The latest in a series of Final Fantasy ports is Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. With a decade between now and its original release, it remains one of the most underrated titles in the series’ history. Similar to how Final Fantasy X/X-2 received HD ports in the past, this one joins Switch and Xbox One a bit later. However, with so much time and other ways to play, is the latest port worth it or is it another quick cash grab?
Similar to the Final Fantasy X/X-2 port that the Switch received a couple of weeks ago, Final Fantasy XII is a straight port as well with no added new content whatsoever from its original remastered version on the PlayStation 4 and PC. Those who have played the original version will see nothing new on the Switch version except for the opportunity to play it on-the-go.
The story in Final Fantasy XII is far different from Final Fantasy X/X-2. Instead of having a story focused on romance like Final Fantasy X, the plot in Final Fantasy XII is all about politics. Players will follow the story of Princess Ashelia of Dalmasca, a widowed princess, as she travels throughout Ivalice to find a way to reclaim the independence of Dalmasca from Arcadia. Along in her journey, she will be joined by a group of friends like Vahn. Unlike in other Final Fantasy games where it’s huge in personal development and character growth as you progress along in the story, Final Fantasy XII doesn’t have that. Instead, the narrative takes a different turn and is quite different from a Final Fantasy game that everyone is accustomed to. That’s not to say that the characters in the game are not likable, the story is just focused rather on the political war between Dalmasca and Arcadia where players will rarely see what is really going on between other characters like Vahn, Balthier, and Penelo.
Not available in the original version, The Zodiac Age is one of the new features that was included in the remastered edition and it’s quite a game changer for those who found the original to be quite a nuisance. Instead of having just one class, players can now have up to two, bringing a whole new different take on how players customize their character. In addition, players now have the ability to reset their license board – allowing players to play around with the different job classes. In the original version, the only way to get to play the second job class is through playing it more than once but in The Zodiac Age, you get to do them in one playthrough.
Other features included in the Zodiac Age are the new gambit sets, and a New Game+ feature. Players who wish for more challenging gameplay can look forward to the Strong Mode, where player’s character begin at level 90. There is also a Weak Mode where all characters begin at level 1 and never level up.
Just like in other Final Fantasy ports where modifiers are included, Final Fantasy XII gets some of it. Grinding in Final Fantasy XII is tedious indeed when it first launched but when The Zodiac Age was released, it was somewhat more bearable as there is now a Speed Mode. By pressing the L or LB button, characters in-game will move 2x or 4x faster the normal. This is a great feature indeed as it makes grinding more faster than normal.
Combat-wise, nothing has changed. When the game first came out on PlayStation 2, it was a totally different experience as instead of the traditional turn-based battle system, Square Enix first introduced to us a real-time battle system similar to an MMO. For new generation of gamers, this might be a good thing as many JRPGs now have this kind of battle system but for those veterans who have played in the era of the PlayStation 2, it wasn’t received quite well. Nevertheless, once you are used with the real-time battle system of Final Fantasy XII, you’ll then realize just how convenient it is compared to turn-based.
During combat, players will only control one character while the other two will be based on the actions you set through its Gambit System. When players are not controlling the other characters in their party, the Gambit System kicks in and that’s where players will have to pick from a list of actions they can perform. Honestly, this is one of the things that gave people mixed reactions when the game first came out but putting some effort into setting up appropriate actions with each character will make the combat way better.
As far as content goes, there are a lot of things to do in Final Fantasy XII. Expect to beat the game in about sixty hours plus more if you do other side missions such as finding the hidden bosses, and more.
Playing through the Switch over the weekend is quite enjoyable. The ability to play it on handheld mode is really a plus for those who want to play long JRPG games on the go. If there is one complaint that I have in playing the game on the Switch version, it’s how muddy and blurred the visuals are. Though when it’s docked, it gets quite clear but it doesn’t really go on-par with the Xbox One version, which I also played.
Smoothness is important in games like this, especially in ports. When it comes in how smooth Final Fantasy XII on the Switch, I must say that it manages to maintain it at 30 frames per second. Though if you are going to play it on the console like the Xbox One, expect the performance to be much better as the textures are much more defined and it runs at a solid 60 frames per second.
The main appeal of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is going to be for newcomers and Switch owners looking to play on the go. In addition to Zodiac Age being the definitive experience, one that includes several additions that improve the overall experience, it even results in a more satisfying experience. Unfortunately, despite some steps forward, it doesn’t stop this remaster from having muddy visuals when on the go. That being said, it really is a must have for JRPG fans and worth the cost.
[Editor’s Note: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age was reviewed on the Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]