When FF first started there was hardly any story. Story only became a really big factor from Final Fantasy VI onward. The creator of FF, Hironobu Sakaguchi, stated in the PAL version of FFX Bonus DVD that FF was about, "challenging himself with each new instalment and doing something new." FFXII represents one of the biggest leaps in terms of this because of the revolutionary battle system and unique story presentation.
The Final Fantasy XII team (SQUARE ENIX Product Development Division 4) saw how linear and story driven FFX was and decided to go in the opposite direction and make an FF that was primarily about gameplay and freedom for the player. They didn't get rid of the story completely, of course, but they chose not to make it the focus of this instalment. There is so much to do in FFXII. It has over 100 hours of gameplay and most of this time is actual gameplay. Not watching a 20 min long in-game cinematic every 10 minutes play like in FFX. FFXII will throw you at a dungeon that you will travel through it with full gameplay and no cut-scenes for 2-3 hours and then after you complete it you get the 20 min long cut-scene. This method makes the cinematics stand out more and feel more rewarding.
The graphics of Final Fantasy XII are some of the best you will ever see on the PlayStation 2. SQUARE ENIX is well known as a games company that doesn't play when it comes to graphics. Final Fantasy XII has probably some of the best Art Direction you will see in any PS2 game. Every area you go to is very intricately detailed. In fact, areas are so detailed there are chances you will not even notice a lot of subtle touches. The Character Designs by Akihiko Yoshida are very detailed and you'll be amazed at how the in-game models look. The movement and facial animations of the in-game character models are so good that they look more "real" then the CGI models. How SQUARE ENIX managed to do this is beyond me.
As I said before, they have introduced a new battle system that is a revolution to the JRPG genre. The battle system is still turn-based but you now fight enemies on the exploration field. I often describe the new system by comparing it to 3D Zelda games but with time needing to pass before Link swings his sword or uses an item. I love how there is so much gameplay in this game as it really let's you flex out the battle system. After all, when you are given something new you can't wait to use it as much as possible, right? The battle system is hard to explain but once you first try it out you will quickly catch on. I admit that even I was sceptical about it at first but once you get into it you realize you're playing one the greatest gameplay revolutions in JRPG history.
The story of this game is deep and but not spoon fed to the player. You will of course be given the main gist of the story, but you will have to go out of your way to find the connections between the main characters; their hidden agendas and true motives are not given to you directly. The same can be said about the enemies; a clever player who reads between the lines will even begin to question if the main antagonist is even really "bad" in the literal sense of the word. If you like to find out the truth about a story yourself, you will find FFXII a break from the norm and very rewarding. In past FF games we were told everything while playing and we would then just think about them. In FFXII you're never told everything but are left thinking about what could be. I love this as there is never a time when you know the complete story, it is hidden from you; you are often left in the dark and the imagination of you controls what the story is leading to. Unfortunately most FF fans like to be spoon fed so they complain that FFXII has a lack of story. I can honestly highly praise FFXII for being the first FF that encourages the player to read between the lines and discover the truth for themselves.
Go in expecting change to the FF norm, both in gameplay and in the delivery of story. Also, watch characters words and actions carefully as they will reveal things that are not presented to you directly via the story. Play this game but listen to and observe characters carefully and read between the lines as you will discover things not presented to you directly.
FFXII is a Diamond but unfortunately there are FF fans out there that think it is a Rock. Don't let yourself become one of them.
10 / 10