Have you tried “World of Warcraft,” but gotten tired dealing with strangers and the hours of work all for one item? Maybe you have decided you like your games to have some actual story to them? Perhaps you are looking for something new?
Final Fantasy XII, the latest game in the epic series by Square-Enix, shows that the Final Fantasy series can keep its traditions and still innovate within their genre.
The game centers around a 17-year-old named Vaan, pronounced like lawn, a pickpocket in the capital of the kingdom of Dalmasca, who gets sucked into the rebellion being led by Ashe, who was the princess of Dalmasca until it was conquered by a neighboring empire.
The story was written by Yasumi Matsuno, the writer and director behind “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Vagrant Story,” two games consistently in critics’ top 10 RPG games lists, and his influence is quite apparent.
The graphics, like all the games in the series, are breathtaking. The movies have a nearly photo-realistic quality to them that makes the characters’ expressions believable. The in-game models don’t go for the same look, instead using textures that make the characters look like a moving colored pencil drawing. The Square-Enix team used just the right touches and managed to give the game a very classy look. Especially impressive is the lip-synching. It’s very difficult to get the lips to move exactly as they do in real life, but this game nailed it.
The voice acting to go along with that lip-synching is also excellent. The voice actors, many of whom have been in previous installments of the series, are all quality actors, giving the exact type of feel needed for each specific character.
The musical score for the game definitely lends it an extremely epic feel. It gets a lot of influence from the movie scores of John Williams.
Some of the battles do get quite epic. From giant turtle-like monsters to “Judges,” the antagonistic dispensers of “justice,” the enemies are impressive in both variety and personality. Some of the most impressive enemies are the Espers, spirits who rebelled against the gods and were cast down to Earth. “Final Fantasy XII” has revived the Active Time Battle system of numerous previous installments, but significant modifications have been made. The new system, dubbed the Active Dimension Battle system, has done away with the traditional style of randomly entering battle and then switching to a separate battle screen. Instead, the new system places the player and the monsters on the same map, allowing you to ambush monsters, be ambushed, or even avoid fights all together.
The game uses the Gambit system to give the A.I. choices for what to do in certain situations. For instance, you can set your healer to make their highest priority to automatically revive fallen party members, but then you can make healing party members the next highest priority before attacking the enemy. It’s a little complex to explain, but works extraordinarily well in practice, letting you take a much more hands off approach than in previous games.
Like in previous games of the series, learning new skills is completely different from its predecessors. Instead of learning skills as characters level up, the player is now given a large board of skills, called licenses, which can be bought using points earned in battle, to make a character whatever you want. Want to make a magic user who wears heavy armor and uses a spear? It may not work as well as a traditional set up.
Playing the story will take at least 40 hours, but if you must acquire every piece of treasure in the game, like me, this game will last at least 70 hours.
The series is heavy on tradition, and this iteration is no exception. One of the bosses uses swords from the main characters of previous Square-Enix games. Little things like this are a nice detail for long time fans.
The complaints I do have about this game are pretty small. Sometimes certain attacks take longer to activate than I would like. Sometimes the camera can move in kind of weird ways. Many of the enemy models are pretty much all the same with color changes. But really, these are nit-picky complaints.
I do not believe perfection is possible, but “Final Fantasy XII” comes as close to perfection as any game can. If you pass up this game you will be missing out on one of, if not the, best game of the year. Don’t miss it.