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Final Fantasy XII (PlayStation 2) artwork

Final Fantasy XII (PlayStation 2) review

"Progression is a simple concept, I thought. You give me money for every hour of work I put into your company and eventually, there may come a day when you decide to give me more money. . . for whatever reason. "

Progression is a simple concept, I thought. You give me money for every hour of work I put into your company and eventually, there may come a day when you decide to give me more money. . . for whatever reason.

When SquareEnix is your boss, they may decide to swap out that crisp paycheck for a few pieces of bread and butter, tell you that it's 'the way of the future!' or 'all the rage!'. None of their choices in the past have been quite as bad, but with Final Fantasy XII, they've come awfully close.

The main cast of individuals don’t ever offer up much information about their past and with this twelfth entry in the series, the standard formula for character centered, exceedingly melodramatic romance and strife has been all but entirely obliterated. There may be a certain charm there with the spotlight focused on the grander scheme of the plot, in what amounts to something very similar to Star Wars - but the ax has also been given to character personalities as a whole.

This neglect in party development gets so bad, that after the first hours, it’s as if certain members of your party have developed a rare throat cancer that someone casts a ‘Haste’ spell on. It's true that Square(Enix) has generally improved upon the protagonists' physical design, simply by coordinating them with non-important NPC design to make them more realistic, but you’ll seldom ever hear more than a peep from them a few at a time. At several points along the track, I had to ask myself, ‘Hasn’t it been a while since they said anything at all?’. What could have (and should have) been an interesting ensemble of remarkably down-to-earth individuals, barely makes it out alive as a list of names you'll not want to remember.

Final Fantasy XII gives you an unfortunately gaping opportunity to loathe the way the story is developed, as well. Your opening handful of hours are moved along rather flawlessly, in contrast to the rest, but the entirety of things soon begin to crumble under the weight of its own scale. Without going out of my way to spoil it for anybody else, take this for example:

Your task is to get to the city of Giruvegan. Directions? Of course, it's right over there. Past those six sprawling fields filled with color swapped creatures and the random, annoyingly easy to solve puzzle, mini-boss encounter after another. Final Fantasy veterans aren't your average mumbling idiots (?); all of the series' charm of exploration came to an abrupt edge with IX, then fell into said bottomless pit with X's forfeit of the world map system. If I'd wanted to play a Legend of Zelda game, I would have boughten one - as it is, players are given a drab interpretation, that's as unnecessarily large as it is uninspiring.

Hey; smells kind of like. . . MMO?

A good observation and a very accurate description. The governing character creation system is more a reworking of X's 'Sphere Grid' than a fresh idea, made worse now by the fact that character statistic sheets not only begin closer together, but even out at a much faster pace than before. With each person having a meager one or two point difference in attributes and no persona to become attached to, you may as well close your eyes when you're selecting your main team of combatants.

Final Fantasy XII's 'License Board' is a curiously feeble attempt at improvement. You begin the board rooted into one square, able to identify the properties of your direct neighbors only. One piece of the board activated, four unveiled; what about the rest? There are a vast number of abilities to be learned and many more weapon and armor types than previously, but there's this prominent flaw in the system that is able to single-handedly remove the element of free form customization: you can't skip a space. If you're wanting to build a Tank, should you happen to run into a spellcaster ability, you'll either have to go through it or be taxed penalty points for going around the outside.

The manner in which you unlock weapons is more obscure, still. Placement of these tiles makes little to no sense; want 'Guns 3'? Fine, but the game gives you no choice but to acquire the license for two different 'Pole' types. I can't think of a reasonable excuse as to why bows are broken up with axe abilities, or any other of the bizarre, frustrating choices - all of which further contribute to the cast seeming identical by short of mid-game.

Hell, even the most expensive of skills are easy to obtain thanks to bad balance. Enemies generally give no more than two License Points per kill and that value is never adjusted. The game doesn't require or motivate you to waste time and health items fighting matched or higher level foes; the same effect can be achieved by running around one of the game's first areas and defeating things left and right with a single hit. Go back and forth between the same two areas chaining one-hundred and twenty monsters at a time and you can easily have that Whale Whisker or Zodiac Spear you've always wanted.

With no penalty to the farming and power-leveling, two dimensional characters and bland graphical palettes, the only leg that Final Fantasy XII ends up having stand, is the one blessed upon it by the plot. For games that have portrayed the themes of war and civilization so potently before, this one pales in comparison on all accounts.

If you're brave enough to see this one through to the end, you'll pray that at some point - even if you don't pray - you'll be rewarded for your time and money spent.

I've been down that long and lonesome road, my friend. The time and money were wasted.

carcinogen_crush's avatar
Community review by carcinogen_crush (July 16, 2007)

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