Final Fantasy XII Reader Review
I've been playing this for the past few days, and I'm pretty sure I'm near the end of it, and I have a few things to say about it that won't be particularly obvious to FF fans until they've spent a long time with it such as I.
Final Fantasy XII, despite a four billion yen budget and 5 years development time, is piss poor. It plays like somebody did market research into what makes a good JRPG and done the exact opposite: There is no journeying, dungeons take an average of 4 hours to complete (with usually only 2 save points), character development is nil and cutscences are so few and far between you forget what the hell has been said because you're faffing about in dungeons for 4 hours.
The mention of dungeons should be of note to series veterans for the simple reason that they've never existed in the traditional sense in FF before. In the past they've usually only been there as an optional venture with special rewards at the end, and there's always the final 'dungeon', but FFXII's gameplay is very much centred around them. And not just dungeons either, bloody repetitive dungeons as well. "OOH! Look! Another old building filled with way-stones and monsters and dull puzzles, isn't that nice?"
In regards to the characters, it's pretty clear that they put some degree of thought into Ashe, got bored, and tacked on 5 randoms. If Penelo wasn't the last character to be written in I'll eat my hat, I don't think she's said anything since the first hour of playtime. Actually if you asked me why Vaan, Penelo, or Basch were even in the story I honest to God couldn't answer you. And that's assuming you'd accept "the possibility of reward" as an answer for Balthier and Fran.
On to the story, if you can call it that: Ashe is a Princess who's Kingdom has been invaded. She's understandably vexed by this and decides to find some magical stone to sort things out. This of course involves flying/teleporting to a dungeon, working your way through it until you find out "the stone isn't here, it's in another dungeon! Fight a boss before you leave." and repeating for 45 hours. Then presumably you see an ending and sell the game for a pittance.
Oh, and they've changed the battle system: it's now crap. Rather than transition to a battle screen you fight your enemies in the field whilst your allies fight by themselves. This is very boring. Yes, you can choose to input commands manually, but the game is clearly designed with the AI system in mind and to try and squeeze some fun out of it by turning off the AI puts you at a big disadvantage.
If the game has one redeeming feature it's the visuals. They are rather staggering with the FMV sequences being mighty fine as usual. Finally presented in widescreen too. The music is a bit "meh", Nobuo Uematsu is gone for good and the game is weaker for it. SFX are OK I guess but again there's nothing to remember.
I suppose I get to put a score now, don't I? As I've said I haven't actually completed the game yet, but I'm close enough that the only thing that could influence this review any further is the ending sequence, so I'll append my thoughts on it once I've seen it.
Appended: Ending was crap.
4 / 10