PAX: Return to Ivalice in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

It is hard to believe the final Final Fantasy for the Playstation 2 was released over a decade ago.  Final Fantasy XII had some of the best graphics of any game on that console, but like all other games, the hands of time have been cruel to this beautiful title, as anyone who has tried to play a standard definition game on a high definition television is aware.  Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age gives this title a full HD makeover, making it look as good now as we perceived it back in 2006.  But this re-release is more than just the facelift and tummy tuck, as there are other additions that were not in the original American release.

Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System was released as an expanded version in the second half of 2007 that never made it over to the States from Japan.  This is the version that is getting the HD makeover, along with a more succinct title.  In the original US release there was only one License Board which was used to unlock actions and abilities for characters to perform in battle.  The Zodiac Job System has twelve boards, each one corresponding to a zodiac sign to allow for greater character customization.

For players who cannot get enough combat there is a new Trial Mode where the player can face off against monsters in up to 100 consecutive battles, which sounds like it is the Final Fantasy equivalent of a horde mode.  There is also a Speed Mode, and while the specific details of how this mode differs from the original mode it sounds like anyone wanting to do a Final Fantasy XII speed run will now have the opportunity.  The 2007 re-release included a New Game+ mode, but for people who want to replay the game without eliminating all element of challenge there is a New Game- mode, which is where no experience points are gained.

From a technical standpoint every aspect of the game’s presentation is being reworked to make it look and sound like a Playstation 4 title.  In game character models as well as the higher resolution cutscenes will both receive a full high definition remastering.  The soundtrack is now in true 7.1 surround sound, complete with high definition voice acting.  The background music has been rerecorded to take advantage of current generation sound production capabilities.  In addition to looking and sounding better, modern Playstation 4 features are included in the revamping process.  An auto save feature has been implemented so there is less reason to worry “how many hours ago did I save” when defeat happens.  There is full trophy support and share functionality, as well as reduced loading times.

Final Fantasy XII received critical acclaim upon its release and currently has a Metatcritic score of 92/100.  Despite these high marks, it was met with some resistance during its initial release since it abandoned the traditional turned based battle system they have used since the first title to something more action oriented.  The common comparison at the time was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, where all enemies are seen on the field and commands are given to one character while the others act on AI.  Comparing the battle system to the one found in BioWare games is not an inaccurate comparison, but the gambit system and traditional Final Fantasy spells make the system its own unique system and maintain a proper Final Fantasy feel.  Despite the departure from the traditional battle system, everything about this title is what someone would want from a Final Fantasy title.  So whether Final Fantasy XII is a game you’ve completed a couple consoles ago or haven’t had the chance to play it, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age looks like a great reason to visit Ivalice.