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Final Fantasy XII

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Our first hands-on preview of Final Fantasy XII cut straight to the basic details of this mammoth RPG, the most monumental PlayStation 2 release of 2006. More time spent under its spell proves the game to be a slow burn - one of the most deliberately-paced in the series. Somehow, though, it's still addictive.

So far in the first several hours of the game, all action has revolved around blonde leading man Vaan - though Ashe, the princess who played a leading role on the demo disc, has made a couple of brief appearances.

The good news is that Vaan isn't the pouting pretty boy his looks suggest; he's more of a determined scrapper - who goes so far as to try and recklessly attack the man responsible for his older brother's death.

He's also a thief - both in the story (he sneaks into the castle to pilfer treasure) and in the gameplay (he can use the "steal" command against enemies, in the FF tradition).

In fact, the cast of FFXII is a rogue's gallery - Vaan meets the cocky, puffy-shirt pirate Balthier and businesslike bunny-girl-in-body-suit Fran while he's in the process of burgling the castle (they want his take). FFXII isn't just about teen angst; it's clear that Balthier, Fran, General Basch and other secondary characters have life experiences that will come into play in the story - but everyone's an enigma, so far.

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