It’s difficult to celebrate games from the past in the same way as, say, an old book or a classic movie. As technology moves on, so too does the way in which we interact with games. A role-playing-game from the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System might share some similarities with the likes of Final Fantasy XV or The Witcher 3, but going back to play those games now after years of roaming around vast 3D worlds isn’t easy.
Heck, even playing an RPG from the PlayStation 2 era demands a certain amount of learning, or relearning, of how to navigate a menu.
Why bother when there are plenty of modern games, some of which have redefined whole genres, to learn instead? This is the problem faced by games such as Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, a remaster of the 2006 PS2 RPG by Square Enix, which is due out on July 11 this year.
Rather than simply release FFXII with the usual HD makeover, Square Enix has opted for a more robust reincarnation of the classic RPG. The hope is that, on both a technical and interactive level, The Zodiac Age remains as relevant now as it was when it received its slew of accolades back in 2006 (FFXII holds a 92 percent rating on Metacritic). In an oddly counterintuitive approach to modernisation, Square Enix has enlisted the help of the team behind the original release.
“There have been discussions within Square Enix for quite some time regarding whether we wanted to do a remaster of Final Fantasy XII and how we might go about doing it,” producer Hiroaki Kato says during a chat in Square Enix’s London office, which also features game director Takashi Kitano, a translator, and a selection of company representatives from the UK and Japan. It’s an unusually large number of people to wheel out for re-release—clearly, Square Enix isn’t taking any chances.
“European players coming to this edition are going to be seeing a lot of new ideas.”
“We decided quite early on, though,” continues Kato, “that if we were going to do anything at all then we wanted to do it with the team that made the first game. For us, it’s not just about how we can make the graphics better—we were also dedicated to working out how we could make the gameplay better and make it more accessible in terms of making it comfortable for new players to get involved. We had to have the original team on board to make sure that could happen.”
It helps that The Zodiac Age isn’t based on the first iteration of FFXII, but on the Japan-only International Zodiac Job System variation released in 2007. New to that release was the idea of “jobs,” with each character working to an individual board of skills and stat-boosts as opposed to all sharing the same one.
“For that edition, we changed the balance and nuance of battles, how character growth works and added the job system,” explains Kitano. “Those elements were completely reworked throughout the entire game…What all of that adds is something closer to the essence of the original Final Fantasy games. Because that was only released in Japan, European players coming to this edition are going to be seeing a lot of new ideas.”
Jobs, as Kitano alludes to, have existed throughout the Final Fantasy series. These allow you to individually level up and customise the skills of characters. Machinists, for example, are experts in guns and can cast magic that manipulates time. Uhlan are masters of spears and can protect themselves with powerful armour. A White Mage is an expert in magic designed to keep everyone alive.
More Info: arstechnica.com