Sorry about this small update and its lateness, but sometimes things get in the way. In this case it was life. I just want to be clear about this, I am not writing a retrospective on the series here. We did that five years ago when we shared our thoughts and memories on the series as a whole. This season is simply my personal experiences while revisiting different Final Fantasy games. You're welcome to join in and play along at your own pace and in whatever order you like.
In case you missed it, here's a link to last week's Issue 3.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4 demo)
When Dragon Quest VIII came out back in 2005, I happily picked up the game despite having very little experience with or interest in the series. The main reason I bought it was the inclusion of a demo for Final Fantasy XII, a game I didn't know I'd love until I got my hands on that demo. I played both the wait mode and active mode demos multiple times just because I enjoyed the flow of combat so much, and that was before I knew anything about the gambits that I would come to greatly appreciate.
So here we are more than a decade later with history trying to repeat itself. Dragon Quest VIII just got a re-release on 3DS and now (though unrelated) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age has a demo available at select Gamestop locations. Thanks to my friend Nick from Twitter I was made aware of this and hunted the demo down. While more limited than the original 2005 demo, this version still gives players a taste of the delicious combat.
The gambits that I love so much are on and active, and players can select three of six characters to be in their party. Each character has already been assigned one of the new jobs offered in this version, and you don't get to change those in the demo or after selected in the full game (unless this gets changed in the remaster). In the original release, it was on the player to decide how to assign skills and spells to party members, and I had fun shaping my party the way I wanted it. The Zodiac Age forces your hand and guides you into giving each character a focus. The demo didn't have everything unlocked, but everyone had a decent selection of abilities to test out. I quickly found my groove and was taking out enemies with ease. Nothing dramatic was different in this area for me, thankfully, though the graphics are another story. While always lovely looking in my eyes, this updated release looks smooth and highly detailed. It looks and runs so well. With this hitting in July, I have a bit of a wait to deal with, but there's lots to play between now and then.
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (PS4)
It's hard to believe that it was just last week when I started Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, but it was and I finished up the main story quests not too long ago. This has to be my favorite of all the Final Fantasy MMO content to date, just barely topping FFXI: Chains of Promathia (CoP gets slightly knocked down by its intro content, screw those Promyvions). After playing forty-five hours of this over eight days, I fell in love with all the characters and cannot wait for more (saving the patch content for when Stormblood comes out).
As I've stated before, Final Fantasy XIV reminds me very much of a single-player game in many ways. Yes, it's clearly an MMO, but there are many aspects of it that fit with an offline setting. I don't want to go into spoilers about the game's story, but much of Heavensward has you traveling with one to three other rotating characters in a way that mimics a party in a single-player Final Fantasy. It's just amazing to see all these party members interact with one another and to see their motivation. If this were a non-MMO, I imagine these characters would be highly enjoyed by all. This expansion's scenario writer really deserves a lot of love, because he brings about some fantastic moments and really pulls at your heartstrings.
Along with the amazing characters and story, some of the dungeons are a blast to play through, especially The Vault and The Aery. Even the final dungeon, which I'd been told to dread, wasn't that bad. The trial bosses here were also great, offering a great challenge or at least memorable moments for the easier ones. While I wait on Stormblood, I do plan to return at least one more time between now and then to finish up the hilarious Hildibrand quests. I laughed my head off when he first ran into "Greg" and his green friend. There is just so much I love about Heavensward, so I'm ready for more soon. Having a fantastic Free Company helps a great deal, too.