When Final Fantasy XII released in 2006, it was seen as one
of the more divisive entries in the history of the mainline series. Coming off
the well-received Final Fantasy X and the first online game of the series in
Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XII shook up the formula significantly to deliver
an experience that was loved by some, but proved to split the community of
Final Fantasy fans. With Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Square Enix hopes
to reintroduce players to a new and improved version of the game in hopes of
making the experience more accessible and less divisive.
Remastered with new visuals, an improved user interface, and high resolution textures, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age has all the
markings of a good HD remaster. Players will notice things such as better textures
on things like armor, skin, leather, and other items within the environment,
as well as improved facial expressions. The fonts of the user
interface are also improved to make it a more friendly experience.
In addition, The Zodiac Age takes advantage of the
two-generation-leap in hardware by using the PlayStation 4's 7.1 surround sound
capabilities. Players can also expect to hear new music in-game from original
Final Fantasy XII composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. Much like you could do in the PS4
version of Final Fantasy X HD Remaster, you can also switch to listen to the
original tracks if you prefer those. Players can now also choose to play the
game with either English or Japanese voiceover; before it was locked to have
Japanese voiceover only in the Japanese version of the game.
The final set of improvements was done with improved
playability in mind. The previously-Japan-exclusive Zodiac Job system is making
its way to North America for the first time, giving players a new way to manage
their characters' growth and strategize with different jobs. Director Takashi
Katano tells us that he heard feedback from several players who felt as though the
original Final Fantasy XII had some difficult battles, so many of them
have been rebalanced, with some levels being redesigned to feel more in
line with classic Final Fantasy games.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age also adds in a quicker way to
travel, as well as an autosave feature that kicks
in when you change to a different map. "This is also based on feedback that we
received from the original game that the fields were vast in FF XII. There are
two modes of higher speed that you can employ," Katano says. "With the vast
fields and such, you can go at four times the speed, and with the dungeons and
cities you can move at two times speed. So if you want to move from point A to
point B and that's a really long distance, you can employ the four times speed
mode, or say you're deep in a dungeon and you want to go back, you can use the
two times speed to get back to the surface"
On top of all that, The Zodiac Age adds a new Trial mode,
which pits players against 100 distinct battle scenarios that forces them to
change up their gambits in order to survive. "It's basically made impossible so
you cannot pass through all 100 stages in the same gambit; you're going to have
to go in and make adjustments to your gambit," Katano says.
We sat down with Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Katano
and producer Hiroaki Kato to learn more about the process of bringing this PS2
classic into the current generation.
You say that Trial mode was designed to not be beaten without changing up your gambit. You always
see super dedicated players pull off seemingly impossible feats in games like
Final Fantasy. Do you think we'll see those same dedicated players beat Trial
mode without changing their gambit?
Kato: It is made so if you want to, you can play that way.
Once you clear all 100 stages of the Trial mode, there is another mode that
opens up that basically starts a new game, but you're weaker. You're basically
starting off at level 1 and you're not going to get any experience points.
That's just mean!
Kato: The designer of the levels, Hiroyuki Ito was actually
involved in rebalancing [The Zodiac Age], but he was actually the one who came
up with starting a new game, but weaker. That was his idea to implement that.
When we saw Final
Fantasy X HD Remaster release, it didn't have a subtitle. Why did you decide to
give the Final Fantasy XII HD remaster the subtitle of The Zodiac Age?
Kato: It is an HD remaster with the visual, sounds, and
improvements, but there's far more than that. With some of the new elements
being added to it, we wanted to call it something else beyond HD Remaster. In
terms of the specific naming of it, it's based on the Zodiac job system that's
With autosaving being
implemented into certain parts of the game where it wasn't before, was there
any concern that this kind of checkpointing would imbalance the game?
Kato: That's exactly what we were considering in terms of
rebalancing the game, but also making it easier to play for the user. That's
where we settled with the autosave function at map jumps.
Katano: If we decided to do a save anywhere sort of
function, that would probably affect the difficulty and would not have
presented enough of a challenge to the players. It was a conscious decision to
make the autosave function available for map jumps.
When Final Fantasy
XII was released, it was seen as one of the more divisive entries in the
franchise. Why do you think that is?
Kato: The first point is probably because there was a great
change in the system when compared to the games that came before it. The
classic FF titles all had random encounters, whereas FF XII let you see the
enemy. That's where the change might have been for fans. We're also aware of
the feedback that some players found some of the battles to be rather
difficult. With the help of Hiroki Ito, the balance has basically been
overhauled for this game. Ito-san is someone who has been involved with the
game design of the classic FF titles, so he really put in his know-how for
rebalancing FF XII. If you're playing The Zodiac, you're probably thinking that
this is how FF titles are supposed to feel like.
What would you say
are the main reasons that FF XII is a good title to remaster?
Kato: There actually was a discussion of working on a
remaster for FF XII for a few years now. One condition on working on the remaster
was to have the original core members of the dev team involved with it again,
and that was sort of a difficult thing to coordinate because they were working
on other projects. So this was the timing that everyone got together. Another
thing that encouraged us to move forward was the release and success of FF X HD