Inside Pulse 12

Review: Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

Final Fantasy XII
Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 11/01/2006

Yeah, I know. I’m as shocked as you are that I’m reviewing this. I understand all too well I’m considered Final Fantasy’s biggest detractor. I know Squaresoft loathes me and that my name is considered profanity around their parts. But here’s the thing. I don’t think Square-Enix is the worst publisher of all time. No, that’s Electronic Arts. Square has made some excellent games like the Mana series and Threads of Fate is a title I really enjoy. As well the Enix side has the early Dragon Quest games and Valkyrie Profile. In truth I just feel Square-Enix has made only four quality games in the past in the past decade: ToF, Legend of Mana, Valkyrie Profile, and Final Fantasy Tactics. The latter two games weren’t even developer by Square or Enix, and were instead done by Tri-Ace and Ogre Team respectively. That’s one good game developed by Square every five years. Sorry, but to me that’s an awful track record.

It’s also true that I have a lot of disdain for the FF series, but that’s because I considered them to be the epitome of style over substance; cookie cutter games that have no innovation and some of the worst storylines in all of gaming, covered up with pretty graphics. That doesn’t mean I hate all of them. In fact, it’s been a progression thing. Let’s take a look quickly.

FFI – I love this game! Mix and match teams plus a very good story.
FFII – I really like this game too! Better plot, but not as much customization.
FFIII – This is nice. It’s a step down from the first two as it’s geared a lot more for younger gamers than the original two, but hey! Onion Knights! Still pretty fun.
FFIV – This is kind of boring actually. Pretty trite story and Shining Force, Shadowrun and all the other Genesis RPG’s I was playing at the time blew this away in terms of quality and innovation. Even graphics.
FFV – Yuck. I just could not get into this game. It was late 1992/early 1993 when this came out. By the time I got my hands on it, it offered nothing that couldn’t be found elsewhere. And I was really noticing that Square couldn’t write plots for shit.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest – IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO ENJOY THIS GAME!
FFVI – Oh dear god in heaven, this is the most overrated game ever.
FFVII – I stand corrected.
FFT – Holy crap! This game is awesome! Such an improvement over the last few. It reminds me a lot of Ogre Tacti…oh. That’s why.
FFVIII – HOW DOES ANYONE LIKE THIS GAME? It hurts my brain! MY BRAIN!
FFIX – Dragon Ball Z but with Final Fantasy Characters! Is it possible for Square not to plagiarize plots from something else and then remake them into a third rate version of the original? And this is coming from someone who loathes Dragon Ball!
FFX – Okay, it’s apparent that the series is now geared towards homosexual males and teenage girls who like to write slash fiction.
FFTA – The worst story in the history of all video game RPG’s. Anyone that likes this needs to be tied down and forced to watch Ron Jaffe’s Mazes and Monster for a week straight.
FFX-2 -That this game exists and that people bought it are proof that there is no God. At least no Judeo-Christian God. IA! IA! CTHLHU FHTAGN!
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles – Cute but ultimately a gimmick title with no substance. Enjoyable with 3 other friends. Crap otherwise.
FFXI – Okay, so the game has gone from straight out homoeroticism to just being Furry Fantasy, or Final Fur-asy, which ever works best for you.

So, see? Out of 14 games in the series, I like oh, 4 1-III and FFTA! I haven’t enjoyed a core system of this series since the NES days and I am confounded as to how the games sell. Then I remind myself that people will buy anything they’re told to as long as it’s pretty. That and Square is pretty in your face with most of the gaming journalists about “You will give our game a 9 and you’ll like it.” Ah, corruption. Of course, in all seriousness, I realize it’s a matter of taste and opinion and that tons of people like FF games. That’s totally cool and I can see the appeal. It’s just the things that matter to me most in games Square under-delivers on in the FF series, and they over-deliver on the things I tend not to care about.

So, why am I reviewing this? I blame Bebito Jackson. Below is a post from the actual staff forums we have here at NaTE.

Alexander Lucard. Bunny lover. RPG lover. Pokemobile owner. Porn star. Tight black leather pants wearing goth. While I was reading your Magical Starsign review today, something occurred to me. I’ve never seen you review a Final Fantasy game. And I know why. Because you’ve come out so strongly against the series in the past that you didn’t want to come across as biased. But the thing is. Both you and I have written reviews on games that in our hearts we thought deserved a higher or lower rating, but despite that we gave an honest, unbiased assessment of it.

And I want to see that done for Final Fantasy XII. It’s funny. But out of everyone in the gaming industry, the ONLY person I trust to give me an honest assessment of the game is one of the franchise’s biggest critics. I’m asking as a personal favor to me. Play. And Review. Final Fantasy XII. Do it for the thousands of gamers who will never get an intelligent honest opinion on it from any other source. Do it because you’re the best I know at reviewing RPGs. Do it for the sheer entertainment value for myself. Do me this one favor. Review Final Fantasy XII.

And he was spot on. Of course he was trying to stroke my ego at the same time, but he was right. Plus this game was supposed to be such a massive change from normal FF games, that I thought there might be a glimmer of hope that the series might final have some innovation for the first time well, about the time I started to sprout pubic hair. The entire Kliq joked about it for a day and finally I said, “Okay. Let’s do this. At worse we get a hilariously angry review from me. At best, I’m pleasantly surprised and can bring up my % of FF games ever made I enjoyed up to a whopping 33%.”

The question no of course is, what DID I think of Final Fantasy XII?

Let’s Review

1. Story

All right, I won’t mince words. This game’s story is poorly conceived, has horrible characterization, and appears to have been written by Vince Russo circa WCW 1999. This is a game where even Square has come out in Japan and admitted, ADMITTED that they just threw shit at the wall and added both Penelo and Vaan at the last second and that most of their story and motivation was pulled out of their collective anus. This is why halfway through the game, Vaan, who is supposed to be the main character, is summarily forgotten about and becomes little more than a guy you kill things with. When a company that has for the entirety of its existence steals things from other games (Aeris is a wanna-be Nei from Phantasy Star II, uses Ogre Team to make what is arguably the best FF game ever and then refuses to give them development credit, steal the entire FFVI Aeon engine from the SNES Slayers engine) and refuses to acknowledge any of the crap they pull, this is a pretty big admission. And for Square-Enix, whose FF series has NEVER been know for quality plots, this was akin to saying “Oh man, we can’t even hide this shit this time.” And the funny thing? I respect them more for being honest here than I did before. This is why the upcoming DS game focuses so much on Vaan. It’s an apology of sorts. It’s an apology that Square can make a dump truck full of money off of, but an apology nonetheless.

There’re other issues. The game tries too hard to give you plot twists! In the first five hours you get “You are supposed to care about this character! HA HA! We killed him! Sorry about that. HERE’S the character you’re supposed to care about. SYKE! He’s dead too. Okay, okay. We’re done f*cking with you. HERE’S the real main character. His name is Vaan and we promise we’ll really stick with him until…never mind.”

This is also followed up with “We killed this secondary character. He’s dead. We promise. SWERVE! He’s alive. But this girl? She’s dead. We swear. HA HA! We got you good, you f*cker! Farva’s #1! Farva’s #1!”

If this isn’t bad enough I have two words for you that show why this game’s plot is hobbled together from the worst clichés in RPG’ing: EVIL TWIN.

Oh no, I’m not done yet. There’s more stupidity to come. Have you played The Bard’s Tale?. Remember how the game has the Bard having to kill cellar rats and how he and the narrator have a conversation that this is the stupidest clichés in video game RPG’s and that any game that starts with the main character having to kill dire rats is guaranteed to be shit? GUESS WHAT VAAN IS DOING WHEN YOU FIRST GAIN CONTROL OVER HIM! Oy.

Now added all these things together, it stands to reason that this is quite frankly, the best Final Fantasy plot since the original Tactics. And no, that wasn’t sarcasm. That was deadly serious. That’s how awful the other Final Fantasy games are story and logic wise for me.

I will say that if you attempt to view the game as a two stage work, with a different main character for each half, things do improve. The second half of the game is decently paced and things flesh out a lot better. It makes you wonder why they added the Vaan stuff to begin with and just didn’t keep the entire game focused on, “The Princess and the Pirate” storyline. I guess they couldn’t figure out how to start the damn thing. Or how to make the plot not insulting to my intelligence. Like I always say Square makes their games accessible story-wise to the lowest common denominator. In this case the LCD is people with Down syndrome or having just escaping from the clutches of a coma after a few decades.

Okay, that last sentence was me just purposely being mean here for comic effect. The fact remains that story wise this game doesn’t hold a candle to most of the other titles that came out this year. Magical Starsign is obviously geared towards little kids plot wise and it’s written better than this thing. Its characters are more consistent and developed. Shadow Hearts 3 offers a better plot. Devil Summoner offers a better one and so on. That’s not to say that FFXII is outright putrid in its character development. Square has actually come a long way from their cookie cutter formula. It’s now just merely poor with huge gaps in logic, behaviour patterns, personality, and substance. Squaresoft really needs to focus on the plot of their games as they have the graphics and sound aspects down pat.

If you’re looking for a decent, if not heavily flawed story that even Square admits they f*cked up, you’re in the right place. In spite of the many issues with the game’s plot, contained in this mess are two decently told tales of two would-be main characters and a message of political intrigue and the reality of war and its aftermath. Having a smaller kingdom invaded by a larger one and plays as the insurgence against the occupying forces is not new to RPG’s. However in this day and age, it has some real world allegories and there should be obvious conscious interest to do a comparison and contrast there. The game does a very good job of blurring the black vs. white aspect most countries force upon their citizens in a time of war. Some of the things the side you are allied with do are pretty bad. You know, like REGICIDE. As well, some of the things the “enemy” does are pretty benevolent and you feel sympathy for some of them. Just because you have a bad government in charge doesn’t mean the rank and file are bad themselves. This is an excellent point and kudos to Square-Enix for dabbling with this.

Had the game focused more on this ala FFT for the PS1, they could have really done something amazing here. Instead I’m just happy they managed to take the world of FFTA and give us a story that doesn’t make the majority of gamers want to rip out their internal organs with a melon baller. It’s a decent plot that loses a point or two due to the execution. Still, if Square keeps this up, they’re on their way to finally having a very well thought out and enjoyable story amongst their cash cow’s stable. Will wonders never cease?

Story Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

Hello? It’s Final Fantasy! If there is one thing Squaresoft does right, it’s that they make some of the most beautiful games ever made. I’d have said S-E there but you know, that whole Dragon Quest thing.

The graphics are simply amazing. I love the races from FFTA even if that game made me ill storywise. It’s great to see them here in PS2 glory. The backgrounds and vehicle designs of this game are the real highlight of the visuals, as even dismissing the movie level CGI cut scenes, we are talking some of the best graphics to ever hit the PS2, and even graphics that can be put on par with the PS3 or 360. Even though I dislike a lot of the designs for the monsters in this game, that’s only a matter of aesthetics. They’re all still masterfully done from a technical standpoint.

I will say the only thing keeping the game from getting a perfect score in this section is that FFXII has one noticeable flaw that ended up annoying me about the character designs, Simply put FFXII has Riverdale disease, AKA Betty and Veronica Syndrome. What I mean by this is that all the characters of one race are pretty much the same. The non-human, or Hume, races look exactly the same save for some palette swapping. The humans, male or female have the same exact faces but with different hairdos. You thought the level of androgyny was bad in the previous games? When you can go, “Hey, that’s Vaan but with long hair and boobs” about every human character in the game, you can see why it starts to grate. Square’s talented enough in the visuals that they could have made some minor facial changes.

One minor quibble about the character designs. The armour. What male combatant wears armour that exposes your entire mid-rift in battle. That is neither practical nor sane.

Aside from these things, we’re still looking at one of the best games that has been released on the PS2 in regards to visuals. For my money, I still prefer Shadow Hearts: From the New World for character and monster design, but it’s really a matter of opinion here. Amazing game to behold. Just don’t use the same face for all your homo sapiens next time.

Graphics Rating: 9/10

3. Sound

There’s some pretty good voice acting in the game. There are also a lot of British sounding accents ranging from would-be Posh Londonite to Cockney git. And even better, they used actual Brits! How often does that happen with US games and their “Everyone sounds American” outlook? What makes it even better is that not all of Ivalice has the accent. There’s a very distinct break with one Kingdom containing the myriad of UK accents (I haven’t heard any Welsh that I can recall though) and the other consisting of US accents. This was an excellent touch to help highlight cultural differences between the occupied and the occupiers.

As always, Square-Enix also provides us with a very good orchestral score for their games. There is an excellent range of music, and I even laughed out loud when after a very early battle against some Flan, I was greeted by an updated version of the original victory music from the first Final Fantasy. I know they throw that in with all their games, but due to the more action oriented nature of the game up to that point and no “OMG! HERE IS YOUR WINNINGS” post battle screen as FF game tended to do in the past, the game just went on. Another excellent touch aurally.

The music and voice acting of FFXII is definitely one of its high points. Square has a knack for creating music that fits the current mood of a game perfectly and this only helps to heighten a gamers enjoyment as well as their immersion into it. Unless of course they are deaf.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

My biggest beef with the FF games is not the plot, but how cut and dried the engine was. They were so repetitive, required little thought, and you could just issue the same command over and over again and beat the games without any real sense of accomplishment. It was just “Pick an action from a list. Watch your character take 2-3 steps. Stab. Walk back. Repeat until dead.” It bored the hell out of me. Then add in the 2-5 minute long special attacks and guardian summons, and the games just irritated me like no others. A brain dead baboon could play through them and win as long as you had taught him what the attack button was and how to scroll through conversations. I could never fathom how people could stand characters just standing them doing nothing. Both bad guys and good guys. There was no action, no skill, and often times the cut scenes were interspersed with gameplay that featured more CGI in the summons spells long enough for me to take a whiz and come back before it had finished.

FF Games were the bane of my existence and truly kept me away from most turn based RPG’s from my teenage years until 2000 with Koudelka which mixed action, tactical, and turn based RPG gaming into one game that was a great idea in theory, and I personally enjoyed it a lot, but it met with, at best, mixed reviews. It tried to give all RPG gamers a common ground but really please only a select nice. It’s hard for a lot of people, especially gamers, to wander outside their comfort zone, you know? I personally loved it because I like new things and I especially like it when companies try new engine ideas. So imagine my delight when the king of beating a dead horse decided to shunt their old standby gameplay aside and go in a route that was very much, in idea, as Koudelka. This is of special interest to gaming historians as who made Koudelka and the eventual Shadow Hearts series? Why, ex Square employees sick of making pretty games with bad stories and even worse gameplay. And now Nautilus is in my top five companies of all time. Square following in Nautilus’ footsteps? It was too good to be true.

Much like Nautilus’ first attempt, FFXII does indeed blend together all three versions of video game RPG’s. And much like Nautilus, it does it in a way that is enjoyable and fun, but is flawed enough that proponents of only one particular form of RPG’ing won’t be happy.

Let’s break it down. First up is the action part. The entire game runs in quasi real time. The battle areas are in real time. , but the story won’t get messed up if you run around in the desert for 12 hours straight, nor are there any time limits to speak of. There are no random battles. There are just monsters running around in battle areas you can attack or hopefully sneak past if you’re not strong enough. If they see you, they might attack, they might wait for you to attack or they might chase you if you try to run, thus attracting other monsters that are like “Hey, what’s going on, yo?”

Battles are where the game shift to both tactical and turn based. The Turn based aspects are that the game is by no means an action RPG in combat. There’s no wild button mashing as you would have in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance or Diablo. How often you get to act relates to your speed. Your speed corresponds to an action gauge. You pick an action like quaffing a potion, attacking something or casting a spell. When the bar is full the action happens. Your character can repeat the action (if it is attack) or will then stand around like a ninny waiting for a new action if you did something other than said base attack. I far prefer this new gameplay set up to the old game, and it’s very reminiscent of the first Phantasy Star Online, except in PSO your character isn’t standing around like a ninny waiting to attack. That’s my big quibble with the system. You are still standing around doing nothing. I can understand that for spell casting, but not for normal attacks. It looks silly and takes away from the escapism. Honestly in a fight, will you punch someone then stand around for 30 seconds and punch them again. No. of course not. And when everyone on the screen is standing around waiting for the bar to refill, I find it irksome. The game could have really benefited from a shorter action bar. 90% of my battles ended up being “Shoot with bow. Run while monster tries to catch up to you and you need your bar to fill. Shoot with bow again. Repeat until dead.”

Don’t get me wrong. I really like the new battle system. It’s 100% better than anything done before it in the FF series. I’m just saying it takes away from the immersion when everyone is standing around waiting for their gauges to fill. The game is at its best when you have a full party and there’s half a dozen monsters going at you. You hardly notice the wait because there’s always something to micromanage.

Speaking of micromanaging, that allows for me to make a shift into the tactical RPG aspects. When I bring up tactical RPG’ing in this case I don’t mean Shining Force or Fire Emblem, which is the form Koudelka used. Instead we’re talking more like what you would see in Age of Empires or Goblin Commander, where you are constantly micromanaging your other characters and feeding them commands. You control your main character (which can be whoever you want), but your other characters are controlled by a set of commands known as Gambits. These gambits are basically the AI for your computer controlled partners. These gambits can do everything from “Heal your partner if they drop below 50% of their hit points.” or, “Use Blizzard on the enemy party leader”. You can shuffle the commands in order of preference so that they will do the action list as 1 first, then if it doesn’t need to nor can’t it will shift to the second action. For this reason I always have cure as the first action for my characters because as you won’t need to cure constantly, it’ll automatically default to the second action.

As well, you can interrupt the gambits by issuing single commands. After the interrupt action has occurred, it will go back to the gambits though.

This is fine and I actually enjoy the gambits as god knows the AI of most RPGS where the computer controls your partners (Star Ocean, Marvel: UA, or any of the Tales games) is not very bright. Here you have only yourself to blame if your guys stand around picking their nose. The downside is that the computer enemy AI is still pretty poor and easily predictable action wise.

Finally there’s the skill learning system, which is ripped directly from Digital Devil Saga 2, and that’s okay because it’s a great system! Your characters all have a grid based system. You earn skill points for each kill you make in the game. You can then spend those skill points on skills that are unlocked by your character. Each character has the same skill map but they unlock however you choose to spend points. As you spend points on a skill, whether it be the ability to use a piece of equipment, cast a spell, or add to your stats. Once you have spent points and unlocked a skill for your character, the boxes touching that skill open up and show you what is inside them, allowing you to have the option to unlock them as well when you have enough skill points. This lets the skill system be sort of like a treasure hunt, and you can customize your characters however you want. They can all be the same or you can make each one specialize. For example, I gave all characters White magic 1, so everyone can cast healing spells. I strongly suggest this option. However each character ended up specializing as well. Vaan ended up specializing in bows, with magic armour to protect him from the only real ranged attacks monsters tend to have, and white magic for healing and raising. He basically became a cleric-sniper. Fran on the other hand became a crazy overpowered offensive mage but who also wore heavy armour and carried some powerful melee weapons in case anyone got too close. It’s all up to you.

The ADB system is a great step forward for the FF series. I really enjoyed it, and even though I found a few flaws and definite ways to improve it in the future, it made this the first fun core FF game for me since, wow, since I was a little tot. If Square-Enix can keep this up, they might be able to convert me back to the flock yet.

Unless you know, the next game is based on the Spirits Within movie. Ick.

Control and Gameplay rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Like all FF games, this is a pretty linear one plot wise. There are guild subquests that allow you to have a sense of deviation from the main plot, but in the end the game will force you down the main path. Trust me, I tried. In fact, after you beat the game, there’s no real reason to come back aside from trying to customize your characters differently. Even then there’s no point as you have so many characters to build the first time through, you’ll get to try every combination that matters.

That’s the problem here. You have a fun engine, but a way too linear plot and a poor story that keeps you from wanting to play through again. This kills a lot of the replayability for me. Almost to the point of Adventure game levels. You play this once and there’s nothing a second or third time offers you in return.

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

This is probably the second biggest flaw in the game after the store. This game is just too damn easy. I never had a single character die on me the entire game. Even when I accidentally attacked a monster far too powerful for me. I could just run away into the next section of the map where it could follow, come back, hit it, run, come back, hit it, run, and repeat until the hit points were whittled down. It was kind of odd when I had slain this crazy super mega Cockatrice at level 8 when I wouldn’t get the guild quest to do so for quite some time. Then I was a little like “Hey, wait.”

The computer opponent AI is fundamentally flawed. You can spot patterns in the attacks a mile away and gear your team to hone in on the lapse of strategy on the enemy’s part. At no time was there any challenge, and I feel this could have been improved by tweaking the enemy AI to perhaps counter some of your own characters gambits, or again, to speed up the wait time.

One of the biggest issues balance wise is when your characters get Quickening attacks. Quickenings are your super powerful crazy death dealing attacks. You unlock them in the skills grid and once you do, it becomes almost comical how powerful your guys are, especially when you start to link them. Even a simple example goes to when Vaan and Balthier are in prison and in a pit about to be roughed up. Five seconds in I used the Quickening I had unlocked with Vaan and slaughtered one guard in one hit. Two seconds later, Balthier killed one with a Thunder spell. The point of this battle was to be a fisticuffs experience with no equipment. Oops.

Like I’ve been saying FFXII is a lot of fun, but it’s still fundamentally flawed in regards to any degree of challenge and is still saddled with a poor story. So even though it feels and seems like a new direction, the core is still the Final Fantasy I know and dislike.

Balance Rating: 4/10

7. Originality

There’s a lot here that’s enjoyable. A new battle system for the series for example. But how original is it really? Everyone I’ve talked to says “It feels like Phantasy Star Online” but with bad camera angles and held back by the turn based gauge quantifier. And of course as a Megaten junkie, I instantly recognized the DDS2 skill system. It’s nice to see two quality games have things that were good about both merged into one engine, but that still doesn’t make it highly original.

Still, we have Square trying to beef up their story past the “Emo kid saves the world” cliché. We have an attempt to blend all three types of RPG’s together, and a last ditch attempt to save the FFTA world from being a sink hole of masterful suck.
There are a lot of nice attempts here to get away from the old way of doing things, and I really do appreciate that. Compared to other RPG’s that are FFXII’s contemporaries, this isn’t very innovative or original. Compared to the last half dozen games with an FF title though, it’s pretty damn out of the box and mold breaking.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

I admit it. I really got hooked into the game, and it was all because of the skill grid. If you know me, then you know I love customizing things and solving mysteries. I really liked finding out all the things I could unlock in this game. I thought the battle mode was fun if flawed, and I always liked trying out new weapon types to see how they compared. The bow remains my favorite BTW. The story was acceptable as I knew going in from Square that it wasn’t the best and thus was pleasantly surprised to see it still better than the other games (or maybe I hated it and my evil twin is writing this review. WHO KNOWS?)

That sense of being really hooked by the game faded about 7-8 hours in, as I found the game too easy and the plot started to get on my nerves, but god bless that skill grid for keeping me constantly entertained. “Well I can see the village, but only two more kills and I can unlock that Augment!” And it grew from there “Only 10 kills and I get a Quickening. Whooo!” What can I say? Square found a way to keep me playing when i would otherwise have put the controller down and went for a game I enjoyed more than this, like Pokemon Ranger, which requires a lot more skill and is a lot harder. Yes. Pokemon. Harder. That says something.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

9. Appeal Factor

People, I realize that Square could put whale shit in a box and market it as Final Fantasy 14 and it would still sell millions of copies. This game is going to sell and fanboys will no doubt be emailing me with hate me because I didn’t give this game a 9. Still, the massive change in the battle system may confuse and frighten some of the zealous. “OMG! NOT CHANGE! AIEEEEE!” This is the big hurdle Square needs to over come. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s better to piss off a small part of your fan base in order to bring in a large section of new gamers who enjoy the changes and stayed away because of how consistently outdated the older games were gameplay wise. The backlash against FF games has been growing over the decade and Square has heard and felt the criticism. Let’s hope they continue to improve instead of back pedal.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10.Miscellaneous

The game is an above average RPG. It’s not one I can call good due to the flaws I’ve mentioned over the past dozen pages of commentary. Any RPG with a hastily thrown together plot and lackluster enemy AI doesn’t deserve to be called good. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun though. Above average is still a respectable title to earn. This is a huge step for Square to make regarding the series and I applaud them for doing it. I actually LIKE a Final Fantasy game and that’s a hard admission to make. It’s not going to be a nominee for GOTY or even RPG of the year by anyone here on staff, but we all liked it instead of wanting to burn the game in effigy. Again, this is impressive. With a solid plot and some tweaks to the engine, this game could have earned a 7 or even a 7.5. Considering only one game this year from me has gotten higher than a 7.5, that’s a big compliment from me.

Now if only this improvement hadn’t come at the expense of the Mana series which devolved heavily with the DS version. Boo-urns.

Good effort from Square and I hope you follow your offspring in Nautilus onto constantly improving your products instead of resting of name brand laurels.

Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

The Scores
Story: 4/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 4/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score: 62/100
Final Score: 6.0 (ABOVE AVERAGE!)

Short Attention Span Summary
This is the best Final Fantasy game since the original FF Tactics. It’s still not as good as it’s cousin Shadow Hearts 3, but we’re finally seeing Square try new things and make some big quality changes in the franchise. I’m actually looking forward to FFXIII. Let’s hope they can make two enjoyable FF games in a row.