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Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Director And Producer Talk New Improvements

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
been added.

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
Remaster. 

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Final Fantasy XV’s E3 Stage Demo Played Better Than It Looked

Aside from the multitude of premature leaks, most of the E3 2016 press conferences went off without a hitch. There were few bad demos, but one of the surprise poor stage demos was Final Fantasy XV. The demo showcased the massive Titan Trial, which had Noctis and Gladiolus battling one of the largest foes ever seen in the series' long history. Unfortunately, the stage demo was full of missteps and a rush of negativity flooded social media as fans reacted to the action shown on screen. I had the chance to check out the demo for myself, and while it's still not my favorite Final Fantasy sequence I've seen, it was much more enjoyable to play the battle than it was to watch it.

The build up had me, as Noctis, taking on a few standard enemies. With Gladiolus' assistance, we made quick work of these baddies. Within minutes, we moved into the open area that housed the Titan seen in the stage presentation. The Titan telepathically communicates with Noctis, which makes the protagonist none too pleased. He decides he's had enough and fights back. He and Gladiolus burst into action, but they're completely overwhelmed. Ignis and Prompto are on their way, but they'll be a few minutes. The two present members just need to survive until help arrives.

As the massive Titan throws his hand down on Noctis, I'm prompted to hit a button to defend. Noctis throws his sword up and halts the giant's strike right in front of Noctis' face. The game prompts me to quickly tap a different button to counter and do slight damage to the creature. We get a couple of quick strikes in, but Noctis and Gladiolus know they're overmatched. They make a break for it, running for higher ground. Once the duo arrives at a higher arena, the Titan begins sweeping his fists back and forth. The best Noctis can do is warp strike around the sweeps, digging his blade high on the cliffside. Occasionally, an opening presents itself and I perform a warpstrike on the Titan's arm. It does relatively little damage, but causes him to recoil, buying Noctis and Gladiolus time.

In the stage demo, the presenter was getting knocked down by the boss frequently. I ran into this same problem in gameplay, but found many of the knockdowns in my playthrough were scripted. I found that warp striking proved an effective attack in Noctis' arsenal. I continued this strategy, slowly chipping away at his health before Ignis and Prompto join the battle. The giant attempts to strike me down one more time, but I counter his strike, then get my newly reunited party to cast Blizzara on the Titan's arm. The arm freezes and we strike together to shatter his appendage clear off, putting him out of commission.

I understand why Square Enix wanted to show off this sequence on the stage – the press conferences are all about spectacle and that boss is impressive and enormous. I just think that fans would have been more excited to see a new area or maybe some more of the game's flashier moves. Thankfully, the encounter played better than it showed on stage.

Final Fantasy XV releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 30.

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Trio Of Final Fantasy XV Trailers Star New Enemies, Flying Cars, And A Sparkling City

Square Enix wasn't shy about showing off Final Fantasy XV during E3. Along with a boss battle demo and PlayStation VR tease, we also got three new trailers showing off enemies, a flying car, and the city of Altissia.

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Shown during Microsoft's E3 conference, this new trailer features music from Grammy-winning DJ Afrojack. The dubstep tune crescendos during action sequences, but has a more plucky melody when some chocobo riding comes on screen.  

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We also got to take a look at the capital of Accordo, the bustling city of Altissia that appears to be a Venice/Rome hybrid. Players will encounter this city during the middle of the story-line for the game, and the trailer shows off some leisurely canal riding, a portrait artist, and a structure that highly resembles the Pantheon.

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Finally, the transforming Regalia Type-F car/airship got some screen time, showing Noctis and the group soaring over several different vistas. The Regalia Type-F was revealed at the Uncovered : Final Fantasy XV event in March, but we got some hands-on time with the vehicle when we visited Square Enix for our Final Fantasy XV cover story.

The game is set for release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 30. Can't wait for it's release? Click the image below to go to our hub for all things Final Fantasy XV.   

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Trio Of Final Fantasy XV Trailers Star New Enemies, Flying Cars, And A Sparkling City

Square Enix wasn't shy about showing off Final Fantasy XV during E3. Along with a boss battle demo and PlayStation VR tease, we also got three new trailers showing off enemies, a flying car, and the city of Altissia.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Shown during Microsoft's E3 conference, this new trailer features music from Grammy-winning DJ Afrojack. The dubstep tune crescendos during action sequences, but has a more plucky melody when some chocobo riding comes on screen.  

(Please visit the site to view this media)

We also got to take a look at the capital of Accordo, the bustling city of Altissia that appears to be a Venice/Rome hybrid. Players will encounter this city during the middle of the story-line for the game, and the trailer shows off some leisurely canal riding, a portrait artist, and a structure that highly resembles the Pantheon.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Finally, the transforming Regalia Type-F car/airship got some screen time, showing Noctis and the group soaring over several different vistas. The Regalia Type-F was revealed at the Uncovered : Final Fantasy XV event in March, but we got some hands-on time with the vehicle when we visited Square Enix for our Final Fantasy XV cover story.

The game is set for release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 30. Can't wait for it's release? Click the image below to go to our hub for all things Final Fantasy XV.   

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Star Wars, Batman, And Final Fantasy Franchises Come To PlayStation VR

Sony has announced three upcoming PlayStation virtual-reality titles based on popular franchises. These include Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing VR mission, Batman Arkham VR, and Final Fantasy XV VR.

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These titles look to be spin-offs from their respective series. PlayStation VR hits October 13 in North America

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Ubisoft’s Star Trek Bridge Crew Is Everything I Ever Wanted From The Final Frontier

Tonight, I got to step onto the bridge of a Federation starship. The U.S.S. Aegis (NX-1787) is fully equipped for deep space exploration, and I got to take the helm, target Klingon birds of prey, and energize the transporters. If you've played Space Team or Artemis, you'll feel right at home in a Star Trek Bridge Crew uniform.

I had the fortune of playing the demo three times, taking on all but the Captain role (which was handled by a Red Storm team member). The game is based in the J.J. Abrams reboot universe, complete with lens flare. In the sample mission, our crew was tasked with warping to investigate a distress call at a space station orbiting a dying star.

The captain has unique information, bringing up a message from Starfleet, directing helm to the appropriate mission location, and indicating to crew what is necessary to succeed. Upon arrival, the station is discovered to be heavily damaged. Escape pods with survivors are in the area. 

In order to rescue them, Tactical must scan them. This requires Helm to bring the Aegis close enough. Once scanned, shields must down to lock and engage the transporter.

After bringing the first survivors aboard, a Klingon bird of prey decloaks. On the captain's orders, shields are raised, engineering diverts power to shields and phaser range, and tactical opens fire with phaser batteries and loaded torpedo tubes.

Since shields need to be down to bring survivors aboard, the mission quickly becomes a juggle of defending against multiple birds of prey and using the transporters. Bringing the shields up too soon while beaming people aboard can kill them, as can ramming an escape pod. We learned that the hard way.

The mission ends by warping out while under heavy fire. When the ship takes too much damage, NPCs on the bridge crew can die a fiery death.

Each of the three stations I manned was an enjoyable experience that blended laughter with moments of intensity. The game is optimized for motion controls, but playable with a gamepad. It will be coming to Rift, Vive, and PlayStation VR. 

I demoed it with Rift and Oculus Touch controllers, which worked extremely well. The stations are all designed as touch panels and operating each, including the helm steering, was extremely easy and intuitive.

When Star Trek Bridge Crew launches this fall, it will support one to four players. If you're playing alone, you will do so as captain. You'll be able to hot-swap to other positions to execute more complicated maneuvers.

There will be a story campaign, but also procedurally generated missions to keep players with more to do after finishing the scripted content.

I'm very much looking forward to stepping back onto the bridge of the Aegis this fall. Ubisoft is going all-in on VR, and I hope it keeps delivering experiences like Werewolves Within (which I played at GDC) and Star Trek Bridge Crew.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

World Of Final Fantasy Release Date & New Trailer

Twins Lann and Reynn are on a mission to save Grymoire, and the adventure starts this fall on PS4 and Vita.

The game comes out on October 25 simultaneously worldwide, and takes players on a journey that includes many past Final Fantasy characters, including the ability to capture and train enemies.

For more on Final Fantasy World, check out this extensive gallery of screens and previous trailer.

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Gabranth And Balthier Are Subjects Of New Final Fantasy XII Play Arts Kai Figures

To celebrate the reveal of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Square Enix has announced two new Final Fantasy XII Play Arts Kai figures. These premium figures, which are highly detailed, focus on Gabranth and Balthier.

Each figure features multiple points of articulation and includes alternate hands, weapons, and a base for display purposes. Gabranth, the menacing Judge Magister, comes with two separate swords, while the sky pirate Balthier comes with a gun to pose with.

Balthier is currently scheduled for Japanese release in September, while Gabranth is set to ship in October. Neither figure is currently available for pre-order in the North American Square Enix shop, but the announced prices translate from Yen to range from $ 120 to $ 140. These figures join fellow Final Fantasy XII character Fran in getting the Play Arts treatment. Check out some more images for these figures below. 

[Source: Toyark via GameSpot]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

World Of Final Fantasy Release Date & New Trailer

Twins Lann and Reynn are on a mission to save Grymoire, and the adventure starts this fall on PS4 and Vita.

The game comes out on October 25 simultaneously worldwide, and takes players on a journey that includes many past Final Fantasy characters, including the ability to capture and train enemies.

For more on Final Fantasy World, check out this extensive gallery of screens and previous trailer.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Final Fantasy XII Remaster Coming To PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy XII is getting an update, with a planned release in 2017. While the game, now subtitled “The Zodiac Age,” is only announced for Japan at this point, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing it in the West.

Currently, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is only planned for PlayStation 4, though Square Enix has been slowly porting its back catalog to PC. A translation of the YouTube description suggests that this version is based on the tweaked International Zodiac Job System edition that was released in Japan.

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Originally released in 2006, Final Fantasy XII borrowed a bit from massively multiplayer RPGs. Players didn’t directly control their party in active time combat. Rather, a “gambit” system allowed players to program behaviors for their team.

A remake was hinted at in August 2015, though a correction seemed to dash fans’ hopes. Whether that was actually an error or a premature announcement hastily covered up isn’t clear yet.

We’ll update (hopefully later today) when this is confirmed for a Western release. For now, you can check out a conversation between editors Matt Kato and Dan Tack discussing the game’s merits.

Update: Square Enix has confirmed Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for a western release on PlayStation 4 in 2017.

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