This may be a biased review because I loved the original game. LOVED. Practically wore out the disc. Very underrated, but still sold well in the U.S when it initially came out. What made this Final Fantasy different from the past ones was the battle system. But this game was always seen as the odd duck in the Final Fantasy franchise because it was something different. Final Fantasy 12 (excluding Final Fantasy XI) was the first FF that didn’t have random encounters. It introduced the Active Dimension System where battles happened in real time. A battle was initiated by being in the sight lines of an enemy and the player could choose to fight or flee. This choice gave players a bit more freedom than other FF games.
Along with this new battle system was the overall growth system. This FF game forced you to level up your whole party instead of having just three characters you always used. Mind you, even though they didn’t level up, characters still obtained License Points while not being in the immediate party. The original PS2 game introduced the License Board which allowed players to choose literally whatever weapon, armor and accessory you wanted. So if a character was introduced as an archer, you could have them use maces, polearms or guns as long as you had the license for it. The international version did away with the license board that everyone could use. Instead opting for a license board that allows you to choose a class for your character which forces you to focus on one.
I thought I wouldn’t like the new license board system because the original allowed me to really buy whatever license I wanted so I could give Vaan polearms or make Penelo a tank. This license board makes you plan out the path of your characters while still kind of doing what you want. At the beginning you choose one license board to kind of go through and play with, but after you fight your first Esper, you gain access to a second license board. This opens up a whole new avenue for you. But once you choose your class, you cannot change your selection so choose wisely. The real time battle system was and is amazing. You now see evidence of this in other FF games (Final Fantasy XV anyone?). I loved being able to see a monster and deciding not to fight it either because I’m low on potions or I really have to pee.
The level of nostalgia this game brings me is unreal. Replaying scenes and dungeons in HD is oh so very wonderful and fulfilling. Story wise, this is the exact same as the original game but now you have the option to skip some scenes (nah bruh, full play-through for me). Visually, this is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played in a while. Yes, it still has PS2-isms but even on that system, this particular FF was visually stunning. The cut-scenes were filled with wide-angle views and smoother transitions. Yes you can still notice that this is a PS2 port but it was beautiful on PS2 and even better on PS4
I most likely will be doing multiple play-throughs because it is one of my favorite series and because I want to build the best party to partake in the Trial Mode.
This is a bonus mode only found in this version of FF12. Trial mode uses the save data from the game and loads it into the trial. So if you have a guest with you when you save, they will also be loaded into the trial with you. There are 100 stages within Trial mode. After completing every 10th stage, you can save and receive a reward. The gil and items you steal in trial mode will carry over into the main game (I’ve seen it said in forums, but haven’t done it myself yet) so you may be able to get strong items and money to use for the main story.
Revisiting this series reminded me that I really couldn’t stand Vaan. Like I mentioned before, the new look license board sort of forces you to really think about your characters stats and the role you expect them to have further in the game. But I’m not going into that. Revisiting these characters has allowed me to really notice how these characters developed through the game. Let’s take Vaan for instance. He’s a brat at the beginning of the game and a little less of a brat throughout the game. Vaan’s childhood friend Penelo grows a lot more than he does and does become more useful in game (finally!). Balthier is basically my spirit animal. Fran is my prototypical future bae, Ashe is basically my best friend and Basch is…well Basch. These characters aren’t as complex as some from other FF series. Throughout the game you see them at their lowest and highest which really connects you with them. Even the sub characters have a certain depth to them that you have no choice but to appreciate.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age is a wonderful trip down memory road. Especially if you have played the original game on PS2. I never understood and will never understand why this game in particular ruffled so many feathers. Zodiac Age still obtains the mystery and wonder the original had. If you haven’t played the original version, I suggest you play this version, especially if you don’t have a PS2. That’s all I have this time. Be sure to check out the rest of the Crystal Compendium here.
Until next time people, Nerd Out!