Yet another classic entry in the Final Fantasy franchise is now available for everyone’s favourite hybrid portable/home console. Originally releasing on the PlayStation 2, it now features all new improvements for the next generation. Let’s take a closer look at Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for Nintendo Switch.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Details
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Modes: Single player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Return to Ivalice
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age takes place in the fantasy world of Ivalice. It’s a land rife with magic and intrigue, with giant airships perpetually towering overhead. Ivalice is split into three continents that naturally engage in a struggle of domination and independence.
What follows is a tale of regicide and treason. The independent nation of Dalmasca seeks the freedom to maintain its sovereignty. However, their Archadian neighbors seek to subjugate the Dalmascans under the rule of their expanding empire.
Overall the story is somewhat interesting, if not a bit cliche. The characters are well developed, but there isn’t much to work with when tying your emotions to their plight. In essence Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is the same old story of an evil Empire asserting dominance over the lower caste.
It doesn’t help that the pacing is a bit off as well. Japanese RPG’s are a notoriously slow burn already, but Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age skews even further this way. It’s genuinely surprising for example just how long it takes to reach any meaningful action as the campaign begins.
It may appear as though I’m being a bit nitpicky with my critique of the story and pacing. The reason may be that it’s the only aspect I could really find much fault with. Beyond this, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a genuinely fantastic game. I couldn’t be happier to be able to play it on the go with Nintendo Switch.
For starters, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age has a wonderful active battle system. Fights occur in real time upon coming into range of a hostile target. Player’s feed commands to one party member while others are controlled by AI
What makes this system special however is the “gambit” feature. It allows players to program a set of commands for their AI companions with specific conditions. For example, one might program a mage to perform a healing spell on any character whose health falls below a certain threshold.
This eliminates one of the most frustrating aspects of RPG’s—poor AI decision-making. While battles occur in real time, the player still has an incredible amount of control over the actions of AI companions. It also adds a deep element of strategy and planning on top of the gratifying quick pace of combat. It’s a perfect blend.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age also features great improvements to its upgrading and leveling system. Gone is the cumbersome and difficult to view “Sphere Grid” of Final Fantasy X. It’s been replaced with the much less convoluted License Board.
Characters earn experience points in battle, which in turn can be spent on “licenses” via the License Board. These licenses provide everything from stat boosts to the ability to perform specific actions. They even control what type of gear a character is capable of equipping.
Another great thing about the License Board is that it does not lock choices behind linear paths. Instead choices in the License Board branch outwards in all directions. This allows players to take any path they choose in order to unlock the specific licenses they want the most.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age also features a number of quality of life improvements over its initial release. Firstly, the graphics have been given a full HD remastering. The game looks fantastic in docked mode, but more importantly, it also runs great in handheld mode, which is how I prefer to spend most my time with this title on Nintendo Switch.
The soundtrack has been re-recorded with live performances, and also enhanced for 5.1 channel output. Players can even switch freely between the original score and the newer version.
Other improvements include small but essential tweaks such as an increase in battle tempo, an optional high speed mode, and auto-saving. These updates make it even easier to go back and enjoy this older title while still benefiting from modern elements and improvements in game design that we are more accustomed to these days.
Get a job
The greatest addition to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age however is the Zodiac Job System. Whereas the original release only had one license board, this version features 12 unique boards. Each board corresponds to a job (and a sign of the Zodiac).
This allows players a vast improvement in the amount of control and customization they have over their party. Each character can choose 2 separate classes. Players can experiment with various combinations in order to come up with the most ideal class creations to suit their style of play.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a fantastic port with new features perfect for playing on the go with Nintendo Switch
There’s so much strategy involved in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age and its various battle and job systems. The ability to create detailed gambit commands makes it a strategy gamer’s dream, while still focusing on fast-paced real time combat. Furthermore the 12-class job and License Board system is so deep that you may want to play the game twice just to sample all the different core jobs available.
This would be even more true if the story were a bit more interesting. Unfortunately the cliche plot and slow pacing do not add to the desire to replay the game again and again. Nonetheless for fans of deep strategy and fun, customizable action it’s probably well worth it to play on regardless.
+ Zodiac job system
+ Deep strategy with the gambit system and License Board
+ Graphical and quality of life improvements
– Slow narrative pace
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF FINAL FANTASY XII: THE ZODIAC AGE
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5