Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Switch Review
Revisit one of the most underrated entries in the series.
The mainline Final Fantasy series began going multi-platform with Final Fantasy XIII and continued that trend with Final Fantasy XV a few years ago. Square Enix has also begun to bring their PS1 and PS2 era games to other platforms in recent times as well, including the recent releases of games like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on consoles like Nintendo Switch and Xbox One. Following those releases, now it is time for one of the more underrated entries in the franchise to get a chance to shine yet again with the release of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on Nintendo Switch.
As was pretty common during the PS2 era of Square Enix games, Final Fantasy XII received a Japanese exclusive International version following the Western release, which added a number of new features that greatly enhanced the game and made some elements a lot less tedious. The remastered Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age bases itself off of that version, giving Westerners a much improved version of the game that they did not receive initially back in 2006.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age features arguably the most political story to date in the series, focusing on a war between the empires of Archadia and Rozarria within the land of Ivalice. The story starts with Princess Ashe of Dalmasca marrying Prince Rasler of Nabradia to try and strengthen their respective kingdoms against these two empires, but an Archadian invasion leads to the death of Rasler and Ashe’s father, King Raminas. You start the game off as a character named Reks under the command of Captain Basch, but a series of events happen before the story jumps forward two years to present day.
Players then take control of the lead character Vaan, Reks’ younger brother, who is part of a world where Dalmasca is ruled by the empire. He ends up crossing paths and joining two sky pirates named Balthier and Fran before also meeting the supposed king slayer and traitor Basch and Princess Ashe, who was thought to have committed suicide two years prior. Vaan’s closest friend Panelo also joins in on the fight, giving us our full party of six characters pretty early into the game. Going much further into the story would reveal a lot of spoilers, as the game has plenty of twists and a lot of political intrigue that will keep you deeply invested throughout.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age features a unique mix of different locales that mix together quite well. You have the big cities to explore like Dalmasca, while also venturing to areas like the rainy Giza Plains or icy Paramina Rift. The game definitely has a more classic setting than say something like Final Fantasy VII or VIII, but it still manages to feel pretty modern at times as well.
As was already seen in the remaster on PS4 two years ago, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age looks fantastic in action. The visuals really do hold up well to the modern gaming landscape, though obviously they are not quite at the level as say Final Fantasy XV or anything. The Nintendo Switch version specifically is a little blurrier than the previous remaster releases or the Xbox One release that just came out, but it still looks very good and adds in the ability to take it on the go as well.
When the original Final Fantasy XII released, it featured the most dramatic shift in gameplay the single player entries in the series had seen to date. While initially starting as truly turn-based, the PS1 era of Final Fantasy moved to a more action oriented turn-based approach, which also carried over to Final Fantasy X and its sequel. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, however, takes a very different approach.
Your party in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is always made up of no more than three characters, which you can switch in and out whenever you like. One of those characters is designated as your party leader, which means they are the one you will be walking around with and controlling in battle. When you come upon an enemy, pressing A on Nintendo Switch brings up a menu that lets you select Attack, which will simply hit the targeted opponent with whatever weapon you have equipped. Rather than having to continually repeat this process, however, your character will repeat this action until said target is destroyed.
Instead of using a basic attack, you can also select Magicks or Technicks from the battle menu, which include things such as White Magicks, Black Magicks, and even more uncommon ones like Green Magicks and Arcane Magicks. Mist Charges are also able to be selected on the battle menu, which consist of either Summons or Quickening, the equivalent of Limit Breaks in this game. You also have the ability to use Items or turn on or off Gambits, the latter of which are very important in the game.
Gambits in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age are a way of essentially putting the combat on auto-pilot in some ways, both for your party leader and other party members. You technically can move over to other party members besides the leader in battle and select what action you want them to do, but that can get pretty overwhelming. Instead, Gambits are pre-selected commands you can set based on certain events in battle. For instance, you can set your party members to automatically attack say the nearest visible enemy or the party leader’s target, while also being able to have one setup to use Cura when a party member is below 30% health. The conditions at which you use these commands must be purchased in the game, allowing you to fully automate your teammates essentially, or even your party leader as well if you so choose. Made even better in this latest release that was missing on the remastered release on PS4 and PC is the ability to have up to three different Gambit sets per character too, which is incredibly helpful.
One of the frustrating aspects of the original release of Final Fantasy XII was how tedious this combat could feel at times, as you felt like you were consistently waiting on the cooldown meter to be able to attack again. The original International version managed to alleviate this issue greatly with a feature that has also been carried over to Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which is the ability to speed up the game. At anytime outside of cutscenes, you can activate the speed up feature to automatically double the speed of both movement and battles as well. This can even be quadrupled through the settings menu if you would like also, but that feels a little too fast most of the time. The 2X speed feels just like how it almost should have been originally and really takes a lot of the unnecessary and annoying grind out of the game that was present in the past.
Whenever you first acquire each new party member, the first task you must complete is to select a job for them through the License Board. Those who have only played the original release may be a bit confused here at first, as now each of the 12 jobs available have their own distinct License Board, rather than being shared all in one as before. This means that the different jobs such as Shikari, White Mage, and Uhlan all have their own boards for you to explore separately. Once you select a job for each character, you can then start spending License Points that you earn by defeating enemies in battle to unlock not only new skills, but also the ability to equip higher level weapons, gear, and accessories.
Just like multiple Gambit setups, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age also has another brand new feature exclusive to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One versions related to the License Boards. You now have the ability to actually reset License Boards in the game, which means you can switch what jobs your character has later in the game if you want. You already had the ability to get a second job later in the game, but now you can outright replace one if your selected choice doesn’t seem to be working out for you.
Final Fantasy XII often seemed to be one of the forgotten entries in the series for a number of years, but it’s finally getting more of the spotlight recently with Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. The game itself still holds up very well both with its story and visuals, while also having the multiple quality of life improvements, such as the speed up feature and improved License Boards. Now releasing on Nintendo Switch, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is more accessible than ever before and is yet another great Final Fantasy game to revisit already in 2019.
While the Xbox One version has new features that even the PS4 and PC versions do not have, along with the most high end visuals and performance, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age on Nintendo Switch is truly the best way to experience this underrated PS2 gem. Perfectly suited for portable play, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a must buy for any RPG fan on the Nintendo Switch with the game’s most definitive release to date.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
- Available On: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: Square Enix
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: April 30th, 2019
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Quote: "Perfectly suited for portable play, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a must buy for any RPG fan on the Nintendo Switch with the game's most definitive release to date."