Everyone's been waiting for this game since Square-enix begun to tease us with images of how detailed the towns would be. But what's a post-VII Square-Enix game without a Bishounen-border-line-feminine-hero?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...VAAN!!
((...Somebody needs to edit that image so that Vaan is sitting on a bed... That pose looks suggestive.))
Yes, Square-Enix still hasn't realized what a REAL 17-year-old boy looks like, or how any male above the age of 13 wouldn't be caught DEAD wearing that. Time to start playing Aerosmith's "Dude looks like a lady" song...
Now off the subject of Vaan, be thankful that he's not Tidus. For a "Hero" and "Main playable character", Vaan and his childhood friend Penelo actually hold little plot significance. The REAL heroes of the game are Ashe, maybe Baasch, and, of course, everybody's favourite...
((Wow, Balthier actually looks the most realistic out of anyone...))
One could clearly tell that Square-Enix put a lot of time into the graphics of the game. A lot of detail was put into the movies and animations. (Even IF Vaan is walking like his clothes are way too tight) The in-game graphics appear to be slightly-upgraded Final Fantasy X graphics, but the attacks are just gorgeous to watch, especially those CGI attacks that Shiro Tagachi-err I mean VAYNE SOLIDOR uses. So much stuff goes on during cutscenes...I'm very impressed with these graphics. They're almost near the quality of Advent Children and Spirits within. The characters aren't ENTIRELY realistic with their unnatural hair colours and styles, but for a fantasy-setting made by Final Fantasy Tactics and Advance, they actually are pretty close. One could clearly tell that Final Fantasy XII is much more serious than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was.
But...there is something about the graphics that REALLY bothers me. It's how dirty the characters seem. Especially Vaan and Baasch.
I'd imagine that the REAL translation of Penelo's speech for this frame is one of these two...
Penelo: "Vaan, you've stolen so much money before...Why can't you just put some aside and buy a shirt?"
Penelo: "Vaan, when are you going to take a bath? That dirt/grease all over you almost makes you look like you're made out of porcelain."
Final Fantasy XII removes the random encounters and battle screens that have become commonplace in RPGs for decades. The game now plays very similar to an MMORPG combined with Final Fantasy's ATB System - With a little twist.
Final Fantasy XII introduces "Gambits" - Personally, I was most impressed with this portion. Most real-time-battle system games have a reputation of having very ****ty AI *cough*TALES OF SYMPHONIA!*Cough* and one has to turn off half of your mages' spells so they wouldn't heal the elemental-enemies you fight. The Gambits in Final Fantasy XII make the characters do only what you tell them to do. They even contain some nice orders, like "If enemy's weakness is fire, then use Firaja!". So you don't have to punch in individual orders to everyone every single time.
But there is a downside...This also creates the feeling that you aren't actually playing. Your playable character will use his or her own gambits, and if you set them up enough, you can just watch the battles go on while you activate Quickenings and esper summons - that's all you need to do after you're done moving the character around.
Final Fantasy XII also introduces Square-Enix's NEW gameplay project...The License board. It's like a variation of the Sphere Grid, only not quite as annoying. *Smites the Sphere Grid with a Pow Hammer* As retarded as it is that you need a bloody LICENSE to equip a stupid BRACELET, I really prefer killing a few monsters and getting some LP to grinding monsters, and hunting for spheres to give Tidus a +50 to health. Whoo. (See: VGCats comic on the Licenses) You get used to it after awhile.
This also adds some customization to your characters. No one is actually great at anything, but the characters do have some individuality based upon what Mist attacks and Espers you give to them. Not to mention, some characters have a few individual strengths to start. Penelo's stats favour a mage while Balthier's quicker than most other characters.
Now, the story... It really seems rather cliche. The development is really what kills the story, and just one picture and a short description is all you need to know about a character. Ever since Vayne appeared up there to talk to Rabanastre, I could TELL that he was going to be the villian. Maybe it was because he reminded me a lot of a specific Bodyguard I fought in Guild Wars...
Nah, that can't be it. It has to be that he's working for an EMPIRE. Yeah, that's it. Empires are always evil. The character devlopment really wasn't that good. Jay Resop pretty much sums up my opinions on the characters...
-Jay"-There was only character with any interesting development, Basch (with his brother), and even that they didn't spend enough time on.
-Fran remained annoying the entire game.
-Ashe remained a selfish bitch the entire game.
-Panelo remained completely pointless the entire game.
-Vaan remained Manzier-tastic during the entire game."
Yeah. Maybe Vaan and Penelo will get their character development in the spinoffs. But that'll mean Vaan will have to take over Ashe's role as hero, meaning he'll have to be even MORE whiny.
I was actually pretty impressed with the voice acting. I liked how Fran had an accent, and how the girls didn't feature any high-pitched-squeals. Vaan's voice annoyed me while he was "Testifying", but he at least sounds like he could be a teenager. Ordinarily, I find those teenage-characters to either sound annoying or like they're way too old. Even Larsa has a nice voice. I'm even impressed with the Japanese Voice acting...They actually SOUND like real people. No characters with Text-to-speech-program voices. Even Larsa. Young boys like him tend to sound like adults or like girls. It may not be as good as some voice acting, but it actually does help give the game a serious tone.
The soundtrack really isn't the best. During cutscenes and boss battles are when it's good. The rest of the time, it's best described as "Elevator music". Kind of like real MMORPG music... After awhile of grinding your characters, you just want to turn the sound off and turn on iTunes for some BETTER background music. (The music that played in the Estersand drove me insane)
On the subject of MMORPGs, there certainly is a lot of stuff to do in Final Fantasy XII. There are all kinds of optional stuff like hunts and even optional bosses. Quite a bit of Espers are optional. The amount of stuff to do in this game, like in Final Fantasy Tactics, also gives the feeling that you're just playing Final Fantasy Online, only minus the Online.
And yet this game still remains #1 on Gamefaqs, despite how there are about as much haters are there are Fanboys...There are obviously more fanboys, but most haven't left the Gamefaqs boards.
I will be flamed into oblivion for this, but this really is an overrated game. I felt like that for every thing they did right, Square-Enix balances it all out by doing an equal amount of things wrong...If not more. The #1 thing Square-Enix needs to do is to LEARN WHAT A REAL MAN LOOKS LIKE! God, ASHE and PENELO are maniler than Vaan. Square-Enix, please stop looking at Crossdressing anime for character-design ideas. Or at least make heroines...It worked for Final Fantasy X-2...
Some may argue that Square-Enix is in decline, while others haven't, but I really do question some of their moves with the sudden Bishoun-ing of the artstyle since VII and their need to release experiments in games that are guarenteed to sell just because of the "Final Fantasy" label.
Overall score: 65 % - Above Average (This is not an actual average)
EDIT: Whoops - The URL for Vaan's image instead redirected you to an image of Penelo...lol