Exactly What You Think it is
The best and worst thing this game has going for it is that it is exactly the game you think it is. It is a Japanese RPG fully rooted in the traditions and styles of the Jrpg's from the 1990's. You have effeminate male characters, angst driven teens, the "old" man who must be in his 30's and a winding incomprehensible story; mixed with frustrating difficulty curves.
The game played for me was a slight nostalgia effort. On the one hand, running through the tried and true jrpg formula was fun, but that fun only last for the first few hours. While I didn't need to grind at the beginning, the game quickly reared its ugly head of micro-management and guessing for boss battles later on. Perhaps its biggest sin in this respect is the fact that 95% of the battles are very straight forward and manageable by the user, but several key boss battles force the player to micromanage on a level that the rest of the battles did not prepare you for.
FFXII implements and potentially interesting battles system. You only have control of one of your characters which most of the time feels awkward, but ultimately leads to a very fluid combat. Roles are changed in battle via a paradigm shift and most of the time it works very well for the battles. The battle system I presume is designed to allow the non-hardcore jrpg fans easily get into the battle mechanic. The frustrating part comes in many of the boss battles in which the default battle setups just aren't adequate enough and the user has to delve into the details to customize the setup to get past a key boss. It is tedious and just not fun. Worse off, I found myself losing battle after battle at key points after vesting hours into the game.
I ultimately gave up on the game about 22 hours in during a large boss battle in which I simply could not beat the boss. After looking through several FAQ's I finally had a setup that would whittle away at the boss, which I was fine doing. Not good game design, but it would keep me moving through the story, or so I thought. This boss battle ultimately places a death counter on your main character if you do not complete it in 20 minutes. This instantly brought me right back to the things I hate about jrpg's; their punishment system. In this day in age of gaming, these systems turn off the gamer, not inspire them. I can see many users turning away instantly when the game implements a roadblock like that. When the game is already running into the 30+ hour category, there is no need for the developer to implement a combat mechanism to punish someone. Ultimately the battle system became too complicated for its own good and got in its own way.
The structure of the storyline is almost completely linear through the first 20 hours of the game as well so going back to grind out some leveling at this particular boss was not only unfeasible, it was also restricted by the level caps artificially placed on my characters through this point of the game.
The game is ultimately incredibly beautiful, but unfortunately beauty alone cannot carry a FF game through in this age of HD graphics. The story was convoluted and childish. The battle system was unnecessarily complicated and the overall game structure was so uneven in difficulty that I was turned off instantly when I hit a roadblock.
If you are a jrpg fan or a die hard FF fan then give this a go, but this is not going to be a game that turns you on to jrpg's. It is fully stuck in its old ways.