I’ve finished FFXII. I’ve mixed feelings on the subject. I enjoyed it very much, and yet again I feel the need to separate it from comparision to other numbered installments in the FF series. As previously stated, it is a Matsuno Team game long before it is even remotely an FF title, and it shows. I enjoyed the game, but it was not without flaw. The plot itself was competent, but seemed to attempt little beyond that. It was enjoyable, but did little to make me think or feel, and the pacing was really uneven. However, the characters were enjoyable (particularly Reddas, Basch, Gabranth, and Balthier) and the world of Ivalice was incredibly deep and well-realized. Also, the simplicity of the plot was dressed up in superb Alexander O. Smith-localized dialogue, so no complaints from that perspective.
I do feel the need to complain a bit about the ending. Compared to the team’s prior efforts, specifically Vagrant Story, the ending is a bit of a letdown. VS’ ending was phenomenal, in my opinion, but FFXII’s ending suddenly took a shocking tonal shift from the rest of the storyline and finale and went all “oooh, happy ending + sequelage!!!1111!” It wasn’t too corny or anything, just not anything of what it could, and should, have been. Something tells me that this and a couple of other minor issues are due to Matsuno having to leave about mid-way through production.
The fact that my final completion time was 380 hours should tell you that I enjoyed the gameplay, and I also feel the need to mention that I feel FFXII has some of the most fantastic architectural designs of all time. I have had dreams about some of its cities, I enjoy them that much. The only minor complaint is that towards the beginning I did experience that “chore” feeling that some of you are going through, and it does pass. Really, by the time you reach the Stilshrine of Miriam every single aspect of the game’s mechanics has progressed to the point where everything basically starts to “click” and really feel good. Plus, that’s also where the storyline starts ramping up a bit. If you can make it that far, I believe you’ll find yourself enjoying it from there on out. At least, that is from my personal experience with it.
Another minor gameplay flaw is that the game lacks any significant form of replay value. It’s a very fun and immersive game, and it is loaded with insane amounts of depth, but it offers next-to-no incentive for future replays, especially considering the sheer size of the game. Had they added a VS-style New Game +, the problem would be almost instantly corrected, and as such it’s even more unfortunate that they didn’t.
Overall, FFXII is easily the finest entry in the series, and above and beyond the greatest thing to come out of Square Enix since 2000’s Vagrant Story. It also further proves that Matsuno and his team are really the only things that the company has going for it at the present moment. In spite of its flaws, the game proved to be one of the most inventive, deep, enjoyable, and immersive experiences I’ve ever encountered in the genre. 9/10.