The Next Final Fantasy
It seems like an eternity since the last good Final Fantasy game- Final Fantasy X, as I remember (No, the X-2 spinoff doesn't really count). Since then, we've seen Square-Enix embark on their MMORPG-esque Final Fantasy XI, which is pretty worthless to console solo artists like me. The next true FF, Final Fantasy XII, has seemingly been in development forever, seeing almost cataclysmic changes in designers/producers, delays and re-dos with every update. Well, finally at long last the Japanese version was released in Nippon with flying reviews. The english version is coming and I've read some stuff about the latest FF adventure.
Final Fantasy XII is set in the world of Ivalice, a world gamers familiar with all things Square should know; it's the setting for the classic strategy title, Final Fantasy Tactics. However, this similarity is apparently in name only. You probably won't find much reference to the adventures of Ramza and Delita in this magical/sci-fi world, home to fleets of flying airships and more races of humanoid creatures than a Star Wars cantina. The main story basically deals with a war between the country of Dalmasca and the Empire of Arcadia; Dalmasca's princess, Ashe, marries the prince of a neighboring country in order to forge an alliance. However, when the Empire attacks, the smaller nations' forces are quashed and the princess forced to go into hiding. Eventually, Princess Ashe will meet up with a disparate group of individuals including Vaan, a wannabee Sky Pirate, a disgraced general and more to try and fight for the freedom of their occupied land.
The character designs have that FF-bent... lots of incongruous ruffles and doo-dads all over. However, I have to say that the characters, mainly the human characters, have a blandness which brings to mind... an MMORPG. Gone are the radical designs from previous FF's, replaced by seemingly more generic faces. Perhaps once I actually play the game and get to know these new kids on the block, my impression will prove unfounded. Maybe.
FFXII also features a radically new way of combat, with real-time and strategic elements being melded. No longer will there be random encounters as you will see enemies far-off. There will be new ways to do things like levelling up skills and using summons. Wild stuff for a title that has always been strong with its traditional traits.
Final Fantasy XII seems to be a ways off- it's expected in October. Despite my initial misgivings with character designs, I'm actually quite intrigued wtih the latest FF. Some mags have actually called it the best Final Fantasy yet. We'll see for ourselves when we actually get the game later this year.