by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Final Fantasy XII, for a very long time, was my least favorite Final Fantasy title, for a number of reasons. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age changed that permanently. One of the primary ones is that Vaan has no personality, no character. He’s Disney’s Aladdin, but in Ivalice and without the cool, hip Genie to get him going on his adventure. From what I understand, he’s supposed to be a blank slate for people to project on, but I’m not as big a fan of that. I wasn’t a fan of the Gambit system, and the overall approach, despite the game being very visually appealing. At the time, I didn’t want something this drastically different. I also loathed the License Board. Having to spend points to unlock new gear, that I also had to spend money on? The board was massive, and it was a very daunting task to figure out where you need to go on it. A few years later, I found Final Fantasy XII: International Edition, and it conveniently had English subtitles.
The International Edition had several changes, but most importantly, a new way to use the License Board. Now it feels more like Final Fantasy Tactics (the game it shares a universe with), in that there are job classes, and each has its own specific gear/ability licenses. That way you can focus easier on what you want each character to do, but it can be a double-edged sword. You could have too many damage characters, have no tanks, no healers and could be in a sticky situation. FFXII’s combat feels very much like an MMO to me, so having a balanced party has never been more important. Between FFXII: International Edition, and this HD Remaster, my opinion on the game has really changed. I have less time than ever before, so the ability to create Gambits to help me get through fights, and there are a few other things about this edition I love. There are also “Zodiac” versions of older weapons in the game, that are cool, upgraded versions. There’s plenty to chase, unlock, and discover. So I’m going to offer up some things I love and things people ought to know, in case they don’t.
1. The Zodiac Spear: In Final Fantasy XII, there’s a hidden, incredibly weapon known as the Zodiac Spear. It’s the best in the vanilla release of the game. Now there are only two weapons better, but they are insanely hard to acquire – Great Trango and Seitengrat. In the original game, you could miss the Zodiac spear, by opening certain treasure chests. In Rabanastre, the Royal Palace of Rabanastre, Nalbina Dungeon, and Phon Coast – if you open particular chests in any of these dungeons, the Zodiac Spear is lost for the rest of that playthrough. If you don’t do this, the Necrohol of Naubidis will grant you the Zodiac Spear. There’s a second one in the game too, thankfully, which ignores this rule, but it’s not easy. Though there are better weapons to get now, the Zodiac Spear was moved to the Henne Mines (Special Charter Shaft) and is a very rare drop. The chest has a 1% drop chance but respawns, and after the respawn, it will always contain the spear.
2. Jobs: Sure, it can feel limiting to have one of these smaller License Boards, instead of the giant one, but personally, I like it better this way. Fortunately, if you decide you don’t like what you’ve done, you can go back to your Clan Hall in Rabanastre, and talk to Montblanc. He offers a reset so you can choose a different license board. If you decide you’re unhappy, just speak to him. Another fun edition is you can acquire a second Job! It’s not very far into the game either (about 8 or 9 hours in my personal playthrough). Once you complete the Tomb of Raithwall and acquire Belias, you can unlock a second Job for 30 LP. Now you can make some incredible combos, and create way more awesome opportunities. Want a Knight that can buff/heal himself with Bubble/Protectga? You’ve got it! Want a Marksman that also can cast Black Mage to take advantage of those Magic Boosting licenses? No problem!
3. Grind: Do it! There are incredibly easy places to grind, especially in the early going. Find a location where many of the same enemies spawn over and over, such as the Skeletons in the Lhusu Mines. You can run back and forth over a Bridge with Skeletons that spawn (in your first trip – the second trip there for Hunts/etc changes this and adds more stuff). Each time you kill an enemy of the same type back to back, you gain a Chain/Combo. The longer the chain, the better the items the mobs drop. This is especially important because you don’t receive gil for defeating most enemies. In the early going, gear can be very expensive, and this will make it significantly better. You can also farm Panther pelts in the Golmore Jungle (500 gil per!), and also get the Thief’s Glove to help you steal rare drops. Personally, I find a spot like the Lhusu Mines, or the Nam-Yensa Sandsea, and kill 50-60 of the Urutan-Yensa. They’re easy to kill, and ultimately will benefit you with some great stuff to sell.
Needs More Zodiac Stones: 4/5
This is an amazing release of Final Fantasy XII, and I’m so glad to be playing through it again. Some final helpful hints: Don’t be afraid to use the Speed-Up function, because grinding is boring, and combat can feel very slow in Final Fantasy XII. Don’t be ashamed to google up some good Gambits either – I certainly did. It will make your playtime far more enjoyable, and help you get through this incredible story. If you don’t like a character, for whatever reason, just don’t use them! I dropped Vaan from my party immediately, but I do keep up with his and the other non-party members License Boards and gear, just in case I need them for something. You should too! Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a game I already reviewed on PCPS4, and I’ll drop a link to it here. This version is just as great, without any of the things I grumbled about on the PC (such as it not remembering my Borderless Window settings/alt-tab issues, because it’s on console). It’s a beautiful game visually and in terms of the story. The soundtrack is gorgeous, the characters are interesting (except Vaan and Penelo). For every challenging aspect of the game, there’s a way to break it and make Final Fantasy XII overwhelmingly easy. That’s half the fun of the game though.