Back in 2017, Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age was an unexpected remake to the PS2 classic, Final Fantasy 12. I’ve never played Final Fantasy 12 back in the day, so being able to play it on PS4 was a great experience. Be warned, mysteriously vague spoilers ahead.
After a lengthy sequence detailing the end of the Archadian / Dalmascan War, you pick up the pace as Vaan, a young thief whose brother Reks died in the war. Soon, Vaan gets caught up in a huge globe-trotting adventure, along with his friends Penelo, the sky pirate Balthier and his Viera companion Fran, the disgraced captain Basch, and the queen of Dalmasca, Princess Ashe. By the end of the huge story, I started to care for each of these characters but my favorite was Balthier. Maybe it’s because I saw myself in Balthier, maybe I just loved the idea of sky pirates, or maybe it was because of his act of self-sacrifice at the end of the game to save the city of Rabanastre. Or maybe just because he was my strongest character and I used him to solo the Undying at the end of the game…
Final Fantasy is a story about crystals, which has to be the oldest Final Fantasy tradition at this point. Usually the heroes are on a journey for the crystals because they’re a source of good and hope- but in 12, the nethicite stones are anything but. They’re used for destruction, not only by the bad guys but also by the good guys to destroy an entire imperial fleet.
One of the themes in the game is the influence the gods have had on the history of man. The bad guy Vayne wants to free man’s history from the gods but he also wants the power all for himself. Turns out it’s the good guys who achieve Vayne’s ambition when they shatter the really big nethicite crystal. The nethicite was nothing but trouble, so I was glad to see it destroyed (ending the influence of the gods).
The Zodiac Age is the first Final Fantasy to have an action combat system which is a radical departure from the rest of the series. You can bring up the attack menu at any time, so in that sense you can take as much time as you please. The Zodiac Age also brings in the gambit system, which lets you assign everyone customisable battle programs called gambits. If you have a good gambit, you can fight enemies and even bosses without making any attacks manually. You can walk the world freely and for the first time in the series’ history, there are no random encounters. Monsters walk around the world which you can fight or ignore as you please. Random encounters are a sticking point with me, so I’m glad to be able to play a Final Fantasy game with no random encounters at all.
The other big innovation is the Zodiac job system, which lets you assign any role to whatever character you like. You can even assign each character a second role in case you don’t like your first. Let me tell you a little story: I tried to make Auron my healer in Final Fantasy 10, and let me tell you that didn’t go well. I taught him cure and when I used it, he could barely restore any health, I just accepted that I wasted my spheres and moved on to his old sphere grid path. I still had Yuna as my healer, Tidus as the swordsman guy, Wakka as the anti-air guy, Lulu as the black mage and so on. While those roles are pretty cool, I still prefer the crazy job combinations you can pull off in The Zodiac Age.
Final Fantasy 12 is a game that has so much going for it: It has likable characters and a long, stunning story that’s better than most other RPGs I’ve played. It has a huge amount of post-game content with many bosses that you don’t fight until you play beyond the main story. It has so many spells to learn, technicks to master, weapons and armor to find, and espers to summon. There are twelve jobs in the job system, and you can pick as many or as few as you want. You can play through Trial mode which is the 100 trials mode we’ve seen in many other games. You can play New Game Plus or New Game Minus, which will certainly make you rethink the way you play the game (even if New Game Plus is trivially easy).
I have had so much fun with Final Fantasy 12 and there’s so much more to do if I wanted to. The main story took me 45 hours, so know that it will take some dedication if you want to finish the game. Maybe the game’s a 9/10, maybe it’s a 9.7/10. I don’t know, it’s just a great game, and I wanted to get that off my mind.