Why Final Fantasy XII is the Best in the Series – In my Opinion

With the imminent release of Final Fantasy XIII I just want to state that Final Fantasy XII is for me, the best in the series. I know that many don’t like it – you either love it or hate it as the cliché goes so where does my fondness come from?
The Final Fantasy XII Gang

 

The world of Ivalice is a beautiful and diverse place with deserts, swamps, grasslands, forests, cities in the sky and on the ground. Everything is to scale and seen from the main protagonist’s perspective. There is a sort of medieval European feel to some areas, Arab in others. Archadian and Rabanastren culture are drastically different and the details show.  There streets and alleys, bazaars and mines, Chocobo riding and airships. There are cobblestones, blue skies and green grass. There is great fashion on the part of the Archadians and what Viera isn’t cute? I can go on waxing lyrical about the details and differences that each area and character demands but it inspires one with a sense of wonder at the confidence of the world. To reflect this new confidence in the world is the ability to control the third-person perspective camera so the player can see the details and the beauty. This ability to inhabit the world extends to combat.

The grindingly dull turn-based battles have been replaced. No more transition and fanfare to a battle screen where people take turns to hack each other up, just a real-time open field battle. What this means is that instead of random battles springing up on a player as they journey through areas, players roam an overworld with the ability to see everything with the camera. Monsters inhabit the same overworld. The player can see what monster is where. You can see its health.  You can engage it if you want or avoid it. During battles, you can see who’s going to be attacked and by what means. If things go badly you can flee (as long as you have health and are quick enough). When you’ve healed or levelled up enough you can go back and finish the fight.

Yes there are still menus to surf and only three characters from your party battle but combat can be left to the Al to control the action. Give it specific instructions through the Gambit system such as heal if health dips below a certain point or use the following attack and it will carry out the attacks with efficiency. The player is free to jump in and take control at any point making this combat much more free-flowing and flexible in contrast to archaic turn based fighting.

The characters taking part in the action might adhere to type – healing, tank, ranged, etc. but they are wonderfully drawn for the most part. Sky pirate Balthier and his Veira partner Fran are the particular highlight. The dubbing is a triumph of localisation and reflects the characters well. The diverse range of accents from actors is great with the delicious English tones of aristocratic Balthier and the Archadian upper-echelons are my favourite. What I also love about the game is the music. Hitoshi Sakimoto has created the first Final Fantasy soundtrack I bought with 4 CDs of inspiring and fitting music for the huge game. The chore common to all RPGs of levelling up on the plains of Ozmone or along the Phon Coast  is made bearable by the music that accompanies the exploration.

FFXII does feature some of the elements that I dislike about JRPGs – repetitive strain injury inducing menu–surfing, boring blonde-haired, blue-eyed bland-boy orphan protagonists and a mostly terrible fashion sense as females dress in improbably skimpy outfits and there are more belts and buckles on display than in a men’s boutique. These are forgivable because the world, the sounds, music and characters are far more interesting than what has gone before. In my opinion.

24 thoughts on “Why Final Fantasy XII is the Best in the Series – In my Opinion

  1. Matt

    Your inquiries are as about as tasteful as Ivalice itself, if I may commend. The redeeming qualities of the celestial auras of the universe are in itself exploratory and grand, while the significance of the graphical details and well-placed atmospheric sensations call for a very cinematic, but free, JRPG experience. Kudos to your observations. Final Fantasy XII shall rest itself right beside Final Fantasy VI as the best the series has to offer. It simply boils down to the great diversity of each game, and what thusly corresponds to the individual gamers’ likening. And I find these two to be profound.
    Happy gaming, my friend.

    1. Thanks for the reply.

      It’s easy to see Final Fantasy XII as a connoisseur’s game. The jaded, hasty and unfamiliar will miss the gorgeous atmosphere of the world and the many wonderful experiences on offer.

      Happy gaming to yourself.

  2. Albert

    I have played all the FF games from the main series and i also own them, I got a moogle tattoo on my wrist, FF has become part of my spiritual life, I am a fan, and with FFXII I met all of my expectations, in other words: is the game that has touched me more deeper, I’m not saying is the best cause that’s a personal opinion, in fact each one of them has a special place in my heart, but if i get to play one last FF before I die, that’ll be XII. I LOL when people call themselves fans of the series and you can hear them criticising a few of them, there is no such thing as a best FF, modern gamers are so full of themselves that they even criticise games from the same franchise like FF, because people think they are superior beings, FFVII is so famous cause it came at the 3D generation era for the first time, cause the characters were anime style for the first time, cause of the CG graphics on the cut-scenes, NOT because is the best game, people don’t even know what they are talking about now a days, it’s pathetic

    1. I knew Final Fantasy had a dedicated fanbase but wow… A tattoo and everything? That’s cool that you’ve made it a part of your life – very brave. I have to admit I am losing interest in video games as a whole but Final Fantasy XII really interested me and I felt the need to champion it. I feel the need to dust off the GBA Final Fantasy Tactics.

      Happy gaming.

  3. Akaryu

    i agree final fantasy 12 is a simply incredible game. now final fantasy 13 well my opinions of it shouldnt be viewed when there are children in the room unless those children want to learn some new 4 letter words…

    1. Thanks for the reply! I have mixed feeling about FFXIII. It is very beautiful and sounds awesome but I pretty much hated playing my way through some of the stages. That said I liked the battle system and the characters won me over by the end.

    1. I liked the battle system a lot. When I first played FFXIII I missed it but I gradually got into it and appreciated it. I’d still prefer XII’s battle system though.

  4. gamer

    FFXII was the best for me i played FFXIII,FFXIII-2 and they were good but not as XII it was on another level of joy the battle system and the weapons and license board gosh i miss it so much hahaah but there was one problem i didnt like the characters so much i dont know why hahahah i want play it one more time why they dont make it playable on ps3 or remake it thats wil be awesome thanks

    1. I liked the characters. Well, I liked Balthier and Fran. I would replay FFXII but I haven’t even bought FFXIII-2. I need to get it. FFXII Revanant Wings is a fun way to get reacquainted with the world.

  5. Francisco Pereira

    I’ve played many FF and FFXII is the best. The battle system is amazing and the world is so big, so detailed, with so much to do after the story. It´s the game I played most in my life and the one that gave me more pleasure to achieve every single thing in the game. I never finished it (only one Esper and maybe 3 or 4 hunting missions left, and a significant number of things achieved), but I think I’ll do all over again in my ps3 and try complete everything this time. I´ve found this blog actually because I was thinking on doing this already and I was searching things about FFXII. After doing the same with FFX (I´m already doing it – and one of my favorites too by the way) I´ll go for it. Genki Jason: congrats for the blog, I don´t know why, but many people (including all of my friends) don´t like FFXII, or prefer other FF, and I´m very happy there is people who think the same as I of FFXII. (sorry for my english, I´m portuguese)

  6. Francisco Pereira

    I´ve played this a long time ago but I still remember how happy I was when I finally got Tournesol. I don´t remember if it was too difficult or the most difficult thing I´ve done in FFXII, but it´s still on my mind that moment. And no game leaves me so great memories like Final Fantasy XII, and that´s why I love it.

    1. Thanks for the reply!

      It’s great to find other people with a passion for FFXII. As much as I came to like FFXIII it will never top XII. The world and characters and the battle system are just so good. I was thinking about replaying it today but I’m so busy and I’ve got a lot of other JRPG’s… That said, I’m finding it hard to resist!

  7. Francisco Pereira

    FFXIII was a good game. But the spectations were too high after FFXII. I hope Versus XIII to be a great returning of a series who lost some notority in the past few years. I started replaying FFXII yesterday. Couldn´t resist. I´ll talk again when I kill Yiazmat.

  8. David Tenglin

    For me, Final Fantasy XII is the pinnacle of gaming. I love how you can change the battle system to fit your play style, the Quickenings, the espers, everything. I have gone through the game near 3 times and it never gets dull.

    1. I agree. Well, maybe not gaming since I love Monkey Island/Broken Sword/Shenmue 😉

      Yes, FFXII is one of the best RPG’s I have played. Very flexible and intelligent and full of depth. I’m still listening to the OST as well.

      Actually I’m putting together a post defending FFXIII and Tactics Advance now.

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂

      I think FFXII is still the best in the main series but I’ve developed a soft spot for FF Tactics – I want a sequel. 13 was okay. I enjoyed the combat system, graphics and soundtrack and I though Lightning was a cool protagonist but I didn’t really enjoy the story or the game-play as a whole.

  9. Trish

    I don’t see why a lot of people hate this FF series so much when i personally think it was a masterpiece! i can’t remember when i last played/completed the game(prolly 5-6 years ago?)..but re-watching some of the scenes and even watching some video how to obtain Espers gives me so much nostalgia! It makes me think how beautiful Ivalice is.. All that exploring made me so in love with it :).. My PS2 is long broken and how i wish i could play it again in another console..but yeah even if i won’t be able to play it again..(sad) FF12 will always live in my memories and has a special place in my gamer heart 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      There’s so much to love about this entry in the series not least the nostalgia of simpler times spent playing it and I still listen to the soundtrack (I put it on my phone) which is one of the best in video game history as far as I’m concerned. It seems you won’t need a PS2 to play the game because a HD remake in the style of FFX or an emulated version of it will come to the PS4!

      This story was floating around not so long back:

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-08-03-looks-like-final-fantasy-12-hd-remaster-is-real

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