Way Back When
As video game franchises evolve and expand, developers tend to play around with innovative mechanics in an attempt to set each entry apart from one another. Famed Final Fantasy developer Square (now Square-Enix) has often been praised for finding a wonderful balance between crafting such compelling new features without straying too far from the fundamentals of the series that make it so special to millions of fans worldwide. In 2006, though, they managed to skirt up to the line with Final Fantasy XII, yet their creative decisions paid off and showed the world that the popular IP could withstand a drastic overhaul and still come out feeling like, well, Final Fantasy.
The MMO genre was booming in 2006, and alongside World of Warcraft and Everquest, Square-Enix’s own fully-online Final Fantasy XI played a part in that rise in popularity. So it’s not surprising, really, that the developer would want to try something new with their next mainline entry in the series, and thus Final Fantasy XII featured a drastic shift in what gamers had come to expect from a single player RPG. Melding the mechanics of MMO battling with the property’s iconic Active Time Battle system, Final Fantasy XII came out as a fascinating hybrid experience unlike anything previously made. This new system offered the ability to use gambits to essentially program party members with thousands of intricate commands that would automate how they reacted in battles, freeing up the player to focus on big picture supervision rather than turn-by-turn micromanagement.
Final Fantasy XII used this remarkable battle system in conjunction with other features that helped lend the title an MMO feel. The open-world design of its world of Ivalice allowed players to explore somewhat freely, typically only being blocked off by enemy levels rather than artificial barriers, while a bevy of optional monster hunts felt – for better or worse – exactly like the kind of rinse and repeat quests that had become synonymous with MMOs. Meanwhile, its wide-reaching political story gave players the feeling that the game’s cast of playable characters were only pawns in a tale greater than them rather than the de facto saviors of the world. Yet with all of these significant changes to the formula, Final Fantasy XII remained faithful to the its roots with classic themes, spells, and creatures, ensuring gamers always felt connected to the beating heart of the franchise.
Some minor frustration was voiced about how Final Fantasy XII‘s gambit system was occasionally tedious, and some critics disliked how it allowed the AI to essentially play the second half of the game on its own with very little need for player input. But these complaints didn’t stop the game from earning universal acclaim and going on to sell over 6 million copies. A 2007 sequel called Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings was released for the Nintendo DS, but it was a vast departure from the original title, opting for a real-time strategy battle system. This follow-up only sold around a million copies, received mixed reviews, and has largely been overlooked since release. Luckily, Final Fantasy XII did plenty to secure its success all on its own, and if you haven’t had an opportunity to experience this unique entry in one of gaming’s best franchises, now’s your chance.
Where You Can Play It Now
The only method you’ll have available to you to play this classic game is via the HD remastered called Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which is actually the international version of the game. This upgraded version of the game boasts high-definition graphics, some nifty optional speed boosting mechanics to help moving along grinding and navigation, deeper job customization options, and minor quality of life changes that make the experience feel a little more modern. Otherwise, it remains the same game PlayStation 2 fans enjoyed all those years ago.
Here’s the modern platforms on which you can access Final Fantasy XII:
- PC (via Steam)
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
- Nintendo Switch
If you finish up this unconventional entry in the Final Fantasy lineup, you’ll have enjoyed the final PlayStation 2 game in the series. Take a breather and prepare yourself for the newer titles, as they’re often even more divisive. But rest assured, they’re all still a great time.