Return to Ivalice
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age launches worldwide on PlayStation 4 this July 11. The new version is far more than just an upscaled re-release. Not only does this new HD remaster have improvements on a lot of aspects, but it is also based on the “International Zodiac Job System” (IZJS) edition of the PlayStation 2 game, which never saw an official release outside of Japan.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age updates a classic entry in a long classic series. Whether you are new to Ivalice lore or a long time fan, this is for you. With lots of changes from the original game, this remaster can almost be called a remake.
Audio and Visual
The game has been given an overhaul in the audio and visual departments. Richer environments, more detailed enemies, and texture with lighting effects improved in both in-game and cutscenes. Lastly, 7.1ch surround sound support has been added so you can experience crisper, clearer sound.
Final Fantasy XII’s original musical score has also been re-recorded with a full orchestra. Whether you are in a dungeon or in a boss fight, the music gives you a grand feeling and epicness. However, there is an option to choose if you want the original or the orchestrated score. There is even a language option if you want a Japanese or English voice.
The Final Fantasy XII battle system is known for being unique from the elements of the previous games in the franchise. The battle system still included elements from the Active Time Battle (ATB) system and evolved it into the Active Dimension Battle (ADB). In an interview by Polygon, the HD remaster’s producer Hiroaki Kato, made it clear that this re-release will be a lot more approachable:
One of the biggest challenges we faced in Final Fantasy 12 was to ditch the classic random encounter system that we had. In other games, you would go into battle suddenly, whereas in Final Fantasy 12 you saw enemies as you moved through the field. It’s a real-time battle system. It was a big departure from the classic system. We actually got help from Hiroyuki Ito, who worked on the game design for previous Final Fantasy titles. We overhauled the game balance so that it would be easier for players — closer to the feel of a classic Final Fantasy title.
FF XII’s Ivalice is massive. Exploring every nook and cranny of it may have been a mind-blowing experience at first, but it became problematic when players were forced to backtrack over long distances. The International version threw in a simple fix to remedy the situation – High-Speed Mode. This mechanic is still present in the HD remaster and all you have to do to activate it is hit the L1 Button. During live gameplay (exploration, battles, loot collecting etc.), you can head into Turbo Mode and progress even faster. You can turn the game back to its normal speed at any time, plus it doesn’t affect the audio/cutscenes in any way.
For those who want more difficult challenges, Trial Mode is created for you. You battle to up to a hundred stages in an increasingly difficult encounter with many exhaustive enemy types found in Ivalice. Using your character’s level progression in the main game, you can pick your party to fight against low-level grunts and boss fights for fortune and a whole lot of loot. So it pays to keep strengthening your party during the main campaign before taking them into tougher battles.
Zodiac Job System
The new Zodiac job system is a great example of how a skill set in FF XII has been redone. First off, it was revealed that there are 12 different license boards players can choose from and each one represents a specific class. Abilities are unlocked on license boards attributed to each job class. This makes it easier to understand and plan for a specific role such as an offensive black mage or a defensive knight class. What is new to this remaster is you are not limited to picking up to just 1 role per character. The best thing here in the Zodiac Age is you can double up on your specialties. The game unlocks the option to assign two jobs to each character, giving them access to the abilities and equipment of both.
The twelve jobs are:
- White Mage – Specializes White Magicks such as healing and support spells.
- Uhlan – Specializes in Spears.
- Machinist – Specializes in range unit Guns.
- Red Battlemage – Focused on Maces, and various Magick types, with exclusive access to Arcane Magicks.
- Knight – Utilizes Swords and shield combos and can use Greatswords as well.
- Monk – Focused on Poles and capable of barehand combat.
- Time Battlemage – Focused on Crossbows and Time Magicks.
- Foebreaker – Focused on Axes, Hammers, and Hand-bombs.
- Archer – Focused on Bows and Technicks.
- Black Mage – Focused on Staves and Black Magicks.
- Bushi – Focused on Katana.
- Shikari – Focused on Daggers and Ninja Swords.
On top of all the mentioned changes, The Zodiac Age has a lot of other tweaks. Load times have been reduced. Quickenings no longer require MP and use their own gauge. The 9999 damage limit is removed with up to 16 new gambit Options. There will be two versions of New Game Plus: one where characters start at level 90 (Strong Mode) and one where characters never level up (Weak Mode, unlocked after beating Trial Mode).
While you wait for a few days before you can play the game, check this recently released gameplay video. The video in question came from British retailer GAME, and it offered sneak peeks at many of the new features.