Post Reply Final Fantasy XII
Posted 7/21/08 , edited 7/21/08
Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XII (ファイナルファンタジーXII, Fainaru Fantajī Tuerubu?) is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for Sony's PlayStation 2, and the twelfth installment in the Final Fantasy series. It was released in 2006, and was the first single-player Final Fantasy title of the main series since Final Fantasy X five years earlier. Selling more than two million copies in Japan, it became the fourth best-selling PlayStation 2 game of 2006 worldwide.

The game takes place in the fictional location called Ivalice, where the empires of Archadia and Rozarria are waging an endless war. Dalmasca, a small kingdom, is caught between the warring nations. When Archadia invades and occupies Dalmasca, its princess, Ashe, creates a resistance movement. During the struggle, she meets Vaan, a young adventurer who dreams of commanding an airship. They are quickly joined by a band of allies; together, they rally against the tyranny of the Archadian Empire.

Final Fantasy XII introduced several innovations to the series: battles occur without a transition to a separate screen; a "gambit" system automatically controls the actions of characters; and a "license" system determines which abilities and equipment are used by characters. Final Fantasy XII also includes elements from previous games in the series, such as summoned monsters, Chocobos, and airships. The game received universally high scores, and earned numerous "Game of the Year" awards in various categories from noted video game publications. A spinoff, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, was released for the Nintendo DS on April 26, 2007 in Japan and was released in North America on November 20, 2007.
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Gameplay

Throughout the game, the player directly controls the on screen character from a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects and enemies. Unlike previous games in the series, the player can also control the camera with the right analog stick, allowing for a 360° view of the surroundings. While in towns and cities, the player may only see from the perspective of Vaan, although any character may be controlled in battle. The world of Final Fantasy XII is rendered to scale relative to the characters in it; instead of a caricature of the character roaming around miniature terrain, as found in previous Final Fantasy games, every area is represented proportionally. The player navigates the world by foot, by Chocobo, or by airship. Players may save their game to a memory card using save crystals or gate crystals, and may use the latter to teleport to other gate crystals. An in-game bestiary provides incidental information about the world of Final Fantasy XII.

Final Fantasy XII largely reforms the system of earning gil, the currency of the Final Fantasy games. Instead of gil, most enemies drop "loot" which can be sold at shops. This ties into a new battle mechanic which rewards the player with improved loot for slaying a particular type of monster multiple times in a row. Selling different types of loot also unlocks a Bazaar option in shops, which provides items at a lower cost, or items exclusive to the Bazaar.
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Battle system

Unlike the previous Final Fantasy games which used a turn-based system, battles in Final Fantasy XII occur in the open field; however, menus are still used to issue commands to the characters. Combat unfolds in real time, using a new system called active dimension battle (ADB), which allows the player to battle in the overworld instead of in a separate battle screen. The player may issue commands to any of the three characters in the battle party at will or allow "gambits", which issue automatic commands under certain triggers, to allow the characters to act on their own; however, certain "guest" characters are controlled by the game's AI. Battle commands include Attack, Magicks & Technicks, Mist, Gambits, and Items. Using these abilities, the player must destroy enemies before being defeated.

"Random encounters" have been eliminated in Final Fantasy XII; the transition to a separate battle screen like in other Final Fantasy titles is absent. Instead, enemies are visible in the overworld before an engagement and the player may choose to fight or avoid them in open combat. A battle begins when the party comes within range of an aggressive enemy (or vice versa), if the party attacks a non-aggressive enemy, or if a story event initiates a confrontation. When a character or enemy begins to perform an action, target lines connect characters to other party members or enemies; different colors represent the type of action. The player may switch any active character with an inactive character at any time, unless the active character is targeted by an attack or ability. Characters who are knocked out may also be substituted. The absence of a transition to a battle screen meant the usual victory scene is also eliminated, though a successful "Boss" battle does present the player with a "Congratulations" screen and the participating characters in their victory poses.

Another new feature in Final Fantasy XII is the "gambit" system, which allows the player to program each character to perform certain commands in battle in response to specified conditions. Using gambits, the player may set reactions to different stimuli for each character. Each gambit consists of three parts: a target, an action, and a priority. The target specifies which ally or foe to act on and the condition for applying the action. For example, the target "Ally: HP < 70%" causes the character to target any ally whose HP has fallen below 70%. The action is the command to be performed on the target. The priority determines which gambit to perform when multiple gambits are triggered. This rudimentary AI programming scheme allows the characters to act on their own, although player-inputted commands are always given top priority.

n Final Fantasy XII, a mysterious phenomenon, "Mist", is the key energy which allows the player to cast summoning magic and perform "Quickenings", the game's version of Limit Breaks. After defeating one in combat, the player will be able to summon an "Esper" to the battlefield. Similar to Final Fantasy X, the summoned creatures become active participants in battle, as opposed to the cinematic attacks seen in previous games in the series. Unlike Final Fantasy X, however, Espers follow hidden gambits, rather than the player's direct command. The summoner remains an active member in the fight, able to attack and cast support magic, instead of leaving the party or standing idle while the summoned creature fights. An Esper will leave the battle if either the summoner or itself is knocked out, its time limit expires, or it executes its special attack. Some Espers have origins in the two installments of the Final Fantasy Tactics series and others are derived from the final bosses of previous Final Fantasy games, such as Chaos and Zeromus.

Final Fantasy XII introduces a new Limit Break system similar to those in previous games in the series: "Quickenings" ("Mist Knacks" in the Japanese version of the game). Characters learn Quickenings by progressing to specific panels on the License Board. Each character can learn three Quickenings, which are unique to that character. Characters may string together Quickenings into large combo attacks, called Mist Chains. If a Mist Chain reaches a certain number of attacks, a final strike will be initiated at the end of the Quickening cycle, called a Concurrence.
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License Board

Like most role-playing games, characters level up each time they earn a set number of experience points from defeating enemies; each "level" gained increases the character's statistics, thus improving their performance in battle. Statistics include hit points, the amount of damage a character can receive; strength, the power of the character's physical attacks; and magic, the potency of the character's magical spells.

In addition to leveling up, players may improve their characters via the License Board. The License Board is an oddly shaped array of panels that contain "licenses"—permits which allow a character to perform certain actions. The board is split into two parts; the upper part contains Magick, Technick, Accessory, and Augment (stat increases and other permanent buffs) licenses, and the bottom part is filled mostly with Weapon and Armor licenses. To use a Magick, Technick or piece of equipment, the character must obtain its corresponding license by spending the required amount of LP (License Points) to permit its use. LP are earned in battle along with the experience points. Like Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid, all characters may obtain all licenses on the board; however, each Quickening and Esper license may only be activated by a single character.
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Setting

Final Fantasy XII is set within the land of Ivalice during an age when "magic was commonplace" and "airships plied the skies, crowding out the heavens". At this time, magicite, a magic-rich mineral, is commonly used in magic spells and in powering airships—a popular form of transportation in Ivalice. Ivalice is divided into three continents: Ordalia, Valendia, and Kerwon. Ordalia is located in the western part of Ivalice. The Rozarrian Empire makes its home in the vast inland plains of this continent as the eastern portion of it is largely desert or "jagd"—lawless lands so rich in Mist (the ethereal manifestation of magicite) that airships cannot fly over them. Valendia is the home of Imperial Archadia, where vast and lush plains dot the landscape. Central to the story is Dalmasca, a small kingdom between the two continents and Empires. Located in the middle of the Galtean Peninsula of Ordalia, Dalmasca is surrounded by an expanse of desert. The temperate climate of Dalmasca differs from the cold environs of Kerwon and the lush plains of Valendia and Ordalia. During this time, Ivalice is beset by the pending war between the forces of Rozarria and Archadia. Caught between the two powerful Empires, Dalmasca and a number of smaller nations have already been subjugated by Archadia two years before the game begins.

According to the game developers, design inspiration came from a mix of medieval Mediterranean countries as demonstrated by the architectural styles found throughout Ivalice along with many of the races populating the region. The art team visited Turkey, which influenced the game’s Mediterranean-style setting. The developers also used styles and deco from other sources including areas in India and New York City. Of note is the use of Sanskrit in the city of Bhujerba. Phrases such as "Svagatam" (welcome) and titles like "Parijanah" (Guide) are lifted directly from Sanskrit. Hideo Minaba, a developer and co-art director with Isamu Kamikokuryō, mentions that the team tried to bring out Arabic culture in the design of the game. War is a predominant theme of the game and the developers confirmed that the cutscene battles are influenced by Ancient Rome. When asked to comment on the fan observation of Star Wars influence, Minaba assured that although he was a fan of the Star Wars series, it was not necessarily an influence to the game's designs.
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Characters

The six main playable characters in Final Fantasy XII are Vaan, an energetic orphan of Rabanastre who dreams of becoming a sky pirate; Ashe, a determined princess of Dalmasca who lost her husband in the Archadian invasion; Basch, a disgraced knight of Dalmasca charged with treason for slaying the king; Balthier, a gentlemanly sky pirate who pilots his airship, the Strahl; Fran, Balthier's partner and a Viera exile whose knowledge extends to legends and myths; and Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend who accompanies him in journeys to keep an eye over him.

The Archadian Empire is ruled by House Solidor, headed by Emperor Gramis. The family also consists of two siblings, Vayne and Larsa, the former a militaristic genius and the latter a charismatic seeker of peace. Judge Magisters, upholders of Archadian law, protect House Solidor and execute every command and order issued by the ruling family. The technological marvels of airships and synthetic nethicite—a form of magicite that absorbs Mist—are thanks to Dr. Cid, a prominent researcher from Archadia. The Resistance against Archadia includes Dalmascan knight Vossler, an ally of Basch; Marquis Halim Ondore IV, the game's narrator and ruler of the skycity Bhujerba; Reddas, a sky pirate based in the port at Balfonheim; and the Rozarrian Empire, of which Al-Cid Margrace is a prince of the ruling family. The mythos of Final Fantasy XII revolves around a character known as Dynast-King Raithwall, the man who once united Ivalice to create the Galtean Alliance.

Basch was initially meant to be the main character of the story, but the focus was eventually shifted to Vaan and Penelo when the two characters were created later in development. The development team explained that their previous game, Vagrant Story, which featured a "strong man in his prime" as the protagonist had been unsuccessful and unpopular; the change regarding Final Fantasy XII from a "big and tough" protagonist to a more effeminate one was thus decided after targeting demographics were considered. With the casting of dorama actor Kouhei Takeda for the voice acting and motion capture, Vaan nevertheless became a little less feminine and more "active, upbeat bright and positive" than planned. Comments were made about the similarity between main character designer and background design supervisor Akihiko Yoshida's creations and those of Tetsuya Nomura, another Square Enix character designer. Yoshida feels this connection is sparked by the style of color used by both artists, which involves a color consistency between the characters and the environments. The designers stated that non-human characters and races feature a prominent role in the game, which was influenced by an interest in history among the developers.
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Story


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Development

Development for Final Fantasy XII began in 2001. Final Fantasy Tactics creator Yasumi Matsuno, originally announced as producer and director, was forced to bow out of both roles midway through the creation of Final Fantasy XII due to health concerns. In his place, Hiroyuki Itō and Hiroshi Minagawa took over directorial duties while Akitoshi Kawazu, of SaGa series fame, became the executive producer with Square Enix president Yōichi Wada. Matsuno's departure was regretted by series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who declined to play Final Fantasy XII beyond the introduction.

The desire to move away from random encounters was present since the beginning of development. This desire fueled the transition to the "active dimension battle" system so players could seamlessly move from battle to exploration. The gambit system was conceived early on as a way to facilitate this transition. Battle system designer Hiroshi Tomomatsu states that it gradually moved away from a complex and rigid formula to the more flexible form seen in the final version of the game. Itō drew inspiration for gambits from plays in American football where each team member has a specific job to do based on the conditions and desired outcome. As for the License system, he explained that needing "licenses" to perform certain actions was a natural extension of the rigid structured society of Archadia, as epitomized by its Judges.

At the early stages of development, Minagawa revealed that numerous ideas and features were planned for the game, but were dropped from the final stages due to certain constraints and hardware limitations. Some of these included the ability for a second player to join in the gameplay, enabling for a two-player mode. Another idea that was given a considerable amount of thought was the ability to recruit non-player characters to join in the mob hunts. Due to the physical limitations of the console and multiple number of characters joining the fray, the development phase took longer than expected, causing delays.

On November 15, 2005, a playable demo of the game was shipped with the North American release of Dragon Quest VIII. To commemorate the release of Final Fantasy XII, playable demos of the English version were available at DigitalLife's Gaming Pavilion in New York on October 11, 2006, a day dubbed "Final Fantasy XII Gamer's Day". Additionally, Square Enix gave fans the chance to cosplay as a character from Final Fantasy XII. Each person was asked to show Square Enix three photos of his or her costume for a chance to win a trip to New York and participate in the Final Fantasy XII Gamer's Day event.

During the English localization process, Alexander O. Smith, who had previously worked on Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy X, acted as producer and translator. While still preserving the meaning behind the Japanese script written by Daisuke Watanabe and Miwa Shoda, Smith made the decision to use different dialects of English to reproduce the regional differences in pronunciation found in the Japanese version. He also tried to distance the game from the "flat reads" found in other dubbed work by casting voice actors who had experience in theater work. In terms of general changes, the localization team introduced widescreen 16:9 ratio support and reinserted scenes that were left out of the original Japanese version to preserve an "All Ages" CERO rating.
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Audio

Hitoshi Sakimoto composed most of the game's soundtrack; Nobuo Uematsu, following his departure from Square Enix in 2004, only contributed the theme song. Sakimoto experienced difficulty following in Uematsu's footsteps, but he decided to create a unique soundtrack in his own way. "Kiss Me Good-Bye", the theme song for Final Fantasy XII, was performed in both English and Japanese by Angela Aki. Uematsu noted that Aki's style of playing the keyboard while singing reminded him of his childhood idol, Elton John, which was one of the reasons he chose her. The English version of the song was featured in both the Japanese and North American versions of the game. In addition to the theme song, violinist Taro Hakase composed and performed the game's main instrumental theme, Symphonic Poem "Hope".

Two promotional soundtracks were released before the original soundtrack, Symphonic Poem "Hope" and The Best of The Final Fantasy XII Soundtrack, on March 1 and March 15, 2006, respectively. The former contains all the music used in the game's trailer performed by Taro Hakase, including Symphonic Poem "Hope". The original soundtrack itself was released in Japan on May 31, 2006. It consists of 4 CDs with 100 tracks, and includes promotional tracks not in the final version of the game. The CD single for "Kiss Me Good-Bye" was released on the March 15, 2006. A limited edition was also released, featuring a DVD containing the music video for "Kiss Me Good-Bye". Tofu Records has released an abridged version of the original soundtrack, which contains 31 songs, including "Kiss Me Good-Bye".
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Reception

Final Fantasy XII sold more than 1,764,000 copies in its first week in Japan, almost equaling the sales of Final Fantasy X in its first week. The total number of copies sold stood at 2,150,671 after five weeks of release. A Square Enix conference report stated that Final Fantasy XII sold more than 2.38 million copies in Japan in the two weeks since its March 16, 2006 release. In North America, Final Fantasy XII shipped approximately 1.5 million copies in its first week. On the seventh anniversary of the PlayStation 2 in the U.S. (October 2007), Final Fantasy XII was listed as the tenth best selling game for the PS2.

On March 16, 2006, Final Fantasy XII became the sixth game to receive a perfect score from the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, making it the first Final Fantasy game and the first PlayStation 2 title to do so. It is also the second Yasumi Matsuno title to garner a perfect score, the first being Vagrant Story. The game was praised for its graphics, scenarios, game system, and the freshness it brought to the Final Fantasy series. The game was critically acclaimed by many reviewers outside of Japan even before its release in those territories. It was praised for its seamless transitions between full motion video segments and the in-game engine, and was voted number one for Best Art Style on IGN's weekly Top Ten. Newtype USA named Final Fantasy XII its "Game of the Month" for November 2006, praised the gameplay, graphics, and story, and called it "the best RPG to have been released for any Sony platform."

Although GameSpot lauded the gambit and license systems as an innovative and in-depth way for the player to control the characters, it criticized them for being too complicated and difficult to adjust to, especially for newer players of the series. The reviewer also criticized the sometimes tedious back and forth travel. On the other hand, GameSpot took particular note of the "excellent" voice cast. IGN praised the game's rich storyline and artistic direction, shown through its "sheer depth of character". It also assuaged criticism that the gambit system would "let the game play itself", countering that gambits do not function without a player. However, it noted that, while "still extremely strong", Final Fantasy XII has one of the series' weaker soundtracks.

Executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu was pleased by Famitsu's rating but admitted that he thought the game was not perfect; he felt that the storyline did not meet some fans' expectations. Kawazu expressed his frustration and regrets regarding the storyline, citing creative differences between the PlayOnline and Final Fantasy Tactics members of the development team.

Final Fantasy XII was recognized by the website GameSpot as the "Best Playstation 2 Game" in their Best Games and Worst Games of 2006, as well as nominated in the "Game of the Year" and "Best Role-Playing Game" categories. It also achieved "PS2 Game of the Year" and "PS2 RPG of the Year" in GameSpy's Game of the Year 2006, and won "Best PS2 RPG" and "PS2 Game of the Year" in the IGN Awards. Final Fantasy XII was named the "Best Game" in the 2006 Edge Awards, and it was also nominated for "Role-Playing Game of the Year" in the 10th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.
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Versions and Merchandise

On March 16, 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan released a special Final Fantasy XII package, which contained a PlayStation 2 game system, the Final Fantasy XII game, a standard DualShock controller, and a vertical console stand. The Japanese third-party manufacturer Hori also released Final Fantasy XII memory cards on the day of the game's release; stickers of Final Fantasy XII characters are included. Game peripheral maker Logicool (Logitech's Japanese branch) released a special edition Final Fantasy XII controller alongside the title on March 16. Suntory produced "Final Fantasy XII Potion"—a drink containing such ingredients as royal jelly, chamomile, sage, thyme, and marjoram. The drinks became commercially available in Japan on March 7, 2006. Suntory also released a Final Fantasy XII Premium Box, which came with a Final Fantasy XII collector's card. The Potion was a limited edition product and is no longer available.

Studio BentStuff published three Ultimania books: Final Fantasy XII Battle Ultimania and the Final Fantasy XII Scenario Ultimania on June 16, 2006, and Final Fantasy XII Ultimania Ω on November 24, 2006. The Battle Ultimania provides a description and analysis of the new battle system and its components, as well as developer interviews. The Scenario Ultimania describes the main scenarios in the game, profiles on the characters and areas in Ivalice, developer interviews, and details on each location. Another guide, the Ultimania Ω, includes voice actor interviews, the complete story of Final Fantasy XII including additional character profiles, a collection of artworks and illustrations, the complete play guide, and a novella written by Benny Matsuyama, author of Hoshi wo Meguru Otome from the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Ω Guide. Another Ultimania edition, the Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System Ultimania, will be released on September 6, 2007 as a guide book for the international version of the game.

For the North American release, a "Collector's Edition" was available through GameStop and EB Games. This edition includes the original game packaged in a metallic case along with a special bonus disc, which contains Final Fantasy XII developer interviews, an art gallery, U.S. and Japanese trailers, and a featurette entitled "History of Final Fantasy", which gives a brief overview of most released and upcoming Final Fantasy games. On January 26, 2007, Square Enix Product Blog revealed that the full-color Gabranth, Ashe, Balthier and Vaan figures are complete and will be available soon.

An international version of the game called Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System (ファイナルファンタジーXII インターナショナル ゾディアックジョブシステム, Fainaru Fantajī Tuerubu Intānashonaru Zodiakku Jobu Shisutemu?) was released in Japan on August 9, 2007 as part of both Final Fantasy 20th anniversary and Ivalice Alliance. The game includes twelve License Boards available (instead of the original one), each corresponding to a different Zodiac sign and job. The battle system as a whole has been tweaked; guest characters and summons are controllable by the player, and pressing the L1 button accelerates the game's speed. Additionally, the game features the English voices and the widescreen 16:9 ratio support of the North American version, as well as a bonus disc based on the one initially released with the North American version. Other new features such as new licenses, new spells and new gambits have been shown as well. There is also a "New Game+" option, as well as a new "Trial Mode" which allows the player to hunt monsters in 100 different maps to gain items and money.
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