“...because Final Fantasy is what you make of it. It's not predefined.”
July 7, 2017 9:48 AM   Subscribe

The Making of Final Fantasy 12 [Polygon] “Controversy trails behind the Final Fantasy series with each new release. From cries of betrayal when Final Fantasy 7 jumped ship to PlayStation to frustration over the story changes Final Fantasy 15 underwent during its tortuous 10-year development process, there's simply no such thing as an easy birth when it comes to Square Enix's biggest franchise. Final Fantasy 12, the 2006 PlayStation release whose overhauled high-definition remake The Zodiac Age launches July 11, may well have been the most tortuous release of all. Arriving years late and abandoning numerous established series traditions in favor of a radically overhauled play style, FF12 immediately inspired ardent enthusiasm and passionate hatred among the series' faithful, with seemingly little room in between.”

? Final Fantasy 12 Devs Explain Why It's Re-emerging After 11 Years [Gamespot]
“Several reasons, but since we worked on the original XII, we have a lot of memories associated with that title. And when Final Fantasy X came out as an HD remaster on the PS4 and became a successful title, we thought that maybe we should bring this one back as well. So we brought together the core members of the original development team. And then another reason was that when we created the original XII, we actually made it relatively high spec. So we were always thinking that we wanted to create an HD version of it sometime in the future. But if we did that, I wanted to have the original members work on it as well. It was difficult trying to find a time when everyone could work together again, just because everyone was on different projects. When we released the original, it was around when the PS2 was changing into the new generation of PS3s. So we really utilized the PS2 system to its fullest, to the maximum. The mechanic that we had in there, called the Gambit System, was very unique. There were no other games that had that kind of system at that time. So with the unique game system and world that we created in XII, I believe it left a strong memory inside of people.”
? Is Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age the blueprint for renovating old games? [Ars Technica]
“Rather than simply release FFXII with the usual HD makeover, Square Enix has opted for a more robust reincarnation of the classic RPG. The hope is that, on both a technical and interactive level, The Zodiac Age remains as relevant now as it was when it received its slew of accolades back in 2006 (FFXII holds a 92 percent rating on Metacritic). In an oddly counterintuitive approach to modernisation, Square Enix has enlisted the help of the team behind the original release. "There have been discussions within Square Enix for quite some time regarding whether we wanted to do a remaster of Final Fantasy XII and how we might go about doing it," producer Hiroaki Kato says during a chat in Square Enix’s London office, which also features game director Takashi Kitano, a translator, and a selection of company representatives from the UK and Japan. It's an unusually large number of people to wheel out for re-release—clearly, Square Enix isn't taking any chances.”
? Final Fantasy XII Is Way Better Than I Remembered [Kotaku]
“If you haven’t played Final Fantasy XII, you should know two things. One is that it’s an Ivalice game, which means it looks and feels a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and (especially) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2. There are certain trends to be found in every game by director Yasumi Matsuno, who left FFXII midway through production but whose hands were clearly all over this thing. From the major (a convoluted, Game of Thrones-y plot with lots of politics and backstabbing) to the minor (status effects called Brave and Faith), all of the Matsuno tropes are in here. The second thing you should know is that Final Fantasy XII’s core gameplay is like no other role-playing game out there. It’s sort of like an MMORPG, except you control all of the characters. Instead of cycling through a party of three or four heroes and giving them all orders, you can plan things out in advance, using a mechanic called the Gambit System that allows you to put on your programmer’s hat and write some if statements. You might tell your tank to attack any enemy she sees, or tell your healer to cast Cura on any character whose hit points fall below 40%. You can experiment with these Gambits in creative ways. The more abilities your characters get, the more fun it is to try to transform them into an automated death squad.”
? Hands On: Final Fantasy XII on PS4 Is a Strong Reminder of How Great the Series Used to Be [Push Square]
“Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is an eye-opener. Playing it 11 years after its original PlayStation 2 release has made us realise just how ahead of its time the game was back in 2006. Unlike Final Fantasy X - which also received the remaster treatment not too long ago on PlayStation 3, Vita, and PlayStation 4 - XII, for the most part, has aged shockingly well. So much of the release still holds up; the twisting narrative puts the series' more recent attempts to shame, the world of Ivalice is fantastical yet intriguingly grounded, and gameplay-wise, the title remains incredibly cohesive. The Zodiac Age is a poignant reminder of just how brilliant Final Fantasy used to be. And that's not really us having a pop at Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XV - two games that aren't all that bad as far as we're concerned - but it is clear that Square's property once had a magic touch that it's gradually let slip away over the years. We're around 20 hours into The Zodiac Age and we find ourselves engrossed in a complex role-playing title that pulls no punches. It's a far cry from the franchise's current form.”
? It’s Time to Give Final Fantasy XII Another Chance []
“Final Fantasy XII first came out in 2006 as one of the last major titles on the PS2. The PS3 was less than a year away, and fans were wary after Final Fantasy XI turned out to be a massively multiplayer online game — a wild departure from the immersive single-player role-playing games that had defined the series up until that point. They also weren’t wild to learn that Final Fantasy XII borrowed a fair amount of MMO mechanics from its predecessors. Instead of tight, turn-based combat and cleverly designed dungeons, Final Fantasy XII focused on automated, real-time combat and enormous open stages with tons of secrets and not many artificial barriers. There was even a long string of monster-hunting side quests, adding to the “go there, kill that” feel of many online RPGs. What players may not remember, though, is that Final Fantasy XII was an open-world RPG before open-world RPGs were really a thing. No, the entire world wasn’t seamlessly connected, but the huge, explorable areas were a big departure from most other Japanese RPGs at the time.”
? Final Fantasy 12's Gambits remain the greatest mechanic in JRPGs [
“It is, perhaps most famously, the game that plays itself. Final Fantasy 12 was a peculiar entry in Square Enix's banner RPG series in so many ways, but its most fascinating trait also proved to be its most divisive. It's called the Gambit system, through which you can programme each of your characters, their responses and approaches to each encounter, until the combat is almost entirely automated. Push forward into a mob and let your scripting do the damage; sit back and admire your own ingenuity as it's written across the screen in a flurry of metal and magic. Optimisation is a part of every RPG, but in Final Fantasy 12 it's pushed to a brilliant new extreme - your party's a machine that must be constantly tinkered with, tweaking one variable here and tightening up another there until you've got an engine that purrs. It is glorious.”
posted by Fizz (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Fun fact: it was revealed at the 2014 FanFest that the Gambit system formed the base for FFXIV's enemy AI (with bosses having scripted rotations on top of that.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:51 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]

I looooved FF12 but never finished it. Super excited for the PS4 version giving me another shot at it.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:01 AM on July 7

Given the Final Fantasy world is beloved by so many people and IP like that is quite valuable, it seems like a, uh, bold move to license it for a Game of War / Mobile Strike re-skin: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire.
posted by kprincehouse at 10:15 AM on July 7

I do think that some of these remasters do not work and have not aged well. While I appreciate the graphics overhaul that Final Fantasy X had in its remaster and that I now have the ability to play that on my Vita. The linearity of that game just did not age well for me.

Maybe that part of the game is not a part of the time of which it was released and more so related to the choices made by the game developer, but in the light of day, that particular choice still irks me quite a bit. It's such a straight line. I never played it during its original release, so I'm not sure if this particular issue was a thing back then.

Final Fantasy XII is also not a game I ever played during its original run. But this does look interesting and I might give it a go.
posted by Fizz at 10:35 AM on July 7

I stopped caring about Final Fantasy around 9 or 10, but 12 was intriguing and I tried giving it a shot back in the day, perhaps a bit too late, and didn't get far. This 'rework' might be just what I needed to dig back in. And, honestly? Even though I didn't continue to play it, Final Fantasy 14 is amazing if you can handle MMOs (I can't, for long).
posted by destructive cactus at 10:39 AM on July 7

Yeah, I also never finished this one but actually adored the gambit mechanic--for once, no griping about AI or about having to rush through decisions! I could program my party myself and if I didn't set them up right, that was on me. Every battle was like running an experiment and seeing if I'd done it right. But it took awhile to really get to the point where you could do anything interesting--I think JRPGs require a certain amount of patience with the early game, often. I was planning on getting a PS4 before long, but I think this moved up the timetable a bit.
posted by Sequence at 10:47 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I've never played any Final Fantasy game (though I saw the movie!), but I did play Dragon Age: Origins, which borrowed the Gambit system. I thought it would be fun to, as said above, tinker with my team's tactics until they were a well-oiled death squad, but Dragon Age: Origins just had so many finicky systems to tinker with, including a super-annoying inventory system, that I wound up letting everything outside of my player character that could be automated, be automated. It worked fine, to the point that I actually wound up a winning a battle that you were supposed to lose, and missed out on a fun prison-break quest. Which, in the end, is evidence that the DA:O tactics system was not that necessary.
posted by ejs at 11:00 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]

I also noticed the similarities between the gambit system and Dragon Age Origins. I wasn't super into how DA:O implemented it, but I loved the specificity of FFXII's gambits. It encourages tactical thinking over grinding, which has plagued other FF's and jRPGs in general. You can totally program your low-level party to exploit some enemy's quirk (particularly useful if an enemy did something weird like reverse damage/healing).

It's kind of a shame that most wRPG players ignored FFXII because they thought "ew, a jRPG with turn-based linear grinding" (which FFXII doesn't have) and a lot of FF fans were turned off by the departure from a familiar format.
posted by picklenickle at 11:10 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I'll need to check out this remaster, because I liked the idea of DAO's tactics but hated actually trying to do anything with that clunky system.

Also, I enjoyed one of those FFXII spin-off games on the Nintendo DS that I think was set in the same universe.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:23 AM on July 7

What I like (and hate, sometimes) about Final Fantasy fandom in general, is that because of how many games there are and how different all the games are, you can have 10 different people who all profess to love Final Fantasy, but not agree on the which game is the best or the worst or their favorite, whatever.

That said, I really liked FFXII when it came out. Issues with Ashe's tablecloth skirt notwithstanding, I loved the not-totally-obvious love story, and the interesting licensing system. The way the random encounters changed threw me for a loop at first (where's the gil? And my special music!), but in hindsight, after FFXIII, it seemed refreshing and interesting. I even really liked Vaan and Penelo.

I'm still holding out for FFIX to get some recognition, although given all the weird remakes and such, maybe it's for the best that I can still play it, still find that it holds up, and not be bitterly disappointed thanks to needless add-ons and changes to characterizations thanks to spin-offs, remakes, and sequels over the years.
posted by PearlRose at 11:23 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I just realized the remaster is only available on PS4. :(

I am a PC. I am a sad.
posted by Fizz at 11:25 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]

What I like (and hate, sometimes) about Final Fantasy fandom in general, is that because of how many games there are and how different all the games are, you can have 10 different people who all profess to love Final Fantasy, but not agree on the which game is the best or the worst or their favorite, whatever.

You're absolutely correct. It's the best thing about franchises like this that are so long and storied. You can jump in at different places and inevitably, your favorite is someone else's worst. My first entry into Final Fantasy was Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift on the DS.

I realize it's an odd entry point into this series but it's something that I love. And really gave me a love for JRPGs. The next game I ventured into was FFX and despite how much I hated the linearity of that game, it was still lots of fun. So much variety.
posted by Fizz at 11:36 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]

The nice thing about Final Fantasy is it can be a real trip down memory lane. Each game is tied into the period of life in which I played it... I missed many games (combination of being poor and then later busy), but each game I did play is like a cross section of my life.

I had played FF4 and FF6 as a young boy when they had first come out and they were some of my favorite games from that period. Like, I remember trying to write down all of the dialog of FF2 in the hope of adapting it into a movie or something (how naive I was). In order to play FF6 I had to brow-beat a friend of my brother's who had a copy into lending it to me, calling several times a week to see if he'd finished it and would let me have it. It was worth it. Very few pieces of entertainment got to me the way that game did.

It wasn't until college that I got a roommate with a PS2 and I got the chance to play another FF. I didn't have any money then, but fortunately said roommate bought FF12 of his own volition. Even more fortunately for me he soon left for a week or two during a break to stay with his family. I was stuck alone in an apartment for a few weeks with nothing much to do except play FF12 so I played the heck out of it. It didn't reach the height for me that was FF6 (Kefka is just one of the all-time great villains), but it was a damn fine experience all the same.

Finally graduating and having a real job I bought FF13 back when it came out. It was ok, but the story and characters didn't really engage me a great deal. That said, I do plan on eventually playing FF13-2, FF15 and, now, the updated FF12. As an adult person with responsibilities and non-video game interests it can be hard to devote the amount of time needed to beat a Final Fantasy game... and I have a lot of other games on my to-play list first. Including the aforementioned Dragon Age.
posted by Green With You at 11:59 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I played the hell out of FF12 (I refuse to use their Roman Numerals, that's just silly) and really enjoyed it. Then I got almost to the last dungeon and realized that I hadn't bothered to level up my B team (Basch, Fran and Balthier) after level 30. I was about to go back and grind them up to take on Pharos when my PS3 was stolen. It was fat PS3, the type that could play PS2 games.

I never finished the game, I had invested over 70 hours and they were gone.

I don't know if I could bring myself to do it again, even as much as I enjoyed it the first time.
posted by Hactar at 12:30 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I sort of kind of remember playing FFXII but I also don't remember actually finishing it. So I'm looking forward to this.
posted by Kyol at 1:03 PM on July 7

I am a PC. I am a sad.

If X/X-2 are any indication, you may just have to wait a year. Square Enix has been pretty good about bringing its older Final Fantasy games to PC (I think pretty much everything from VI onward has a PC release now except XV), and if they're really putting this much effort into the XII remaster, it's hard to imagine they won't try to port it to PC.

I am a little bit sad but not particularly embarrassed to say that I did, indeed, grind Final Fantasy XII; at some point I realized that I didn't have the skills to handle some big boss fight or whatever, and so I used the auto-grind trick where you go to a specific area, lock yourself in a cage, set up some gambits, and fight enemies that auto-multiply when they're near death. Set everyone to auto and wait a few hours. Suddenly you're 10 levels higher and you can take on pretty much anything.

Part of me wouldn't mind trying to take on XII legitimately; I might be better equipped now to handle it than I was when I first played it a few years back. But part of me knows I'm not realistically going to fit it in this year, given how many outstanding games have come out and how many I still have to play.
posted by chrominance at 1:50 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

I never quite resorted to that, but I remember using a walkthrough to figure out which chests to avoid in order to obtain the super-amazing legendary Zodiac Spear, and I was finally at the point in the story where I could get it, but probably 20-30 levels below the point where I should actually be able to get it without dying, because I had never been great at doing things like grinding and otherwise leveling up appropriately--I still remember that god-forsaken Demon Wall thing. Losing that fight so many times actually had me setting down the game for a month or two because I was taking it way too personally.

Anyway. I still remember grabbing the spear, running like hell to get out of the dungeon without getting all my characters torn to ribbons because no way was I going to actually fight anything and let the part live, that's for sure. My A party died, and my B party was mostly dead, with one person on very low health left by the time I saw that save crystal. I'd never been happier in my life to see that stupid thing (I think before that crazy run, I was still a bit bitter about the lack of proper inns).

Anyway, the fact that I can still recall so much about this game means that I probably need to revisit it. As with most of the rest of you -- good luck finding the time to do that these days, right? Maybe I can make do until, it'll be on Steam and I'll have a proper gaming PC by then.
posted by PearlRose at 2:07 PM on July 7

Good news, PearlRose - the IZJS (which the remake is based on) got rid of the stupid treasure chest nonsense.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:52 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

FF12 is a weird one for me. I didn't really care for the plot or characters, but I loved the setting/open-ish world. I did and do like the gambit system, but I'm a software developer, so it came naturally. I stopped playing 12 where I seem to always stop playing Fantasies Final: at the last dungeon. I always want to grind or do a few final things, and then stop playing for some reason. This has happened with 5, 6, 10-2, 12, and 13 at various points. Maybe I'll pick this up if/when it comes out on PC.

Oh, and a reminder that the annual celebration of the best Final Fantasy is active: Four Job Fiesta. If a certain amount is raised, the runner of said celebration will stream his play through of the FF12 remake.
posted by bonje at 12:01 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]

I'm still holding out for FFIX to get some recognition

The Steam (and smartphone, ugh) remake is very playable and the reputation of the game is a-level. Fantastic soundtrack too.
posted by ersatz at 3:37 PM on July 10

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