After getting hyped about the HD remaster announcement of Final Fantasy XII (now named Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age), I decided it was time to try it out and experience the improvements firsthand on the E3 floor.
Unfortunately, the playable demo was a bit of a bore.
The demo started me off at the entrance of the Lhusu Mines. I took control of Vaan, who wanted to search the mines for his friend Penelo. This particular dungeon alone was incredibly large and sprawling. The problem is, it was also almost entirely bare, save for a few silly treasure boxes scattered here and there and only a few enemy types standing around. It’s a whole lot of nothing, and also a ton of running around in winding hallways. The gambit system is pretty cool in that you can try to assign roles to your allies. However, if you want to micromanage your party and make sure they’re all doing the right thing, it can be an incredible hassle to have to open a menu, swap to a character, check their moves, get back into the battle, and then have to open up the menu again.
Whenever an enemy comes into range, a bright line appears onscreen, connecting Vaan’s character model to the enemy. There’s no combat transition, so everything is seamless, meaning you have to be aware of your enemy’s positioning any time you enter a hostile area.
The bright side is, the graphics and environments are kind of pretty. The character models don’t look as muddy as the ones in certain scenes from Final Fantasy X HD, so that’s a plus.
The demo ended when I finally decided to skip the winding paths which led to nowhere, and headed straight for the dungeon’s endpoint. A cutscene played, and showed off Vaan and his allies facing off a crew of monsters as they tried to figure out what they’d done with Penelo. After that, the demo ended with a white screen that flashed the words: “See you in Ivalice.” It was a bit anticlimactic.
One of the big additions in Zodiac Age is the inclusion of a high-speed mode. With just the press of a button, the game’s speed actually doubles, allowing you to move through the dungeon and get past battles in half the time it would normally take. With how slow-paced the exploration and combat are, the high-speed function is pretty damn invaluable.
As expected, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age doesn’t really seem to have made the problems of the original game go away. Here’s the verdict after playing through a lacklustre demo: if you hated FFXII, this probably won’t change your mind. If it’s an old favorite of yours, you won’t have a reason to dislike it.