There are plenty of reasons why you may have missed Final Fantasy XII when it came out in 2006. You may not have been interested in playing a PS2 game instead of playing something on your newly acquired PS3 or Xbox 360. Maybe you were turned off by its move away from turn-based combat, a first for the series.
Regardless of why you didn't play it, you won't have an excuse when Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age launches on July 11 on PS4. Square Enix gave me the opportunity to play three hours of the remastered Japanese role-playing game in April and I'm happy to report it does the original game justice.
Final Fantasy 12 remake hands-on preview
Let's get this right out of the way: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is not a new game. They haven't gone and added new areas, enemies, characters, storylines or bosses to the game that launched in 2006. Instead, Square Enix has opted to give a 1080p spit-shine to the "international version" of the game that, ironically, was only released in Japan in 2007.
That's mainly worth noting because the international version completely revamped Final Fantasy XII's cumbersome upgrade system. Originally, you chose upgrades from an enormous chessboard interface that was clunky and intimidating. The international version changed that to a more traditional system where each character had different, smaller upgrade boards that fit their ideal role in combat. If you think that sounds too limiting, you can still upgrade different roles for each character as you progress.
In short, Zodiac Age brings Final Fantasy XII to HD with the good new job system rather than the bad old one. According to Polygon, it's also been balanced to be a bit more approachable for players. You can also press a button to make the game run in fast-forward, which makes running across its large environments a little less annoying.
There isn't a ton to say about Zodiac Age other than that it seems like the ideal version of Final Fantasy XII. Despite clearly being a PS2 game, the massive increase in resolution does a great deal to make the visuals look good again. Being able to turbo charge the game speed so I could run from one place to another is actually kind of awesome and should be standard in games like this going forward.
I'm happiest to report that the combat holds up well. Friends of mine at the time refused to play the game because they wanted the same old turn-based combat Final Fantasy always had before. Playing Final Fantasy XII now makes it clear that Square Enix's decision to move to a real-time, Dragon Age-esque model was forward thinking. Managing positioning and lining up ability combos is still fun, and everything moves so much faster now that battles all exist on the same plane rather than loading into separate instances.
The end result is a combat system that's more active than ever while still being extremely tactical and customizable. Despite having not played the game in a decade (and not playing much of it then, either), I was able to run through mid-game areas and defeat bosses without too much frustration.
Of course, Final Fantasy XII also has a sweeping, complex story to push you through its many fields, mountains, caverns and dungeons. The tiny bit I saw in the demo was more about political intrigue than melodramatic crystal philosophy. In layman's terms, it didn't feel entirely like typical Final Fantasy fare. You can check out The Zodiac Age for yourself on July 11, exclusively on PS4.
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