November 16, 2006

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Final Fantasy XII, PS2
Square Enix, 2006

Sigh, another great Final Fantasy game, how predictable.

A lot of gamers think that Sony biggest competitor for the PS3 this season is the Nintendo Wii. I’d have to respectfully disagree. Granted the Wii is the console to beat but Sony is really competing with itself. Why should I plunk down $600 for a PS3 when the the best software of the PS2 lifespan is flooding the market. Final Fantasy XII is a “why d’ya keep hitting yourself” schoolyard bully for those who have drained their savings account and lined up all night for the shiny uninspired launch titles of the next Play Station.

FFXII’s sprawling 100-hour story eschews the “spikey-haired guy saves planet from apocalypse by way of big sword swinging and vaguely hippie-ish magic.” Instead, we are treated to a genuine international war between people (well, OK, some of the people are rabbit-eared thingies, but still...), and the conflict centers on political intrigue and double-crossing as opposed to genetically-egineered demons who are summoning a meteor in order to appease their insane mothers (confused? Go play FFVII). We owe thanks for this escape from traditional Japanese plot What The F-ery to the design team of Ogre Battle, Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story (three games which took innovative approaches to this whole RPG thing).

Besides the 98 percent sensible story the most signifigant improvement is in the new battle system and in your character Gambits. Gambits are basically a way to create a primitive AI for each party member allowing it to run combat itself and make sensible decisions. Some people say this takes a bit too much party management out of the game and waters down the RPG experience but you can always turn it off and the Gambits are never sufficient to beat any of the game’s signature boss battles. Frankly, the Gambits are a welcome respite from the drudgery of frequent random encounters that all FF gamers have endured. Less impressive is the Liscense Board which is your character growth system. You spend points earned though fights to unlock squares on the chess-gone-wild board and gain the abilities contained there-in. In effect, this means that properly spent points can give nearly every character every ability in the game. It’s a confusing interface and it doesn’t serve to define you characters as well as Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid did so well.

FFXII earns kudos for elimintaing the bore with active fights, presenting a genuinely intersting story for once and generally looking purdy over the week straight gaming that it takes to complete. An extremely impressive outing from a frnachise that has been teetering on the edge for so long. A
— Glenn Given