The question that today’s Final Fantasy veterans ask themselves is “Why did I hate or not even bother with Final Fantasy XII before this remaster?”.
The game was a mixed bag, mostly between the critics and the majority of the fans. The majority of the critics considered it to be one of the best RPGs to ever grace the Playstation 2 and had won several awards during the year it was released including Game of the Year and Best PS2 Game. The game was without a doubt ahead of its time. It featured a new combat system that was completely different than any Final Fantasy or RPG before it and even had a system that makes the game into a sort of Programming 101 class. There are certainly a number of reasons why its reception was mixed back then but there are some that stand out the most from my personal perspective.
So let’s take a look at why this game which I found to be groundbreaking, the most advanced game in the PS2 era, and immensely fun back then, turned out to be, like I stated in my review of the game, “the most controversial Final Fanasy I have ever seen.”
The Combat System
This is probably the biggest reason why the general demographic didn’t like Final Fantasy XII back then. The combat was a huge departure from the past Final Fantasy games. The encounters were all real-time and so was the combat. It was like an action RPG and if you weren’t careful you could attract a lot of mobs. The system also prevented you from controlling the other characters on the field at the same time so they became automatic. The majority of players back then weren’t used to this way of playing RPGs which is why many found it really strange.
The Gambit System
This system turns the other 2 characters on the field that you couldn’t control into programmable machines. You can program them to do specific actions under specific conditions like if enemy hp=70%, cast Firaga or if ally=KO, use Phoenix Down. This was certainly alien at the time and many found it hard to adjust and learn it especially since you need to buy each gambit to create better action conditions for your allies. Once mastered though the game can become boring and a grind except when certain bosses requires you to change tactics.
The summons back then certainly had cool designs but suffered from being inefficient overall and the player has no ability to control it. Though it was a really cool concept to be able to have a summoner and summon fight side by side, the execution was lacking at the time and at later levels became nearly useless.
Final Fantasy XII has such a huge world and deep lore but the story was mostly a political conflict at the end of the day and was more “mature” for many of the younger generation. It was really different since it was mostly nations fighting against each other and within compared to the previous main Final Fantasy games where it was about saving the world from being wiped out. The story was really engaging and fun at first but it got a drop somewhere in the middle till before the epic Final Stage. It was probably also a letdown since people felt like they were playing a game with a Star Wars narrative that they are so familiar with.
The video game generation
What people wanted back then when it came to their favored franchises was familiarity. Final Fantasy XII was a completely different game in the franchise back then that people found it so weird that this game was a main Final Fantasy title. The developers may have outdid themselves with the great new features but the fans didn’t understand most of it at the time unlike today thanks to the popularization of MMORPGs and more games that shared similarities with Final Fantasy XII.
Thanks to the great number of video games that have been introduced over the past 11 years since Final Fantasy XII was released, the remastered Zodiac Age is now a favorite among the fans especially those who scoffed at it first and the newcomers. Globalization and the digital age has played a big part in its newfound reception. Gamers today are now actively seeking out something new, weird, and something that can frustrate them (thanks especially to Dark Souls and your cartoon version, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy).
The new features have been a big boon like the gameplay balances and the ability to control guests and summons certainly helps a lot. The game is also significantly less of a grind thanks to the 2 modes of the fast forward feature and is the highlight of all features for gamers who have “jobs”.
I for one am just happy that the fans are giving the most underrated and overooked Final Fantasy a 2nd chance with The Zodiac Age.
For a comprehensive review of the game, check out my review by clicking here.