Is Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age the Remaster Fans Have Been Waiting For?
There are not many of us, but I am among the few who loved Final Fantasy XII.
It was the first Final Fantasy game I ever pre-ordered and although it took me a few years to complete, it easily stands out as one of my absolute favorites. Despite the fact that virtually everything about the game was different from its predecessors, it is not only a great Final Fantasy, but a great game period. The story is much more political than other games in the Final Fantasy series, making it less about saving the world than taking down a corrupt empire. The characters, even Vaan (with his ridiculous hair) all have arcs that made me want to see them through to the end. The battle system, though criticized by many as being too auto-attack-y, is far more complex than any other game in the series and has a great deal of nuance. The world of the game is easily the largest of any Final Fantasy game prior to XIV. The soundtrack is not only beautiful, but gives an appropriately epic feel to the world in which the game is played (and it is so good that I still listen to it 7 years after completing the game). It’s the only Final Fantasy game where I finished the story and actually went back to play another 40-plus hours because of how much I enjoyed it and how much content there was to complete beyond the main story. While I cannot honestly say it ranks higher than Final Fantasy VI or Final Fantasy IV, it still remains in my top 3 at all times.
After the excellent HD Remasters of Final Fantasy X/X-2 on Vita and PS3 (later ported to PS4 and PC), I was hopeful that XII would receive a similar treatment. And as of yesterday, after years of speculation and rumors, Final Fantasy XII has been officially announced as coming to PS4 in 2017 as Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. As noted in the announcement, this HD Remaster of Final Fantasy XII will include a number of new features and updates. Here are the ones that stood out to me the most:
- The Zodiac Job System: This is easily the biggest of the added features, as it was never released outside of Japan. The Zodiac Job System makes it possible to set each character along a specific progression class (which cannot be changed), rather than having everyone start at the same point. This is beneficial in that it removes some of the tedium of filling all of the slots on the License Board with what may be unnecessary skill and equipment licenses and essentially makes the characters more distinct from one another. The down side is that it also locks a character in to a specific class so that they are much more limited in what they can equip/use/do. In some of the tougher fights (especially with optional Espers and the later Hunts), the ability to change some things on the fly can definitely be helpful, so being locked into a specific class could quite possibly become more of a hindrance than a help. If you played the original game and know what classes you want each character to have, this can be a Godsend. If you are new to the game and/or like to experiment more, this new system (which I believe is not mandatory) is probably better to not use.
- Upgraded Visuals and Audio: While the updates do not seem to be quite as dramatic as Final Fantasy X/X-2’s HD Remasters, there is still a definite increase in detail, shadows, and textures overall. Considering this game’s art style still holds up even a decade after its original release, the visual updates seem to be more icing on the cake than anything else. As for the audio, XII was well-known as having some of the best voice acting of its time, so cleaning up the audio will only be an improvement to an already stellar game. Furthermore, adding the option for up to 7.1 surround sound will give audiophiles a chance to truly enjoy the incredible sound design of this game. With these audio upgrades comes a re-recorded soundtrack, which, although on by default, can be switched back to the original version on the fly. For fans of the original soundtrack (which is already fully orchestrated), the option to switch if I do not like the updated soundtrack is a very welcome feature.
- Auto-saves, Trophies, and Faster Load Times: In my 100-plus hours of game time in the original, there were several times that I would grind for hours and on the way back to a save crystal, would get killed and end up losing a bunch of progress. As such, the addition of auto-saves, if implemented well, could help the game immensely. And while I am not much of a trophy hunter myself, I think that having those will be a nice little bonus when doing some of the optional quests, especially those that are legitimately difficult. Faster load times (though I do not remember them being all that bad in the original), are always welcome as well.
If there is one thing I am not entirely happy about, it is that at least as of this point, there is no mention from Square-Enix about a Vita or PC version (an XBO version is unlikely, as like Final Fantasy X, XII was a PlayStation Exclusive in its original releases). For anyone who did any of the side quests in the original game, they know that there is a lot of grinding required, especially to successfully complete all of the Hunts, defeat the optional Bosses, and get all of the optional Espers. As such, a Vita version (much like the excellent Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remasters) is not only ideal, but preferable. A PC version would be excellent likewise as it would be playable on higher graphical settings with even a decent rig or on the go with a reasonably good laptop.
There’s still plenty of opportunity between now and the release date for Square-Enix to confirm other versions, but I would not hold my breath for a portable version, no matter how wonderful it would be. A PC version seems very likely considering every other mainline Final Fantasy game so far has come to PC, but it likely will not be released until some time after the game releases on PS4.
Regardless, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age should please those of us who are fans of the original game (and hopefully create some new fans) when it releases next year on PS4.
What are your thoughts on Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age? Let us know in the comments below!