With most games, after you play them for 15 hours, you're pretty close to the end. That is not the case with Final Fantasy XII. On the contrary, 15 minutes is barely scratching the surface. I'm estimating there's still about 60 hours left in the main storyline + another 30 hours to complete the side quests.
If you've played Final Fantasy Tactics or Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, then you've already been to the world of Ivalice, where FF XII takes place. There are six races in Ivalice; Humes, the adorable Moogles, the female only rabbit/ human hybrid Viera, the reptilian Bangaa, the rarely mentioned Nu Mou, and a new race, the pig-like Seeq. Your party will consist of six members; five Hume, and one Viera. More on these characters later. Six is rather small for a party in a Final Fantasy, and I think it wouldn't of hurt to at least have a Bangaa in your party. As well, it's disappointing that the Nu Mou have only been briefly mentioned one time in the story so far. Another unique thing about Ivalice are the Judges, elite warriors that enforce the imperial law.
With all Final Fantasies, the story is the best part about XII. In brief, two countries are fighting a war. You play as Vaan, an orphan that wants to become a sky pirate, kind of reminds me of Zidane. One of the members of your party is a princess named Ashe, believed to be dead, she is trying to reclaim her throne, which is currently being ruled by the antagonist Vayne, kind of reminds me Seymour. It's up to you to bring the princess back to her rightful position. Along the way, there is much political corruption. That's pretty much it, no love, not even the eminent destruction of the world. Besides Vaan and Ashe, your party also includes Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend, Basch, a knight who is accused of being a traitor, Balthier (my favourite,) a well manored sky pirate, and his partner Fran, a Viera.
One of the biggest changes to XII is the new Active Dimension Battle system. This is pretty much a combination of the ATB system and the combat in FF XI. Pretty much, there are no more random encounters, yet it's still not in real time. Monsters roam the world, and you get to decide if you want to fight or not (unless they're aggro.) When you target a monster, a time bar fills up, you get to use an action, such as Attack. When ever you defeat more then one monster of the same type, you start a chain. The longer then chain, the better items you'll receive. Eventually the chain will become so long, your party will gain small amounts of health and beneficial status effects. Since you can only directly control one character at a time, you can program your allies AI with Gambits.
In my opinion, purchasing more Gambits is pretty much pointless, except for a white mage. Each character begins with 2 Gambits, and gain gain up to 12. Each Gambit consists of a target and an action, for example: Nearest enemy- Attack. You can also prioritise Gambits, it's wise to always have healing your top priority. Instead of spending Gil and License Points on Gambits, it's easier just to tell them what to do manually. I understand why they put it in, and it is somewhat cool, and very deep and complex, but if you select your gambits well enough, the game starts playing itself, and that's not fun. The programing in Kingdom Hearts 2 is better in my opinion.
If you're familiar with the law system from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, then this will make a bit more sense. Due to the Judges, everything requires a licence to use, just like you need a license to drive a car. So if you buy a new shield, you'll need to buy the licence before you can equip it. This is also how you obtain the right to use Magick, Gambits, Quickenings (Limit Breaks), and Espers (Summons.) The License Board is fairly similar to FFX's Sphere Grid in concept. The License Board consists of two grids: one for weapons and armor, the other for Magick, Augments, Technicks, and Accessories. Espers and Quickenings are scattered throughout both grids. You're character starts off with only a few purchased Licenses, and all the rest are unavailable. Every time you purchase a license, the surrounding licenses become available. You purchase each license with License Points. You gain LP from killing monsters, just like Experience Points. Unlike experience points, the amount of license points you get from each monster is roughly constant. Almost every monster, whether it is level 5 or level 50, gives you 1 LP. The exception to this is rare monsters or bosses who give more LP. This is where the problem lays. If you're grinding to get enough LP to be able to equip that new sword, it's much easier to go to the first area and kill all the weak monsters then it is to fight monsters at your current level. This being said, the license board will be filling up rather quickly . It is also easy to get the more powerful licences early in the game. My Fran, who is lvl 13, can use all of the most powerful weapons in the game. a good thing about the Licence Board is that it allows you to fully customize your party. Do you want Vaan to be a fearsome tank or a devastating mage? It's up to you.
In the game, there are five types of Magick: White, Black, Time, and the new Green and Arcane. I can't help but notice the lack of Blue Magick. White Magick is of course for healing, and BlackMagick is offensive spells. Time Magick, which has often been sorted into White Magic, can speed up your allies, or slow down your enemies. For some reason, Break and Float are in this category. Arcane Magick is entirely random. Not only does it not go with the color scheme, but Square probably got the idea to call it arcane from Warcraft. The abilities in this category seem more like Technicks then Magick. Technicks are miscellaneous abilities, such as being able to steal or revealing your opponents stats. There are also some offensive Technicks like 1000 Needles.
Quickenings are the new Limit Breaks for FF XII. A character obtains Quickenings from the License Board. There are 18 Quickenings scattered throughout the board, and only one character can use each license. Each character can earn a maximum of three Quickenings. It doesn't mater which licence you use, the character will gain the same Quickening. Each of the Quickenings you earn are more powerful then the next, but the more powerful ones require more MP. A huge benefit is when you obtain your second and third Quickening, your MP will double and triple respectively. Depending on on the lvl of the Quickening, you havce to pay more MP. For example: if you use a lvl 2 quickening, you have to pay 200% of your MP. The way you use Quickening are interesting. After you select a Quickening, a timer appears at the bottom right corner. Above it are the names of everyone in your party who also have Quickenings. If their names are in white you can press the characters corresponding button to create a chain of Quickenings. The longest chain I've done was 13. If all of your parties names are gray, you have to press the R2 button, this creates new results. You continue this until you get a white name, so it's almost like roulette. The longer the chain, the quicker the timer runs out. After you run out of time, depending on your results, a Concurrence will trigger. These are powerful finishers that happen depending on what lvl of Quickenings you used in a chain. For example: if you use two lvl 1 Quickenings and three lvl 2's, Torrent will activate. Getting long chains is hard at first, but you eventually get better. Quickenings are also rediculously powerful. I killed all of early bosses at full health with a single quickening. They are also easy to get. In one point of the License Board, three Quickenings are within the licenses of each other. My Vaan had all three of his Quickenings by lvl 15. And by lvl 19, all my characters except for Basch had all three. Now that I'm fighting some more difficult bosses, Quickenings being used by my party are only doing about 1/2 of their health, which makes me question how useful they will be later in the game. A cheep way to get around this is after you use a Quickening, switch out one of your party members for another that has full MP. Then use that characters quickening, then repeat as much as you can. You should be able to pull off a maximum of four Quickenings. Oh yeah, the animation for the Quickenings are gorgeous.
The summons in this game are known as Espers. I've only just obtained my first so I can't go into much detail. Each Esper is based off of one of the Zodiac beings and either a previous FF boss, such as Zeromus, a Totema from FFTA, such as Famfrit, or a demon from the original FFT, such as Zalera. You gain an Esper after you defeat it in battle, then you have to purchase it's License. Only one character may purchase each Esper. Like Quickenings, it costs a certain percentage of your MP to summon an Esper, depending on how powerful it is. When they are summoned, the other two party members leave. The Esper follows you wreaking havoc for 1:30 or until it dies. When the time is up, the Esper leaves with a devastating attack.
Probably one of the best things about FF XII is the beautiful graphics. In some cut scenes, I had a hard time distinguishing between whether it was in game or CG. Another good thing about the game is the currency. In very other RPG I've played, the equipment you find in dungeons is far better then the stuff found in stores, and monsters drop enough helpful items to get you through. All these things make stores nearly obsolete, and your money just piles up. With all the mandatory things to buy (weapons, armor, items, accessories, Magicks, Technicks, and Gambits), you'll be spending a lot of Gil. You get just enough Gil adventuring to buy a couple nice things, then when you run out, you go off on another quest., only to return richer and buy more things. The game does a good job of balancing the player on the fine line dividing poor and rich.
If you plan on buying this game, be warned: It will take a looong time to complete. Hopefully it will take long enough to help fill in the waiting time For the Wii.