Preview: Final Fantasy XII

April 21, 2006

Throughout the history of gaming there are games or series of games that truly stay with you for a lifetime. The list is long; Mario, Pong, Zelda, Metroid, Halo, Half-Life. At the top of this illustrious list, for myself at least, is the Final Fantasy series. As a die-hard RPG fan, more so than any other genre in gaming, I have followed the series for the majority of my life. That being said, I have never been more excited for a FF title in my life.

For any of you who picked up Dragon’s Quest VIII you may have noticed a second shiny round thing packaged along with it. We call that a disc. On that disc is a demo of the upcoming release in the Final Fantasy series; Final Fantasy XII. After trying their hand at the MMORPG market with FFXI they are attempting to go back to their roots with this upcoming title. The opening sequence gives us some of the basic story for this one. The game takes place in a world called Ivalice during a time of war. The kingdom of Archadia is bringing war upon its neighboring nations and taking them over one by one (sound a little bit familiar anyone?) The kingdom of Dalmasca is next in line, but they don’t appear to be giving in quite so easily.

That’s about all that we get as far as story goes. I will say that Square has not lost its knack for creating stunning cutscenes. There are a few things I’ve noticed from watching the opening sequence, which I’ve seen about thirty times by now. First, Square has decided to make FFXII in a more realistic style rather than the cartoonish look many previous FF titles have taken on. It appears also that FFXII deals with many different races from humans to a Jar-Jar look-a-like to what appears to be a mix of a hobbit and a mouse. This is not to say that your character can be chosen in different races only that many of the characters you encounter are of various races.

The cast of characters seems to be your usual FF group; the simpleton hero, hippy free-spirited teen, a princess, a sky pirate, a soldier who has been branded as a traitor, and an oddball who apparently specializes in weaponry. All of this leads me to believe that the game is going to be the same old FF we’ve played several times over. Not to say this is a bad thing, as I have loved nearly every entry in the long running series, but I’m still holding on to the hope that this title will somehow advance or revolutionize the series.

Now let’s move on to the gameplay. There really isn’t much to do here. The demo offers two small levels that are not part of the actual game itself; just little mini-missions to show off the graphics and combat system. One level uses wait mode and is set on a tropical beach while the other uses active mode and takes place in an old temple of some sort. Neither of them contains any dialogue or story and they only last about 10-15 minutes. The combat this time around is seamlessly integrated with moving around the map and exploring, which I really enjoy and I think will help keep the game flowing. The UI and menus work just as well as ever. All of the items and spells in the demo will be familiar to anyone who has played a FF title before.

You have the usual black and white magic along with what are called green magic and time magic. A