How good does Final Fantasy 12 look eleven years after its original release?
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is the best way to play this often under-appreciated game. If you’ve read our review of the game, you know that we really liked it, saying that “the rousing musical score, surprisingly strong visual direction, and its incredible, incredible gameplay, all cement this game’s place as a modern classic.” However, just how good does Final Fantasy XII look, more than a decade since its first release?
The short answer to that is- it looks pretty good. Virtuous Games have become quite experienced with handling remasters of games, having worked on the excellent Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD and the admittedly not so excellent Batman: Return to Arkham. With Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, their work has to be appreciated once again, despite the fact that there are a few notable flaws here.
Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way. There is very little to separate the PS4 and PS4 Pro versions of The Zodiac Age. Both the versions runs at 30 frames per second, so if you were hoping for the game to target a frame rate of 60 FPS, you will be disappointed. Additionally, Final Fantasy 12 on the PS4 Pro does not support 4K. The game runs at 1440p on the Pro, which is only a minor upgrade over the base PS4 version. So if you’re looking for differences between the two versions of the game, there aren’t many- we cannot actually recommend one over the other. The two versions of the game are, more or less, exactly the same.
When it comes to how much of an improvement The Zodiac Age is over the original Final Fantasy XII though, the work done by Virtuous Games is commendable. Most notably, The Zodiac Age have reworked a number of the game’s assets, while artwork from the original has also been touched up. The textures in the game have been redefined as well, and they look a lot sharper and clearer than they did in the 2006 original, with a lot more detail to them. This is mostly done through the usage of anti-aliasing, which means that there are next to no jagged textures or rough blocks in the game. Up close, they don’t hold up as well, and you might notice some strange black borders and bland details, but the texture quality is good enough to allow the game to hold up by today’s standards.
The additions of bump-mapping and depth of field in both gameplay and cutscenes greatly helps though, allowing areas that looked flat in the original version of the game to look three dimensional with proper depth in The Zodiac Age. There have also been other areas where work done by Virtuous Games shows significant improvements- the game includes reworked lighting systems and shadowing. Darker areas now look appropriately grim, blades of grass and sandy areas have a more defined quality to them, and surfaces that are supposed to look shiny and reflective look much better than they did in 2006.
On the performance side, The Zodiac Age has seen similar improvements. Loading times between areas have been cut down significantly, and as opposed to the 2006 original, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age features a fully orchestrated soundtrack. The soundtrack has long been one of the biggest strengths of the series, and that has not changed in Final Fantasy XII, so to be able to hear the soundtrack in all its glory the way it should be is a real delight for all concerned.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a respectable remaster that allows you to experience a true modern classic in the best way possible. It is disappointing that the game doesn’t achieve 4K resolution or 60 frames per second, especially since neither of those targets would have been that difficult to achieve (the frame rate is a lot smoother than the original version of the game, though). Additionally, for PS4 Pro users, the enhancements over the base PS4 version are almost negligible. But barring these issues, Virtuous Games have done a good job with this remaster.
An orchestrated soundtrack, sharper textures and some smart use of new effects make this the definitive way to play Final Fantasy XII. If you’ve never played the game before, now’s the time to do it. If you have played it, jumping in again and experiencing the world of Ivalice once more doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.