The Zodiac Age is the last of the great. Review. / Games
November 23, 2017/
Final Fantasy XII – the last big work of Yasumi Matsuno in Square Enix. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish it. According to the official version – due to health problems, however, they say that he was simply removed from the position of the head. The game designer and screenwriter gave us Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, a miniature but equally fascinating Crimson Shroud, and at the same time introduced to the beautiful Ivalis. In a world where medievalism is combined with amazing technologies like flying ships, intricate intrigues are woven in the palaces, and companions at any moment can thrust a knife into the back.
Matsuno's creations were always different from the mainstream by serious subjects, elegantly written characters and complex, multi-faceted game mechanics. The twelfth part of the popular series, despite all the problems and the loss of the ideological mastermind, was no exception. Ten years ago she showed that jRPG has a lot to grow, that genre games can offer much more than a team of teenagers who once again save the world. "Twelve" is obsolete only externally, but in her heart she still beats a warm heart.
⇡ # Ivalis, how I have been bored
In the distant 2007 Final Fantasy XII was not like any Japanese role-playing game. It threw away, it seems, in general all the traditional jRPG elements, offering in exchange an innovative combat system, a large, world-full of secrets and a story where politics plays the main role. The most daring experiment Square Enix did not lose relevance in our days. It's funny, but for so long a period of projects, on a scale comparable to the twelfth part, almost did not appear. To be more precise, only Tetsuya Takahashi's team with Xenoblade Chronicles managed to perform on the same level as Matsuno, to surpass it in some places and once again shake up the stagnant genre.
"Dvennashka" still surprises with the integrity of its world – the locations are organically intertwined, branching, and the movement between them looks seamless even with allowance for the loadings between the zones. And the walk is suggested not for a million square kilometers of empty space, which requires 10 minutes of real time to travel by car. On the contrary, each of the unique regions is large enough for interesting research, but it is compact enough not to get lost. And outwardly, they are significantly different. Departing from Rananastra, say, to the south, you will first find yourself in a desert area that flows into a green plain, from where you can get to the forest, mine or village.
The smoothness of the journey turns the journey through Ivalis into a real adventure, and at the same time pushes the player towards independence. On the screen there are no huge markers, and the track is not highlighted in the right direction – the characters discussing further actions only hint at the location of an object or even point to one side of the world. Need to go north? Take the right course, and then you will see. As you progress, you accidentally come across some trifles, small settlements, lonely wanderers or you go to optional locations with secrets. Similar strokes enliven the world, from which, when stepping onto the road, it is difficult to break away.
Although the pace of passage could knock down the classic for Japanese role-playing games system. In jRPG, everyone is already accustomed to clashes with invisible opponents and transitions to a separate arena, and developers are not too eager to change something. Final Fantasy XII on a personal example shows how you can save the tactical component of battles in real time, without turning into action / RPG with endless rolls around opponents. The twelfth part became the first numbered "finale", where monsters freely walk around the map – you can interact with them without additional downloads or other restrictions.
The main question was how, in such conditions, to control a team of three characters, which sometimes expands to four at the expense of guest heroes. After all, in battles, a lot of events are happening simultaneously. The proceeds are a brilliant system of gambits. In fact, these are simple scripts that allow you to program each of the wards on several templates. It is enough to choose a condition – say, "the ally's life is less than 60%," and then ask what to do in this case. And it concerns not only support, but also attacks – no one interferes, for example, to order comrades to beat the leader's goal or to concentrate on the enemy with the highest level of health. It all depends on the specific situation.
There are a lot of variants and their combinations – the game can be set to perform most simple actions, but to monitor the progress of the battle itself and adjust the tactics with personal orders. Here, of course, there are those who begin to complain that the player can only "steer" the team in the right direction, and she will do everything herself. In part this is true, but only in areas with weak opponents. The design of Final Fantasy XII does not provide for the use of gambits to solve all problems. Automation does not make it easier at all, because new enemies constantly meet – you have to adjust tactics and sometimes drastically change the patterns of action. This is especially true for bosses, constantly throwing unpleasant surprises. And what difference does it make whether you personally press the attack button for the thousandth time or will you give up the routine to the computer?
However, all this was still ten years ago. Remaster, who received the subtitle The Zodiac Age, will offer a lot of new people who have already mastered the original far and wide, because it is based on the exclusive for Japan version of the International Zodiac Job System. From the original version, it differed not only by correcting the balance and various point corrections, but also the emergence of professions. In the first European edition, all the characters used a common license board – with her help the character was able to use magic, weapons or armor. However, due to the fact that all the skills were available to all heroes in general, towards the end of the game the team consisted of multifunctional knights, able to ride a club along the ridge, and arrange a local magical armageddon, and cure the party with a slight wave of the hand.
The addition of specializations in International has broken the license plate for certain segments with abilities corresponding to the profession, and the remaster has allowed to choose two instead of one occupation. You can make a white magician, famously waving a spear, or a samurai, who sprinkles the enemy with fire. Characters in terms of skills are quite different from each other, which, in turn, leads to more interesting battles, where it is required, among other things, to take into account the class of wards. On the other hand, the roles have reduced the variability – now you can not turn everyone into archers at any moment, simply because it hit your head.
In addition, The Zodiac Age received automatic save when moving from zone to zone, which made the passage easier, a convenient translucent map that overlays the image, and at the same time "buns" of the extended edition like the ability to speed up the game for faster movement and separate mode with hundreds of tests. Once again, the balance changed – on personal feelings, from the necessity of mandatory pumping were almost completely eliminated. I almost always managed to defeat the next mandatory boss the first time, which can not be said for the original version. It's a shame only that Matsuno was not invited to supervise the remaster – instead he was called to do a content update about Ivalis for Final Fantasy XIV. Well, at least so.
⇡ # And who is the most important here?
Final Fantasy XII would be enough for one gameplay to stand out from the background of others, but it is far from the canons and part of the plot. Love line, the universal threat, search for yourself – pf-ff-ff, forget it. Instead of ordinary topics, Matsuno offers domestic and foreign policies, generously flavored with complex palace intrigues. The game can discuss for five minutes the course of the military campaign and the subtlety of relations between neighboring states. Add here a vast mythology and Ivalis from a static virtual turns into a real world, you believe in his existence.
Exactly the same thorough approach was used in the creation of most of the heroes' wards. They are already formed personalities: interesting, elaborated, with their own view of the events taking place, their past. Witty pirate Baltir with charming long-legged partner Fran, Captain Bash, Princess Ashelia – it would seem that a great team has come up, with which it is not boring to spend several tens of hours. However, the leadership of Square Enix decided that it was somehow grown up and serious, the main teenage audience of the series will not understand the political intrigue and harsh expression on the faces of people who have lost their country.
Therefore, Vaan and his girlfriend Penelo were added to the game. They also made the guy the main character. According to the plot scenes, it is very noticeable that a couple in history is out of place at all – the guys usually just stand aside, and if they try to get out ahead, they either carry blatant bullshit or they just shut their comrades and ask them not to interfere. All right, there is no need to open your mouth when the elders are talking.
Fortunately, the story has not changed dramatically because of this. It still revolves around the princess and her desire to restore independence to the country. A couple of "major teenagers" acts as a trailer to the main four, and the next variation of the phrase "Vaan, do not interrupt me" makes me smile every time.
Final Fantasy XII has not just passed the test of time – it still has practically no equal among Japanese role-playing games. For 10 years, Ivalis did not lose his charm – for the console you can sit for several hours without even noticing it. Problems in the development and care of Yasumi Matsuno did not affect the quality of the twelfth part – it is still the richest, unusual, innovative, elaborated and serious of all single-user single-player "finals". The last and the best of the great. Last worthy of the name Final Fantasy.
- a powerful plot without the traditional animehosnogo pathos;
- Gambit system allows you to fine tune the behavior of partners,
- a big world where you can spend more than one hundred hours;
- attention to the smallest details;
- can cause an irresistible desire to re-pass Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics.
Disadvantages of :
- Vaan and Penelo, the door is there. Leave, please.
| Drawing graphics
There is no picture available.
| The Chinese from Virtuos Games have ennobled the classic PlayStation 2 just enough so that it looks acceptable on modern TVs. The design is beautiful, but a large number of blurry textures spoil the impression.
| The sound
|| In the twelfth part, the musical background appears as a background and rarely comes to the fore, but the English voice-over is beautiful. You will be able to distinguish a commoner from an aristocrat by ear, and one race from another.
| The Single Player
|| Final Fantasy XII has a rare feature – it's worth it to run, as time flies by completely unnoticed. There are so many classes, interesting quests and exciting hunts that you absolutely do not want to turn off the game.
| The collective game
|| Not available.
| The general impression
|| Final Fantasy XII perfectly combines innovative according to the standards of Japanese role-playing gameplay, a serious plot and worked out to the smallest detail of the world, which makes it the best part of the series. The current Square Enix will not be able to repeat this with all the desire.