Square's Final Fantasy franchise has come a very long way since its humble beginnings on NES so let's see which of these newfangled entries with expansive worlds will take home the gold chocobo.
Story and characters
What's a Final Fantasy game without a memorable story and cast of characters? Final Fantasy XII stars a young lad named Vaan who dreams of becoming a sky pirate. However, he's surprisingly not a large part of the story. Instead, he acts more like a conduit for the player to experience the world of Ivalice through a fresh perspective. Soon into the plot, Vaan meets sky pirates Balthier and Fran and the 3 of them (along with Vaan's childhood friend Penelo, Princess Ashe, and Captain Basch) go on an epic adventure to unravel the devious happenings within Ivalice and hopefully bring an end to the ongoing war. It's quite a complex story with plenty of twists.
Final Fantasy XV puts you in the noble shoes of Noctis, Prince of Lucis. Right off the bat, he and his 3 friends (Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto) are on their way to Noctis' wedding with Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. However, he immediately learns of an attack on Insomnia (Lucis' capital) so the gang goes on a journey to recover the Royal Arms so Noctis can acquire Insomnia's stolen crystal and reclaim his throne. Meanwhile, demons are taking over the world of Eos and darkness is becoming the norm so Noctis decides to make a sacrifice and save the world. Overall, I found the story of Final Fantasy XV to be extremely forced and I didn't care much at all for any of the characters due to the fact that there's very little exposition before thrusting you into the story. Sure, you could watch the Brotherhood anime and Kingsglaive CG movie but you shouldn't have to do that to be able to fully enjoy a game story.
I could go on all day but I don't want to spoil anything. After all is said and done, Final Fantasy XII has a much better story and a far more memorable cast of characters. The fact that it's self-contained and doesn't need any additional films or DLC is the icing on the cake.
I'll try to keep this brief. Final Fantasy XII's Ivalice is full of gorgeous and varied settings, diverse races of beings, elaborate bustling cities, and huge sprawling environments that reward exploration. Final Fantasy XV's Eos has lots of deserts and you can drive a car. Winner: Final Fantasy XII. To be fair, Final Fantasy XV does have some memorable locations such as the haunting Gralea and the demon-infested world near the end of the story is genuinely terrifying. Even simply driving around in the Regalia while watching the beautiful sea in the distance or running around city streets feels pretty great. That being said, the amount of variety in Final Fantasy XII makes it clearly stand out as the winner to me. Visiting each one of its distinct areas complete with unique creatures (be they friend and foe) is always a treat.
When it comes to gameplay, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XV are rather similar in that you generally traverse environments while your party automatically attacks enemies. However, the big difference is the fact that you have much more control over your party in Final Fantasy XII. In fact, the first time I played it, I hated the gambit system so much that I opted to command each party member manually. Of course, that was silly in hindsight and on each playthrough after that, I tended to set gambits at a minimal level then command party members only when I wanted them to perform unique actions. This customizability is something that Final Fantasy XV lacks in comparison and as a result, I find Final Fantasy XII's gameplay to be much more engaging and rewarding.
Both games are quite similar in their replay value as well. For starters, they both have powerful foes that you can hunt down then collect sweet bounties as your reward. That being said, the hunts in Final Fantasy XII are much more satisfying as many of them are extremely tricky and require a great deal of configuring and strategizing to finally topple. Also, Final Fantasy XII has a ton of unlockables in the form of hundreds of weapons, items, spells, and techniques as well as a highly underrated license board system that's a ton of fun to gradually master for each character's classes. The bottom line is: I could play Final Fantasy XII for hundreds of hours and not get bored once while Final Fantasy XV's replay value feels tacked on and it becomes monotonous for me after only a couple of hours.
Well, this will likely be the easiest decision that I'll ever make in a Versus piece. The winner is clearly... cue drum roll...
Winner Final Fantasy XII
I've been playing Final Fantasy since the original NES game and Final Fantasy XII is probably my favourite installment in the entire franchise. With incredibly rewarding gameplay, oodles of replay value, an awe-inspiring world, and a story that's exciting every single time I experience it, Final Fantasy XII is the clear winner in my eyes. That being said, I respect anyone who enjoys Final Fantasy XV and understand how gamers can love adventuring with Noctis and his pals but it's definitely not for me.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!