Mention the name "Final Fantasy" to a gamer and the vast majority will go all misty eyed as they fondly remember the initial train journey that pre-empted Cloud’s quest through that PS1 classic Final Fantasy VII. We do urge you to back slowly away from the handful that begin to quietly sob and whisper the name Aeris though.
The eighth, ninth and tenth games never lived up to that awe inspiring installment. Then followed a sequel to the tenth game – the first ever sequel in the series as each is a usually a stand alone story – but its arcadey feel lost a fair few fans. As for the eleventh game, well, that was purely online, completely going against the series sublime single player past.
So, with FFXII firmly back in the single player mode hopes are high for a true return to form. But has the old magic been lost during the wait?
It’s been just over 5 byears since the last "true" Final Fantasy role playing title, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting the English language version of this little beauty ever since it was originally announced 2 years back.
As much as we enjoy other modern day RPG epics such as Dragon Quest VIII and Shin Megami Tensei, nothing gets us going like a Final Fantasy title.
As always, it’s all about the story and its ability to draw you into another world. FFXII certainly is no slouch in this department.
Set in the world of Ivalice – the same setting for the GBA title Final Fantasy Tactics Advance no less – this latest installment errs much more to the "Fantasy" part of its title than the sci-fi leanings that most titles in the series have established.
Wandering the streets for example, you’ll find far more than humans to shoot the breeze with. We’re talking huge lizard type beings and a whole heap of other freaks and oddballs to chance your arm with.
You guide a collection of mismatched individuals, all with their own unique personality traits, special abilities and convoluted back stories to uncover. Ranging from Vaan, the typical male lead, through to a rabbit eared female by the name of Fran, there’s a whole new cast to fall in love with.
Epic cutscenes expand the story as you progress and FFXII makes no excuses for tossing in as many as it can. That’s fine by us as the story is a real page turner. We don’t want to give anything away so let’s just say that uncovering the enemies and watching your team bond is the main reason for keeping your PS2 turned on.
Speaking of which, special mention needs to go to the voice acting provided throughout the game. It’s of a terrifically high standard and puts pretty much all modern day RPGs to shame. Not all conversations are spoken of course – the unhelpful opinions offered by most townsfolk are offered up purely in text form – but each and every one has been given the same high quality treatment.
There’s still so much to talk about. The sumptuous graphics show the PS2 is still powerful enough to sit alongside your 360 for a few more months yet, plus the random encounters that plagued previous installments have been given the heave-ho.
We shouldn’t forget the brand new combat system that gets as close to real time as could be longed for. Even the new license system brings a whole new level of strategy to the proceedings.
Giving you a full overview of all the game’s workings would be incredibly selfish of us as only a first hand experience will do. A contender for game of the year already perhaps? You betcha.