One of the least well-known games in the Final Fantasy series is Final Fantasy XII, released in 2006 on the PlayStation 2. It came out near the end of the PlayStation 2’s life, but is getting a new enhanced release on the PlayStation 4, which came out this week.
The game was sort of an anomaly in the Final Fantasy series - most games are independent stories, but Final Fantasy XII is set in a world called Ivalice, which was established in earlier games Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics. The world’s setting lends more to political intrigue than the epic save-the-world stories that are a mainstay of the series.
Additionally, the way you play the game was unique for a Final Fantasy game. It played more like an MMORPG, like World of Warcraft, instead of the menu-based combat in previous Final Fantasy games. You control your character directly, and then you can tell your party members what to do through a system called Gambits - sort of a way to program the party members on how to behave during combat. For example, you can set a character to heal if they have less than 20% health, use a Fire spell if the enemy is weak to fire, or otherwise to attack with their weapon. The system is deep, but intuitive, and works very well if programmed well.
The best part about the game is the dialogue - some earlier games in the series have been criticized for their poor localizations, but Final Fantasy XII’s translation was crafted with great care, using flowery words that fit with the Castles and Kings kind of high fantasy setting. I can’t think of any other games that have a character that speaks in iambic pentameter. This was only the second Final Fantasy game with a full voiceover, and although the quality of the voiceover is slightly uneven, it’s mostly OK with the main characters.
The game was one of the best looking on the PS2, and the new HD re-release makes it shine even more than it did a decade ago. This is a game that deserves the second chance it’s getting.