Final Fantasy XII : The Zodiac Age

#22

As I think more and more about what I thought interesting and what people should definitely look forward, there is something I’d like to get the spotlight on and it is something that we all have a better awareness of it in games : the cinematography.

There are terrific games that gets even better when it manages to convey how masterful the directing is. Naughty Dog games are known for that, they clearly spend a lot of time and I see a lot more studios who are definitely putting a lot more effort to increase the quality of their directing because it’s simply something that we all like to see and that people notice more and more. It’s something I haven’t noticed at all 10 years ago, but FF12 is incredible when it comes to cutscenes and it’s no wonder that they were crafted by the same man who worked on Vagrant Story’s events : Jun Akiyama. He was in charge of everything related to cutscene : camera work, lighting, spacing, body and facial animation as well as voice acting were all directed and handled directly by him and it shows.

Keep in mind, it’s a PS2 game and they were coming out of FF10 that was still struggling with conveying 3D effectively so it’s a huge step up, and one I feel has never been replicated since in later installments, though FF15 was a definite step up in select scenes. He never worked on any FF in that same position even though he definitely should come back.

It’s only a number of select gifs with captions that does not give any context but it can be spoiler-y if you don’t want to know anything


[details=Click here]

Here’s a small part of what I consider a phenomenal scene : watch how the lighting gives a softer feel to the scene, how the camera is carefully laid out and the way his face conveys the situation even without sound. Nothing is left out, and it conveys so many things about the themes at play without words.

Spoilers for what I think about it : The space gives a glimpse of the grandeur of the Archadian Empire but the soft sundown lighting illuminating it betrays the discord in Gabranth’s heart. The importance of the sunset increases in the scene as Gabranth is tasked with a moral dilemma in order to punish his insubordination. It shows how much Gabranth represents melancholy in the play. The scene manages to convey the public and personal space of the character as it goes on further than the gif, I find it so thoughtful.


KnobbyBeautifulDiscus

Even in scenes that are less important, the framing remains top-notch. The game doesn’t shy away at depicting the whole cast even when they’re not active and doesn’t abuse cuts when a well-framed wide shot does the work. I love how they fill the screen harmoniously and you see them listening, Larsa in the middle progressively takes up more space as he speaks and Balthier’s head directs our gaze to him.


IllustriousCompleteHorse

Here’s another with sound this time, I love the way they interact with each other and how good the voice-acting is. The localization makes it as if the game was created for a western audience in mind.
https://streamable.com/zx6p6 [/details]


I also changed the first post to include this comparison of the Ozmone plain music. What you are hearing is the original music, which is the one as you heard on PS2, and then the Zodiac Age rearrangement is shown afterwards.

I felt that the sound capabilities of the PS2 soundchip did a poor job at conveying Sakimoto’s compositions, so I think that even himself had a vested interest into making a rearrangement with the help of a live orchestra. I cannot wait to hear the new arrangement of Eruyt Village.


To finish it off, I’d like to make a poll about what are everyone’s intentions considering the game, there’s always a lot of various opinions about the game and it’s interesting to see where people stand :

[poll type=regular]

  • I liked the game and I am willing to play it again
  • I disliked the game but I am willing to give it another shot
  • I disliked the game but I am not convinced my opinion is going to change
  • I haven’t played the game and am interested to play it
  • I haven’t played the game and am not interested to play it[/poll]
#23

If you’re talking about the mandragoras they are indeed pretty hard and you were actually about to face an even stronger boss afterwards ! The job system makes the game definitely easier so it won’t be as much of a problem. The issue being that since everyone started at the same place, the effort to get to the best licenses was the same, but with the job system you have access to the best tiles 15 hours earlier than usual as the board is much smaller for each job.

I think in terms of difficulty, the appearance of a job system will delay roadblocks until around mid to end-game.

#24

So i’ve never really gotten deep into a final fantasy game before. I got a few hours into both XIII and XIII-2 and also got a few hours out of a PSP remake of one of the older ones. So far im pretty interested in the gambit system and the “gameplay” of XII. But there is one thing i don’t know that much about, the story. I have no idea about the premise or if there is a “hook” that makes the story of this game anything special or if it’s just typical fantasy story. Anyone who would like to fill me in?

#25

People tend to say that FFXII is just Star Wars. There’s an evil empire with an evil leader, a princess living in exile, a rebel army, a sky pirate and his non human sidekick, etc.

#26

Also it’s a mainline Final Fantasy that uses the setting from the Final Fantasy Tactics games. Which I always thought was cool at least.

#27

It’s like Star Wars if George Lucas knew how political intrigue works and how to make it good and if the characters were better and the world was interesting. And better filmed. And acted.

Summary

Star Wars is fine but I do think FFXII is actually better at a lot of things. Star Wars is clearly a big influence on the game though

1 Like
#28

Does zodiac age still have that atrocious secret chest special item thing that nobody knew about in the original release

#29

Nope. The spear is in the game but it’s a drop now

#30

I don’t get why people were always salty about that. There was a second way to get it. It’s probably more difficult to get some of the other weapons, due to the item drops needed and the way selling loot to merchants is calculated when generating new items for sale.

#31

it’s cool that people are excited about this, i remember feeling like the only one who was into XII when it first came out. i always thought the gambit system was brilliant tbh

1 Like
#32

I wouldn’t say I’m salty but I would say the method of attaining it was dumb as shit and poorly implemented.

#33

I assume that you and @ChefLuBu are referring to the Zodiac Spear?

[details=If so, my reasons for despising the original version are multiple: (hidden for space)]

  • The player is helped by having both since this allows two characters to wield them. One path being obfuscated isn’t remedied by the other being brute-force-able because every player wants both.
  • The player is never notified how one of the paths is blocked off, and is even incentivised to break it as it can be broken by opening specific chests (and every player wants to open chests). Plus, there is never a reason given as to why they shouldn’t open them (i.e. an NPC near them could say “please don’t open that chest” or “karma comes to theives” or something).
  • The quest can be broken within the first hour of the game (and most players will only find out about it very late into the game).
  • One of the forbidden chests is even in an area with 15 other identical chests which are fine (with no signal for the incorrect one). The bad chest changes each playthrough.
  • Another chest is in a story-centric room where you have to open chests to get your equipment back.
  • Even if you manage not to break it up to the end, you’ll still fail the final part if you have specific gear equipped without explanation (even if it’s equipped to someone not in the party, or not the player-controller character opening the chest). In fact, the offending item, Diamond Armlets is one whose description says it improves rare spawns from chests (and there isn’t a line saying something like “it repels ultimate weapons”).
  • The alternate path only has a 0.1% chance of success, and requires the player to wear the equipment that voids the previous one..[/details]

I hate this quest and am pleased the developers changed it in the Zodiac Job International version. So yes it is fixed here.

[details=In this version:]* While still luck-based on spawn (1%), the chest will always contain it regardless of equipment held.

  • The player cannot unknowingly break it.
  • There’s no need to be wary of chests which keeps the game from logically (or thematically) inconsistent.
  • It’s repeatable so multiple characters can have it, but since you need a specific job to wield it, the player is no longer incentivised to waste time getting multiple.
  • You can alternatively buy it through another quest (where the player could reasonably find it rather than just getting confused with it on the License Board and looking it up).
  • They added more ‘ultimate weapons’ so the most powerful characters don’t have to use a spear.[/details]

Read more on both versions’ quest here (including locations). Happy hunting <3

1 Like
#34

It’s been many years since I played the original PS2 release so my memories are a bit hazy. However at the time the game came out I remember I was into the gambits and combat system despite major departures, but couldn’t get into the characters or story all that much. To me Van never felt much more developed than a dude with a vest, Fran seemed far too fan service-y for even teenage me to enjoy, and Panelo just felt like wasted potential. I’ve been surprised to see nearly universal acclaim in this thread and listening to Austin on the podcast so I’m curious whether anyone else felt this way or if I missed something at the time?

1 Like
#35

I know all that, but you (not you specifically, you the hypothetical FFXII player) don’t need the spear for any reason other than you want it. If nobody had told you it was the the most powerful weapon in the game then you wouldn’t know to be mad you didn’t get it. It’s not necessary to get it. You aren’t missing out on anything by not having it. I collected every item in the Sky Pirate’s Den and got my full party to level 99 without it. I could have brute forced getting it, but the reward is not worth the effort.

#36

On the license board, when you unlock every part of it (which the players that will search for it will do) it stays greyed out if you don’t have it. Doing everything in that game except get that weapon will still leave you with one greyed out thing on the License Board. This is how most people find out about it, because they look up this weapon they haven’t seen anywhere and often find out they locked themselves out of one of them 40 hours ago.

I don’t think it’s true that players only want it because it’s the best weapon in the game. Plus, wanting to obtain everything because they want to obtain it is a perfectly valid reason to search for a collectable in a game. People do a lot of difficult things in games for more useless items. Imagine if the certificate for obtaining all Pokémon made it so that if you picked up a pokeball in the first town, you could no longer receive it. While I agree, it’s not worth getting annoyed about, I see zero positives to the way it was implemented originally. It’s basically like a note on the levelling-up screen that says “you can’t 100% this game any more because of a logically-unconnected action you made 40 hours ago”. What purpose did the original quest serve?

#37

i’m with you, i thought the story was decent overall but a lot of the characters were pretty underwhelming. it really felt like ashe was supposed to be the protagonist, but they added vaan to spare people from having to play as a woman? obviously speculation, but he’s easily the least memorable or engaging FF protagonist.

that being said, i just had so much fun playing the game that it made up for that stuff imo

2 Likes
#38

I played the demo of FXII that was included with Dragon Quest VIII and was noplussed back in the day. I bought FF XII along with several other classics right before the PS3 launch when PS2 game prices dropped dramatically. I wound up trading it in to Gamestop in 2011 unplayed when I finally bought a PS3, since I had tried to run through my PS2 collection before moving on, and Nocturne had burnt me out on PS2 long haul RPGs.

I will buy the PS4 remaster at some point. I’m curious whether it will get a special price at Amazon, since it’s releasing on Prime Day.

#39

FFXII always had issues with it’s story. Once you get Balthier’s full arc the game basically just sputters to a halt without much fanfare for the last third or so and really only Balthier and Basch get much character development on the whole. I honestly don’t know why Panelo is even in the game, Ashe would likely be more interesting had Matsuno stuck around to finish the story, and yeah Fran is way too fan servicey for sure (though I will give them some credit for Fran actually looking like a grown women coughRikkucough) and marks the point where Akihiko Yoshida’s art takes a turn for the bland and more fan service focused style you see him mostly working in today

Still, the setting is genuinely pronominal and the writing is still (to my memory) a shade more mature then you get out of 90% of games even now and I’ll be damned if the Espers aren’t just cool as all hell. And the soundtrack is one of if not the best in a franchise that is not lacking in all time greats. It’s a flawed attempt for sure but but none of it’s short comings are big enough to fully bring the game down as I remember them from a few years back.

2 Likes
#40

For the absolute longest time I thought FF12 was an MMO, along with 11 and 14. I’ve spent the last couple days, until I listened to Waypoint Radio, thinking they were remaking an MMO and being very confused how and why they would do that considering 14 is still running

1 Like
#41

On the real though. Even though VIII is clearly the best FF, I actually dumped 120 into XIII. I’m that guy that swears that the endgame is worth it. Best battle system of any JRPG, hands down.

EDIT: Will absolutely admit that I don’t remember a single moment of the plot in XIII.