When Final Fantasy XII was initially released to fans over a decade ago the response was decidedly mixed. For long time fans of the series nobody really knew what to make of this new title. This was especially true coming on the heels of the smash hit Final Fantasy X which in many ways was a gateway to the series on par with Final Fantasy VII for many new players. As such right out of the gate Final Fantasy XII was a game to debate.
However in recent years many gamers have started to look back at the last of the PlayStation 2 Final Fantasys and have gotten nostalgic. This is likely aided by the less than stellar reaction many fans have had with Final Fantasy XIII and even the divisive relationship some have had with Final Fantasy XV. Interesting both those games are arguably a product of Final Fantasy XII’s legacy.
What I mean by that one needs to look at the reaction to Final Fantasy XII. The game was different at a time when being different wasn’t exactly the selling point it is today. For many fans the game was too different and many made their voices heard. The battle system was too obtuse, the game was too open world which hurt the story (sound familiar?), it’s just an Off Line MMO which is mostly true, the battle system isn’t interactive enough. It continues on like that.
In the end Square listened to fans and what was born was Final Fantasy XIII a game that hews much closer to the design mentality of Final Fantasy X than XII. From this a reevaluation of XII started to come about and with it a change in perception of the once much maligned game. Likely only Final Fantasy IX has had a more profound turnaround in perception than XII.
I make the argument what is fueling the reevaluation of Final Fantasy XII is obviously what came after but also what Final Fantasy XII is. At the games core its a deeply experimental game that broke many of the rules of the genre and the series, at a time when games and JRPGs in particular were starting to get stale Final Fantasy XII was different.
As fans of the Japanese Role Playing experience went through the doldrums of the late 2000's many looked fondly at the kind of weird Final Fantasy XII. Over time people found themselves finally able to look pass the “Lead” to discover there really was no lead in this game but a collection of characters that made a cohesive whole. While many think of Vaan as the protagonist the reality is there is none and at the time that was kind of revolutionary, more akin to its Ivalice Alliance brother Final Fantasy Tactics than any numbered entry in the series.
Furthermore over time much like reverence for Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid grew so too did peoples opinion of XII’s Gambit System. While the openness and versatility of the system was apparent from the beginning it took time to realize how fundamentally broken the system was. Rivaling Final Fantasy VIII’s Draw System as more and more gamers became aware of the potential more and more fans were drawn back to Ivalace as well.
Now while there has always been optional quests and super bosses in Final Fantasy at least since Final Fantasy VII XII took it to an entirely new level. Introducing a series of completely optional and fantastically hard Hunts one of the first RPG’s to use the mechanic, at least to my knowledge.
Ending in quite possibly one of the greatest Super Bosses of all time Yiazmat the Dragon containing over 50,000,000 hit points. In an era before Achievements and Trophies to hunt and slay the great Wyrm was truly an accomplishment very few have done. Hell Yiazmat is so difficult to be able to beat him in under 90 minutes is a feat worthy of admiration, I know I couldn’t do it.
Finally the last thing that Final Fantasy XII has going for it is likely the easiest to appreciate nostalgia googles. Of every Final Fantasy released XII remains the only one not playable on a modern console. As they say absence makes the heart grow fonder and an easily playable Final Fantasy XII has been absent for a long time.
With this in mind it is no wonder why there was such jubilation at the announcement of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for the PlayStation 4. New and old fans alike have been waiting a long time to potentially give this old gem and yes it is a gem a second look. I for one cannot wait to pop the disk in my PlayStation 4 and return to Ivalice knowing this game will finally get the recognition it deserved all those years ago.
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