Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4) Review

Ken McKown

What’s your sign?

When Final Fantasy XII originally released, I was already enamored with the next generation of gaming. The Xbox 360 was already out and the PlayStation 3 was quickly approaching. It released at a bad time, and sadly I overlooked it in the noise that surrounds new console launches. I don’t think I am alone. If any Final Fantasy game deserves to be given a second chance for players to experience, it is this one.

Jumping directly into the game one thing is abundantly clear, this is not a typical FF game. For starters, the story revolves around normal characters trapped in a world afflicted by war and politics. There is a lot going on in this world and it is interesting most of the time. The supporting characters and the world they embody are interesting to talk to. The localization is great, although some of the voice acting can be a bit rough. Sadly, the main character Vaan is literally the most non-interesting lead in a FF game. Everyone around him is stellar, which only accents his blandness.

MSRP: $49.99
Platforms: PS4
Price I’d Pay: $39.99

At the outset something felt very familiar about Final Fantasy XII to me. This game feels like the refinement and foundation of the company’s MMO games. From the combat to the map and exploration tools, there are a lot of similarities to Final Fantasy XIV, which I have spent far too much time with. While the worlds are certainly open, the main path here is fairly linear. Sure there is grinding and backtracking, but the core game is a solid line from beginning to end. I actually appreciate that, as it makes for a simple play through.

Combat feels very similar to the MMO efforts. Enemies are seen on the battlefield and every action requires only one button press and navigating menus. Players only control the main character, but their party can be programmed with the gambit system. This intricate device allowed me to program my companions with commands based on situations. It is actually quite deep and interesting. I spent far too much time plotting out my AI behaviors so when trouble arose, I was prepared for it. The combat does feel a bit slower than my time with FF XIV, but I got used to it, especially with the new speed-up feature.

This is likely my favorite addition to this remaster. By tapping a button I could speed up the traversal and combat in the game. This helps tremendously with grinding by making battles quicker to get through. It also helps with that lengthy play time, which in 2017 is much needed considering so many great games are clocking in at well over 30 hours.

The upgrade system known as License Boards has also received a handy tweak in this version. In the original game players were able to assign any of the traits to any of their characters, making things feel too familiar over time. In The Zodiac Age players are now restricted to picking two classes per character. These include the job system such as Black Mages and Knights. This makes assigning licenses more thought-provoking.

New to this version of the game are the Trials. This is basically an endless dungeon that starts with the lowest class of enemies and works its way up. These can be accessed at any time, but are definitely designed to be played after the main quest. The first few waves will be a breeze with any party, but the later levels will test even the most experienced players. It is a neat diversion, but nothing that will occupy much of players’ time.

The most impressive change of course comes in the visuals department. Final Fantasy XII was a gorgeous game when it launched on PS2. That legacy holds up well with this visual upgrade. The cut scenes showcase just how great Square-Enix is at crafting CGI. These still hold up today. The game itself looks great as well. The new coat of paint really shines, and Pro owners even get a slightly upgraded visual resolution. It isn’t true 4K, but it looks really nice. The frame rate does stay locked at 30fps though, even with Sony’s more powerful hardware.

Final Fantasy XII is the reason remasters were invented. It takes a game a lot of players likely missed out on and brings it into the new age. It helps that the design and characters fit well in today’s gaming space. It was great seeing this game release, especially for players like myself who never got to give the game a chance when it originally released. It isn’t the most unique or interesting game in the series, but it is definitely one worth checking out for those that missed out on it the first time around.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Aged better than most
  • Speed-up mechanic
  • Interesting story and characters

Bad

  • Combat starts slow
  • Boring main character
8

Great

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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