If you, like me, fancy a quality chunk of nostalgia with a boring protagonist but added game features to keep it fresh then Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age is the game for you!
If you can overlook that Vaan, your leading man, is about as exciting as a piece of bluetac then I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun trapsing around the world of Ivalice in the typical battle between good and evil. Your squad however does hold some form of a storyline which is strong enough to keep you on your journey without feeling like you’re just doing it for the trophies. Talking of which, this is a nice added bonus from the original game way back when. The remastered version of the highly controversial game in the FF franchise comes with HD graphics, an updated orchestra score and a few other features including new jobs and a speed multiplier to make grinding a thing of the past. Whilst I welcomed the fact that you can speed time up by x2 or x4 with the click of a button, this does make levelling up REALLY easy and thus takes out some of the challenge. This also helps with the Gambit battle style in place which was either greatly applauded or overly criticised. I personally thought it was the best feature of any Final Fantasy game that I’ve played.
Gambits are a huge part of the game and pretty easy to explain. Basic programming language allows you to give your team commands without even having to press any buttons on the controller. Using the example from the picture above, Balthier will attack his nearest visible foe until either he or they are dead. If there is no enemy in range, he will move to his second gambit which means that if any ally in the team has less than 70% HP, he will give them a potion until it’s above this threshold. It’s basic IF, THEN functions which you can edit in several ways to allow your team to fight by themselves without you having to worry too much about dying. In my 3 man team, I have the standard TANK (a character with high HP designed to take most of the damage), a DPS (a character designed to have a really high damage per second) and a HEALER (a character designed to heal players on low health. The 3 basically functions I have for each are to attack the enemy with the lowest HP, attack the foe that the tank is targeting and to heal any ally below 50% HP. In simple terms, I can then speed time up by x4, run around blidnly in a mid level area and pretty much guarantee loads of XP with little fear of wiping. The original game didn’t have the speed multiplier but I did the same thing with just more wasted hours. I’ve been on for 12 hours now with no end in sight so I don’t think it’s a big issue for them to add this feature but it does make me wonder how much time I spent on this game a few years ago.
In true FF fashion, there are a ton of sidequests to keep you playing but the main mentionable is the hunts. In almost every city you visit, you’ll find a hunt board in the local inn/bar. This board features monsters that the locals want dead for reasons you’ll discover. For each hunt, you’ll have to first find the person who posted the notice, kill the beast then go back and confirm its death to the petitioner. Another reason the speed multiplier helps as there is a lot of back and forth here. Each comes with a clue on where to find the beast & petitioner and comes with lots of rewards to boot. The tutorial hunt involved a rogue tomato who you shouldn’t have too much trouble fending off. I like to see him as the Hogger of Final Fantasy XII for all of my WoW fans out there. After this, there will be loads more available to you should you wish to take a break from the main story.
It wouldn’t be an FF game without epic boss battles. So far in my journey, I’ve come across judges (leaders of the imperial army, above), moving walls that try and crush you and powerful Espers which I’ll explain a bit more shortly. I won’t lie, with the grinding for Exp made easy, I haven’t had much trouble at all with these bosses which takes away the fun a little but overall, an RPG in this day and age that lasts more than 20 hours works for me and I can imagine I’ll be here a lot longer.
Espers in FFXII are typically what you’d think of as a summon. A huge Supernatural being that you can have fight alongside you for those hard to beat foes. The catch is that you first have to beat them in battle before they agree to help you out. I can’t remember these much from the original but I’ve only come across Gigas so far which is pretty much Ifrit for all of you who knows your FF summons. I’m hoping there are a lot more to come so I’ll be hunting them down before you know it. Other than the standard attack, you can learn other skills such as magic spells, techniques, and equipment usage when you learn these skills from your license board. It’s just a glorified skill tree with the simple fact that you need a license to use a specific weapon, armour, magic or skill. You may be a white mage but you won’t be able to use esuna until you unlock the license and buy the magic from the shops scattered around Ivalice. You can assign any character any job that you like which means that no one playthrough between you and your friends will be the same. For example, leading man Vaan may be an archer in my game where you may want him to be a time battlemage. In my game he’ll be great at attacking from distance and have high DPS but in yours, he’s there for support to cast haste on your other characters to speed up their actions per second. You can earn license points for your license boards by killing enemies, 1 per kill unless you have a special accessory equipped 😉 This is a great way to shake things up but it’s a standard feature from the original that was the marmite of the RPG world.
Saving the game happens automatically when you move between areas but you also get to save manually whenever you come across a save crystal. Oddly enough, these crystals are actually bigger than you so they aren’t hard to miss. Certain crystals also act as a teleport stone so you can fast travel between, a handy feature way back when but with the speed multiplier, I’d now much rather run between areas getting experience and license points than fast travelling. I’ve also noticed that the loading times are exceptionally fast but this is probably due to it being an old game just remastered to a newer console.
Being my favorite FF in the series, I am again bias to give this game a solid 5 pheonix downs out of 5 but if you have or haven’t played this one before, it’s defo worth a gamble for the nostalgia factor and reminds you how RPGs used to and should still be made. It’s a shame that it’s a PS4 exclusive as I’m sure they would have sold a lot more of it was made available to all. Given its age, I’m sure this would have gone down a treat on the Switch and considering Final Fantasy has a history with Nintendo, I’m really surprised this wasn’t the case.
Get it, love it like a chocobo moogle hybrid and share your comments!
Ciao for now!