Final Fantasy 12 Is Way Better Than I Remembered

Final Fantasy 12 Is Way Better Than I Remembered
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In 2006, when I first played Final Fantasy XII, I thought it was just fine. In 2017, I realise how silly that was. Final Fantasy XII is not “just fine.” It is tremendous.

For the past week I’ve been playing an early English copy of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, the remastered PS4 version of Square’s PS2 role-playing game. I thought I’d play for an hour or two and then move on to something new, but somehow I’ve racked up close to 20 hours since last Tuesday. It might be the clean start, the new improvements, or the fact that the PS4 doesn’t have a lot of JRPGs like this — whatever it is, I’m hooked.

If you haven’t played Final Fantasy XII, you should know two things. One is that it’s an Ivalice game, which means it looks and feels a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and (especially) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2. There are certain trends to be found in every game by director Yasumi Matsuno, who left FFXII midway through production but whose hands were clearly all over this thing. From the major (a convoluted, Game of Thrones-y plot with lots of politics and backstabbing) to the minor (status effects called Brave and Faith), all of the Matsuno tropes are in here.

The second thing you should know is that Final Fantasy XII‘s core gameplay is like no other role-playing game out there. It’s sort of like an MMORPG, except you control all of the characters. Instead of cycling through a party of three or four heroes and giving them all orders, you can plan things out in advance, using a mechanic called the Gambit System that allows you to put on your programmer’s hat and write some if statements.

You might tell your tank to attack any enemy she sees, or tell your healer to cast Cura on any character whose hit points fall below 40%. You can experiment with these Gambits in creative ways. The more abilities your characters get, the more fun it is to try to transform them into an automated death squad.

If you have played Final Fantasy XII before, you should know that the PS4 remaster’s new features are essential improvements. The Zodiac Age has a new trial mode, auto-save, and a fast forward button that makes it way easier to navigate FFXII’s massive world (and makes the game’s monster hunting sidequests far more fun). It’s also got the top-notch job system from the International release of Final Fantasy XII, which never came out in the west, and you will no doubt be pleased to hear that you no longer have to worry about missing the Zodiac Spear because you opened the wrong chests.

Also, Square has overhauled the (lovely) visuals and re-recorded the (stellar) soundtrack. This is a legitimately great remaster.

Just everything about Final Fantasy XII is clicking for me. The Zodiac Age comes out Tuesday (July 11), and we’ll have more on the game closer to then.


  • For me this is where the series died. I hated that all the characters had the exact same abilities and didn’t get unique legendary weapons, MMORPG combat is terrible so I automated it with the gambit system but that just led to boredom. If a boss fight is completely able to be automated then its not a very good boss fight.

    Once you can easily auto fight your way through the entire game you wonder why you are even bothering. I don’t have any fond memories of challenging fights or interesting locations like I did with the previous games in the series.

    • You’re entitled to be wrong.

      All ff games involve doing the same thing over and over. This just cut out the RSI from doing the same menu movements over and over.

      The complexity of some of the orders was pretty amazing. You could order specific item uses on specific status effects, health values, mana values, enemy resistance types.

      Anyone complainng about the combat must have hated all the previous games combat then. JRPGs are all about the grind. The core mechanic is doing the same shit over and over.

      • You’re entitled to be wrong.


        The complexity of some of the orders was pretty amazing. You could order specific item uses on specific status effects, health values, mana values, enemy resistance types.

        I know that the system was very customizable, I’m just saying that after programming my gambits I didn’t need to use my brain for the rest of the game.

        I remember the last castle in FF8 being very difficult and I remember the last part of FF12 being an absolute cake walk like the rest of the game before it. All the character also felt very similar because they didn’t have unique abilities or legendary weapons.

  • The story was a massive disappointment, got to beat the empire because…?

    The last boss is a guy who suddenly becomes evil for no reason.

    I remember being so excited for this to come out too

    • Technically we are defeating the empire by “cutting off the head” Vayne and Cid are both pawns of Venat, the Occuria who Cid is always muttering to. The Occuria themselves are pretty much time lords/gods, dabbling in steering history for their own ends.

      Venat manipulates Cid and Vayne into releasing the power of the nethecite because doing so draws power away from the other Occuria that Venat defected from at some point in the past, he is basically a Prometheus character trying to work for the humans of the world by granting them the ability to harness the power of Nethecite in order to free themselves from the influence of the other Occuria and Cid’s Deifacted Nethecite is part of this arrangement.

      The fight against the Unforgiven is where Venat sacrifices his power to Vayne as he has pretty much finished what he set out to do, with the sun cryst destroyed the Occuria lose their influence over humanity. The Unforgiven is simply Vayne, who doesn’t like the idea of being deposed with the power of a god, or Occuria who serve as gods in this iteration of the world.

    • Wow, you literally paid no attention to the story at all and you want to criticise it?

  • I understand the distaste for this entry in the series. It was a major departure from what a lot of people expected a console FF game to be. There were also technical issues present in that is simply wasn’t a game that the PS2 could handle at the time. Queuing of spells between enemies and players made for some frustrating encounters.

    My personal (and really only) gripe, was that the 2 characters you are introduced to when you start the game proper, Penello and Vaan, could straight up not have been in the game and the story would have progressed mostly the same way it did.

    Those issues aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and rank it pretty highly in the series, it’s story particularly was a high point for me but I like political drama.

    For those who haven’t played this one in quite some time or those who are new to it, I really recommend spending a bit of time early on doing a bit of grinding, it doesn’t need to be a great deal but enough to get a few levels ahead of the current content you are progressing through, some of the later fights and general enemies can be bothersome if you don’t have a head start.

  • Very much looking forward to this when it comes out. The gambit system sounds a bit like the first Dragon Age where you could pre-program your party members actions? I just need to find the time for it, what with ESO Morrowind, Elite and and every growing pile of shame …

    • Kind of, It’s pretty much a system where you give characters basic if/then statements to control their actions. You also “don’t” need to use it though spending time with it definitely improves the game. You start out with a pretty basic kit of things to pick from:
      IF health% < 50 then cast selected spell
      IF enemy debuff = oil then cast fire spell
      IF combat then attack nearest, attack <> controlled member’s target, same target as controlled member
      and so on.

      As you play through the game and unlock new spells and abilities the things you can program your party members to do increases.

  • While FFXII is a damn solid game.

    The gambit system is technically not really unique. Other games at the time like Tales of the Abyss (Or any Tales game past Symphonia) also had adjustable and controllable AI allies and while you didn’t have certain conditions, you were largely able to control your characters effectively in those games as well.

    I personally did not really like gambits at first, as you were gimped behind unlocking them in order to actually do specific strategies.

    That being said, I’m really looking forward to giving FFXII another shot, now that I’m a bit older I’ll appreciate it more I hope.

  • Combat was too much the same as walking around and the story was completely uninspired. I finished the game waiting for it to get to the good part and all I remember happening was find a rock, lose a rock, find a sword, defeat a judge and wait, that was it?

  • I’ve been having a lot of fun with this one, i’m hoping to do all the hunts then the final area so probably another 20-30 hours of play left!

    It felt incredibly boring to watch but playing it is a lot more fun, especially when you can buy a cheap pre-owned copy and emulate it =)

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