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  • 3 weeks later...

Final Fantasy XII: U.S. Demo Impressions

The world of Ivalice awaits. New screenshots and opinions do too.

by Jeremy Dunham

November 11, 2005 - RPG fans are probably going to blow a gasket next week as not only does Atlus and Agetec both have two cult favorites headed to stores in the form of Magna Carta and Alter Code: F, but Square Enix will also be releasing Dragon Quest VIII in North America. This is especially good news for fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, however, because DQ8 will be shipping with a promotional demo of Final Fantasy XII. And wouldn't you know it? We just so happen to have one of those incentive demos right here in our office!

Now in the off-chance that you happened to travel to Japan this past July for the 2005 Square Enix Party, then congratulations: you've played this sampler already! (Click Here to read Anoop's impressions) Broken into two separate levels, the demo consists of the alien-sounding areas known as The Phon Coast (played in "Wait Mode" for thinking players) and the Stilshrine of Miriam (played in "Active Mode" for thrill-seekers). Luckily for you, the demo is now translated completely into English (except for the voice-overs, they're still in Japanese) so it should be a lot easier to figure out what it is you have to do.

The first stage, Phon Coast, is by far the more colorful of the two. Taking place on a tropical beach not at all unlike Final Fantasy X's Besaid Island, the "Wait Mode" segment is probably the more fun level to explore. First available for play at E3 2004, the Phon Coast is a lot smaller now than it used to be (thanks to some invisible walls that were intentionally blocked off for the demo), though the number of enemy encounters has increased rather noticeably. Along those same lines, random battle haters should be happy to learn that Final Fantasy XII doesn't have any "accidental combat" at all. You can see every last one of your opponents on the map and main screen at all times (enemies will respawn, however) and you can easily escape confrontations by holding down R2 for a short amount of time.

It's a good thing that enemies are easily seen and avoided too, because they're definitely very pretty and surprisingly aggressive. The Headless, for example, are a nasty race of skull-deprived beasties that love to come at you with a healthy mix of melee combat and paralysis attacks. The liquid-based Piranha fish and hovering magic masses known as "Water Wyrds," on the other hand, prefer to strike in groups while keeping a guy in the back to act as a spell-casting range fighter. One of the coolest-looking enemies, though, is the armored horse monsters known as Sleipnirs. These guys are fast, powerful, and elaborately decorated with a stunning level of detail.

Apart from the nice diversity of creatures and their visual beauty, what I admire most about the enemies in FFXII so far is that their AI and behavior are a lot more realistic. In fact, knowing how to affect the level's ecosystem is the key to beating the Phon Coast in the first place. You see, your main goal here is to hunt down and kill a vicious T-Rex-type creature known as the Rockeater. But in order to find one, you first have to defeat three Sleipnirs because Rockeaters don't like them and that's what keeps them away. Whether or not this was a scenario created specifically for the demo or if it will ring true in other instances of the game I don't know -- but the concept works well here, and it's definitely pretty cool. At the very least, we do know that monsters will definitely fight amongst themselves when not fighting you, so that's a promising start.

Another notable gameplay feature in Final Fantasy XII is how much it plays like Final Fantasy XI. From its fully-rotational 3D camera and active turn bars to its full freedom of movement during combat, the two games are certainly similar experiences. FFXII does push the mechanics even further than the last game, however, by incorporating a handy Target Line system to give you a better idea of what will happen next. The whole thing is completely context sensitive too, which means that the color of your streak (which essentially acts as a line of sight) will change based on what's happening. As an example, blue lines represent attacks on hostiles while red lines represent attacks from your enemies.

Of course, since Final Fantasy XII isn't a multiplayer game, the abilities and decisions made by your comrades are completely up to you. But in keeping with the whole "offline game that plays like an online game" motif, you can set special AI instructions known as "Gambits" to your buddies so that they can make decisions on their own. This is particularly important when playing through the second scenario, The Stilshrine of Miriam, since the action doesn't stop when you're selecting commands. Unfortunately, the demo version doesn't provide any access to the status or gambit screens, so the default gambit is all we had to work with (which based on my supporting character's actions seemed to be at the "Balanced" level).

I do have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the Miriam stage, as it didn't really offer that much beyond a basic square-shaped dungeon, but there are a couple of familiar Final Fantasy faces inhabiting it like Bombs, an Adamantoise, and the Doom Gaze (now called Gazers). It did give me the opportunity to summon one of two available Espers, however, which much like Final Fantasy X, stayed with me throughout the length of the battle. But since combat and stage navigation are no longer separated by different screens, the Esper remained with me until I dismissed it (it replaces your other two party members while recruited).

Another new feature worth mentioning is that magics are now separated into four types -- White for healing, Black for maiming, Green for status ailments, and Time for, well... time-based spells. To support the use of these spells, the magic point system is (again) a lot like Final Fantasy XI's in that whenever you cast a spell your MP bar slowly regenerates over time. This means that you don't have to worry about using Ethers very often (or at least, not in the demo). The active time battle system now applies to every action you perform too, with different speeds dependant on what kind of action you're executing (i.e. it's faster when using items or basic attacks and slower when summoning and casting magics). Additionally, it appears that there are now area spells in addition to character spells as evidenced by the "Cura" incantation used by the Viera, Fran.

Sadly the demo doesn't last beyond the two stages mentioned above so there's really not much else to report other than what we've already covered. I do have to admit, though, that Final Fantasy XII has the highest percentage of feminine butt shots than all the other games in the series combined -- and between Fran, Penelo, and Ashe, there's enough T&A ammo here to make imaginative guys everywhere very happy. Hopefully we'll have even more to report on Final Fantasy XII in early 2006 as we approach its expected Japanese release in March.

I have to say, I was slightly hesitant about this game (especially being set in the tactics universe and using it's basic battle style) but with the two modes of battle it looks to be far superior to my low expectations, I'll buy it but I'm still expecting one of the worst Final Fantasies in the entire series.

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I want to play this game quite a bit. But there's something about it that's bugging me.

By the time it's released it'll be 4 and a half years (I think) since the last actual game (FF "XI" and X-2 don't count to me). Why is it taking so long? Maybe it's because I started getting used to a new one every year or two. But I think the biggest selling point for me, has turned into the weakest.

I loved Final Fantasy Tactics. I got the Advance game the moment I got a gameboy, and I returned it for credit two days later. It was shittily abysmal. The world was slightly interesting, and the sounds of a more political back to basic medieval story interest me greatly. However I have a dreadful feeling they'll fuck it up.

The combat system doesn't sound that good. I was at first expecting a Chono Trigger style system, but this sounds shitty to me. That and I'm still greatly offended by an interview I read awhile ago where they went out of their way to cut out the original main character design for Vaan and went with a more "girly" and "effeminate" hero since that's apparently the in thing in Japan. As much as people shit on Tidus, at least he didn't literally look like a woman.

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Combat system reminds me of Xenosaga, that's a good thing.

I read someone's first impression upon playing the demo over at DVDVR and he didn't have any kind words, didn't think much of it. I hope he's just a minority in that opinion, though. >_>

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That and I'm still greatly offended by an interview I read awhile ago where they went out of their way to cut out the original main character design for Vaan and went with a more "girly" and "effeminate" hero since that's apparently the in thing in Japan. As much as people shit on Tidus, at least he didn't literally look like a woman.

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That and I'm still greatly offended by an interview I read awhile ago where they went out of their way to cut out the original main character design for Vaan and went with a more "girly" and "effeminate" hero since that's apparently the in thing in Japan. As much as people shit on Tidus, at least he didn't literally look like a woman.

Square have always gone for effeminate male characters. The main villian in FFIX was a half naked guy with a purple thong. Didn't stop him from being such a badass villain though. Just look at the villains in Advent Children. Hell, look at Cloud in Advent Children.

Besides, Vaan doesn't look that much like a woman anyway. I was exactly raising my eyebrow when I first saw him.

Also, if you are interested in this game, look at this fucking topic!!! It is a very very good collection of most of the information gathered on this game!!!


Also, Yasumi Matsuno pulled out of the producer role a while ago.

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Sabin wasn't effeminate. Neither was Shadow. Or Cecil. Kain. Any of the Cid's. Lionheart. Haven't seen jack shit about Advent Children, since it doesn't interest me, but Cloud was far from effeminate. Squall was a walking stereotypical badass (which I'm quite fine with). Auron. Fighter... -_- Their villains have in some ways, but not really their heroes..

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Sorry if I quoted this wrong... didn't want big quote boxes...

Effeminate mostly in complexion and looks rather than attitude. I wasn't implying that some how Cloud walks around being overly camp all the time, I was saying he looks like a girl. Just watch any cutscene from any Square game. Most of the time, in their clean shaven male characters, their skin is so perfect and without fault and their bone structured shaped in a way that it makes them look like a girl. You notice this particularly with games past FF8 when the cutscenes look more realistic.

Edited by Vilge Duin
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Vaan is hot.

Even if the demo sucks, I'm probably still gonna buy it.

I may be a Xenosaga convert, but I'm a Final Fantasy fanboy at heart.


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As I've said before: he's just Tidus' sexually ambiguous younger brother. That's all he is.

But seriously, bishi characters [for the uninitiated, bishi = bishounen = pretty boy] don't work very well as lead roles. They can work in just about any other role (ESPECIALLY villains...most FF villains are bishi to one degree or another), but the little upbeat son-of-a-gun main character? Fuck that.

I know previous FF heroes have been all prettified, but at least none of them could qualify for the ever-popular game in anime circles "girl or boy?". ¬_¬

This is the first time I've read anything about the game since some very preliminary screenshots. So he's called Vaan, eh? I'm waiting for him to be accosted by a random schoolgirl named Hitomi (Escaflowne quip...).

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