Final Fantasy XII User Review
The story of FFXII follows the tale of Vaan, a lowly slum-dweller with Luke-Skywalker-esque hopes of joining the rebellion against the Archadian Empire. Throughout the 60-plus hour adventure you will learn of a deep conspiracy that extends to the very seat of power in Ivalice. You and your eventual party will travel to a variety of unique and interesting locales in search of the truth.
While the story may not be as complex as that of Final Fantasy Tactics, the writing and voice acting more than makes up for it. The voice cast is exceptional and includes such actors as Nolan North, who has been more recently praised for his work as Nathan Drake, and Gideon Emory, who gives an outstanding performance as the smooth talking Balthier.
The story would not have much of an impact if it were not complemented by a fully fleshed-out world and, thankfully, FFXII places you in an Ivalice that is both mysterious and full of tradition. The amount of lore that went into the game is staggering and while it comes nowhere close to a game like Mass Effect, it holds up well when compared to the best in the RPG genre. Townsfolk will voice their opinions, shopkeepers will promote their products, and members of your party will slowly unveil their motivations.
Just as the story would be diminished without an interesting world, the world would suffer if the visuals were not up to snuff. Once again, FFXII stands among the best the Playstation 2 has to offer. The city of Rabanstre, where you will spend the majority of the game's first few hours, provides stunning vistas, dark alleys, bustling markets, and even a maze-like sewer system. As you progress you will explore sandy beaches, grassy plains dotted with ruins, and futuristic cities that hang among the clouds. When it comes to visuals, FFXII spares no expense. The variety and uniqueness present within each location adds to the game's already remarkable design.
The soundtrack, as mentioned in the intro, has also been a point of contention among critics and fans alike. While the soundtrack lacks the memorable tracks of past entries in the FF series, the soundtrack fits perfectly with the mature, politics-centric theme. Hitoshi Sakimoto, who also composed for FF Tactics, does an admirable job of fitting the music to the game rather than trying to live up to the legacy of Nobuo Uematsu. The soundtrack is one of the few elements of the game, however, that fails to live up to the standards set by the rest of the entries in the main series. Nonetheless, it sets the mood and is never a distraction.
The battle system of Final Fantasy XII is easily the most critiqued aspect of the game, with many claiming that you can simply set it to autopilot and have complete success. This is only partly true. The player is given the ability to set up a command list, similar to(but, in my opinion, significantly better than) Dragon Age Origins. This may work early on in the game and even later it may find success (depending on your level), but the game begs to be played in a hybrid style. You can watch the battle commence and if things begin to go south, you must issue specific actions. While fans of turned based or strategy RPGs might be turned off initially, give it some time and you may be pleasantly surprised at how tactical it really is.
While the game does revolve around exploring dungeons, accepting quests, and hunting monsters, that is certainly not all the game has to offer. You will find yourself meeting quirky characters, discovering secret locations, gathering rare items and weapons, and using the unique license board where you will place ability points for use with specific items, weapons, and skills. Last but not least, who can forget the memorable propoganda-spreading quest, in which you wander the streets fathering support for a certain forgotten hero.
Final Fantasy XII is a polarizing game, as most games in the series are. The game sets aside most of what made the iterations on the PSX so popular, but it does so with a style all its own. It is vast, deep, and unique. I would go so far as to say it is one of the most polished and complete experiences I've ever played. FFXII is, somehow, a forgotten masterpiece that deserves to be remembered.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.