Final Fantasy XII for PlayStation 2

Final Fantasy XII
Square Enix
Forget what you know about RPGs (Role Playing Games). The latest "Final Fantasy" game brought to you from Square Enix takes most Final Fantasy and RPG standards and throw them out the window. Creating a unique and satisfying experience that's sure to be emulated by other developers, Final Fantasy XII raises the bar a notch.

Graphically, this game is simply stunning. And I don't just mean the FMV sequences;Rather, I'm talking about the character models, the environments, in-game cut scene, the monsters, the animation in and out of battle — everything. I didn't think that this kind of visual detail was possible on PS2 until I played this game. From the very beginning I was bombarded with colorful 3 dimensional environments and landscapes which appeared at first a little overwhelming. Once you take in to account the amount of different NPC (non-player character) mini-games, hunts and side-quests, it adds to the sense that your character is a part of a living breathing world, and help makes the total gaming experience more immersive.

Gone are the random battles that are a staple in so many RPGs. Instead, all the enemies appear on screen at once and if they are in your character's "area" or line of sight, it will approach your party (the aggressive ones attack so make sure you are prepared for what it's coming by checking their stats once you see them).

Most players of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) such as Warcraft or City of Heroes will be familiar with the concept of of aggressive monsters and the swarm tactics that they employ in "FF XII". Monsters no longer drop money — or "gil" as its called in the game. Instead, once you defeat a monster there is a chance it will drop loot such as a fur pelt or crooked tooth, which you can trade at one of the many stores for money.

If you collect a certain number of special types of items and sell it to a shopkeeper, you might have the opportunity to purchase unique weapons and armor or get more common items at a discount. And when you think about it, it really makes a little more sense that you can get a "tanned hide" from a tyrannosaur as opposed to 200 gil. Why would a dinosaur walk around with money?

Gone also are the predetermined character classes that most RPGs use. In "FF XII" once a character is in your party, you can customize them however you see fit. If you want a crossbow-wielding thief that can cast black magic, go right ahead. Even more important than experience points (another RPG standard that isn't missing but it's significance takes a back seat) is the new License Board system. All the best parts of every character class that you can think of are available if you have enough LPs (license points).

Another completely new and creative feature introduced in this game is the Gambit system. This allows you to determine what actions your party will take when encountering an enemy. For instance, you can set up commands that range from the simple "attack nearest enemy" to the complex "steal from nearest enemy with more than 2000 Hit Points and then cast a Blind spell and then attack." This may sound complex at first but the in-game tutorial does an excellent job of explaining these features and walking you through the initial setup.

All of these new strategies, situations and techniques take a while to get used to (my learning curve was roughly four hours) but once you get comfortable with these differences, begin to add members to your party and take advantage of the Gambit system. You will truly see what a groundbreaking game this is.

The voice acting and production values are outstanding. The gameplay is innovative and unique. The story is compelling and is filled with political intrigue, love, humor and action. The sound effects are clear and crisp, and the score sets the mood and keeps pace with the situations during gameplay. Even "Final Fantasy" classic tunes such as the Chocobo theme are included. With over 40 hours of gameplay, this game should be in every "Final Fantasy" and RPG fans collection.

"Final Fantasy XII" is rated "T" for Teen (Content suitable for ages 13 or older) and is available for the PlayStation 2 game console.
By Jeremiah Wallace