Final Fantasy XII
It's been 5 long years since we've received a new, full fledged chapter in the Final Fantasy series. After the MMO detour of FFXI and the series' first attempt at a traditional sequel with FFX-2, many fans have been waiting patiently for this game with bated breath. Those fans won't be disappointed.
FFXII breaks from tradition by taking place in the previously established setting of Ivalice, the world featured in the Final Fantasy Tactics series. In this game you'll take control of a motley band seeking to free the land of Dalmasca from the conquering Archadian Empire. Our band of heroes is about as diverse as you'd expect from the series, ranging from a young thief who dreams of becoming a sky pirate, to an honorable Dalmascan captain accused of murdering his king. The story is both intriguing and well executed and will very likely keep you enthralled for the full 50 or so hours it takes to complete it.
The Final Fantasy series has always been lauded not only for its consistently excellent story and gameplay but also for its constant strides towards innovation. FFXII takes perhaps the biggest departure from previous combat systems in the series by removing random battle encounters altogether. Instead it merges battle with exploration in semi real time combat that is somewhat reminiscent of an MMO. To go with the new combat system is the intuitive and powerful 'Gambit'? system through which you can program the behavior of your teammates with parameters such as making them use a potion on an ally if they fall below 70% health.
Beautiful and dramatic presentation is another hallmark of the Final Fantasy series and FFXII is no exception. Although the game arrives at the very end of the PS2's lifespan it still looks absolutely amazing. The CG cutscenes are lovingly rendered and easily match the quality of the graphics used in the Final Fantasy film, Advent Children. Moreover, intricate and visually striking character designs make FFXII an enjoyable game to simply look at. Similarly, FFXII also features consistently excellent voice work and a top notch, if typical soundtrack.
If you've been waiting for FFXII you should stop reading right now and go get it. It meets the monumental expectations that surround all Final Fantasy games and exceeds them to be perhaps the finest installment in the series in quite some time.