What's New, Different in Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age is almost upon us, and whether you're a fan of the series as a whole or a fan of the original game, it's something to be excited about.
The Zodiac Age isn't just a regular remaster -- it's a remaster of a previously Japan-only version of the game titled Final Fantasy 12 International Zodiac Job System (also known as known as IZJS). This has been the definitive version of the game since its release in 2007 (a mere year after the vanilla game's release).
Unlike some of the other "International" Japan-only rereleases of Final Fantasy games that brought minor changes and bugfixes, IZJS brought a myriad of system and gameplay changes to Final Fantasy 12 that for many, elevated it from a mediocre game to a solid entry to the series. Myself included.
There are so many differences between vanilla FFXII and IZJS that it's impossible to list them all here, but I am going to go into the heftiest adjustments and additions coming in the upcoming release of The Zodiac Age. I am not sure how much has changed between IZJS and The Zodiac Age, aside from one key function. Everything else seems the same sans the typical remaster additions such as the improved graphics and reorchestrated soundtrack.
Whether you've played Final Fantasy 12 before or this will be your first rodeo in this snapshot of Ivalice history, you will be pleasantly surprised by the systems and changes in The Zodiac Age.
Zodiac Age Job Classes
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age still uses the license board system as it did on the PlayStation 2, but gone are the days of everyone being able to do everything. Now there are multiple license boards, one for each job.
When a character joins your party for the first time, you have to choose its job class before you can start investing LP into licenses. This is not a decision that can be undone and your party's set ups will have a huge impact on how easily you progress and can take on side content later on.
In the original version of the game, every character had access to the same license board and players had to prioritize the direction in which they wanted each character to go based on what they wanted them to do first, with the final result being every character having essentially the same skills and equipment options.
This time around, you're still going to be choosey about the directions your characters take with their boards, but there is no "one size fits all" license board to work with as in the original game. Each job has its own license board, forcing each character to specialize in something.
These are the classes in The Zodiac Age:
- White Mage
- Black Mage
- Red Battlemage
- Time Battlemage
This is a feature unique to The Zodiac Age that was not present in the original Japan-only IZJS version of Final Fantasy 12.
Job augmentation will allow you to have two job classes on a single character once you've reached the license for it on the character's license board. This will give a single character access to the bonuses, equipment, and abilities of a second class along with the initial jobs.
For those who played IZJS, this is a huge boon that makes choosing your initial job less of a life or death choice.
Fast Forward Button
Much of anyone's time in Final Fantasy 12 is spent grinding for XP or Gil, and in this version, it's easier than ever thanks to the speed multiplier that can be toggled on or off at whim.
You can either play the game at standard speed, 2x speed, or 4x speed. This doesn't just make pushing through every encounter faster -- it makes grinding far less of a timesink. The speed up is fantastic in any playthrough, whether standard or in one of the New Game+ modes.
Zodiac Age's Post-Game Content
All those job classes and the speed up button really come in handy in the game's two New Game+ modes and the new Trial mode.
Upon completing the game once, you unlock New Game+ Strong mode, which starts every character at level 90. This sounds great, but do keep in mind nothing you obtained in the previous playthrough will carry over.
The new Trial mode pits your storyline party against foes in 100 battles and presents a true challenge to complete. Once completed, you'll unlock New Game+ Weak mode.
Weak mode, which starts each character at a very low level (1 ~ 3) and grants no XP gains. Like Strong mode, nothing you have in your previous playthrough will be carried over. Weak mode is where you really need to put thought into your job choices and party compositions.
Removal of the Damage Cap
Easy enough to understand -- the previous damage cap of 9,999 has been removed. You can and will do damage well over the 10k mark and beyond.
Weapon Tweaks, Plus New Weapons
A number of weapons were tweaked or added in IZJS and have been carried over to The Zodiac Age. Each job class has a weapon unique to it, provided you can find it.
Not only that, but the completely terrible method of getting the Zodiac Spear in the original version of the game has been changed to something more reasonable. I won't spoil what it is -- just don't be scared of open chests in The Zodiac Age.
Not All Magicks or Technicks Can Be Purchased
That's right, you have to find them. A number of particularly useful spells and skills have to be found in chests rather than purchased. If you know where they are and can reach their locations, you can obtain some particularly useful ones early on.
All Gambits are Available From the Start
As soon as the game lets you freely go shopping, you can buy every Gambit in the game right away. I generally did this on my IZJS playthroughs every time just to get it out of the way.
In addition, there are more than 10 new Gambits to play with, some of them are more useful than others.
Espers Can Now Be Controlled
Espers were always really cool in Final Fantasy 12 but you had no control over how they acted and their built-in Gambits weren't great.
In The Zodiac Age, you can take control of your Espers as party leader and even change their Gambits up in the Party menu once they're summoned. They were cool before, but now they're even better.
As an added note, guest party members are also customization and can be directly controlled.
Quickenings No Longer Eat MP
Quickenings eating the entirety of a character's MP was my biggest qualm with the original Final Fantasy 12, and luckily in this version that system has been revamped.
Now instead of MP, triggering Quickenings uses a unique resource with three bars. The bars replenish as a character doles out or takes damage, which is far more efficient than eating all a character's MP.
Chests Now Respawn After Going One Screen Over
It used to be that chests would respawn after you went two screens over, but in this version chests will now respawn after you go over only one screen.
This is pretty useful, especially if you know a particular chest has something you want but hasn't given it to you yet. With this said, not every chest has a 100% chance to spawn.
Final Fantasy 12 IZJS was easily one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 2, and I'm excited that I, and a myriad of other Final Fantasy fans and newcomers, will finally be able to bite into this meaty morsel fully in English. Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age is nearly a new game, and not just because of the job class system.