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smellyelite avatar 11:01 PM on 02.07.2008  (server time)
Feature: Living the Fantasy

I have never played a Final Fantasy. Thatís right, I said it. I expect surprised expressions from hardcore gamers after saying this, but when someone from the coveted casual demographic appears shocked, there is something terribly, terribly wrong. I admit missing this series was largely due to my ignorance; I did not know what a RPG was back in my wee days, let alone have any interest in them. My Nintendo 64 consumed most of my gaming time while Final Fantasy 7 stormed the world. And I never picked up any subsequent installments. I never owned a Playstation 2, so there went all of the great RPGs that graced the system. So now, after many years of elusion (and thanks to a backwards compatible Playstation 3) I can finally play this series. But does it live up to the hype? Read on to find out my impressions of latest main installment in the series.

Note: The first stop on my journey is Final Fantasy 12. This game interested me the most, so I decided to start at the most recent game and work my way backwards. Plus, I wanted to try the Gambit System, which had some gamers in a tizzy.

The gaming community lauds Final Fantasy for being a cinematic and story-driven experience. Final Fantasy 12 is no exception. The cut scenes are some of the best I have seen ever. The detail of the environments during these moments plays a role, but most of the credit has to go to the characters themselves. The characters are detailed and lively; it really makes you wonder if this is even a PS2 effort, and not a current-generation one. An excellent example of this is in a scene between Lord Larsa and Penelo. As they speak, you feel the intensity of their emotions emanating from them. Ok, so they are not real people, and are not capable of authentic human emotions. But Square-Enix is getting close.

Another big slice of the game is the gambit system. What I found intriguing was how deep it is. Initially, I thought gambits were just a method for automatically attacking in a battle. Boy, was I wrong. There are gambits for nearly every action you can take. Gambits allow you to delegate what actions a character will do in battle. You can have one character use a potion on an ally whose hit points is less than 70%, attack an enemy, and use an item to attack a foe in any order you wish. Using gambits plays such an important role in Final
Fantasy 12 that the game encourages you to utilize them. And by encourage, I mean force. I managed to get to the second major boss, the Mimic Queen, without any significant alterations to my gambits. This battle changed that. I think after being soundly defeated three times is cause for a different battle strategy, am I right?

For all the good things I have to say about this game, there is one major personal issue I had with it. Final Fantasy 12 drained me mentally and physically. There is so much happening story-wise by the time I regain control of the characters again, my energy is wasted. I only played this game in short bursts, one hour session at a time before turning it off. There are few, if any games that sapped my strength like FF12 does. If a game did sap my strength, at the end of the day I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I donít experience that feeling with this game. There is only nap time afterwards, nothing more.

Final Fantasy 12 is a game you may love or hate for various reasons. Some hate it because of the gambit system; others despise Japanese role-playing games; I just donít like the fact this game is an interactive leech. Games should not be energy sapping machines, but a form of recreation and enjoyment. For this reason, I did not enjoy my foray into the series. I only hope the next title I pick up keeps me wanting to play more, and not sleep instead.

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