The word review in quotes because I haven't played and finished the entire game. I'm just like what, 8 hours or so in, but I want to publish my impressions and tell you how fantastic this remaster is so let's get on with it.
I've always appreciated Final Fantasy games, but from a "safe" distance as I have never played any of them. The opportunity to enjoy the crazy world and immense lore never presented itself. So let's say that Final Fantasy XII - The Zodiac Age was/is my first experience with the franchise.
As soon as the game started, I immediately felt lost. The initial CGI cutscene was epic, but nothing made sense to me. What, who, how and why? Then I was bombarded with exposition text that filled the screen, "The Order of (Something)" and "The Knights of (Something)"...man I was lost. After that ended, I found myself controlling a young man, a protector of the King (I guess). Some quick tutorials later and I was slaying the aggressors with ease while I was making my way to the King's chambers. Once there, things quickly escalated, the King was murdered and my young man was betrayed and backstabbed by his friend and commander (I think?) and here's where I knew this would be a special game that I had to take my time with Final Fantasy XII and not rush things over.
Then a time jump and the perspective shifts to Vaan, the brother of the young man that was betrayed and murdered. Vaan is just an orphan kid who's just trying to make ends meet, but he also dreams of one day becoming a Sky Pirate. Conspiracies enfold, treachery and backstabbings happen and sh*t just escalates from there. Vaan is joined by an interesting cast of party members, some Sky Pirates, some old "enemies" and some other intriguing ones.
As I said at the beginning I don't really know where the story is going to go or how it is going to end since I am far from finishing it, but know that if you are looking for an interesting tale and interesting characters, Final Fantasy XII delivers big time. And if the story is not that important to you, what are you doing reading about a Final Fantasy game in the first place, you can always just kill, slay, burn, freeze etc. strange cool looking enemies.
Speaking of the enemies, yes, the variety is as strange and as awesome as you can imagine. I have beaten the sh*t out of some cactus looking fellas, slashed some wolfs or hyenas, I hunted a tomato monster one time which was fun, I also fought against a flaming horse, a ton of robotic spiders and demolished their big and ugly queen. I also fought against some soldiers that looked like the Mountain from Game of Thrones (yeah, I totally used all my Phoenix stuff during the fight) and also got my ass handed by a motherf*cking T-Rex.
There's a lot of people to meet, a lot of creatures to hunt, a lot of quests to complete and a lot of combat in between. When the game first started or better say when it started to introduce the gameplay mechanics, I kinda got scared since everything seemed complicated at first. There's no conventional leveling up system. Instead, there's this "Job" mechanic where you assign a specific "job" or class to your party members. From there you spend license points to unlock new abilities and equipment for the characters. As I said it's too much when you are first introduced to it, but you quickly pick it up and what you end up with, in terms of the characters, at the end will differ so think of the replay value here.
Another mechanic that was scary, initially, was the Gambit mechanic. Basically, the Gambit mechanic is autoplay meaning that you can carefully tie specific actions to specific triggers. So for example. when your character encounters a bunch of enemies, he can cast a powerful black magic attack to the most powerful enemy and then continue to attack it normally till you kill it, but at the same time if an ally's health goes lower than 50% you can cast a healing spell to heal him/her or use a potion and what not. The Gambit mechanic can go as deep as you want and I really loved it. Sure you can always disable the Gambit mechanic and control everything yourself.
You can always disable the Gambit mechanic and issue every action yourself, but why would you want that? Sure from time to time, I would stop the autoplay and issue an action like a healing spell or use an item that burned enemies in a radius, but I don't think I would ever turn off the Gambit mechanic. The combat is a mix between real time, as you can move freely around, and turn based, as you have to wait to complete any action, we can argue that the Gambit makes everything easier, but I would say that it makes everything more enjoyable and hands-free. Would have I preferred to have a real time combat system like the one Final Fantasy XV has? Totally, but since we don't, the Gambit is the next best thing in my opinion.
Now as for the presentation, while it looks outdated by today's standards and the textures are not good up-close, the game has a special charm to it that I really grew to love. I think this is due to the beautiful fantasy inspired designs that make the characters, enemies and creatures, NPC, the architecture and everything in between extremely stylish and interesting to see. Of course, if you come to this game straight from playing Final Fantasy XV for example, it'll look like sh*t, but after a while, you quickly accept how it looks and you don't really see the dated graphics anymore as you are fully immersed into the beautiful world of giant spiders, lizards roaming the streets and floating cities with giant crystals structures. And the re-orchestrated music is just the cherry on top!
I really love this game and I am really glad that I got to play it. Take what you want from this "review", I don't know how the story will unfold, maybe it'll turn to utter rubbish as I progress. But I will continue to play it, at my own pace, as I want to know how the story of Vaan, Basch, Vossler, Balthier and the rest of gang will end. I want to fully explore Rabanastre, Bhujerba and the rest of the world. I just want to relish every moment of Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age. Thanks for reading!