Final Fantasy XII

Format: PS2
Square Enix

5 060121 820487
Age Restrictions: 16+
23 February 2007

As the future of Ivalice hangs in the balance, the mighty Arcadian Empire edges ever closer to war with its old enemy Rozzarria. Lying between them, the tiny kingdom of Dalmasca celebrates a royal wedding and the promise of future prosperity... Two years later, a Dalmascan street urchin named Vaan looks to the heavens and dreams of leaving his fallen homeland to live the life of a sky pirate, free to go where he will. He is about to learn that the freedom he craves is not easily won, and that to realise his dreams, he must first realise the dreams of a nation...

Final Fantasy XII takes place in a world called Ivalice, in an age when magic is commonplace and airships fill the skies, crowding out the heavens. A world of many races, the humes, bangaa, viera and, of course, moogles, all call Ivalice home.

War was on the horizon. Seeking to strengthen its base of power, the great Archadian Empire had been invading and subjugating its neighbouring kingdoms one by one. The small Kingdom of Dalmasca was one such kingdom. When the occupying Archadian forces established a new consul in Dalmasca's Royal City of Rabanastre, it caught the attention of Vaan, an urchin living on the streets. To Vaan, the Empire was a hated enemy who had taken the life of his brother his last surviving family member.

Vaan hatched a plan to sneak into the castle housing the new consul and unburden him of one or two of his treasures. But before he would have the chance, Vaan got far more than he bargained for; a resistance movement of former Dalmascan soldiers rising up against the Archadian Empire was launching an assault. Amid the ensuing confusion that engulfed the castle, Vaan saw something he could scarcely believe. There, among the members of the resistance, was the figure of the sole remaining heir to the Dalmascan throne, the Princess Ashe, who'd been given up for missing...

Our story follows Vaan, Ashe, Vaan's friend Penelo, the sky pirate Balthier, his partner Fran and many more on an adventure through Ivalice that traces the mysteries behind the Archadian Empire's invasion.

Final Fantasy XII moves the franchise to new heights with a new look and complete overhaul of the gaming engine. The cut sequences of the story are also worth a mention. Some of which are incredibly beautiful.

The new "Active Dimension Battle" (ADB) system gives players the freedom to move seamlessly around the environments attacking the enemy or exploring the surrounding area at will. I have to say that I much preferred this style of combat over the other, more stagnant style that was common in previous Final Fantasy games.

The new Gambit System combines the strategic subtlety of classic turn-based battling with the immediacy of real-time combat. Allowing the player to assign instructions to party members, the Gambit System enables the party to act intelligently in battle without the need for user intervention. For example, if you want a character to act as a healer, you can instruct them to use a Cure spell whenever an ally's health falls below a chosen level.

The game's Licence Board gives allows the ability to customise each character's skills and abilities. Random battles are a thing of the past as you can now see foes before engaging them. Each type of monster has its own territory and behavioural patterns. Some foes will leave the party alone unless provoked, while some enemies will fight amongst themselves or prey on weaker monsters.

My only really moan is that it is not possible to change the camera options so if you are not used to using your controls with the up and down reversed this game will be next to unplayable. That is really an unforgivable aspect to overlook - especially when the game is so well polished in all other respects.

Not only will Final Fantasy fans warm to this game, but I'm sure that a whole new generation of fans will spring up - with those who found the previous games too hard to get into finding this offering a lot more palatable.

Nick Smithson

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