Preview: Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

Publisher: Square-Enix / Developer: Square-Enix / Genre: RPG / Release Date: 2005

In a time when Final Fantasy games were suffering from a whole heapin’ lot of suck, Final Fantasy Tactics was a beacon of perfection and coolness in the crappy, plotless, dark. Final Fantasy XII returns to the land of Ivalice and to having an interesting story.

Ashe, the remaining heir to the freshly conquered kingdom of Dalmasca, is one of the main characters, along with the free-spirited Vaan. The story has much of the political and character intrigue that Final Fantasy Tactics did, and that is sure to appeal many players. Or at least me.

Dalmasca has the unfortunate position of being situated between two greater powers currently at war. Being taken by one of the powers leaves Ashe fighting to take back her kingdom, a difficult task given the relative frailty of the resistance. The Judges of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance return, this time as Knights of Terror, pursuing our heroes. Beyond the basic adventure, many of the issues regarding class and social position are present in Final Fantasy XII. Possessing both a society with different classes that was present in Final Fantasy Tactics, and the different races of Tactics Advance, language barriers and prejudice between groups will add to the depth of the game. A mildly twisted element the development team is considering adding is leg irons for the Moogles. I originally read this as “iron legs” for the Moogles and was picturing the plump little Mogs on top of rusty, stilt-like metal legs. But I guess leg irons are cool too. I guess. Taking some direction from Final Fantasy IX, characters sometimes separate in cities to do their own thing. Each character in Final Fantasy XII has a rich personality and their own concerns and problems to deal with. For example, Vaan’s yearning to be a sky pirate (snicker), which is also indicative of the return of giant flying vessels to the game.

The battle system has promise as well, with several unique traits. The first of which is the monsters, each has a field of vision the player needs to avoid, but can also detect the hero by sound and odour. Some monsters possess camouflage and can appear invisible till the player stumbles into their field of vision. The actual fighting takes place on the field with no switching to a separate battle scene. The player controls the leading character and may switch to other characters to control them throughout the battle. The player can also issue the supporting characters a Gambit, a strategy that (hopefully) the supporting character will follow. Possible Gambits include: Just Attack, Follow Lead, Cure Self, et cetera. Characters need to be positioned based on what attacks they are using, for instance ranged and magic attacks need to be performed at a certain distance away from the enemy. Attacks are executed a la the standard filling of the action gauge. Unlike typical systems, the game is not over when the party is defeated, as long as the player has other characters alive in their roster, different characters can take the place of the dead ones. The game only ends when all the characters have been crushed, leading me to believe this will either be an awesome battle system, or an excuse to have enemies so hard you cry for mercy to the Gaming Gods.

Nobuo Uematsu will be back to co-produce the music along with Hitoshi Sakimoto (who did the work for Final Fantasy Tactics, which I may have mentioned, rocked). Sakimoto will be responsible for most of the game music, while Uematsu is crafting a special piece for an important scene (which had better be long, dammit). In addition to music, Final Fantasy XII will also have voice actors for the characters, adding to the uniqueness of personality.

The producer, Yasumi Matsuno, boasts 100 to 150 hours of game play. Which will hopefully make it worth the wait, since it isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t coming out in Japan till Spring of 2005. Matsuno is also excited about the player having control of the camera movement in the 3D battle environment during battles and was the guy who thought the Moogle leg irons would be funny. You are f*cked up Mr. Matsuno, and we LOVE it.

Ever since Final Fantasy VII, I have noticed a disturbing decline in SquareEnix’s offerings. Which I guess might be clear from the “heapin’ lot of suck” comment above. Hopefully Final Fantasy XII will reverse this trend and give fans something to love and write bad fan slash over again (Fighter x Black Mage 4EVAR!).