Since it came out yesterday, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XII. Even though I’m not very far at all (six hours into the game, not even double digits in level), I really like the game, a lot more than I thought I would based on how the demo was. Some impressions so far:

  • The Battle System – FFXII uses a system where all of the running around and fighting occur fluidly, without having to switch to a battle screen. You control one of your three active characters, and the other two automatically attack. My main gripe from the demo was that your allies did all the work for you, so that all you had to do was just find targets to kill (if even that much). Fortunately, the full game is a lot more interesting because of the Gambit system that allows you to basically set commands for the AI to follow in certain situations (i.e. cast Cure if party member has less than 70% HP). You have to set both a trigger and a command (in the previous example, the trigger would be the ally being at less than 70% and the command is to cast Cure). As you progress in the game, you learn more triggers (you only start with a handful), meaning that your allies kind of get smarter as the game goes on.
  • Ability Progression – FFXII also introduces the License Board, which is similar to FFX’s sphere grid in the sense that you’re moving around a board learning abilities, and everyone has the potential to learn almost every skill. What surprised me is that they require you to learn special equipment abilities on the License Board so that your character can equip the next level of a certain item (i.e. there is are several Sword Equipment abilities that allow you to use different swords). Spells work the same way: you have to have the White Magic 1 ability on the License Board before you can learn Cure.
  • Leveling – Leveling is a little harder in this game than I remember past Final Fantasies being. Like I said earlier, I’m only about six hours in and barely level nine. But the game hasn’t been hard except for the first couple of areas where you have very little life and don’t do much damage.
  • The Story and Characters – Not being very far into the story, I’ve only been introduced to part of the cast, but I can say that I don’t find Vaan quite as wimpy a main character as I thought Tidus was. Ashe has appeared as a guest character (two levels higher than my other characters at the time), after having landed in Vaan’s arms in quite a dramatic fashion. My favorite characters so far are probably Balthier and Fran (the brash space pirate and his partner). As for the story, the game occurs two years after the country of Dalmasca is conquered by its neighbor. The tutorial takes you through the game during that initial invasion from the point of view of Vaan’s older brother. Wikipedia’s entry does a decent job summarizing the back-story without spoiling anything.
  • Graphics – Not including the title screen one, I think I’ve seen about five or six FMVs up to the point where I am now. A couple of those (like the one where you first meet Balthier) are woefully short. And while the Full Motion Video sequences are breathtaking as usual, most of the cut-scenes are rendered by the in-game engine. Once I got used to the character designs and the color palette, I felt that the in-game engine was doing a pretty darn good job (though there’s obviously not as good as the FMV parts). They’re doing a good job of pushing the PS2 to its limits.
  • In other news, Bleach is now officially licensed in the US. That doesn’t really affect this site at all, but I do hope that it will now generate more buzz state-side.
  • Expect my picks for the Spring 2006 season sometime this weekend or early next week. It’ll probably include Strawberry Panic, NANA, School Rumble S2, XXXHOLiC, Tsubasa Chronicle, and Soul Link among others.

    1. I too am playing FFXII… I like the theme of it, and I definitely like where the story is headed.

      Show Spoiler ▼

    2. It’s not quite Seiken Densetsu as you’re still picking attacks through a menu. The only difference from the others FFs is that you can walk around while you’re fighting, and there’s never really a battle transition screen. Still, I wish they made something like Seiken Densetsu 3 again.

    3. I don’t think that Square-Enix has even announced a US release date yet, so it’s going to be a long, long wait..

      Well at least the other Square-Enix game is coming out soon (KH2) and should keep people busy.

    4. i can’t read japanese, but i’m hooked on the game. wonder how far i’ll be able to get till the US version is out 😛

      Square doesn’t disappoint. i was worried for a while since this game seemed to have it’s fair share of problems (e.g.: director was replaced midway through production) but the game seems to have turned out well enough. i just wished they had redesigned Vaan and Panelo (sp?). Ashe and the other characters turned out ok for me, but Vaan and Panelo look like they could have been further improved in terms of design.

      The music is great too and I love Angela Aki now. she has a great voice.


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