Under the looming shadow of the upcoming PlayStation 3, Final Fantasy XII launched as one of the last group of exclusive games for the PlayStation 2. While it sold well, it received mixed responses to its automated combat style and political narrative focus. Some saw it as a step backwards, and some believed it was what the future looked like for RPGs. Regardless, The Zodiac Age is a perfect chance for anyone who missed out or skipped it first time around with an opportunity to see what the team behind Final Fantasy XII had to offer eleven years ago.
The opening cinematic brought me back to my first full playthrough when the PS3 library was still very narrow. What I loved about the narrative dialogue and the birth of the political scenario took center stage in the opening minutes, and I began to remember what I enjoyed the most. Then combat came around, and another thought resurfaced. Early on, there’s absolutely no control over the game’s acclaimed Gambit system, but its base foundations take center stage. After the first few fights, I recalled how much down time there was between and even during fights, which back in the day took me a great deal of time to acclimate to. However, The Zodiac Age offers speed increases to combat. What’s cool about this is that it cuts back on actual play time so any progression feels substantial.
Combat speed can be customized as well. There’s two-times and four-times speeds, and within both of those rates is a gauge to pace how fast combat moves. So you can set it to four times with a slower combat speed to get something a bit faster than twice the pace but not as crazy fast as four times.
One thing I had taken for granted was how the combat menus work. With the d-pad and X Button, you have full control over what skills, items, and attacks each of the three characters use; because, you know, thinking of every possible scenario to make your Gambits perfect isn’t always possible. In the early stages, this is almost paramount, because items are as important to you as the need to heal; and setting a Gambit to use potions is a great way to consume your inventory in a moment’s notice.
My early hours were spent playing at twice the combat speed. That way, moving around the vast zones and towns is a bit quicker while I don’t have to worry about fights getting too out of hand too quickly; I’m still chipping off rust from when I last played.
The other major change available in the early hours is having access to the different zodiacs, which are classes that can be equipped to whomever you choose. There’s a great deal of variety here, including samurai, red mage, archer, machinist, and white mage. It’s a shame that you can’t use all fourteen of them with your six characters, at least at this point, but having that freedom right away makes for a unique approach.
There’s are many more aspects about this game that are quite intriguing, and I have a lot to say about them in regards to the complete package, so stay tuned for our review on July 10 for the rest. For now, check out our early gameplay coverage showing off the different combat speeds and two beginnings zones.
If you’re really excited about Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, you might want to take a look at the collector’s edition, which includes tracks from the game, exclusive art cards, and full busts for the game’s Judge Magisters. I know I’d like to get my hands on this collection!