With Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age now on PC via Steam, we delve back into the mystical land of Ivalice; it’s easily never looked so good. Set in a charmingly fantastical world where “airships plied the skies, crowding out the heavens” and magic and machine coincide, Ivalice is world where Medieval and Mediterranean cultures and architecture combine. Anthropomorphic creatures with a modicum of intellect walk alongside humans, trading with them freely, while guards decked in the livery of knights protect the city gates and pirates traverse the world in aforementioned airships. This myriad of contrasting elements combine to create a unique world design that blends well together.
Our diverse cast of characters consists of both heroes and villains, though the morality chart would have a difficult time placing them. With ambiguous morals and unclear intentions, I personally found characters other than the main to be more intriguing and found myself wishing the game focused more on them. That aside, the story of Final Fantasy XII differs from previous Final Fantasy installments, focusing more on the political nature of Ivalice and the war surrounding it.
However, this in no way deters from the charm of the world, nor the innovative gameplay that Final Fantasy XII boasts. It’s the first Final Fantasy to feature real-time combat, the pauseable “Active Dimension Battle” adding a new level of depth to the classic turn-based combat notable in JRPGs while still holding on to that iconic feeling of previous games. With XII’s addition of continuous fights, nixing transitions, new strategies are able to be acted out with fluidity. This is even truer for the Zodiac Age version, which introduces the Zodiac job system, a complete overhaul of the License Board system, which adds a wide variety of classes (from the gunslinging Machinist to the katana-toting Bushi) for the player and characters to enjoy, first having to “learn” these differing jobs by allocation of License Points, similarly going for equipment and spells. Players of Final Fantasy IX would find some similarities with this system, with the added bonus of choosing which party members would perform which roles, dependent on stats.
The changes to the PC version visually are quite stunning. Right off the bat, it’s easy to tell that there was a great deal of love and a hefty amount of effort put into the PC port; the graphics are a breathtaking step up from the original’s release, imbuing the whimsical feeling of experiencing the world, as opposed to the oft-commonplace upscaling that has so recently seemed to plague the gaming industry as a whole. Indeed, antialiasing was used to eliminate jaggies in their entirety and shadows and textures are far sharper and detailed. The game’s audio has also taken a massive buff with re-recorded soundtracks (being able to hear Hitoshi Sakimoto’s soundtrack in full 7.1 surround sound support is a major plus) and incredible dub work in both English and Japanese.
On a gameplay level, it’s been fixed and enhanced to an incredible level; characters are able to have two jobs per to make them even more unique. New weapons have been added, as well as an auto-save feature, a fast-forward feature (for those seeking to play multiple times; I surely won’t blame you for wanting to), and a New Game Plus feature as well. In addition to these changes is a newly-added “Maximize License Points and Gil” option added to the configuration screen, allowing players to be granted exactly as it says on the tin, an option that I personally find myself waffling over, but can ultimately see the helpfulness in; any form of grind can become repetitive after a while, even with such an enjoyable system, and those with limited time should be allowed to enjoy all the game has to offer as well.
Mouse and keyboard support is fluid, though the default sensitivity felt lower than with controller; this can be remedied in the options if it proves to be a distraction. However, I did find myself favoring using a controller, simply for nostalgia’s sake. I faced no issued with performance, my game staying at the promised perfect 60 frames-per-second throughout the entirety of my playtime, the first Final Fantasy remaster to pride itself in such a feat.
Overall, I considered the Zodiac Age to be an excellent port; upon booting up the game, I was immediately transported to the whimsy of being a child and experiencing the PS2 classic for the first time, ignoring sleep to catch up on in-game shenanigans. New content and changes allowed for me to stay intrigued and pleasantly surprised; the graphical updates were breathtaking. I’d most certainly consider this to be the definitive edition of the game, for both newcomers that missed out on it during the PlayStation 2 era and returners that want to delve back into the world of Ivalice. If you yourself are fond of exploring a endearing world populated by memorable characters and don’t mind the deviation from traditional turn-based play, XII is a quite solid choice.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is now available on PlayStation 4 and Steam.
Disclosure: A Steam copy of Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age was provided to Nova Crystallis by Square Enix, the publisher.