A tri­umphant re­turn

Fi­nal Fantasy XII: The Zo­diac Age

GAX (Malaysia) - - REV IEW - By Michael Low

Mis­un­der­stood gem

Re­mas­ters and re­makes are comp com­pletely dif­fer­ent things, with the lat­ter requ re­quir­ing far more in­vest­ments in terms of de de­vel­op­ment time, ef­fort, and bud­get. The u up­com­ing Fi­nal Fantasy VII Re­make, for exam ex­am­ple, re­quires in-game as­sets to be bu built from scratch, game­play me­chan­ics re­worked to meet mod­ern stan­dards, as well as full voiceovers to go with the m multi-part re­lease. But that’s not to say that r re­mas­ter­ing a game is not a sig­nif­i­cant unde un­der­tak­ing ei­ther.

Eve Ever since Square Enix re­mas­tered the tenth Fi­nal Fantasy game and its se­quel for th the PlayS­ta­tion 3 and PS Vita (and subs sub­se­quently, the PS4), many as­sumed this w would be fol­lowed by Fi­nal Fantasy XII, w which was equal parts am­bi­tious and misu mis­un­der­stood when it was re­leased af­ter an ar­du­ousar ve-year de­vel­op­ment pe­riod in 20 2006 to­wards the tail-end of the PS2’s life­cy­cle. Strong lo­cal­iza­tion aside, bat­tles were made seam­less and au­ton­o­mous, thanks to its pro­gram­mable ‘Gam­bit’ sys­tem, while the sprawl­ing open-world en­vi­ron­ments – de­spite be­ing di­vided into zones – were a re­fresh­ing change for a long-run­ning JRPG fran­chise that revel in its turn-based roots.

It took a slip of the tongue from Dis­tant Worlds con­duc­tor Arnie Roth in Au­gust 2015 for Square Enix to con­firm the ex­is­tence of the HD re­mas­ter by way of a teaser trailer ahead of E3 2016. The Zo­diac Age moniker calls back to the Ja­pan-ex­clu­sive In­ter­na­tional Zo­diac Job Sys­tem (IZJS), which in­tro­duced a whole slew of game­play changes – no­tably twelve Li­cense Boards that cor­re­spond to dif­fer­ent Jobs (read: char­ac­ter classes) – a year af­ter the orig­i­nal PS2 re­lease.

Dou­ble the trou­ble

Pre­vi­ously, all six char­ac­ters shared an iden­ti­cal Li­cense Board that they can then grad­u­ally un­lock the chess­board-like pan­els within to gain ac­cess to abil­i­ties and

equip­ment. How­ever, this also meant that you end up with sim­i­lar char­ac­ter builds – save for the Quick­en­ings and Espers. The move to spe­cial­ized Jobs en­cour­ages ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, al­low­ing you to form a party of three that com­ple­ments one an­other’s strengths and weak­nesses.

Half the fun of Fi­nal Fantasy XII is con­fig­ur­ing the party’s Gam­bits in such a way that they cover most, if not all, bases. Af­ter a ma­jor story beat that grants the party its rst Esper (read: sum­mon), a sec­ond Li­cense Board is opened to the team – mak­ing it pos­si­ble to aug­ment the lim­i­ta­tions of the rst Job with an­other. For in­stance, your leader ‘tank’ char­ac­ter can be a Shikari-Red Bat­tlemage, and sup­ported by a Ma­chin­ist-White Mage and a Black Mage-Archer. The abil­ity to con­trol guest char­ac­ters and Espers di­rectly – in­clud­ing their Gam­bits – is also very much wel­comed.

In all its splen­dor

The vi­su­als in Fi­nal Fantasy XII were fa­mously held back by con­sole lim­i­ta­tions. The Zo­diac Age not only runs in na­tive 1080p at a con­stant 30fps (1440p on PS4 Pro), but the in­creased res­o­lu­tion – com­bined with AA and en­hanced im­age qual­ity – makes for a pol­ished pre­sen­ta­tion. The char­ac­ter mod­els, tex­tures, light­ing and shadow ef­fects were all given their re­spec­tive up­grades, which also ex­tend to the menus and fonts used through­out the game.

Col­ors are no­tice­ably more vi­brant, and the ef­forts that went into pre­serv­ing Ak­i­hiko Yoshida’s char­ac­ter de­sign are sim­ply out­stand­ing. In fact, Vaan’s much-ma­ligned ‘ex­oskele­ton’ abs were nally rec­ti­fied in this re­lease. How­ever, we no­ticed the pres­ence of over-ag­gres­sive up­scal­ing on cer­tain ground and wall tex­tures, re­sult­ing in odd dark lines and grainy lter­ing on closer in­spec­tion. Thank­fully, the pre­ren­dered cin­e­mat­ics sur­vived the HD tran­si­tion with min­i­mal video ar­ti­facts. The re-or­ches­trated back­ground mu­sic, which was over­seen by Hi­toshi Saki­moto him­self, adds fur­ther grav­i­tas to the in­ter­change­able English and Ja­panese voiceovers.

The L1 but­ton, which ac­ti­vates the 2x- 4x fast-for­ward mode, is a god­send when trekking through some of the more me­an­der­ing dun­geons. The brisk load times be­tween ar­eas, cou­pled with auto-saves and Di­ablo- like map over­lays, re­ally helps when back­track­ing through pre­vi­ously ex­plored ar­eas for reg­u­lar and elite Marks. As a bonus, the 100-stage Trial Mode is also a slight de­par­ture from its IZJS in­car­na­tion, in that re­wards earned – gils, LPs, weapons – can be car­ried over to the main game, of­ten with game­break­ing con­se­quences.

There were two omis­sions that we’d like to point to Fi­nal Fantasy XII vet­er­ans. First, the Sky Pi­rate’s Den is no longer part of The Zo­diac Age, as ev­ery achieve­ment is now tracked by the PS4’s Tro­phy sys­tem. Sec­ond, the Bes­tiary now shows 3D mod­els in­stead of il­lus­tra­tions of the en­e­mies. Fi­nally, The Zo­diac Age drops the at­tract video from the PS2 re­lease and goes straight to the ti­tle screen in­stead. These are mi­nor an­noy­ance at best, and shouldn’t de­tract you from re­vis­it­ing the golden age of Ivalice.

A solid re­mas­ter be­fit­ting an undis­puted clas­sic.

New to The Zo­diac Age is the abil­ity to as­sign two Jobs to each party mem­ber.

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