Wings Over Ivalice

A convenient method of transportation whenever you’re not in Jagd.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an impressive remaster which introduces a number of new mechanics and provides an enjoyable experience throughout. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the new job system, but there are quite a few changes besides the inclusion of tantalising character builds. Most of these changes affect how you progress through the campaign, what certain Magicks are classified as, how you acquire some of the rarer equipment, and make the bazaar a more prominent feature for various reasons.

I’m mostly in support of these changes.

However, there are some, as previously mentioned regarding the job system, which do feel slightly imbalanced. Grinding is still prevalent in the earlier locations, but becomes almost non-existent as much of the higher level equipment can only be found. So there’s never a comfortable break even point. You’re either ridiculously poor or you’re obscenely wealthy.

The actual story campaign is as good as it ever was. You’ve still got the gorgeously vivid, freely explorable, incredibly detailed open world that will engage you for dozens of hours. Overflowing with side quests, rare monsters, optional marks, and more. Graphically, even without the remaster, Final Fantasy XII still holds its own. There are dungeons which take literal hours to fully explore, filled with traps and puzzles and not nearly enough save crystals. But I do feel as though something is missing from The Zodiac Age. I’m currently sitting on 10-15k Licence Points across the entire party, but I can’t spend them due to completing all of my boards, and so even though I’d like some characters to learn new abilities they can’t, which is eternally frustrating.

I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the world, uncovering its secrets, experiencing the main story, and being able to relive what I consider to be one of the best instalments in the series. But I do miss the freedom of the original Licence Board. That said, it’s still an incredibly good remaster and (mostly) highlights what made Final Fantasy XII so engaging. Gambits remain one of the best AI mechanics in the entire series and allow so much customisation of who does what and when they do it. Ultimately giving characters unprecedented levels of autonomy in battle.

Espers are pretty interesting, too.

They’ve changed slightly in The Zodiac Age but their premise remains the same. They can be temporarily summoned to provide assistance in battle, and they have a range of different abilities which are strengthened by the proficiency of their summoner. They’re also very rarely used in environmental interactions. Which is another thing that Final Fantasy XII does very well.

Despite disagreeing with some of the changes in the remaster, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is still a great entry point for new players and will provide an 80hr+ campaign if you’re looking to see and do everything. Even if you’re not you’re in for quite a long run. There has always been such a unique visual and musical style to Final Fantasy XII which really encapsulates the feeling of classic Final Fantasy instalments. It’s still much broader, more diverse, and has more depth than even the newest instalments. Which is a testament to the incredible amount of work that went into developing the original. Even now, twelve years later, it’s still one of the most exhilarating adventures in the Final Fantasy series. It’s absolutely worth your time!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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Licence to Adventure

My life would be more interesting if I had one of these.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an interesting adventure if you’ve ever experienced the original release. Unlike the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster which keeps most of the core mechanics intact, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age introduces a shiny new job system. Which, to be fair, was present in some versions of the original but definitely not the version I had. However, unlike other instalments with a job system, such as Final Fantasy III or Final Fantasy V, there is no need (nor any ability) to switch jobs after they’re chosen.

Which means you need to choose wisely.

But it also means that you don’t necessarily need to use every single job that’s available. Some offer little benefit other than access to another class of weapons which may or may not offer any noticeable difference. For instance, the Bushi, which primarily uses katanas, benefits from the Uhlan as they can use spears. As spears can hit flying enemies where katanas can’t.

That said, the only magick that combination could cast would be Black Magick unlocked via Espers and Quickenings. Which means that, unless you’re comfortable giving up the Esper, you’re essentially making a character that can only cast very limited Black Magick. Not that there is any requirement to have each character cast magick, but it does present an interesting issue when they’re going to gain increasing amounts of MP as they level. Something that is also prevalent with the Knight. The Knight is a class that will usually naturally develop low level healing magic, but in this incarnation they need to use Espers to unlock even the most basic White Magick. Of which their overall selection is quite limited but does prove useful.

I’ve never met a chocobo I didn’t like. Even this one.

For that reason I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this job system. For newer players it’s probably easier to digest than the original Licence Board, but for more experienced players I feel as though the job system takes something away from the experience. Especially when numerous jobs have access to Green Magick which seem to be almost exclusively unlocked through your Clan Rank. So there are several Licences you’re going to get little benefit from until much later in the story but they’re available fairly early on the board.

It’s natural that high level equipment would be saved for later.

But it does feel as though there is an imbalance between the progression. Some rapidly progress through equipment and HP Licences to become much more powerful earlier on in the story, while others seem to lack any kind of punch until much later. Like the Black Mage. Which was a secondary choice for me but didn’t become relevant until after the second board was available.

I don’t hate the new system. In fact, I welcome it. It’s interesting to see the difference between the two approaches. But it would be nice if they would allow you to access the original Licence Board, too. For those who prefer that system. Or want to experience it for the first time. I’m still enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age regardless. It’s a huge adventure that never stops giving even when you think you’ve explored a fair chunk of the world. I’ve discovered hidden Espers, locations, and more while casually exploring the various locations that seem to be appearing as quickly as I clear them. I also decided that I’d put my thoughts down in writing. So, here they are. My thoughts. In writing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Cure for Insomnia

It’s not safe to travel at night.

Normally I prefer being awake at night, but those pesky bloodthirsty daemons that occupy Eos once the sun goes down make it a little harder to justify. That was until I realised that by not sleeping I could save up (and consequently multiply) experience points at various locations, which ultimately led to not resting for weeks at a time. Which was great for everyone except Ignis who rarely utilised his culinary skills. But at least he cooked more meals than Noctis caught fish. I caught a grand total of two fish and both were for cats.

I later caught a third to talk to a NPC.

Final Fantasy XV is an interesting JRPG that invokes the nostalgia of earlier instalments while standing firmly with its own mechanics. Featuring one of the best open world environments I’ve experienced Eos is overflowing with dangerous enemies, dungeons to explore, secret locations to discover, and hundreds of quests to undertake in one form or another.

I was quite impressed with the character progression mechanics, too. Accruing AP will allow you to unlock new abilities and passive bonuses via Ascension, which made a noticeable difference and allowed your party members to act autonomously with variation in their abilities. It’s not quite the tactical system present in Final Fantasy XII, but it’s one that allows the different party members to retain their personalities and become more powerful over time. The attention to detail in their mannerisms and animations was refreshing as well. As was their role in the party matching their role in the story. For instance, Gladiolus, who acts to protect Noctis, has active and passive abilities that quite literally allow him to shield Noctis from damage.

I’m also glad to see that there is variation in the weapon types used by each character. It’s nice to see the return of a classic approach to upgrading equipment, but with the addition of equipment that is specific to Noctis (due to his role in the story) that allows him to fully utilise his Armiger. Not only reinforcing the new mechanics but allowing more variation when dealing with enemies who are resistant to certain weapon types. Or even magic types. Magic being a curious blend of drawing elemental energy from deposits and crafting this time around.

Elemancy is an interesting concept that I scarcely employed.

Having New Game+ as an option definitely invites the possibility to use different weapons and/or magic the second time around. Being able to switch to the other party members makes for an interesting variation, too. Seeing as each has their own unique mechanics which make them different to Noctis. I don’t know how feasible it is to stay consistently switched, though.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Final Fantasy XV but I was very pleasantly surprised. The open world is vast and features actual dungeons which not only include overflowing numbers of daemons but puzzles and rare equipment, too. The hunts are varied and increasingly difficult with many different enemies to encounter. The side quests often form quest chains which have logical conclusions with the characters concerned. It’s an accomplishment that the world feels as alive as it does- which is something the Final Fantasy series has lacked for a while- but something that comes so naturally to this instalment. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving world that’s just waiting to be explored. I highly recommend giving it a chance- it may surprise you.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Dressed for the Occasion

At least you won’t need to pay for dry cleaning.

Which, now that I think about it, is actually a really good question- who developed sphere technology that dresses you in different clothing and armour? It seems like such an odd thing to develop. You’d think they’d prefer to develop an infinite food source, or technology that doesn’t try to kill them, or even the ability to capture fiends in spheres which they would use to battle other fiends.Dressed for the Occasion Those would be useful options. Copyright infringement aside. But, no, they decided to put clothes into these spheres.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand Spira.

Final Fantasy X-2 is an interesting sequel in many ways. Most of the original characters are scarcely present, the Sphere Grid is gone, Garment Grids and Dresspheres provide most of your character customisation options, you’ve got an airship available from the moment you finish the introductory mission, and it’s probably best if you don’t take the story too seriously.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a suitable sequel, though. It’s just that it might not be the sequel many were expecting. Most were probably anticipating a prequel which looked at the events surrounding the journey Braska, Auron, and Jecht embarked on before the events of Final Fantasy X. Instead they got a slightly ridiculous insight into the events following the Eternal Calm. But I think it was a bold choice to introduce new story elements instead of dragging out existing ones. The aforementioned prequel would have been such an easy choice, too. That said, while I feel that the sequel does conclude the story fairly well, I also feel that the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy concluded things more satisfactorily, which shows that the series has progressed over time.

There were a few things about the Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster which I do believe weren’t present in the version I have on the PS2. Such as the Creature Creator system, which allows you to recruit fiends into your party that you develop in a very similar way to strengthening Aeons in Final Fantasy X. There are also new accessories, altered accessories, an extra chance to get the Mascot Dressphere, numerous changes to the enemies you’ll face, and even some slight alterations to the events you’ll experience.Dressed for the Occasion

Whether those are positive or negative changes is open to interpretation.

I’m particularly impressed with the graphical enhancements in the HD Remaster as well. It looks gorgeous. Especially when you consider that the original versions of both titles on the PS2 didn’t look that bad, in fact, at the time, they were some of the most impressive titles on the market. But the enhancements present really breathe new life into the world of Spira.

I’ve enjoyed playing through both of these titles again. While I will admit that I prefer Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2 is an interesting look into a familiar universe with both established and newly introduced characters. It also features (for the first time in the series) an all female cast. Then there’s New Game+, which I’ll be able to use to experience the story once more and finish off all of the things that I missed in the first attempt. So neither is finished just yet. But, for now, it’s time to bid Spira adieu and move onto new adventures. I’d still highly recommend the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster package. It’s well worth the price of admission if you enjoy classic JRPGs.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Summoner’s Pilgrimage

It’s quite the journey.

But with the help of a legendary guardian, a man obsessed with Blitzball, a lady who loves belts so much she made a dress from them, a powerful warrior from a distant land, and someone who just appeared in Spira you might just make it. You’ll need a little more than luck on your side, though. You’ll need to have Fayth. Myriad Fayth. Which is the whole reason you’re on this journey in theThe Summoner's Pilgrimage first place. That and exploring the world around you, looking for meticulously placed treasure chests in random locations, and (of course) farming AP like there’s no tomorrow.

Mostly because if you fail there probably won’t be a tomorrow.

Unlike most Final Fantasy titles I’ve completed, this particular title boasts a new challenge through the Expert Sphere Grid which is (almost) entirely new to me. I’m still not sure what it really does, either. Other than change starting locations, shuffle around certain nodes, and allow for complete freedom with character development. Maybe that is literally all it does. I don’t know.

In either case, it’s been interesting going back through the various characters and creating strategies of my own. I’ve got a fair few Black Magic users. Got a couple of White Magic users, too. I’ve seen the wondrous cacophony of destruction that is a Doublecast Ultima. I’ve also witnessed Auron cleave an enemy for nearly 100k damage. It’s honestly a little disgusting. I’ve experienced the better parts (exploring the Omega Ruins) and the worse parts (trying to obtain the Sun Sigil) in equal measure. I can’t say I haven’t had fun, though. I can’t say whether it’s made things easier or more difficult, either. I think that having a secondary White Magic user in Rikku (who practically mirrors Yuna) has proved invaluable.

Then again, with the acquisition of the Nirvana, and full Black Magic spell availability, Yuna has become a force to be reckoned with in her own right. Able to easily break the damage limit and deal 30-40k per spell. It, again, is honestly a little disgusting. It wouldn’t scratch the super bosses… but that’s for another time. Maybe. It’s actually funny that I don’t enjoy Blitzball enough to bother trying to get Wakka’s Celestial Weapon, but he’s a good candidate for breaking the damage limit. He’s got nearly as much Strength as Auron does.
The Summoner's Pilgrimage
That said, I love the way the Masamune fits so perfectly with Auron.

He’s probably the only character who has consistently been able to take a punch and get back up throughout the entire experience. The fact that he now becomes even more powerful each time he gets hit just makes that sweeter. Especially considering he was one of the first to reach the health limit. He’s got a bountiful pool to draw from and it’s immensely useful.

I’ve always felt that Final Fantasy X was a genuinely difficult entry in the series. It’s one that has very interesting mechanics for key fights that rely more on your ability to understand, react, and survive than simply deal damage. Significantly easier when you’ve got Auron and the Masamune- but still an experience. I highlighted many of the key changes to the Final Fantasy formula which I think Final Fantasy X exemplified through An Evolving Narrative. It’s still one of my favourite entries in the series and one that I still enjoy to this day. That said, I’m looking forward to Final Fantasy X-2 as well. There are a number of things that I love about that one, too. Despite (in my opinion) being easier than the previous entry.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

An Evolving Narrative

It’s a natural and beautiful thing.

As part of my seasonal tradition this year I’ve been playing through Final Fantasy X once again. It’s one of those adventures (and stories) that’s just as fun to experience a second (or a third) time as it was the first, even if you’re already aware of the plot twists and turns. You might even make more sense of the events the second (or third) time, too. It’s equally as interesting when you consider that many of the changes in Final Fantasy X shaped the series as a whole, with later instalments taking note of what worked and what didn’t.

There has definitely been a greater emphasis on presenting stories since then.

From Final Fantasy XII where no character was individually crucially important as each had their own role to play, to Final Fantasy XIII where the world was secondary to the development of the characters found therein, to Final Fantasy XV which seems to be building around both aspects but still focusing on the party and their development through their adventures.

Of course, as I don’t own a PS4, the information about Final Fantasy XV is pieced together from things I’ve seen through to roughly the third chapter of the main story. But what I have seen I’ve liked the idea of, as, even though I’m not playing this myself, I’m interested to see how the characters change. How they develop. If they develop at all. How that will impact the story and whether there are choices within the story that affect how it ends, or whether the ending is set no matter what you do. It’s an interesting change of pace for sure. It’s also interesting to see a similar battle system from Final Fantasy XII making a return, albeit without the Gambit system (if I remember correctly) but with party specific interactions at the very least.

We're in a different business these days.

We’re in a different business these days.

It’s also interesting to think that Final Fantasy XIV, their second MMORPG, has a particularly story based approach as well, often requiring you to complete things individual to your class to progress even as far as requiring you to venture into dungeons. Something that isn’t typically present in those kind of things. That said, I feel like Final Fantasy always had great stories to tell it’s just that they were harder to convey with the older technology. You can certainly show a wider range of emotions with hyper realistic 3D models.

You can also have tens of thousands of polygons for just their hair.

On the other hand, I feel that Final Fantasy IV still has one of the best collection of characters in the series which is equally as dynamic as it is interesting. Often times characters will leave, return, leave again, and then return for the last time. Or they might die. But each event actually changes the characters or the remaining party to some degree. It has a great story, too.

It’s been a fairly nostalgic year in many ways and I’ve been looking forward to experiencing Final Fantasy X again, which makes it a nice way to spend the festive season and to end off the year on a more positive note than has been present throughout. Took up the Expert Sphere Grid, too. I did use that system for about five hours back on the PS2 after I finished it the first time, but I never got much further than that. I’m not entirely sure how different it actually is (in terms of statistics and abilities) but it does seem more flexible. Seems easier to build characters who are proficient in a range of different abilities and spells than simply their default load out, which for some is actually somewhat confusing. Like Wakka. I don’t know what to do with him.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Beacon of Salvation

Brimming with the light of creation.

Thus we reach the end of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. It started with Adventuring on Gran Pulse, led to the story of the Paradox Police, and now closes with Lightning’s final story as the saviour of souls for the dawn of a new world. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is certainly a unique entry into the Final Fantasy series. It may be the only main series instalment (or sequel of) where you have only one playable character. That said, it is an adventure filled with nods to previous instalments across the entire series.

While it feels a little more like Diablo II or Dark Souls than Final Fantasy, it’s nice how they managed to merge the elements of Final Fantasy into a single character adventure where you’re afforded a (surprising) amount of customisation. I particularly like how each weapon seems to be designed around a particular purpose or use within a set of skills.

The same could also be said for the garbs which make up your Schemata.

Unlike other instalments in the series, there are no direct benefits to developing your character through combat. Besides any money, abilities, or other items dropped. Lightning is entirely developed through the main quests and side quests she completes. However, there is a twist- you only have thirteen short days to complete everything. So, if you’re diligent, like I was, you might be able to complete almost all (if not all) quests in one run. It’s more likely that you’ll need to come back to a few in New Game+, though. Not that quest completion carries over to New Game+ along with everything else. That said, that does give you more opportunities to become even more powerful as you attempt to tackle the new challenges of Hard Mode.

New Game+ is an actual restart of the story this time, too. You don’t defeat the final boss and then continue playing afterwards (as you did in Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2). You will lose a few things like quest completion, some key items, and the Ultima Weapon/Ultima Shield. I’m not really surprised the Ultima equipment disappeared, though. It’s sort of story related and ridiculously powerful. It’s unlikely I’m going to attempt New Game+ at the moment, but I intend to get back to it at some point in the future and experience the extra challenges and content therein.

I’m glad I took the time to pick up the trilogy and play it through in one long run. I’ll admit it has side tracked me a little here on Moggie’s Proclamations, but I am looking to dive straight into all sorts of things over here now that they’re all finished. Hopefully that wave of content will include a particular chocobo that we haven’t heard much about in a while.

I think I might be getting that familiar itch for JRPGs again.

Then again, it’s not really all that surprising considering the entire Final Fantasy XIII trilogy lasted over two hundred hours. You don’t get that kind of value for money all the time. Also, while I have finished the main events, there are all sorts of secondary things for me to undertake. Like finishing off the ruin on the fourteenth day in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Or fighting some of the more challenging enemies on Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII. So it’s not completely over yet. It’s been a strangely nostalgic year in that respect. Many older inspirations or habits returning, while, sadly, some things have been lost. Some that are irreplaceable. With loss comes new opportunities, though.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie