And this time, folks, it really is final, at least for the PS2. Once October 31st rolls around and the last swelling note of the ending credits fills our ears, that'll be the last time the PS2 has anything to do with Final Fantasy. Luckily, though, it seems that Square-Enix is making sure we go out with a bang. The official website can be found here http://www.finalfantasyxii.com/ but won't be fully ready for another three days. At the moment all there is are models of the characters for you to look at and two versions of the trailer, depending on the bandwidth you have.
First I'll give you a little info about the story to be sure you've got all the facts. The main character is a young man by the name of Vaan, a thief who scurries about his questionable business, ever-careful of keeping out of the sight of the Archadian Empire, who rules those parts. Vaan despises the Empire with a passion, however, as they took the life of his brother. To make them even less-likeable, the Archadian Empire is planning on a military conquest against its unsuspecting neighbors, Shinra did it in FFVII, Galbadia did it in FFVIII, the Yevonites did it in FFX…on and on. A familiar Final Fantasy trademark if there ever was one. To make his defiance apparent, though, Vaan breaks his habitual secrecy to attempt a break-in at the palace. To make things more interesting, though, he meets with an unexpected complication when he encounters the Princess Ashe, the heir to the throne, almost immediately defining who his love interest will be throughout the game. Vaan then teams up with a couple of average-but-loveable thugs, setting the stage for the rest of the story. The game will evidently draw some of its gameplay elements from the favored Final Fantasy Tactics along with other more modern gaming elements, creating a fusion of sorts. This blend is also reflected in the story, which features the traditionally complicated politics that are standard in FF games, along with the even more standard national and international crises that bloom and typically land some orphan right in the middle of it.
The game has already been heralded as bringing sweeping changes to the Final Fantasy series and, perhaps, to the RPG school in general. What is getting most of the buzz in this game is in the alterations to the in game experience, battle system, and the system that allows you to upgrade your character's combat potential as you go through the game. One of the most noteworthy changes is that there will be no random battles in FFXII, going with a Chrono Cross style with enemies wandering around, more than willing to fight you on-contact. The battles will be in real time, with a smooth slide in and out of battle without any bizarre swirl effect. With the analog sticks you will be able to fully control the in-game characters to give you their best, as well as the camera. Thankfully, this setup is by no means unfriendly. The game starts with a Final Fantasy X-type tutorial, giving a rundown of the gameplay. It will then throws enemies into the mix through numerous kinds of battles, all the while being able to control the speed at which the battle moves along and being able to manage the battle in an active mode, where things go in real time, or in passive mode where the action is paused until moves are assigned to the characters, starting up immediately afterwards. Overseeing characters in-battle can be one of the most complicated acts there is to deal with in a FF game or, really, any RPG. Final Fantasy XII, though, makes this process less arduous with the institution of the Gambit System which allows characters to be assigned specific tasks. There are two parts to each Gambit command: the job assigned to each character, and who is affected by that action. For example, if a character should heal other characters when another’s HP get to a certain level, then that can be easily arranged. The permutations are numerous, and there are a lot of opportunities to improve this system throughout the game. The characters can learn new talents themselves, or they can purchase new skills at the Gambit shop in towns and can be shuffled into whatever order preferable. This system can also be utilized to allow the AI to have free reign over the battle with interference from the gamer becoming minimal. Characters become more powerful and acquire new weapons have been given an upgrade as well. The method of gaining experience is the same as it always has been, but there is a new twist that runs parallel to this system: the license system. Each character has a license board that is divided into six different areas: magic, skills, accessories, defense, options, and weapons. You will also need the license and the item, spell, or weapon it corresponds to be able to complete the license. It's like getting a driver's license, but then having to go out and buy a car. This will prevent over-leveling in the early stages of the game, but also adds to the gameplay nicely.
Final Fantasy XII is currently slated for release on October 31, later this year. At Gamestop and EB, you can preorder the Collector’s Edition of the game which includes a bonus DVD containing things like trailers and artwork. Check back here at Mygamer for more info and a review later this year.