantasy XII are generally more developed than previous incarnations of the series. While you can validly claim that Vaan and Penelo have no real purpose in the game, their common-person perspective adds to the world view. They aren't driven by revenge, not seeking some mysterious higher purpose, they're just caught up in the events around them, and it's through these two that Final Fantasy XII truly shows its heart. Certainly, the major world events are shaped by the others in the party, but it's those like Vaan and Penelo who would live with the day-to-day repercussions of such actions, as they already have, both having lost their families in the Archadian invasion.
Another interesting point is the complete and utter lack of a love story within this game. Looking back at the previous four entries into the series, VII had the triangle between Cloud, Tifa and Aeris, VIII had Squall and Rinoa, IX had Zidane and Garnet, X had Tidus and Yuna, all of which were integral to the game's plot. In Final Fantasy XII, the only displays of a romantic type of love are in Ashe's remembrance of her deceased husband, Lord Rasler. For me, I found this to be a refreshing change. Not once have I particularly enjoyed such things in these games, not simply because of their nature, but because they've always been done badly. In foregoing that, FFXII's developers have instead focused on character development and pushed forwards in telling the actual story instead.
However, the plot meanders, and you can easily go twenty hours plus without initiating another cutscene, leaving the story fragmented and sometimes hard to follow. A lot of explanations are left far too late in the game, the final three dungeons (Giruvegan, the Pharos and Sky Fortress Bahamut) being very plot-heavy at points. I have to wonder, is the lack of consistency in FFXII's story-telling due to Matsuno's abrupt departure midway through the project? His previous games have all had incredibly strong stories, and excellent pacing throughout, so I'm left to wonder just where did it all go wrong in Final Fantasy XII.
Where this game does succeed though, is in its excellent creation of the land of Ivalice. While already featured in Matsuno's previous games, it wasn't especially fleshed out until Final Fantasy XII was released. Each area has its own history, each monster an encyclopedia reference, as well as many tales of lore harking back to earlier times in Ivalice's history. While you may claim that Final Fantasy XII is light in certain story areas, that accusation most certainly cannot be levelled at the world you play in. 8.7/10 Music:
Quite probably Final Fantasy XII's weakest component, its score was by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the man who composed the music for every single one of Yasumi Matsuno's games, including his pre-Square-Enix ones. Certainly, the results were odd. I actually quite liked Sakimoto's work in previous games, but with the most recent entry into the Final Fantasy series, it seems like he strongly felt his predecessor, the legendary Nobuo Uematsu, staring over his shoulder the whole time.
Many of the tracks seem like they were heavily influenced by Uematsu, so much so that it took Sakimoto away from his own style, and instead of reaching Uematsu's heights, or even his own, it falls, and fails, somewhere in the between. In-game, the music is fairly decent, playing in the background as you get on with slaying your enemies, but only so far as you can easily ignore it, putting it out of your mind. Listening to the CDs though, it becomes clear that the soundtrack really isn't anything special at all.
The highlight of the soundtrack is most definitely Sakimoto's rearrangement of Uematsu's Clash on the Big Bridge. Still not the distortion guitar-laden version I've been hoping for for years, but a fully orchestrated version of what to this day I still consider Uematsu's greatest work. I just wonder what Uematsu himself would produce if he were to rearrange the track himself...
Ironically, the worst song on the album is the only new one by Nobuo Uematsu, "Kiss Me Good-Bye", with vocals by Angela Aki. Thematically, it doesn't fit with the game in the slightest; musically, it's hardly what we've come to expect from Uematsu, more like something I'd expect for some low-rank J-idol; and lyrically, it's dire, though that can be squarely blamed upon Aki. Her singing isn't terrible, but it's nothing to write home about either. Overall, I just have to wonder what the hell Uematsu was thinking when he wrote this. 7.4/10 Graphics:
I'll admit it, I'm very much an oldbie gamer. I still mostly play SNES and Sega Genesis/Megadrive games, occasionally foraying into the handheld market. As such, I'm not that big a proponent of flashy graphic systems. I like 2D games, I like concentrating on the gameplay rather than the looks, and I don't like being distracted by huge displays on the screen. But despite all of that, I can recognise good modern 3D graphics when I see them, and Final Fantasy XII is an excellent example of that.
The characters and monsters are all beautifully designed, getting their own distinctive characteristics. It's especially noticable in the latter, when you compare different animals from the same species together, seeing the small physical differences that have evolved for each. What really helps as well is the level of attention put into the motion animations. Things actually move realistically, or at least, as realistically as their designs enable them to, i.e. Cockatrices, adding to the base design to help everything seem more lifelike in their representations.
The FMVs, as we've come to expect from Square-Enix, are breathtakingly beautiful. From the wedding parade to the battle at Nalbina in the opening sequence, to the menace of the Dreadnought Leviathan's arrival, and many such excellent clips throughout the game. Still, at times, some of the people look odd, especially Vaan I find. I assume this is down to there being two different types of FMV, though why the difference exists, I'm not quite so sure. The second type of FMV generally shows places and things better than the characters, but is still of a fairly high quality.
My biggest problem with the graphics in Final Fantasy XII stems from the similarity of the area designs within each region. While each region contains its own style, the areas within tend to all look exactly the same, which can lead to the player getting really rather bored just running around, killing things. Admittedly, this is mostly due to the tile-based game engine Square-Enix used, meaning there's a limited set of textures used for decorating areas. Something like the Aurora Engine by Bioware, which allows maps to be designed in 3DS Max and then imported into the engine, would allow for fully designed maps to be created, allowing dungeon designers to really go to town on making areas look as good as they possibly can. It's certainly something I hope to see in the future from S-E with their new Crystal Engine, as well as other game creators. 9.4/10 Battle System:
The biggest change in Final Fantasy XII from its predecessors comes in its battle system. Gone are the random encounters, the bane of many an RPG player, and instead, battle is fully integrated into the general gameplay. As you lead your party across the many regions of Ivalice, you can leap into battle at any time, or seek to avoid as many confrontations as you want by steering them around enemies, or just running away should you so choose.
The Gambit system is another new aspect of combat, allowing the player to program the party members to act in specific ways in reaction to circumstances around them, whether initiating combat with nearby enemies, healing when their HP drops below a certain point, or using items/spells to cure status ailments when inflicted. However, some of the Gambits are buggy in their execution, especially Steal. Should you activate a Steal Gambit, your character will then constantly steal from an enemy, even if you've already successfully stolen and the enemy has nothing left to purloin. There are workarounds for the bugs, but they're inefficient and can be annoying to deal with.
Many people have complained that the system takes away from actually playing the game, enabling the player to only have to steer the party around Ivalice, using Gambits to control everything else. This is in fact true, should you choose to overprogram your characters, but it's far from impossible to create a balance between the Gambits you choose to use, and issuing commands directly to your party members. You can even go so far as to turn off Gambits completely, and rely solely on yourself to speed through the menus and select your commands.
To be able to use your weapons and armour, as well as various types of magick, technicks and whatnot, you must purchase licences for them from the Licence Board, with Licence Points gained by defeating enemies. Similar in ways to FFX's Sphere Grid system, you can plan out your character's development through the purchasing of licences, and build them into a specific type of character, whether a melee tank fighting with sword and shield, an archer using status magicks, or a mage throwing a constant bombardment of attacking spells at range. The Licence Board offers a lot of flexibility, but in that, it also creates its own downfall. It's really not very difficult to get every licence for every character, somewhat defeating the point of the licence board. This was somewhat addressed in Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System, with individual boards for each zodiac sign, tying into a specific job class, but having only been released in Japan, it's not an option for the rest of us.
A big change has been made to the summoning system in Final Fantasy XII. After defeating an Esper, and then earning the licence to use it, a character can summon it in battle to fight alongside him/her, at the expense of the other two party members. Espers have their own hidden Gambits, and will act by themselves, fighting until they're defeated, their summoner is defeated, it's time limit expires, or it pulls off it's ultimate attack.
By and large though, most players will go through the game without ever summoning an Esper, except for the one point in the story when you must. The use of Espers is very tricky, and while they can in actual fact be very useful, many disregard them and dislike them in this game. While they are certainly weaker than their counterparts in previous games, they are not useless, and require much care to use effectively. Rather, it's that summons in previous games were overpowered, and here in Final Fantasy XII, Espers are designed to be one facet of battle, not the dominating aspect they have been previously.
The final aspect of battle are the use of Quickenings, Final Fantasy XII's version of Limit Breaks. After storing up enough MP, a character can initiate a Quickening on a single enemy, using either one, two, or even three Mist Charges to attack. The battle then enters a special Quickening mode, where you can cycle through your active party members, each one using their various Quickening levels to attack within the running time-limit. With certain combinations of Quickening levels, you can pull off a special move at the end, known as a Concurrence, to deal extra damage to all enemies within the attack's radius.
While early on in the game, Quickenings are immensely powerful, they somewhat lose their power as the story unfolds, later bosses and especially the higher level Marks being able to take such damage within their stride. That fact, combined with the heavy MP cost that using Quickenings incurs, make them somewhat inefficient at that late stage. Again though, like the Espers, there are ways to make use of them still, and shouldn't be knocked quite so easily.
Combat as a whole in Final Fantasy XII is a breath of fresh air. The system is far more balanced than previously, enabling players to choose their own style in fighting, whether meleeing with buffs and healing, or utilising magic to pick enemies off at distance, to unleashing mystical powers such as Quickenings and summoning Espers. This variety is what makes the battle system in FFXII such a wonder to play with. The only flaw is the somewhat dodgy Gambit system, and even that can be worked around. 10/10 General Gameplay:
Many changes have been made here too, though not as many as to the battle system. Like FFX, almost every area in the game can be reached by travelling on foot through the contiguous regions that make up Ivalice, but the added use of the right analog stick allows the screen to be fully rotated, offering a truely three-dimensional gaming experience.
One change that has caused a furore is the reformation of the currency system. No longer do monsters drop gil for you to idly spend, instead a creature will drop loot more akin to something that it would naturally have. By killing several enemies of the same type in a row, you can build up a Battle Chain, which can increase the amount and quality of loot you get by gaining Battle Chain Levels. This loot in turn can be sold at the various shops around Ivalice in return of gil, and is a key part of the Bazaar system. Selling certain combinations of loot leads to the creation of special items, which the player can then buy, including rare items that can't be found in any other way, such as the Tournesol Greatsword.
This can be rather problematic for the player, since most bazaar recipes are completely unlisted, making it difficult to know just what has to be done to unlock them. Also, gil can be rather hard to come by unless you are constantly stealing from enemies, something that can get rather tiresome, especially with the Steal Gambit bug. On the other hand, it also encourages the player to experiment with what loot they sell, trying to discover just what can be unlocked, adding more depth to a system that's typically rather simple.
An excellent new addition for the game are the Hunts that become available as you progress through the story. Marks, special creatures dotted around Ivalice that are more dangerous than most, have petitions posted against them by concerned citizens, asking for hunters to take them out. Signing up for a hunt and then completing it can reward the player with some very good items, as well as lots of experience and Licence Points. They also far increase the difficulty of the game, some of the later Marks and Elite Marks being incredibly tough to defeat.
The sidequests in general tend to be short and don't really involve massively lengthy fetch quests, so you can do them at pretty much any point in the game without too much hassle. The only really annoying one is the Trophy Rare Game hunts you get from the Hunter's Camp at the Phon Coast, but you can just as easily not do it, since the rewards really aren't that great.
There really isn't anything at all wrong with the general gameplay of Final Fantasy XII, though you could suggest that there's nothing amazingly awesome about it either. Either way, it is honestly fun to play, with lots of different things to do throughout Ivalice, and it simply can't be knocked for that. 9.6/10 Overall:
To be truthful, I've never been a particularly big fan of the Final Fantasy games, instead preferring Square's alternate works, such as Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Vagrant Story. Final Fantasy XII though, has restored my faith in the series. Not only has it revitalised Square-Enix after the departure of Hironobu Sakaguchi, but has also set a standard for all modern JRPG's to come. The innovative battle system is the solid foundation that this game is built upon, with the excellent realisation of the land of Ivalice effortlessly drawing the player in. There are many complaints that others have about this game, but each and everyone of them is either down to just personal preference or pigheadedly ignoring facts to fit how they want to see the game. Final Fantasy XII is an absolute classic, with a legacy that shall surely be felt in role-playing games for years to come. 9.02/10
For those of you who don't want to plough through the whole review, since it's pretty darn long, here's a TL;DR version for you.
| Story: |
The plot meanders at points, and it's a little too concentrated at the end of the game, but it's generally decent. The characters are well developed, and all serve their own purpose in the over-arching story, even Vaan and Penelo. The definite highpoint is the realisation of the land of Ivalice, and the depth there is to the gameworld.
| Music: |
Sakimoto is a good composer, but this is far from his best work. It feels too much like it's trying to mimic Uematsu at times, but not suceeding, and at other times, he tries too hard to make something epic, which isn't really his speciality. Despite all that, the soundtrack isn't too bad, in-game, but by itself, it's a shadow of what it should be. Sakimoto's rearrangement of Clash on the Big Bridge is excellent though, while Uematsu's sole new contribution to the soundtrack, Kiss Me Good-Bye, is an unmitigated piece of crap.
| Graphics: |
The FMVs are as stunning as always, the character designs are really good without falling into Nomura's traps (hate that guy), and the attention to detail in creating the various monsters is outstanding. However, some of the FMVs do look a bit wonky, while dungeons can start to look kind of same-y after a while.
| Battle System: |
Absolutely brilliant. The removal of random encounters is a godsend, Gambits are fun to work with, but can also be ignored should you so choose to, the Licence Board allows for excellent customisation of your characters, Espers aren't completely overpowered and so present a challenge in using effectively, and Quickenings are an excellent new idea, though probably won't ever appear again. The battle system is incredibly balanced, allowing you to fight battles in so many different ways, it's unbelievable.
| General Gameplay: |
The contiguous regions make traversing Ivalice a lot more fun and interesting, while the currency overhaul helps set a more realistic view of the land. The Bazaar system is maybe a bit finicky, but still very cool, while the Hunts are a supremely excellent addition to the game, adding a lot more things to do. The sidequests as a whole are pretty good fun and not especially annoying. There's always plenty to do and it's all very enjoyable doing so.
| Overall: |
An absolute classic, this game is a landmark for all RPGs to aspire to. While the story could have done with tightening up (Matsuno, come back please!), and the music was most definitely a letdown, the nigh-flawless battle system and general gameplay, couched in the excellent graphics really show what's possible in this genre. Here's hoping Nomura doesn't screw Square-Enix into the ground with Final Fantasy XIII, because things are certainly looking up for the Japanese company.
For many, 2006 was an important year. It marked the arrival of what some fans felt to be the first real sequel to the FF series since 2001's Final Fantasy X. Granted Square-Enix gave us both the popular MMO Final Fantasy XI and the series first official game sequel, FFX-2; but many people were waiting for an original offline gaming experience filled with fantastic characters, fresh gameplay, and a memorable story. FFXII, by its own merit, was a game that took everyone by surprise. The Story:
FFXII is a prequel to its creators earlier work Final Fantasy Tactics, and is set in the world of Ivalice in a part of the world known as the Galtean Peninsula where four major powers meet: Rozarria, Archades, Nabradia, and Dalmasca. When the game opens we bear witness to a royal wedding between Princess Ashe of Dalmasca and Lord Rasler of Nabradia. Shortly after their wedding, the Archadian Empire invades and conquers Nabradia. Archades then turns its sights on Dalmasca. Calamity after calamity strikes and Dalmasca falls.
The story picks up two years later in Rabanastre, former captial of Dalmasca, which is now under strict rule by the Archadian Empire. We meet Vaan, the street thief. He dreams of being a Sky Pirate and getting revenge against the empire. Its his escapades into the Royal treasury that leads Vaan into meeting a famous Sky Pirate and his sexy partner, a dethroned princess, a traitor who fights to save what is most important to him and his childhood friend. They battle against Lord Vayne, the eldest son of Emperor Gramis who seeks the nethicite, a type of Magicite that was given to Lady Ashe's ancestor by the gods and allowed him to conquer the quarrling nations and establish a prosperous dynasty.
The storyline, is a bit different from previous FFs, it focuses on the political enviroment of the region as well as the history that surrounds it; as it leads the party to the greater truth about the origins of the nethicite and the Dynast-King. There is a certain level of realism and maturity to the events that transpire and the game focuses more on the events at hand rather than the drama between your party members. The cast itself has a more calm and "professional" attitude and the game hardly focuses on their inner demons like previous installments. There is also a complete lack of a real love story. Though oddly enough the game hints to several pairings.
Its not that their is no real emotion, the game does actually touch upon each of the characters but those hoping for an in-depth character anaylsis like Squall and Cloud had in their stories will be disappointed. Yet, the cast is still just as strong and compelling in their own right. As for the "no love" story, many people agree that it was rather refreshing to finally not have to go with a sappy and generally predictable love story. The lack of what many people feel have been "emotional and downright whiny" characters has also been cited by many as a wonderful surprise. The story revolves around the emotions of Lady Ashe, as she must choose between saving her people or getting revenge on the empire that took everything away from her. Emotion is at the heart of the story itself. The Cast:
Vaan is not the main character... lets get that clear now. XII follows VI and IX's route and features a whole cast that holds relevance to the story. The game also breaks many RPG cliches with its cast of characters. Vaan can easily be lumped into the category of "Young man who journeys to became great and topples the evil empire" but instead, his growth in maturity is subtle throughout the game and he falls into more of an observer role. Lady Ashe is another welcome, surprise. She hardly fits the "meek, motherly, and inner strength" cliche mold that so many different RPG heroines fall into. Lady Ashe is strong willed, always on the front line, and though she has her weak side, she is determined to stay strong throughout. Ashe is truly a role model for woman in the modern age as she is able to be tough and important like the other "leading men" and yet still have a sensitivity and softness too her. Lord Vayne also breaks a few rules as he cannot be defined as evil. In truth his reasonings and actions are downright noble though his methods be a bit "messy". He's an antagonist that constantly shows a softer side of himself, a man that can be reasoned and is generally honorable at times, if a bit misunderstood. Its XII's constant challenging of the RPG formula that makes it truly stand out in the series. Gameplay:
XII is very different from previous installments in the series with the possible exception of its previous numbered relative, FFXI. XII combined JRPG, Western RPGs, and MMO concepts together to make a truly unique and wonderful experience. Strong storytelling and character developement from JRPGs, player empowerment and nonlinear gameplay from Western RPGs, and MMO sensibilities and world design. XII takes X's "seamless world map" and expanded upon it greatly. The game feature open enviroments for your characters to traverse and beatiful landscapes to behold.
First, the scale of XII is unprecedent. Its large enough and holds enough information about its little region of the world to be the equivalent of half the numbered series combined, starting with X and working backwards. The game is massive and detailed and their is a strong emphasis in the game to exploring all of it. The game rarely tells you the most direct way to go and areas are huge and can take hours to traverse when going by foot. Luckily, you can use teleprotation items at special save crystals to move around easier but only after you've been there. There are many places to explore and lots of secrets to uncover. Truly, exploration is half the game in itself. Another thing to remember is that the land is crawling with monsters, XII is the first non-MMO FF to feature no random encounters. The player can see the monsters moving about and engage them as they please or even ignore them entirely. The monsters have a unique set of A.I. as well. Some monsters are friendly, others call for help if threaten and some attack and eat other monsters roaming in the area.
The game introduces a new battle system called Active Dimensional Battle or ADB. Don't be fooled by the title, its still ATB, in fact its an expansion on X-2's MATB (More Active Time Battle system). Battles still have your party being issued commands and waiting for their time gauge to fill before doing their next attack or command. Like X-2 characters no longer wait for each other and will do actions simultaneously. The speed is a bit better and more refined than X-2's as well. So then one must wonder what is different? Free movement. The player can move around the party members in battle to take advantage of terrain or move mages out of range. Yet, if an enemy is out to get you and you are within a enemies "attack range" you can still be hit, even if the attack doesn't physically come into contact with your party member on the screen. So, targeting is still treated like normal FF battles and the movement doesn't give you Action RPG advantages.
Course, battles move fast and movement doesn't sound as useful when you think about all the micromanaging you will have to do in battle. This is where the infamous Gambits come into play. Gambits are conditions you can set up for a character so they perform a specific action under specific conditions. Basically, it could be thought of as a programmable A.I. for your characters. You can set up a character to attack an enemy or use a potion, or cast a spell, or use a certain spell, but the complexity of the Gambits gets greater as the game moves on and you acquire more Gambits.
For Example: In the beginning of the game you get the simple Gambit Attack Closest Enemy. Later, you can expand this to have your party member attack weak enemies or only attack enemies that the party leader is targeting, or have them target big threats like enemies with highest Attack or defensive power. Gambits allow you to not only streamline the micro management of issuing commands but can also be used as a way of creating a pre-emptive strategy for faces bigger threats like Bosses and Marks.
Some worry that the Gambits give too much power and allow the game to basically "play itself" but the bosses and optional Mark Hunts are not so easy to be defeated by a simple A.I. and many require more complex strategies than previous installment bosses. Not to mention, XII has a tendency to throw in a few high level creatures in low level areas so the player must always be vigilant. Bosses and Marks also tend to throw in a few surprises as their health diminishes meaning your Gambit set-up might be more harm than help. The thrill of the combat comes from changing strategies on the fly and trying out new combinations to create better strategies for victory. I feel the best approach is to put Gambits on two characters and issue commands manually from the leader character, switching and changing as the battle flows. Mix up, experiment, and have fun with it.
The games new character customization system is the License Board. In the land of Ivalice where Judges rule and the Law is absolute. People cannot use certain things without the proper license. The License Board is two massive chessboards where players use LP (License Points) to purchase the ability to use equipment, weapons, magic, and other things. Just having the an Iron helm is not good enough, you need to have the Iron helm License to be able to wear the thing into battle. Its sounds really silly at firsy but the borad is set up with certain equipment being grouped together. Heavy armor is to the north of your starting position and light is to a the left of it. Eventually the restrictiveness of the Board gives rise for the player to build mock versions of the classic job classes of previous FFs. Black Mages, Knights, Ninjas and Archers can easily be made through the system.
Weapons and Armor are diverse enough that they drastically change a characters role in battle. One handed swords are balanced, Greatswords do great damage but are slower than 1H-Swords, Katanas don't hit as hard as Greatswords but have a high chance of multi-hitting meaning occasionally do more damage than Greatswords, Guns are slower than most weapons but have better range than Bows and ignore enemy defense... you get the point. Weapons change the characters play style and define their role in battle. It's pretty fun once you get the hang of it.
The battles are quick and fun and the gambits and license board offer great customization and opportunities for strategy. In the end, the battle system has the potential for alot of fun but its based on the players imagination and personal discipline. Its actually quite easy to just build a party of clones who only need simple and basic Gambits to survive. If you ignore the optional content the story only offers a few challenging bits though it may still require a bit of grinding to accomplish. In the end, its up to the player to make it a fun experience. You get more if you put more into it and try to challenge yourself. The system has a very loose structure which allows some people to only put in the minimum effort and others to put their heart and soul into it. Music and Graphics:
Graphically the game is the best looking in the series right now. I don't really believe its debatable to be honest, though it should get special mention about the level of detail that is in everything. The whole world is rendered in 3D so you can actually change the camera around. I say use it cause Ivalice is gorgeous and the amount of detail in the architecture, landscapes, and outfits are truly remarkable.
Music is doen by the Ivalice teams long standing companion Hitoshi Sakimoto who worked on FFT, FFTA, and Vagrant Story before. Sakimoto writes a score that blends in well with the world of Ivalice. His music neither hinders or overwhelms the experience and his music styling once again hit the perfect mood for each scene and dungeon. Some fans will whine though. Sakimoto is not strong with the emphatic tracks that Nobuo created in previous games. XII has many great tracks but most of it lack the memorable "hum along" quality of Nobuo's classic stylings. I feel the soundtracks is superb and it does have a few standout themes but the tracks are hardly linked to any single moment like Nobuo's were. "Esper's Theme", "To Be A Sky Pirate", "The Archadian Empire", and "Struggle for Freedom" are amazing tracks that deserve placement among some of the best FF tracks. Special note goes out to Sakimoto's arrangements of classic Uematsu pieces like Prelude and Final Fantasy Theme in the opening as well as "Battle on the Bridge". Its a great soundtrack but it doesn't have the emotional bond that Nobuo's works.
Nobuo's only contribution is the main vocal theme at the end called "Kiss Me Goodbye" sung by Angela Aki. The song is beautiful and heartfelt, but some argue that its placement in the game is awkward. In a way it feels somewhat misplaced in the game though its possible to link it with the story but it lacks the clarity that previous Vocal tracks had with their respective games. Its still a beautiful piece with a soulful feel. Overall:
The game is pretty damn good in my opinion. It takes alot of elements from MMO's to create a bit more clarity in the world and overall the game sets a new precedence on World Design that I feel was set by Xenogears in 1998. Its move to a more gritty and realistic story gave it sense of maturity that now feels lacking in the series when one looks back on the previous installments. It does have its fair share of hang ups though. Its loose combat/customization system can leave many players confused or just underwhelmed if they don't apply it properly. The game also borrows some of the more obnoxious elements from MMO's, like grinding for hours for rare drops to use as ingredients for the ultimate weapons. Also, treasure chests respawn and their contents are randomized. This leads to unnecessary Treasure chest farming. There are also a few story hang ups at the very end of the game leading to the final boss fight but I seriously wonder how many people notice.
I don't generally believe in ranking a title through a number but most insist so I would give the title a 9 out of 10. One of the best games to come out in years for the genre. It has a few hang-ups but I feel most don't detract from the overall experience. -- Wolf Kanno