Final Fantasy XII Collector's Edition - PS2 - Review

Five years - that is how long the wait has been since the last “true and original” Final Fantasy came out to American shores. Some people might say 'what about Final Fantasy X-2?', but that really isn’t considered true, because it is a sequel off of an existing story. The wait has been very long with screenshots, short movies, trailers, teasers, and even a demo of the new game and all it has to offer but has it been worth the wait? After having the chance to really play this game into the ground I have to say that it was worth the wait and then some.

The world in which you will be spending many hours of your life is called Ivalice. Two years ago the mighty Archadian Empire started war with all of its neighbors to get all the lands under their rule. As time passes small nations start to fall under their mighty military and the kingdom of Dalmasca is one such nation. Two years later in the capital city of Rabanastre the people wait in line to see the new consul from Archadia, and it is here where the story starts.

During the course of the game players will get to take direct control of six characters. The first is Vaan, an orphan who lives on the streets of Rabanastre, who dreams of one day becoming a sky pirate. He hates the Empire because they took the life of his only living relative, his older brother. Penelo is a childhood friend of Vaan and also an orphan, and she spends her time watching after Vaan as well as doing small jobs around the city. Balthier is a sky pirate who likes to think of himself as a noble thief. Fran is a very strong warrior and partner of Balthier. Basch is a knight who was branded as a traitor because he murders the King on the night Dalmasca and Archadia were to sign a peace treaty. The last character is Ashe, who is the last remaining heir to the Dalmascan throne, most people think that she is dead after the invasion of the Empire. With these six people will you be able to over take the Empire? Only time and your skill will tell.

One very unique thing about this game is the gambit system. Many other games have tried to come up with an AI system that works intelligently as a human and have failed, whereas this game succeeds on many counts. Using gambits players can dictate how their party will react in a battle situation. For instance your top-most gambit can be to heal anyone whose health is less then 30 percent, the next option could be to attack the nearest enemy, and so on. There are up to 12 different gambits that you can program and it really helps battles go by really smoothly.

This really makes your life easier since there is another new thing in this game that hasn’t been seen in a long time. In Final Fantasy XII you will no longer get random encounters, you will always see the enemies on the screen. Not only that but there is no battle screen, you see the enemies and then you just starting fighting, that is all. So this makes it a lot easier to level up your characters since you can see your enemies on screen as well as avoid them if your health or magic points are low.

The license board in the game is very similar to the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X but offers a much higher degree of customization. In the sphere grid everyone started at a certain spot in the board and you could freely go wherever you wanted. The license board starts everyone in the same area and you can level up your characters however you seem fit. It can make your characters be anything you want, but as always it is a good idea to make a balanced team where you are in battle. You gain the license points by defeating enemies. Also, before you can use whatever license you have just got you have to buy the skill as well. For instance if you purchased the ability to use cure, you have to go to the magic shop and buy cure in order to use it. The same can be said of everything.

I know you are wondering about summons and limit breaks, and this game has them to. They are listed in various places on the license board. The thing is that only one person will be able to use that summon once you acquire it on the license board. So make sure before you purchase that summon that you will want that person to control to.

When I play an RPG I really like to leave no stone unturned and talk to every NPC as well as check every door. Final Fantasy XII has done something that makes my life easier as well as integrates into the game nicely. Instead of having to talk to everyone, the NPCs that have something to say will have a talk icon above there head. Also anything that is of interest has an exclamation point next to it. While this might sound cheap it really isn’t and helps players out while exploring since there is so much to explore.

The graphics for Final Fantasy XII are something that you really need to see to understand how great this really looks on this aging PlayStation 2 platform. This game really squeezes every ounce of graphical power that the system has and it really shows, as it is one of the best looking games to date on it. Screenshots can’t do this game justice when you see it running live on your television screen because this game looks fantastic.

What makes the game so good looking is its attention to details. The main character models look absolutely fantastic and are very highly detailed from their clothes to everything else on them. The same can be said of the enemies and non-playable characters. Everything has a lot of detail and even various facial animations are noticed while talking or performing certain actions.

Then you have the artwork for all of the levels that you will be visiting. One of the coolest things to me was in the main city you will have to go out and fight some enemies, and it is set in a more desert-like setting. Well sometimes you will go out there and the weather is all fine yet other times there is a huge dust storm that really limits your viewing so it makes it easier to sneak around or even attack enemies. This is the first time that I can recall that a Final Fantasy game has done this and it is a welcomed change as it gives the feeling that the world is not static but a living, breathing world.

This game also gives player full camera control of the game. This means that you will be able to look at any spot in the map to help you get a better idea of where you are going and just stand around and look at the wonder architecture. The only thing that I didn’t like about this is that the controls for it are opposite of what you are used to on camera controls and it will take a while to get adjusted. What makes it worse is that there is no option to change this. While it really isn’t a bad thing by any means it would have been nice to change the option on how to control the camera.

A very impressive thing for this game is even though it is very graphical heavy with tons of details you will not find very long loading times to get to places. Of course when you have to go to new sections you will be met with loading times but it is not long and cumbersome like many other games on the market. Also something that I noticed is that I was never met with any framerate issues which are also really outstanding because at times you can have up to four party members fighting and get attacked by huge bosses or even five or more just regular enemies.

Square-Enix always out-do themselves each time they release a new game with their CGI movies. Like always Final Fantasy XII starts off with a very long, highly detailed, action-based CGI movie that was beyond gorgeous. Then, though out the game, you will be treated with many more movies that you swear look better then the previous ones. It is just outstanding to see all of them as you are playing on and wonder how much better they truly can become.

As always, the soundtrack to Final Fantasy XII is exquisite. The music that you will hear throughout the entire game really fits well with everything in this game’s world from the music you hear in the various towns, dungeons, fields, and more. The sound effects are also very top notch from the gun fire, sword clashing, and even walking around. Last but not least, is the voice acting, while many people still might scoff at having voice for all of the main characters I think that it really fits well with the game and all of the actors did a wonderful job at playing their various characters. While it does stink that you can’t personally rename any of the male characters like in games past, I think that hearing this high quality sound makes up for that.

One thing that the developers do to make the game nice and fun to play is that they always load it with lots of extras to keep help breakup any repetition that you might face in this game. If you look in the game menu you will see that there is a full-featured Bestiary, which contains all the information about the enemies that you fight as where as where they came from. A Sky Pirate’s Den, that contains animated trophies for doing specific feats. Then there an option that shows what bounties you have done thus far and information on them, and much more that will keep you entertained for some time.

The collector’s edition of the game will set you back a few more dollars but it contains some things that many people will like have. First off you will notice that the game case is now tin and heavier feeling as well as cooler looking. Inside the case you will find another disk that contains developer interviews, art gallery, a history of Final Fantasy documentary (that gives details on the games in the series) and even all the trailers released for the game. It is really a nice addition to the game that hardcore fans of the franchise will want to get their hands on.

Final Fantasy XII Collectors Edition is rated teen and contains alcohol references, fantasy violence, mild language, partial nudity, and suggestive themes. It will take 94KB on your memory card for game saves

Review Scoring Details for Final Fantasy XII

Gameplay: 9.7
This game in the series takes a radical change with the gambit system, license board, full camera control, and many other things. The game will keep you on your toes with its very intelligent AI and leave you wanting more.

Graphics: 10
Final Fantasy XII is a game that has the best graphics I have seen for this system to date. That is no exaggeration. Some people might not like the art direction but I think that it is really a nice change of pace and fits really well. The fact that load times are pretty much non existent and I didn’t even notice slow down is a huge plus. The CGI movies were also a wonder to behold.

Sound: 9.8
Just like every other Final Fantasy game before it the music for this game will rock your socks off. While it doesn’t reach the pinnacle as some of the earlier games in the series, it is still one of the best musical soundtracks around. The sound effects and voice acting is also done very nicely.

Difficulty: Medium
To be honest it takes a while to get used to everything that this game has to offer and the difficulty is really high at times, especially when you are lower levels and run into a “rare monster” that you have no chance to defeating. Also the AI in this game is really intelligent from running in packs, trying to escape from a battle if it is losing, as well as other interesting things.

Concept: 9.7
It takes a lot of guts to completely change the entire formula of a well established and beloved series such as this. The developers took on this monumental task and proved that it is a great chance of pace and worth the wait.

Overall: 9.8
It is hard to believe that it took this long to actually get my hands on a new Final Fantasy. This has got to be the longest development cycle for one of Square-Enix crown jewels games, but it was completely worth the wait. If you love RPG’s then this game is a no brainier to pick up. If you love games that have a great story, unbelievable graphics for the PS2, wonderful soundtrack, and a game that is just fun, then pick up this game immediately you will not regret it!

Amazing

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