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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: July 11, 2017


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PS4 Preview - 'Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 19, 2017 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is an HD remake of Final Fantasy XII which first introduced the Zodiac Job System, a 12-job character progression system.

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Final Fantasy XII may be the very last (non-MMO) Final Fantasy game to not be ported or re-released. Even Final Fantasy XIII arrived on Steam before it did. FF12 has always been one of the more controversial love-or-hate-it Final Fantasy titles, though for a majority of North American players, that is partially due to the fact that we got only the first revision of the game and never saw Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System, which, despite the ironic name, was a major change. The aptly named Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is both a port of that enhanced version and an improved HD remix, and what we got to see of it at E3 2017 looked quite solid.

The first and most obvious change to The Zodiac Age is the improved visual fidelity. FF12 was always one of the best-looking games on the PS2 but was held by back by the system. The Zodiac Age gives a high-resolution makeover to the characters, environments, and interface to make it look a lot more like a modern game. Likewise, the voices, which were tinny and poorly compressed, have been reworked, so they sound a bunch better. This is in addition to the other expected changes, like improved load times. Barring nothing else, FF12 has never looked or sounded better.

It might sound odd, but one of the coolest new features is also one of the smallest. The Zodiac Job System update adds a speed-up button, and the HD remix further increases the speed of that button. The result is that you have a button that can massively turbocharge the speed of combat and movement. It's an odd patch on a problem the original FF12 had, but it's an extremely welcome one. One of the most common complaints was that the game was just too slow, especially if you knew you were going to win a battle and it was just a matter of time.

Mechanically, the bulk of the improvements in The Zodiac Age are actually ones first introduced in the Japanese-only Zodiac Job System release. The most significant of these is the introduction of a job system. In the original FF12, all characters could fill all roles, which was both overpowered and unsatisfying. In Zodiac Job System, each character was given a job from a series of classics, such as Black Mage, Mechanist or Monk. This helped solidify the characters and gave each character a reason to exist. The Zodiac Age retains this feature and adds a new one: sub-jobs. In Zodiac Job System, each character was locked to a specific job. Now, once they reach a specific point on the job grid, they'll be able to pick a second job, allowing characters to create customizations, such as a mechanist who can also cast fire or a monk with time magiks.

This change gives the characters in FF12 more personality and, perhaps more importantly, adds an interesting bit of replay value to the game. There are enough jobs for each character to get one job and one sub-job, but no two characters can double up. This means that you'll probably want to experiment to figure out which combination of jobs and abilities is the best.

There are a ton of tiny mechanical changes that might sound meaningless to Final Fantasy newbies but probably matter a lot to FF12 fans. Quickenings (the FF12 version of limit breaks) no longer drain MP but have their own dedicated charge, so they're more limited in the early game but more viable in the late game compared to the early release. The gambit system has also been adjusted to be more user-friendly and provide certain gambits earlier than before.

There's also new content, including a 100-floor trial dungeon and multiple New Game Plus modes, including one which allows particularly masochistic players to take on the entire game at level 1. Damage numbers and stats have been tweaked to make the game less tedious, though in some cases, that can also make it easier. Magic, items and so on have been reworked to prevent some pretty infamous complaints. (Most noteworthy is that the Zodiac Spear is no longer the impossible-to-find item it used to be.) It's almost a complete reworking of the details, though the broad picture remains the same.

All in all, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is shaping up to be a fantastic HD remix. The usual visual updates and general improvements are going hand-in-hand with a first-time port of the Zodiac Job System content that has never been seen in North America. Add to that the other little tweaks and the improvements to the stellar voice acting, and it's clear that The Zodiac Age will be by far the definitive version of Final Fantasy XII.

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