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Final Fantasy XII news

MalaCloudy Black

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While I'll openly admit that Xenosaga completely blew any FF game I've ever played (and I've played 5 through 10), I still am a fan of Square-Enix and the FF series in general - Kind of a sentimental thing, as FFVII was the first RPG I ever enjoyed/played.

Give Square credit for one thing: they know how to make a splashy debut. Little new information has been revealed since its initial announcement last November but with E3, several important questions finally have answers. Square's multi-hour floor demo has taught us much about the party members, the battle system, and more. Final Fantasy XII departs from its predecessors in several significant ways. The series has always evolved in small ways from game to game, but the latest sequel tosses entire well-established systems out the window. Gamers wondering what Final Fantasy XII will be like would do well to ignore the previous series titles and look instead at Matsuno's Vagrant Story.

Perhaps the most obvious changes are in the brand-new battle system. Enemies now engage your three-character party directly on the field map, and the player can use the architecture and environments to his or her advantage. The left analog stick moves Vaan around the screen during battle; the other two party members move about the field automatically depending on their selected commands and A.I. Combat is in real-time, but closer to an MMORPG than the series' Active-Time Battle system. "Attacking" an enemy causes a character to automatically attack every turn until the enemy is dead or a new command is entered. Pressing Circle pauses the action and permits new input for any or all characters in the party. A.I. presets can be purchased from stores and assigned to secondary party members to give them more autonomy. It seems that spells and items will also be repeatedly cast or used until new input is received, so players need to stay on top of what their characters are doing.

The freedom of the field screen makes for some non-traditional Final Fantasy matchups. At one point during the demo, my party of two was joined by two friendly A.I. soldiers; together, the four of us took on five opponents. FFXII uses an "arc" system to easily identify the action. When the player targets an enemy, a blue arc goes from their character to the opponent. When an enemy targets a player character, the arc is red. An action "begins" when a character's agility bar fills up. Once started, an icon moves along the arc from the actor to the target, providing a visual cue as to when the selected action will complete. Arcs are also visible to and from off-screen opponents, helping the player orient themselves in the large environments.

All three party members are visible on the field map both in and out of battle. Outside of battle, characters can be freely swapped for others; once battle begins, however, you're limited to the three people on hand. There is no "end of the battle" characters gain gil, items, and even levels in the middle of fighting, and fights that move close enough to other enemies may drag them into the fray. Though this system may sound difficult, in practice it works nicely, providing a nice mix of hands-on involvement and automatic battling. In many ways, the battle system resembles that of Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic.

Unsurprisingly, the game is graphically stunning. As with Vagrant Story, Matsuno's Product Development Division 4 has sacrificed polygon count for texture quality, and the results are gorgeous. Environments are large and expansive, with a free-roaming camera is completely controlled by the player. Whether from a high-roaming overhead view or a behind-the-character, nearly first-person view, Final Fantasy XII looks great. A true first-person perspective was not available present in the demo, but going by Vagrant Story's example, is likely to be in the final game. The environments are packed with rococo details that add to the Mediterranean feeling. The major city in the game, the Royal City of Rabanastre is filled with wandering characters and storefronts, giving it a substantial metropolitan feeling. Of particular note is facial animation in particular is stunning, offering a range of real-time expression far more natural than Final Fantasy X's sometimes-stilted smiles.

The first part of the demo seems to be taken straight from the start of the final game. The player takes control of a young night named Reks, a young Dalmascan knight under the command of a man named Brachs. Brachs, Reks, and their party are racing to defend their king from the invading Archadian forces. As you move through the fortress, you receive a full tutorial on the movement and battle systems. Just before the throne room, the party splits, and Brachs runs ahead to protect the king while the player, as Reks, fights off a final wave of Archadian soldiers. After winning the sortie, Reks enters the throne room, to find the guards and king deadand Brachs responsible. Brachs stabs Reks and explains his reasoning to the dying youth. Brachs knew that the king had planned to sell out the Dalmascan people to the Archadian empire to ensure his own safety; refusing to bow to a foreign authority, he killed his own king to protect his own people. It's an empty gesture, as the Archadian forces overpower and assimilate Dalmasca anyways, but one he felt he had to make. Rekt dies with the name of his younger brother on his lips: Vaan. We then cut to two years later; 706 B.I., as the game reckons eras. Clearly, Matsuno's trademark narrative intrigue is in full effect.

Other portions of the demo focus on exploring the city of Rabanastre, dungeon crawling through the Nalbina Dungeons below the city, and fighting battles in the Mosphora Highwaste and the Salikawood. Playable characters in battle include Vaan, Penelo, Balthier, Fran, and Ashe. (For more information on these characters, please read our previous preview). Three characters are active in the party at any time, and there were eight slots available on the subscreen for characters. However, the first section of the demo has Brachs join the party "as a guest," implying that the final PC roster may be more than just eight characters. The amount of content on display in the demo is staggering; in an hour-and-a-half of play, we only barely managed to complete three of the six available sections, with only furtive glances at the other three. The North American release date of 2005 seems impossibly far off; fortunately, Final Fantasy XII appears to be well worth the wait.

CREDIT: 1up.com

*fist pump* Finally, no more annoying battle sequences to go into, the enemy and your party just fights where they meet on the map. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

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The new battle system will probably take a significant time of adjustment for me, but it shouldn't damage the game once I get used to it. The only thing that bothers me is about your party members and their AI. They'll continue doing a spell/move until you tell them otherwise? Lose concentration on your own problems for a moment and boom, your friend's used all their MP. And in general terms, I've never met an AI that I'd entirely trust to do the fighting for me...and I'm suspicious this time round as well.

But other than that, seems like the usual boatload of FF goodness. Sure, XS is better (though I can't buy it), and I'm sure this thread will see its fair share of "Final Fantasy sucks in every way, shape, or form possible" posters, but personally - I'm looking forward to this. Time to bring some dignity back to the brand after FFX-2. :P

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Xand, it's more or less just something that annoyed me greatly. I mean, after playing Xenosaga - Where your enemy is shown ON SCREEN and you have a chance to dodge them if you don't feel like fighting - I went back and tried to play VII and IX and loathed the battle system because I would be walking around, trying to get somewhere, and I always got hampered by those random monsters attacking me unless I was on a chocobo or something.

So in short, the old FF battle system annoys me and the Xenosaga/.hack/etc. type of battle system is much better imo.

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Personally, I just don't want FFXII to be anything like the linear, boring shit-fest that was FFX.

I don't get people's hatred against "linear" games. I'd much rather play a straight-forward game with a solid story than one than allows you to do random shit all over the place. It's the old school style of gaming I say...!

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Of course all FF games were "linear shit-fests", its no different from 99% of all of the other console RPGs, FFX was just more so.

Any the problem with linear games is that they ARE old school style - Its gets boring. The most fun and intriging (sp) games I have ever played are the ones which offer you numerous solutions to problems, or at least provide the option to drift off your main path to do something else for a while before carrying on with the main quest again.

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