Title: Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Square Enix
When I was younger, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XII and the size of the game overwhelmed me. Sadly, I never completed the game and it would sit on my shelf for years after. However, returning to the game as an adult proved to be beneficial because I actually understood the game’s political undertones and character growth within its high-volume of events and dialog. It’s a huge game with a lot to offer that I admit I wasn’t ready for.
Now, Square Enix is bringing the series back to new platforms, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One with the release of Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age. Until this release, the game has been exclusive to PlayStation platforms so dedicated console fans can now experience the game for themselves.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is experienced through the eyes of an orphan named Vaan. Following the loss of his brother, his city, Rabanastre, has just been invaded by the Archadian Empire and Dalmascan’s King has signed a treaty for surrender. Being that this is a quick recap, I’d hate to spoil everything that happens during the opening of the game. Anyway, Vaan is more or less a thief who does odd jobs to earn a living, but with the drive to steal from the Empire and give back to the city. While on a mission to steal a treasure, Vaan finds what he came for just as a Sky Pirate Balthier was about to take it. Their fates intertwine and lead them on an adventure larger than they ever imaged.
The theme of fate comes up again and again in Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age as the characters end up running into each other, most of the time after they’ve been captured. It’s interesting to witness how the characters work together, especially because they don’t totally trust one another. However, their bonds grow over the course of the game, which is important as you near the final missions in the game. Vaan is an interesting main protagonist and it’s nice seeing him learn to look up to the other characters and learn things from them over the course of the game. He’s very emotional and impulsive, but that doesn’t seem to hinder his dedication to helping out the people around him and keeping a cool head during important moments.
The tone of the game is kept pretty serious, which is rare for the Final Fantasy serious that usually has a good balance between comical and serious moments. The political themes in the game are kind of hard to follow since it seems that every scene a new high council member is introduced and we can’t forget the group of antagonists which includes five judges appointed by the Empire.
Suffice to say, this game is huge, with a large list of characters that can each be given a deep dive feature of who they are and their backstory. Although the game has so much information to give the player, it does so slowly over the course of the game, which is beneficial, but an additional playthrough wouldn’t hurt to understand everything.
The battle system in the game borrows very much of what was popular around the time the game released (World of Warcraft). The turn-based battle system fans have grown used to is gone and in its place is a real-time system that has players approach enemies on the map and choose an action. During the action choice, time is stopped for players to make a decision but choosing attack will consecutively charge for an attack action throughout the entire battle unless an item or skill is needed.
Using this battle system also means that only one character can be controlled at a time. To make this work, the game introduces a system known as “Gambits”. Here, you can choose how you want your party member to approach combat. Assigning characters when to use items and which skills to use against which enemies are all things that are possible with Gambits. Over time, more Gambit slots will be unlocked and different targets will become available to make this a pretty good system overall that I really don’t have any complaints with. The main thing is that this is a crucial feature in Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age that needs to be understood completely if you wish to get far in this game.
Other features include job classes for each character. This allows characters to learn additional skills and equip additional weapons and armor. Now, this means each player’s experience with the game can potentially be different depending on which job classes they choose for their characters. The system opens up the door for some interesting combinations of job classes, but it requires the player to battle a lot and earn job points to unlock skills and equipment licenses.
Also, this version of the game lets players fast forward during gameplay, which was extremely helpful given the size of the game’s large world. Using the speed up feature doesn’t affect the events or CGI scenes, which I liked. This feature made monster hunts and other side quests less time consuming given that you could easily speed through them.
Being that this is the HD version of the game, I think this game just proves how beautiful Final Fantasy XII was for its time. The game looks absolutely gorgeous in HD and I’d have to say that this has a lot to do with the art direction of the characters who take on a more graphic novel-like design. Furthermore, each city visited in the game feels so alive as you explore the many different areas. The dungeons in the game share this large theme by featuring additional routes and gimmicks that make them all unique.
I’d also like to add that Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age’s soundtrack only features great music. Each song makes it feel like you are on an adventure. Similarly, the audio quality in the game is kept high, I didn’t even mind the time Vaan runs around the city yelling things at citizens to stir up the rumor mill, you know what I’m talking about.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an amazing game that might be best approached by players who are well acquainted with the RPG genre. The game’s story involves some pretty adult themes overall, but it still knows how to have fun at the appropriate times. What Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age does best is how it gives the player the opportunity to go on a huge adventure that evolves over time because of the fate of the main characters. Each character in the game plays a necessary role in what makes this story so good, but the heavy nature of the story might be too much to keep the attention of casual players.
I had a great time running through dungeons and learning more about these characters and the world while commuting in the real world. Playing this game as an adult meant that I have missed out on such a grand adventure as a kid but on the other hand, I don’t think I would have understood it as well. Playing Final Fantasy XII on Nintendo Switch just so happens to be the best way to experience the game if you’re looking for the most accessible version of this definitive release.
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