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Author: Leon van Gurpt     Email Address: leonliev@gmail.com
Hours played: 160 +     FFXII Version: NTSC     Submitted: 16 Dec 2006

Author's Note} First off, this review contains serious spoilers! Consider that before continuing. Second, I know the beginning of this review is very negative, but the game is not all bad. If you want to get my total picture, donít stop reading until itís done! Voila, now on to the actual review. Thanks for reading, and cheers!

Characters} After finishing the game, you seriously get the idea that the characters were about the last thing they added. There are six characters, of which only 3 are really laced into the story. And that does not include the main character! Letís start with the characters which actually belong in the story. First, we have Ashe, a princess from a fallen kingdom who wants it back. Actually, that is what the whole game is about, so she should have been the main character. But sheís not... Then thereís Balthier, who turns out to be the son of one of the major bad guys, Dr. Cid. And at last thereís Basch. He has been imprisoned for crimes committed by his evil twin brother and seeks vengeance and a way to restore his honor. And thus a homeless princess, the son of one of the bad guys and the man with the evil twin brother form the better part of your party (sigh...) On to the worst part of your crew. The best left-over is Fran, an elvish-like female who accompanies Balthier, although their actual connection never gets clear. The last two are Penelo and Vaan, two poor kids from the capital of the fallen kingdom the game is all about. Penelo is a brainless girl who mostly just chatters too much, while Vaan is a witless common thief who wants to be a somewhat richer common thief with his own sky ship. Yes people, Vaan is your main character! Another big sigh...

Story} Final Fantasy has always been known for good storylines. The save-the-world scenarioís from final fantasy VII, IX and X were outstanding, the story from VII and X being even very creative and intelligent. Having that in mind, the story from final XII is a complete disappointment. The characters of the story (see previous chapter) are unimpressive, the story line itself is straightforward and in no way sparkles with creativity. Letís start at the beginning. Youíll kick off as Reks, the older brother of Vaan. After an hour of play, Reks dies. Then all of a sudden, youíre Vaan. This is where the actual story starts. As Vaan, you get to do some small quests to get familiar with the game and the surroundings, after which you try to break into the castle of your town. That is where everything _really_ starts. You get to meet most of your party members, get introduced to the main storyline by meeting Ashe and finally get into your first dungeon by getting arrested. After some hours of play, thinks start to look bad and some lesser bad guys come into sight, like some Judges (guys in full plate armor, sort of standard sub-bosses) and Baígamnon. Baígamnon is a bounty hunter who is after you. After a certain point though, he just disappears out of the storyline and we never hear of him again. You donít even have to fight him! I found this a real set-back, as they could have developed him into a more meaningful character, which would most likely have been good for the story line in forms of complexity and creativity. The same goes for Reks, who starts visiting Vaan in his dreams in the beginning of the game. Well, never mind, they both just disappear and donít come back during the entire rest of the game... Until this point, the storyline seems to be getting creative. From the point where the group sets out to the Tomb of Raithwall on, itís done with any creativity left in the story. From that point, the real story perspective switches from Vaan to Ashe and story line gets so straight forward that you can predict the ending from here on (and youíre right about it as well, which is the worst part!) So to explain the rest of the story without spending too many words on it: the group sets out to help Princess Ashe back on her crown. First they have to get some relics, and then they start hunting for their adversary. Along the way, youíll meet some more characters, some of which I still donít know why they were in the story (like Al-Cid, the emperor of the Rosarian Empire). In the end, youíll beat the main bad guy, Vayne, who is the half-mad emperor of the Archadian (opposing) empire who wants world domination. Then normally after you beat the last bad guy (which by the way was a complete push-over, unlike the final bosses of other FFs!), you get a very long conclusion of the storyline in full motion video, then the black screen with names and stuff, then more full motion video. After the names etc, in this case there was just a ĎThe Endí screen and that was it! I donít want to whine about it, but that was lame guys! Well, all in all I think itís safe to say that the story of FF XII pretty much sucks!

Side-questing} On to the more fun stuff of this edition of Final Fantasy. If you, like me, are thrilled to level-up your character, get all the nice goodies (best swords, best armor, ribbon, etc) and beat every single hidden and\or extra boss in the game, youíre in for a ride! There are side-quests called Ďmob-huntí, which allow you to hunt extra sub-bosses during the entire game! One way is via bills posted in villages, another way is by joining a head-hunters company and finally, you can also join a normal hunter-group. All of which allow you to hunt some 100 bonus-enemies, which can be pretty tough at times. That is an absolute plus of this game (as it gets your thoughts off the terrible story ;)) For the people who donít want to battle all the time, there are also some intriguing side-quests requiring you to do stuff for people. You can (i.e.) help a family of flight-attendants get rid of some testosterone dwelling guys. You can puzzle your way into society by helping people get to know each other in a certain city and then thereís the fishing game. Gave me a faint flashback to the chocobo mini-game of FF IX where you had to dig for tablets to upgrade your chocobo, only you donít get to win a lot with this game. And then there is the summoning part of the game. Summons, unlike some earlier versions of FF, are impractical in this edition. They slow you down, cut down your attack strength and donít do what you want them to do. Then why try to get them? Because you have to fight and beat them before they join you. These battles are actually very demanding at times (especially Chaos, Ultima and Zodiark are tough!) So letís conclude that this part of the game is well taken care of. There are a lot more side quests, but let me suffice by saying this part of the game totally kicks ass!

Controls and game mechanics} Square works on with the same control mechanism as the latest FF games. Left analog stick to move the character, right analog stick to move the camera around him. This system works just fine, if only all games would use the same system. Half of the games use a normal camera control; the other half uses inverted controls. This always gets me confused and it takes some time to get it right, but I guess thatís not something Square can help by itself. The main menu and the battle menu work very easily. Everything has been ordered in a clear, understandable way and every item you pick up during the game, and every spell and technique you obtain, can be ordered in the way you like. If you can customize, you can set it to your own hand, good! The battle system itself is a completely new concept for FF games. Where we were used to having the characters line up on one side of the screen and the monsters on the other, the first signs of break were already to be seen in FF X-II, where characters started to interact somewhat. Without breaking the original system of combat, by the way. This final fantasy is real-time. If you act quickly, youíll out speed your opponents. If you want to flee from battle, you have to actually actively run away. If you want to hit something, you have to move towards it. Random encounters have been replaced by random monsters, which just walk around on the field. You can move towards them, you can walk around them, your choice. When you first start playing, this can get very confusing, as everybody starts running in different directions, doing different things. Youíll get used to it in no-time though. To make things even easier, gambits were introduced. Gambits are a sort of programming system for your characters, set up in the ďIf [SITUATION], then {ACTION]Ē kinda way. For example, you can tell characters that if an opponent appears, then the character attacks with a sword. Or if your hit point drops below 50%, you cast curative magic, etc, etc. And although this works really well, it also has a setback. You have to actively move around the screen with nobody around, but once you meet opponents, you can just lay down your controller and watch everything settle automatically. But if that annoys you, you can always choose to deactivate the gambit system, so itís not a real setback. Altogether the battle system can be said to have seriously been improved with this game. It really has a nice way to it.

Graphics and sound} If thereís one thing with which Square will not let you down, itís the graphics and sound. Final Fantasy XII looks stunningly beautiful. The full motion videos are astounding, but still nearly impossible to set apart from the normal game-play shots. Sound is great. There is a lot of depth in the sound, created in multiple layers and with multiple effects, like delays and echoís. Really, thereís no way you can say something bad about this part of the game, itís indescribably beautiful! Oh yeah, there are your usual returning goodies in final fantasy of course: moogles and chocoboís. Riding chocoboís is very easy in this game and looks pretty cool, but the real treat are the moogles. They really got an upgrade from Square, changing from round pink balls of hair into small, cute-looking creatures which can really help you out! Bravo and hooray for the moogles!

Final Conclusions} If youíre in it for the great story line, this one is not for you, sorry! The characters are seriously flawed, the story line itself is depressingly simple and the ending just doesnít give you the satisfaction you got in earlier editions of the game. If you just like to play an RPG which doesnít present you with too many thinkers, does have a good amount of side questing to keep you busy and some very appealing hidden bosses: go right ahead! Thatís something this game does present you with. That, and a very large amount of beautiful graphics, sounds and a (for FF) totally new way of battling enemies, which works just fine for the most part.

Overall}
Taking into consideration that characters and story should be more important than anything else for such a renowned game, the grade for this game can only be meager. Although everything _but_ the actual game is taken care of in a great way. I seriously hope Square will take more time to develop a decent story for the next game, all the rest was outstanding.

Ratings} Characters: 3     Story: 3     Side-questing: 8     Controls\Game Mechanics: 8     Graphics\Sound: 9     Final Grade: 5

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