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PaigeFTW: A Decade Later, ‘Final Fantasy XII’ Still Shines

Final Fantasy XII is different than its fourteen compatriots.

This is a story that thrives on politics, where personal angst and discovery is quietly put aside for the interests of empires. Ivalice may well be the most thoughtfully rendered of all Final Fantasy’s worlds, with multiple races, religions and regions — and a long and sprawling history that renders even these heroes as mere blips in time.

Little wonder that it also is one of the most controversial titles in the series, and that its successor ran so far from its precedent that it barely resembled a fantasy at all.

And yet, it has always been my favorite title in the series. I love the setting, I love the characters, I love the dialogue (truly the finest translation job in the series) and I love the MMORPG-style combat.

At long last, I have returned to my roots.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is an HD remake of Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System, an enhanced edition of the original 2006 title that released only in Japan.

The update wisely leaves the original story be, and instead focuses on streamlining systems (you can fast-forward the game now, for instance), and overhauling the customizable License Board to reinsert the traditional Final Fantasy job system. This small change makes playing the game quite a different experience, at least strategically.

It’s amazing how well the old game holds up in this I-can-see-the-pores-on-her-face era of HD graphics. The incredible detail put into the 11-year-old PS2 version still shines. (The sheer number of NPCs loitering around towns and in the wilds seems overwhelming compared to the largely barren landscapes of modern Final Fantasy games.) The remastered soundtrack is more grandly orchestral than I remembered. The systems are still unlike most any RPG on the market.

If you’ve never played the original, what are you waiting for? And if you did, well, things have changed enough to warrant a journey back.

But all those words are just sound and fury. When it comes down to it, when I put the game in and saw that familiar opening cinematic of Ashe and Rasler’s wedding, I felt the wrench and joy of reuniting with a long-lost friend.