Saturday, December 02, 2006

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy XII

So, in a previous post I mentioned how a recent spate of game-buying for my PS2 (which, for a console supposedly on its last legs had a HELL of a year gamewise).

Having just finished the first of the three games I bought (FF XII), I thought I'd give a review of the game.

For those unaware of the series, the Final Fantasy games have been around in the US since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, that thing you played Mario on. The games then jumped to the Playstation and then the PS2.

Although this is labeled #12, there have been less games than that released in the US.

They are known (the more recent ones, especially since FF VII saw the jump to the CD-ROM based Playstation gave the designers room for full video cut-scenes) as part game, part interactive movie.

This is sort of a divide in the fanbase for the series. Some people (like me) became MORE interested as the games evolved into hybrid movies and games while others lost interest.

The games have also become EXTREMELY long, typically promising over 100 hours of gameplay if you wish to explore all the options of things you can do. In other words, you can play the game in a linear fashion and complete it much more quickly (typically in about half the time) but if you wish to really explore, there is always a wealth of things you can do.

In some cases these other things you can do are full blown mini-games, such as snowboarding (FF VII), Magic the Gathering style collectible card games (FF VIII) and a water polo type game, but played underwater known as Blitzball (FF X).

Still, even if you complete the games as directly as possible, the games usually take about 50-60 hours to play, or about twice what a game of Diablo would take take you, so it's a long haul.

Again, this is a love it or hate is situation in most cases. For the casual gamer, who wants to play a few hours a week, they typically don't want to sink a YEAR or more into a game.

But on the whole, the Final Fantasy series is best described as venerable, with many of the current games among the highest rated for their platforms. Using Gamespot as an example, FF VII and VIII received 9.6 out of 10, FF X receive 9.3 out of 10 and FF XII received a 9 out of 10.

To use an even MORE respected outlet, Weekly Famitsu in Japan gave FF X a 39 out of 40 and FF XII scored the magazine's first ever perfect 40 out of 40.

So how does FF XII stack up?

Well pretty damn well. Having just completed the game, I found the story and characters less engrossing than FF X. However, the gameplay is really really solid, with a return to frenetic real time battles found in many other Final Fantasy games, such as VII, VIII and X-2 (yes there was a sequal to X and no they didn't make that game FF XI, deal with it).

I'd also say this might be the longest Final Fantasy game ever. I completed the game in 114 hours and completed about half of the optional material in the game.

An interesting turn for the series, FF XII is almost a move toward the dreaded (but highly successful) Action RPG genre pioneered by Diablo (and copied by about a quadrillion games since then).

Even in the realm of the game's mini-games, the majority of them are "hunts" for monsters so vicious they have bounties on their heads. That said, there are also two mini-games that are completely non-violent, including a rumor-mongering mini-game and a fishing mini-game.

On a 10 point scale Id give the game a 10, but Id still rank it below the BEST game in the series, FF X, which is probably the finest console RPG I've ever played (and would be tied with Diablo for the best electronic RPG ever imo).

Upcoming (whenever I finish the game), a review of Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the PS2.


Anonymous said...

I just read your review and being a Final Fantasy Fan from day 1, I'd just like to say, good article. I'm not right there with you on FFX being the best in the series, as I'm partial to 7 myself, but 10 was my next pick, so I can agree with you that it was awesome. I'm about 100 hours in FF12 right now and I'm very happy about the game, except for the TERRIBLE Espers. Beyond that, I really enjoyed it and just wanted to say Kudos for writing this review.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Final Fantasy went from NES to SNES (Super Nintendo) with the 3rd U.S. release of Final Fantasy. Which was actually FF6 in Japan. Then it jumped to PS. Just wanted to clarify. Other than that you are on the money my friend.

Chuck said...

Hey thanks for the info, never knew there was a FF game for the super NES.

Thanks also for the kind words about the review. Glad to hear you're having as much fun with the game as I did.


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