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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Video Game Connoisseur

Video Game Connoisseur
Video Game Connoisseur

Final Fantasy XII/ Publisher: Square Enix / System: PS2 / $49.99/ ESRB: T (Teen)

I love Final Fantasy. If I had to pick a favorite game series it would be Final Fantasy and if I were pressured into picking a favorite game it would probably be Final Fantasy VIII. However, recent Final Fantasy games have been, to use utmost politeness with which I would only address the Queen of England, not so good. Final Fantasy had always existed as a series of independent worlds with different casts and story lines brought together under the unifying Final Fantasy banner. Up until Final Fantasy X, each game had existed as an independent universe with only a few similarities to each other. Then Square broke the cardinal law and made a direct sequel to Final Fantasy X: Final Fantasy X-2. This is where the series went down.

Final Fantasy X-2 is a sin against God. It took the well developed female leads from Final Fantasy X and turned it into a giant schoolgirl slumber party. The only reason this game was finished is because abortion is frowned upon, therefore I shall speak no more of it. After Final Fantasy X-2, Square took another step into forbidden territory. They made Final Fantasy XI, an online RPG. They took a classic, well known and renowned RPG series and made it into another story-less, level driven MMORPG. It’s currently not doing so hot.

Square Enix is in trouble with their flagship series flagging and their next game will either redeem them or be Final Fantasy’s eulogy. When Final Fantasy XII was announced, the first thing they said is that its system will emulate MMORPGs. That was bad news. Had they announced a game that was more reminiscent of VII, VIII, or even IX, then they would have been on the road to recovery and warmly anticipated. However, pressing on into this new territory only earned the game preemptive scorn. I will go more in depth about its near still birth in my next installment, but now I want to talk about what everyone has been talking about since its announcement: the battle system.

Final Fantasy is well known for one thing: turn based combat, the hallmark of Final Fantasy RPGs. However XII promised a system that was based on online RPGs, which involves repeated clicking on a monster until its dead. For the first few hours of play I felt like a passenger in a robot car. I told it where to go, but on the way all I could do was watch. Combat takes place on the main map, you simply select your target and your characters keep attacking it until it dies. After about the four hour mark when I was trapped in a sewer and finally had a party of more than one character, I had an epiphany: The game was turn based! I discovered that I was actually pausing the action of the game and assigning actions to my party. This wasn’t just some single player MMORPG, this was a brilliant natural expansion on the turn based model.

For the most part characters in your party can control themselves through gambits. A gambit is a sort of if/then switch that tells a character what to do. If a character’s HP goes below 50%, then heal them, if a monster is nearby, then attack it. Gambits are set by a player and can be simple (see previous examples) or complex (involves using a summon spell when a characters HP gets so low). When I first heard about gambits and saw a demonstration of them in the demo I thought: “The game is masturbating”. When I saw them in action I realized that their main purpose was to alleviate boredom and frustration from battle after battle on the main map. You can simply turn gambits on and sit back and relax. During boss battles though you want to turn gambits off and take the helm for yourself.

Final Fantasy XII surprised me by being good. Really good. I’m withholding an ‘excellent’ for now. Since this is such a huge epic game I’m writing a semi-huge not quite epic review for it. Next week I’ll analyze the story and setting, and let you know how their ‘licsensing” system works for character development.