From E3 2017: Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age aims to please fans and newcomers alike

At the brink of E3 2017 closing down for good, we had the chance to sit down for a chat with the producers of the new Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age at Square Enix’s booth. Based on Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System, an improved Japan-only rerelease of Final Fantasy XII from 2007, The Zodiac Age is a remaster that is aimed at pleasing both newcomers and long time Final Fantasy XII fans.

With Final Fantasy XII being one of my favorites in the series, I was very much looking forward to this interview, and had plenty I wanted to talk about, most of which tied to some of the funnier and more obscure bits of the original game. But before any of that, we touched upon the main objective of this remaster: bringing back Final Fantasy XII to those who might not have played it back when it was first released. Since it hit near the end of PlayStation 2’s run, many fans missed the boat to Ivalice.

The producers made it clear that this is supposed to be the ultimate version of Final Fantasy XII, and from what I got to see of it at E3, it’s certainly the sharpest looking of them all. It’s striking how well the art style translates to HD after a much deserved touch up and update, which according to Square Enix was paramount to getting the game out on PlayStation 4.

Alongside the updated visuals and the re-recorded orchestral score (sadly, very few impressions on that; hard to hear anything at a very noisy show floor), there are also a number of gameplay tweaks that are sure to please players who might have tried their hand in other entries in the franchise like Final Fantasy XIV. One is the inclusion of a proper job system, part of the inheritance from Zodiac Job System, that allows for a more focused customization of the cast via the license board. In my book, that’s fantastic way of avoiding weak and often broken character builds that ended up wasting valuable skill points.

Another improvement is the addition of quality of life features such as faster travel speed (yes!), an on-screen world map overlay and an auto-save option that should do away with the original release’s out-of-nowhere deaths that often came from exploring unknown sections of the map. Trial mode also sounds pretty cool, it’s a 100-level battle-a-thon where you can take your high level characters to, certainly something I’m bound to have a go at eventually.

With those dangers came the question that wouldn’t leave my mind: is the Zodiac Spear so danged difficult to get in this new version of Final Fantasy XII. You know what I’m talking about: the one pseudo quest in which the slightest mistake (like opening the wrong chest) would do away with your chances of obtaining one of the most powerful weapons in the game. Frustrating moments like that are exactly what Square Enix wants to avoid with The Zodiac Age. Without touching upon this case in particular, both producers reaffirmed that this version is by far the most user friendly of the bunch. Whether or not that spear will be obtainable in any other way that doesn’t require so much care remains to be seen.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to having another go at Final Fantasy XII. I have great memories of my time with the original release, and personally, this beautiful remaster has come at a perfect time. Given that since then I’ve dabbled with a lot of MMOs, it’ll be interesting to see how well the game holds up, considering how much of its mechanics are tied to what we’re so used to seeing in online RPGs these days. That’s especially so in Square Enix’s own A Realm Reborn, the glorious return of Final Fantasy XIV, one of my games of the year for 2015, which had its second expansion, Stormblood, come out today — more on that later!

Luckily, I won’t have to wait a whole lot longer in order to find that out: Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is set to come out for PlayStation 4 on July 11th.

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