Returning To Ivalice – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age First Impression

by Sammy Chan
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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age came out yesterday and as a recently converted fan of the franchise, I was curious. Many reviewers that I’ve come across pointed out how many hours they poured into the previous version and that this game was so iconic at the time of its release but personally, I did not play the game when it came out 10 years ago. So, you’ll be following the thought process, experience and reaction of a fresh mind. I’ll try to be as transparent and honest as I can without spoiling the game too much.


The introductory cinematic cutscene was really impressive, immediately setting the scene for the game. Final Fantasy XII’s story revolves around politic and war where betrayal is plenty. A wedding, a war and the betrayal that led to death are how I’m going to summarise the introduction. Set in Ivalice, you start out as Vaan, an orphan living in the streets of Dalmasca, a city taken over by the evil empire, Archades. Well, technically, you play through the tutorial as Resks, a Dalmascian soldier, but Vaan is the protagonist of the story.

Image via PlayStation

Press X To Fight

Since I’ve already played and finished Final Fantasy XIII, the combat in XII felt familiar. In a way, to me, it seemed like a predecessor of the ATB combat we got in XIII but simpler. Basically, you select an enemy and then just walked up to it while your character hits it to death. It might feel a little lackluster in the beginning but trust me, once you progress and unlock more skill, you’ll get the flow of it why it’s made like this. The gambit system was also familiar in its own way, reminding me of Dragon Age. But of course, XII came way before DA which makes it all the more impressive, back then, to have such an extensive system that lets you micromanage your party members.
Like any other Final Fantasy game, you never journey alone. You’ll team up with a fallen knight Basch, a supposedly dead princess Ashe, smoking hot Balthier the sky pirate and his bunny friend Fran, and last but not least, your friend from the street Penelo. You’ll get to set a script for each and every one of them to behave in a way that is most suiting to your play style. For example, scripting a support based character to cast Haste and Protect at the start of the battle to give the party a boost. Alternatively, you could set them to start casting Cure automatically whenever a party member’s HP drops below 20%. The possibility is endless.

Image via PlayStation

Job System For Everyone

Back in 2006, the job system update was only available for the Japanese version of the game so many people did not get a chance to try it but that’s about to change. In Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, your character growth will be based on License Point (LP). Each character can select up to two class to unlock in their License Board. The License Board will then let you unlock perks to further enhance your gameplay with the class of your choice. For example, in my gameplay, I made Vaan a Knight. Later on, I could choose White Mage as a second job for him and turn him into a healing tank. Pretty much a Paladin.

Gotta Go Fast

In the remake, a fast-forward button was added to speed up the game. By default, the L1 button lets you speed up the game be it exploring or fighting. Originally, the game ended up feeling sluggish. Players had to haul ass from one part of the map to the other and back again for quests. Not to mention, this game requires some grinding so this addition was vastly welcomed.
With a new coat of HD polish, Final Fantasy XII’s word and characters are definitely looking better. However, there is still a noticeable difference between in-game and cinematic cutscenes. Square Enix really went all out on this one, as expected. The soundtracks in this game got re-orchestrated too and mind you, play with a headphone or you’re missing out.

First Impression

So far I’ve clocked 90 minutes in this game and I’m looking forward to playing more of it. The grind feels fun because of the gambit system, the world looks amazing accompanied by the fantastic soundtrack and having the choice to speed up the game is a definite plus. In all honesty, for someone who never played the game when it came out 10 years ago, I cannot make a clear comparison between now and then. Hence, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, on its own, is an overall a well-made game. In terms of current day and age graphic, the game is lacking but since it’s a remaster, it doesn’t bother me that much. What I enjoy the most is the combat system and how detailed it gets as you progress. Whether you’re a first-timer or an old timer, it is, after all, a Final Fantasy game.
If you enjoy JRPG, give this game a try and that’s coming from a very impatient gamer. Despite the slow start, once the game picks up you’ll be loving every moment of it. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel if you’d much rather watch me play it, I will be uploading a 90-minute gameplay of the game daily. Check out the first video here.

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