When the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster was released for both PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4, many fans were surprised just how well the game had aged, and it left a lot of gamers hoping that Final Fantasy XII would eventually get the same treatment. It wasn't long before fans prayers were answered when Square Enix announced just over a year ago that Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age would be coming to the PlayStation 4.
Surprisingly, despite the demand for the high definition remaster, upon its original release Final Fantasy XII became one of the most divisive titles in the series. Reviews for the game were fantastic but there were many fans who weren’t ready for the politically charged storyline, or they just couldn’t get over watching the story unfold through the eyes of Final Fantasy’s answer to Aladdin in Vaan.
Whatever your stance was on the game back in 2006, it is fair to say that not only has Final Fantasy XII aged well, but it was also way ahead of its time. Additionally, the improvements to the gameplay and the mechanics in this new remaster only help the game solidify its place as one of the best games in the mainline series, thus making The Zodiac Age the absolute definitive version to own.
However, there’s still some issues no matter how minor that hold this classic title back from being a perfect game. Here are 8 of the best and 7 worst things about Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age.
15 Best: The Ensemble Cast
One of the things that upset a lot of fans when Final Fantasy XII was first released was the misconception that because you’re playing as Vaan, and seeing the story unfold through his eyes, he's the main character.
What many didn’t realize is that instead of the story focusing on one hero it focused on the entire cast, and Vaan served as a window into the lives and the political intrigue that surrounded these characters. Vaan was a character of humble beginnings caught up in a web of deceit and power plays, that he struggled to come to terms with, and in that sense, he served his purpose well. The real focus is the ensemble cast, all of which have important roles to play and does a fantastic job of fleshing out the fantastically intricate and mature world that is Ivalice.
14 Worst: Early Stages May Be Intimidating For New Players
Final Fantasy XII’s intricate battle system is something that many players the first time round found quite daunting when they were expecting another turn-based battle system similar to the previous titles in the mainline series. As a result, many gamers 11 years ago didn’t have the patience to see it through. Gamers new to the series or perhaps those who started with Final Fantasy XV which adopted a more action orientated if somewhat simplistic approach in comparison, may find themselves baffled by the Gambit system, the License boards, and Job systems. It's a lot to take in, and Square could have improved the UI for newcomers.
13 Best: Incredible And In-depth Battle
Those willing to invest the time and patience to get to grips with Final Fantasy XII’s combat system will be rewarded with one of the series most unique and interesting systems the series has to offer. The Gambit system forces the player to become a battle general or even a programmer of sorts that can design how each party member works together in battle. This may sound extremely daunting to some players new to Final Fantasy XII’s mechanics, but it’s surprisingly masterful in its simplicity.
Each character can be preprogrammed to capitalize on an enemies vulnerabilities, making sure members of the party’s health stay above 20 percent, replenish their MP and so much. As you work your way through the license board, more Gambit commands for each character will be unlocked, allowing you to prepare for every challenge and eventuality the game throws at you.
12 Worst: PS4 Pro Support
Those looking for a substantial amount of visual options and upgrades on the PS4 Pro may find themselves slightly disappointed. When you consider that the original PlayStation 2 version of Final Fantasy XII ran at a resolution of 512x448 the increase of 9 times the pixel count for base PlayStation 4 users and 16 times more on the PlayStation 4 Pro it’s a significant boost to an 11-year-old games visuals.
However, despite this increase, the PS4 Pro can still only achieve 1440p output resolution, which is a disappointment when the Kingdom Hearts remasters achieved a native 4K resolution on the Pro and ran at 60 frames per second on both machines. It’s disappointing then that Final Fantasy XII is locked at 30fps on the PS4 and PS4 Pro. Additionally, the Pro’s Boost Mode doesn’t seem to make a difference to performance either, and there’s no benefit of an HDR option on either machine.
11 Best: The Presentation
Final Fantasy XII's fantastic art style stands up well to the test of time. Despite the lack of true PS4 Pro support (yet), both consoles deliver a massive upgrade to the visual experience over the original.
Players will notice an obvious boost the textures, and improvements to the finer details in character’s outfits and armor sets. Everything just sort of pops and looks exactly like it should due to the use of bump-mapping giving surfaces a more 3D look and appearance where it may have looked flat in the past. Even though Final Fantasy XII still looked good at the end of the PS2’s life cycle, you have to assume now that the remaster looks much closer to the developer's original vision. Finally, special mention should go to the game's remastered orchestrated soundtrack which sounds absolutely incredible and really adds the epic feel of the game.
10 Worst: Cutscenes Haven't Been Substantially Improved
Although the in-game visuals have been beautifully remastered in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age the upgrades don’t always look like they’ve transferred over into the game’s many cutscenes. Facial details tend to look a bit soft in comparison to the sharp details found in the Kingdom Hearts remasters on the PlayStation 4, and even the cutscenes found Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster — which runs very similarly to FFXII: Zodiac Age — look sharper than those found in this remaster.
The aspect ratio in the cutscenes can also suffer noticeably, and letterboxing is used as a crutch. In addition, the cutscenes suffer from obvious lip-synch problems during many pieces of the voiced dialogue.
9 Best: Fast Forwarding Grinding
Final Fantasy XII has always been a huge game by any standards, even in the early opening stages, the game forces you to play through a seemingly endless amount of back to back dungeons. The intention was to give the player a substantial amount of time to work through and get used to the game's many intricacies and details. This is all well and good, but after some time the game can feel like a bit of a time-consuming slog to work through – enter the Fast Forward mode.
The Fast Forward option allows players to increase the speed of the game by x2 or x4 in the options menu. For those who just want a quick way of grinding through battles, or traverse some of more vast areas in the game can simply get on with enjoying the story.
8 Worst: No Fast Travel
The Fast Travel option in Final Fantasy XII is an absolutely brilliant feature that completely addresses the issue fans had with the majority of the games wandering and searching. As mentioned previously this is an absolutely huge game even compared to some of the technologically brilliant open world games that are available today.
So for some players used to the benefits of a fast travel option in modern games may find that working through one huge location just to get to next one a chore fast-forward feature or not. Such a feature could get patched in at a later date, but true enjoyment of Final Fantasy XII has always come from appreciating its vast world.
7 Best: You Can Now Assign Two Jobs
The characters in Final Fantasy XII grow stronger and more skillful by unlocking nodes on the License Board by gaining License Points from defeated enemies on the battlefield. Despite being quite intuitive in the original game, the board was considered quite messy and confusing in its execution where many of the characters could wind up too similar to one another. Thankfully this has been remedied through the implementation of the improved Zodiac Job System.
You can now equip two job classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but with the right choices, you can create an unstoppable team of varied warriors. If you want to make Penelo a Monk and an Archer, so she can be proficient in close and mid range attacks, you can. Or, you could make Balthier a Machinist and a Black Mage, the choice is entirely down to the player. These new options make a huge difference to the gameplay on almost every level.
6 Worst: No Respec Features
One of the downsides of the choosing your job classes in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is once you make your choices there is absolutely no going back, so beyond restarting the game from scratch every decision you make is final. Making the right choices going forward requires a lot of thought and demands a great deal of patience, especially from those who are used to playing modern RPGs that allow you to respec your character at any point during the game. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age offers no such luxury, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself deliberating all day and night over who should do what job.
5 Best: Voice Acting
A great addition to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is the choice between both Japanese and English voice acting. The Japanese voice option is great for anime and Japanese-styled gaming purists, but we’re going to focus on the fantastic English voice acting here.
The voice acting in Final Fantasy XII has always been unique compared to the rest of the series. Many of the characters are portrayed in a theatrical and medieval style that you would usually find in the likes of a Ridley Scott epic or even a stage play. It's that good —arguably the best in the entire series. Every line of dialogue is spoken with passion and vigor and truly helps draw you into the gripping story.
4 Worst: Hunts And Clients (Still) Aren't Marked On The Map
The best way to earn License Points, gil, and special items in Final Fantasy XII is much the same as the way experience points are earned Final Fantasy XV, and that’s through performing monster hunts for clients. The majority of the game's side quests, optional bosses, and Espers are found by working through the game's many hunts. With that in mind, you will be required to do a lot of exploring and a lot of backtracking through your adventures in Ivalice.
So it is something of an oversight when you consider that both the clients and the hunts aren’t marked on the map even after you’ve acquired the information regarding a creature's whereabouts. The lack of a marker can make these hunts incredibly tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming.
3 Best: The World Of Ivalice
The world of Ivalice is probably one of the most well-developed worlds in the Final Fantasy universe. The 'Ivalice Alliance' has spanned several games in the series, most notably, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Vagrant Story, and of course Final Fantasy XII. The game world is also praised for its diverse creatures and races that help bring its world to life, giving Final Fantasy XII that Star Wars feeling that it became known for. Ivalice is home to such races like the Nu Mou, The Bangaa, The Viera, The Garif and so much more, each with an incredible amount depth and history.
Final Fantasy XII further helped to bring the world of Ivalice to life, and everything in the game felt relevant to the world it resided in. The beautiful architecture, the varied lands, and terrain have all been so lovingly created that this was a game intended to be experienced rather than played.
2 Worst: The Great Crystal Area Is (Still) Flawed
As mentioned, the world of Final Fantasy XII is vast and exploring it can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned of gamers. Finding where to go or making sure you aren’t running around circles was helped slightly by the minimap, but the new addition of the smooth overlay map almost completely fixes this issue. It helps gamers save of a lot of potentially wasted hours wandering around aimlessly. Unfortunately, one of the most notorious, frustrating, and monotonous areas in the game the Great Crystal has never had a true map of the area to help guide players, and The Zodiac Age does nothing rectify this. In a time when gamers can easily search online for the map anyway, it seems a bit silly not include the overlay map for this area after all this time.
1 Best: The Unique Story
With the popularity of the Game of Thrones television series and novels at an all time high, the themes of politically inspired high-fantasy stories are all the rage. As a result, those looking to dive into the world of Final Fantasy XII now may find its deviation away from the tried and tested themes found in previous games of the mainline series a lot more fresh and intriguing than they did in 2006.
In Final Fantasy XII, there’s no coming-of-age style storylines, moody teenagers or soppy romances that take front and center of the game’s narrative. Instead, the storyline here is dark and mature. Instead of one or two characters getting all the screen time, it tells a tale where nearly every character plays an important part in the narrative. Interestingly and similar to the GoT series, even the villain's motives are never as black and white as what many fans have seen in previous titles.