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The 2006 PS2 Role-Playing video game

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Unlike any Final Fantasy before it. Yes, that's a good thing.

  • Aug 21, 2009
  • by
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is the approach that many game franchises take. Sure, they’ll make a few changes here and there, but the core game stays the same. Final Fantasy is at the top of that list. Despite producing a slew of quality RPGs, one can’t help but feel a bit of deja vu when playing a new Final Fantasy game. Nevertheless, changing one of the most popular video game series in the world is an extremely risky move. Luckily, Final Fantasy XII keeps all of the components that made the series a success in the first place, but makes sure to differentiate itself enough. The result is possibly the best thing that could have happened to Final Fantasy.

The story has always been a big attention grabber in the Final Fantasy series, and it’s no different in Final Fantasy XII. The plot revolves around the Archadian Empire’s ruthless attempt to take control of Dalmasca, a country in which we meet our main protagonist, Vaan. He is a young boy (but in typical Japanese RPG fashion, resembles a girl) who hates the Empire for taking the life of his brother. Eventually Vaan and his friend, Penelo, are joined by a colorful cast of characters in an effort to free Dalmasca from the reigns of the Archadian Empire. Some of the characters that join Vaan include Basch, a former captain of Dalmasca, now deemed a traitor, a calm and collective sky pirate named Balthier, and his partner Fran, a rabbit-eared woman who should probably wear more clothes than she does. Each character you meet along the way is interesting, and the great dialogue helps develop their personalities. Also, the political plot is intriguing, and the twists and turns along the way do not disappoint.

The biggest change in Final Fantasy XII is its combat system. The game’s predecessors used the turn-based battle system again and again...and again. You know the drill; you walk around in some dungeon, and out of nowhere enemies pop up. Despite each group wanting the other dead, everyone decides to play “fair”. This time around, there is no difference between exploring the game world and fighting off enemies. The two integrate seamlessly, as you’ll see your foes on screen, reminiscent of an action adventure game rather than an RPG. That’s right, NO MORE RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. Rejoice!

Another new edition to the gameplay is the gambit system. Obviously you can only control one character at a time, but you can tell other members of your party what to do with the gambit system. Basically, you prioritize what your other characters will do in battle. For example, you can assign one of your allies to battle an enemy until another character’s health lowers below 50%. At that point, they must heal that character. Over time, you’ll have a wide array of combinations available from gaining new gambits. When first starting the game, the system can be a bit complex and confusing, but it proves very useful throughout the game. You’re not limited to just the gambit system though. At any time during battle, you can jump in and give orders to your party members. All of this gives a strategic element to the game, which is a nice change of pace from conventional RPGs.

There’s a second new system introduced in the game, called the license system. With every enemy you take down, not only do you get experience and money, but you receive license points as well. You must use those points on the license board to acquire every single ability, spell, weapon, and so on. The system is somewhat similar to Scrabble in that you can only get licenses next to ones that have already been acquired. Attaining licenses can become tedious though. If you find a cool new piece of armor, you can’t automatically equip it; you have to make sure your character has that license. On the upside though, it does challenge you to work harder and fight more enemies to rack up those license points.

Final Fantasy XII has a distinct and unique art style, one that seems more modern. The various environments are beautifully rendered, from cities full of architectural wonders to barren deserts. The character design is also top notch, including some inventive enemies, especially the bosses. One of the most remarkable aspects of the visuals are the lifelike gestures and facial expressions that your characters make. You can really sense some emotion in their faces, which helps with the story. Best of all are the absolutely gorgeous cutscenes. The game pushes the PS2 to its visual limit, and boy is it worth it.

Equally impressive is the audio. Although not all of the music uses a full orchestral score, the soundtrack still sounds great. Each piece sets the mood perfectly, and the absence of the same battle music over and over is like an answer to a prayer. (Thank you new combat system.) The sound effects are your standard sword slash and such, nothing too special, but the voice acting is excellent. Each voice actor really brings their character to life. The only weak link would probably be Vaan, but he’s certainly better than Tidus from Final Fantasy X. (Who’s idea was it to make Tidus so whiny?) It would have been nice to see the townsfolk fully voiced, but the game still sounds outstanding.

One very appealing thing that RPGs typically offer are their length, and Final Fantasy XII is no exception. The game will probably take most about 50 hours or so to finish, and that’s excluding anything extra. There are many areas to discover, bounty missions, and all kinds of weapons and armor to find. Just know this: if you buy Final Fantasy XII, you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth.

Square Enix made a bold move with Final Fantasy XII, but it was the right one. There’s still a great story and compelling characters like most of its predecessors, but with the new combat system, a step in the right direction was made. Although many classic RPGs are turn-based, they’re mostly a thing of the past now. The Final Fantasy series was wearing thin with it, and a real-time battle system was the perfect remedy. The gambit and license systems are like icing on the cake...a really delicious cake. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new Final Fantasy era, because another installment like this one can’t go wrong.
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August 22, 2009
I enjoy Final Fantasy XII a great deal, although there were some things I wasn't impressed with after a while.  I felt that the story was really good, but soewhere in the middle it really slows down.  But you can't deny those production values, the exquisite writing and the awesome art style.  How'd you feel about Final Fantasy Tactics?  It's made by the same development team.
August 22, 2009
I love Final Fantasy Tactics, it's my favorite strategy RPG and one of my overall favorite games. I easily invested 100+ hours into that game when I first got it, and put in even more when I got the PSP version. One of the things I liked about FFXII is how they tied in the world of Ivalice from Tactics.
August 22, 2009
I still play Final Fantasy Tactics like crazy.  It's probably my favorite Final Fantasy title.  I picked up the PSP version to relive the adventure and still enjoyed it.  My original Playstation copy is scratched up from being played a little too much.  But I really really love.  And I really love the world of Ivalice.
More Final Fantasy XII [PS2] reviews
Quick Tip by . February 22, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
l liked the style and generally games that take place in Ivalice, but with the exception of Balthier I disliked most of the cast, didn't like the battle system. Couldn't continue, never finished it.
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Some interesting play controls and a good story focused on politics and not so much on a silly romance. Good game and was one of the best looking PS2 games.
review by . March 05, 2009
The Final Fantasy series has, over the years, become paramount in the video game industry.  It is a series everyone knows and that almost everyone identifies with.  With Final Fantasy X, the series saw a change.  That change became very well known when Final Fantasy XI went online.  Now Final Fantasy XII adds to the series stepping outside of its roots.  This isn't your typical Final Fantasy.     For years, Hironobu Sakaguchi has been the producer for …
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Anthony ()
Ranked #406
I'm a video game, movie, sports, and music nut. I also enjoy watching TV, reading, and playing golf.
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About this video game


Final Fantasy is a single-player role-playing game released in 2006 by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2.  The twelfth in the series introduced new elements into the game such as, battles occurring without transitions to a separate screens and a system that controls character actions automatically.  The game takes place in Ivalice, where the surrounding kingdoms face the invasion from the empire of Archadia, and the kingdom of Dalmasca is caught in these conflicts.  One Dalmascan, Vaan joins Princess Ashe to fight against the Archadian Empire. 

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ESRB: Teen
Number of Players: 1 Player
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Console: PS2
Genre: RPG
Release Date: October 31, 2006
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