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Final Fantasy XII

New Final Fantasy, slightly new rules. Ever since the series redefined what role playing games could be with Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation, gamers have flocked to play each and every one. Somehow, though, developer Square Enix keeps us guessing. Final Fantasy VII and VIII mixed sci-fi with fantasy, Final Fantasy IX featured super-deformed ragamuffins instead of troubled teens, FFX added voice acting, FFX-2 marked the series' first direct sequel and the emergence of girl power and FFXI took the series online.

The funny thing is, in many ways, Final Fantasy XII isn't that big of a departure from the series' roots. When you boil it down, it's what you'd expect from a Final Fantasy game: pomp, spectacle, gorgeous graphics (whether you're playing the game or watching a cutscene) and polished gameplay. It also features an interesting cast, an exotic setting, and battles that feature just a dash of timing to keep you on your toes.

Playing the game reveals it reformats ideas introduced to the series over a decade ago. A key element being the fact that hero Vaan (or whoever else might lead the game's adventuring party) tangles with enemies up close. This makes it look like the game discards the traditional FF battle system in favor of all-out action, but it really doesn't. The battles feel much like the games that came before FFX, just with a finer level of control. In the end, the picking-options-off-the-menu combat feels more like the classic games in the series than the massively multiplayer Final Fantasy XI that it superficially resembles.

The combat is also heavily customizable; you can control the actions of your party members as much or as little as you like. You can set your party members to auto-battle, or even choose whether the fights unfold in real time or in a more leisurely paced system in which everyone waits patiently for you to take your turn.

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