Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age - Recensione

Author: Alessandro "Zampa" Zampini
Date: 2020-03-03 03:39:42
If in recent months you have noticed on the Nintendo Switch eShop (but also on the equivalent of Xbox One) a suspicious and massive presence of Square Enix titles you do not have to worry, it is normal. After the Final Fantasy of the PlayStation era (the first), the pocket edition of the last chapter, the super deformed versions and the chickens lost in the dungeons, the recovery program of the Square catalog (almost) reaches its conclusion with Final Fantasy XII : The Zodiac Age, the second chapter appeared on PlayStation 2 in 2006 and already the protagonist, on PlayStation 4, of a remaster that is an example of how these operations should be performed.

But let's take a step back to the year two thousand, when Yasumi Matsuno, the mastermind behind Ivalice, and Hiroyuki Ito started working on what would become the title with the longest development time in video game history. Since then, and for the next six years, things within the team changed a lot, starting from the abandonment of Matsuno himself, and led Square to publish a title as much for the times as it was divisive for the fans, who experienced what was a Final Fantasy that for the first time, really, had little to do with the other Final Fantasy.

The story of Vaan, Ashe, Penelo, Basch, Balthier and Fran is different from the others, and it is clear from the beginning: the themes around which it revolves are more political than amorous, and yet, as usual, having growth of the protagonists and their relationships at the center of the whole aspect is that of the war romance rather than the pink one. On the other hand, although not for the whole production, the concept is still Matsuno's. Already from the very first lines in Rabanastre it can be understood that the discontinuity with the past is evident, and it is in (almost) everything that matters: we have talked about the main themes of the narrative, but what we usually refer to, talking about Final Fantasy XII, is the fact that it is a game almost entirely in real time, in which the fights are therefore not confined to an instance but occupying a space and time shared within the game world. In short, a modern stuff and, for the year in which it came out, decidedly avant-garde.

The first to pay the price of this small revolution is obviously the chance encounter: in a world where the enemies are always in sight there is no longer the anguish of meeting the random enemy every three steps, and if this seems The norm was certainly not so almost fifteen years ago, and certainly not for a Final Fantasy, so much so that even the thirteenth chapter has taken a step back returning to the instantiated combat. The technological challenge to bring such a different and complex world to PlayStation 2 has been unlikely, but has allowed Ito to be able to do things never seen before like the Gambit, which exploited this dynamic nature in an original and profound way. The Gambit is that series of indications that allow you to automate almost everything related to combat: you set up situations that activate specific triggers (such as "if the allies are below 50% of life then use Curaga"), they try in battle, they are modified again according to the type of collision and they are tried again until everything is perfectly automated. Soon you will learn, or remember, how much everything that revolves around this system is central to the economics of the game.

From the point of view of the evolution of the character, it can be said that we remain in perfect continuity with Final Fantasy X, with the Licenses replacing the spheres. This edition also offers the Zodiac Age variant, which in fact limits the licenses that the characters can take to two jobs, adding a certain strategy to the evolution of the characters and that job system taste that, at least if you ask me , it never hurts.

In short, between the areas in real time and the Gambit, playing Final Fantasy XII was for the times a small look at what the future would have been, as well as an almost definitive greeting of the saga to the classic way of interpreting the JRPG: the series has no never had particular fear in renewing from chapter to chapter and experimenting with new solutions, but with the twelfth game the natural evolution of the mechanics was far exceeded, going right into the field of revolution, exactly like the one the storyline of the game is about. This being so different and innovative allows him, much better than other (often more appreciated) chapters to be still current and enjoyable: playing Final Fantasy XII today has less effect, for example, than playing Final Fantasy X, of which you he may perhaps appreciate better writing and more characterized characters, but whose mechanics are more dated being in fact the last of the "classic" Final Fantasy.

The novelties brought by the Zodiac Age edition on Switch and Xbox One, the same in substance of the PS4 version, then make the gaming experience even more rewarding and help a lot to buffer the different game settings of more than ten years ago . Sure, there are new licenses, the ability to reset them, new gambits and the New Game Plus with two different modes, but the one that really changes the way you play a Final Fantasy is the Speed Mode, which allows you to speed up the game of two or four times. Now, it seems like a trifle, but how many times maybe the only thing that stopped you from taking up a role-playing game of this size was the lack of time to bring all the characters to the maximum, farm or grind equipment for the last, complicated quest? Here, in doing so, and by combining this warp speed with a system like the Gambit that automates these phases, you can spend more time in the decisive and topical clashes, deriving the grinding (or the palm-to-palm exploration of the areas) to a truly secondary activity that it will take a quarter of the time compared to what really matters.

Worth seeing, Final Fantasy XII is always pleasant, thanks to the excellent recovery work of the remaster, even if it always remains a game of almost two generations ago, so calibrate your expectations on this too. If you ask me, his death is playing it on Switch (personally I find it a perfect platform for this kind of recovery, also because the smaller display helps to notice the shortcomings), but it must also be said that for Xbox One it is a debut absolute, and above all on Xbox One X (and only there), you can play it at 60fps. Not that they are essential, but they are there. In short, as you do, you do well.

I played Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on Switch both in docked and portable mode noting any substantial difference, except that portability is a significant added value in this type of production.