Final Fantasy XII’s music is has a grand, operatic feel to it, yet lacks the emotion of previous Final Fantasy games, and precious few of the tracks are at all memorable. The music is perfectly serviceable for the game, doing an excellent job of setting the mood for certain areas and scenes, but other than that does very little. If you are in an elevator and you hear music from Final Fantasy VIII, VIII, IX or X, you will know that you are listening to music from a Final Fantasy game. If you are in an elevator and you hear music from Final Fantasy XII, you will quite likely assume that you are listening to slightly-above-average elevator music.
The voice-acting, however, is superb. There are few genuinely emotional lines in the game, but what emotional lines are there are spoken with a solid degree of pathos. The voice-actors are mostly of European descent, have accents that range from high-British and cockneye, to Romanian ans Spanish. There are two rather glaring flaws with the voice acting. Firstly, all of the dialogue is spoken at the same volume. A character is just as loud shouting as he or she is whispering. This is excusable, however, as the less strain each actor goes through with each line, the better the voices stay consistent with the characters.
Now, if everything in the game were as it should be, I would have nothing more to say. I would rate the sound in Final Fantasy XII as being very good, and I would move on. Unfortunately that is something that I cannot do. The voiced-dialogue in the FMV cutscenes is, indeed, very good. But audio-quality of the voiced scenes in the in-game cinematics is absolutely horrid.
It sounds as though the dialogue was recorded on a cellphone, or spoken through a very long tube. This, coupled with the variety of accents, verbose (and often grandiloquent) language can make certain scenes rather unpleasant to experience. It seems half-assed–and, coupled with the lackluster writing, really makes the game feel like something of a farce.
It’s a good thing the character models can display emotion, because the dialog cannot.
Final Fantasy XII is quite possibly the best-looking game on the Playstation 2. The environments are large and detailed and require a fair bit of exploration. The two capital cities are enormous, with multiple areas to traverse. There are narrow streets with wide buildings, parade grounds, sewers, deserts, coasts, forests and mountains all waiting to be explored. Any single area in the game rivals the entire traversable areas of previous Final Fantasy installments. Simply put, the game is huge and it is beautiful. The level of detail is exceptional in nearly every way.
Of course, there are some problems. Several areas are very lazily-designed, consisting of little more than a canyon-maze template, which essentially means you’re walking through a narrow area with very high, steep walls on either side and a sky above. The paths branch, but there is very little to actually look at other that the monsters crowded around each bend.
Of course, as underwhelming as certain areas are, some are truly awe-inspiring. The rainy-season sky in the Giza Plains, the vast (and highly detailed) backgrounds of the Ogir and Yam Yensa Sandseas and the stunning brilliance of the Phon Coast are some of the most spectacular environments to ever be incorporated into any game. As wonderfully as some environments are, it feels odd that many of the details cannot be seen without some effort.
The skies of the game are highly detailed, but cannot be seen often unless you take a break from the incessant combat to rotate the camera upward. Other areas, the streets of Rabanastre, for example, have incredible skylines. The detail on the upper-stories of the buildings is spectacular, but, again, can only be seen by going out of your way to rotate the camera. Because of this, it is quite easy to play though the entire game ans miss-out on some of the more impressive details.
The character models–all of the character models, even the most insignificant ones–are highly detailed and realistic. Even the animations. It truly is wonderful. The FMV sequences of the game, while rather stunning in their own right, tend to portray the characters substantially differently than the in-game graphics do. The hair in the in-game footage actually looks like hair, whereas the hair in the FMV shots often looks rather fat, and undeniably fake.
It certainly looks good. Just try not to listen in.
Final Fantasy XII is a very, very fun game to play. The combat is insanely addictive and what story there is, is compelling. The main problem arrives in the fact that there simply isn’t much story to be had, which is something of a sin for any roleplaying game. Most of the fun in the game is derived from exploration and combat, all of which make plainly clear that Final Fantasy XII was an ambitiously imagined game. The grandeur of the initial idea flowed very well into most of the game aspects, but, like a strong wind, died down with pitiful alacrity.
Had the developers maintained the original, grand vision of the game, had they done their best to write a story on the same level as the gameplay and graphics, they would have produced a masterpiece. It is a shame they did not.
Problems with poor-storytelling and sound quality prevent this game from being “spectacular” or “exceptional,” instead making the game simply “good,” or worse, “passable.” It is fun to play, which for most games is all that is required. For role-playing games, however, gameplay generally takes a back-seat to the story and characters. Final Fantasy XII is definitely worth the money–if not the hype–and more likely than not you will enjoy the game and spend a great deal of time with it–it’s just not impressive or memorable, which is truly a shame.