26 August 2007 | BlackJack_B
Final Fantasy finally returns to glory!
There comes a time in a game series' history that you need to overhaul the game engine. For many years, the Final Fantasy series lived on turn-based random battles. However, that style of RPG no longer is popular among many gamers. Many people such as myself prefer the Grandia/Tales Of Symphonia battle engines where you see the enemies and can choose to engage them. Then the battle becomes a battle royale until one side is dead.
When Square-Enix announced that they were going to bring in a Western RPG-style engine, many people were concerned it would hurt the series. Well, once people tried the demo and the critics praised the game all that changed and the game sold massive numbers.
FFXII is a fitting final bow to PS2 role-playing and gives us a glimpse of what the PS3 or the Wii will offer in the future.
The battle engine here is flawless and is better than any Western RPG. Similar to MMORPGs like Final Fantasy XI, your party wanders the land looking for battles to fight. You see the enemies and you can choose to engage them. You can choose real-time where the fighting occurs while you're choosing to attack or use magic or you can have the game pause when faced with a menu screen. The fights go smoothly and relatively quickly. Instead of collecting Gil, you earn items, weapons, medicine and various trinkets that you can sell for Gil. There's the element of Diablo where you can luck out and gain a special item that is more valuable than normal.
The game's other new feature is the License Board. Characters can only equip weapons, armor and use new magicks (of which there are many kinds such as black, white, green, etc.) if they have the license. As you battle and gain experience you will be able to buy licenses and mold your characters. This is a much simpler way than Final Fantasy X's difficult-to-love Sphere Grid.
The Gambit system, which allows you to micromanage your CPU mates, is very good and offers many different options that you can manipulate. Sometimes it can be annoying to constantly change the features as the situation changes but it allows you to not be surprised by any moves the CPU does.
The graphics are outstanding. The cities and towns you visit are alive and there's much to do. There might be a bit too much backtracking to do in Ivalice but you won't mind admiring the scenery. The music is stellar as always, although I did miss hearing the Final Fantasy victory music; only playing at the end of certain boss battles.
The voice-acting is superb, better than Final Fantasy X's. A lot of British accents. The game is an homage to Star Wars with the various characters and non-humans you will meet up with like the Vieras and the Bangaas. The story is superb and flows smoothly. Like Dragon Quest VIII, it's a simple plot that expands as you go through the game.
Where the game really shines is due to the sheer fun of running around and leveling up. Going out to collect new Espers and taking up Montblanc's Hunts are fun because the trip won't feature tedious random battles. You'll look forward to these battles and getting those main characters like Vaan, Balthier and that sexy Viera Fran to Level 99. And of course, there are tons of secrets.
All in all, this is a tremendous game in the Final Fantasy series and one of the best ever made along with FFVI and FFIX. I hope FFXIII will offer more of the same. Once again, along with Okami, FFXII is a fitting final bow to PS2 RPG gaming. This is how you do it, folks.