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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Review - The defining PS2 classic returns

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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age plays out like a stunning season of Game of Thrones with a touch of Star Wars-inspired treachery. What this means is that it is one fantastic experience from start to finish throughout the 60-hour and more adventure. Plot twists, fully voiced cutscenes, and not to mention the spectacular voice work that ties it all together and brings it to life. I could not help but be drawn into the game's stellar story as the world of Ivalice came to life through its characters and setting. 

The Zodiac Age is a remaster of the 2006 PlayStation 2 release that has achieved its goals of bringing quite an aged classic back to the modern gamer with improved visuals, sound, and a few much-needed tweaks to the game's combat system and overall gameplay. Final Fantasy XII was a very different Final Fantasy experience back in the day as it was one of the first games to eliminate the classic turn-based combat. 

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We still have a turn-based battle system, but you fight your enemies in the world around you instead of entering a dedicated combat zone. It was also one of the first to change the world system and instead of a linear story and world, each city and open area are divided into huge hubs to explore. Last, but not least, is the job system which again brought back the old-school Final Fantasy elements from the first few titles in the series.

Everything feels more polished

All these features feel very natural today as gaming has changed, but somehow Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a true testament to how spectacular the series is. It was also one of the darkest and most mature stories in the series. Sure, many may argue that Final Fantasy VII was better, but the sheer complexity of each character and the hierarchy of the royal families as well as the drama going on in The Zodiac Age requires you to pay attention throughout the game. Some are fighting for peace while others are fighting for power. 

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The Archadian Empire has grown in power as they continue their reign of destruction over the kingdom of Dalmasca. The King of Dalmasca has agreed to sign a treaty granting Archadia occupational rights in exchange that they end the war. However, things take a turn for the worst when the king is assassinated on the night before the hearing, and his daughter, the last in line for the throne takes her own life.

While the opening of the game sets the tone for things to come, much more is revealed as you take on the role of Vaan, a wanna-be Skypirate who gets wrapped up in all this royal drama. It is then revealed that the princess is still alive two years later and she has built a resistance movement to bring down the Archadian Empire who now control most of the Dalmasca kingdom. 

As you can expect, it is a Final Fantasy title, which means that it has the typical inspiration from the things we love. Moogle, Chocobos, the summoning of Espers, and of course, a fantastic RPG experience that includes a great battle system, the classic enemies, mini-games, and much more.

Ivalice is massive and it is broken up into portions which you can digest at your own will. As the story progresses, and it takes a while to roll out, you travel to various cities which are all tied to this huge world. Explore enough of one area and you will find yourself in a new city. 

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Caves, tombs, and dozens of hunts which set you off to hunt down specific enemies will keep you busy while you are not following the story of Vaan and his posse. Of course, the remastered version of the game has one feature which saved dozens of hours for me and that is the ability to fast forward the game speed. Final Fantasy XII was a slow game and even on the fastest battle setting it took a while to grind and level up as the hubs are so big and the battles take a while to get through. The double speed in the remastered version meant that I could simply press L1 and it would speed through all these tedious parts at ease. 

A much-needed turbo mode makes it easier to grind

There is also an x4 mode which you can choose, but I felt that it was a bit too fast for me and often I lost my control over the game. The gambit system from the original is back, which lets you set up a specific action for your party members which you are currently controlling.

Once I set up a perfect group of teammates and they cast spells, attacked, and healed at the right times according to the priority which I set them to do so, the battle system was considered mastered for me. Each party member had a specific job which I chose and it all tied together well with their weapons and specific skills in battle. 

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But the improvements don't end there. The Zodiac Age has a full native 4K output on the PS4 Pro and it looks stunning. It also looses that film grain style from the original for a sharper, cleaner look. The game's stunning texture work and facial blending give you a feeling that this game is really not that old. It all comes together in a stunning package that feels like a solid Final Fantasy experience regardless of its age. 

One of the most powerful parts of Final Fantasy XII is in its story and the superb way it's told. Often I could put my controller down and watch the cutscene that has been perfectly refined from visuals to the great voice overs. The reorchestrated soundtrack then backs everything up in combat, story and more, making it an even more immersive and rewarding adventure. 

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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age brings one of the most spectacular RPGs back to life. It is truly a marvellous experience that all fans should enjoy. It's enhanced visuals, sounds, and combat system makes it feel like a modern version of the game with everything that made the game such a cult classic back in the day.

There is so much here to be enjoyed, you just need to take the dive back in time to a game that was a defining title back in the day. 

Available On: PS4 | Reviewed on: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 11 July 2017 | RRP: R779

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"a stunning package that feels like a solid Final Fantasy experience regardless of its age"

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