One of my reasons for laying off the blogging for a bit was to finish Final Fantasy XII. Now, at 10:40pm, I’ve got a little bit of breathing room before I tackle my next game, Final Fantasy XIII. (my order has been delayed).
So what of this 3-year old Playstation 2 game? To sum it up, I think Final Fantasy XII is “Final Fantasy Done Right”. I’m not going to go into a review or anything, but more like pick out the concepts that made XII one of the better games in the series.
So why did I choose to play FFXII now? When I first got the game 3 years ago, I played about 38 hours of it before I was suddenly stopped and never got back to it. Now, with FFXIII on the horizon, I figured that I needed to get to it and beat it. Otherwise the HD graphics of FXIII would surely dampen my enjoyment of FFXII. When I had put FFXII higher on my priority list, one of the things I committed to was “Any new game purchase immediately gets top priority”. I was in the midst of completing Muramasa, and FFXII was on the list right after Assassin’s Creed II. AC2 took longer than I thought, and between then, I purchased Zelda Spirit Tracks, Silent Hill Shattered Memories and Bayonetta. Never before had I been playing games like a fiend for the sake of completing them as my priority as opposed to enjoyment; though enjoy them I did. So why do I choose to blog about FFXII? I like it that much.
The thing I found incredibly compelling about FFXII is the combat system. Square Enix completely did away with random encounters, and opted for a very MMO-like combat engine derived from FFXI most likely. While FFXI was severely lacking, FFXII’s offline MMO engine was very well polished, simplified, and worked incredibly well.
The AI-control was very customizable, and rarely strayed from what I had programmed it to do. It’s much more advanced than the silly AI control for Tales games, and saved my ass more times than I can count. There are some flaws though – the Gambits were somewhat simplistic. There were some tasks I wanted to automate, but wasn’t able to because the game didn’t have gambits like that. It wouldn’t have been too complicated to implement either. I would have liked a more if>then>else system, or more special gambits to program the AI NOT to do certain things (like “Foe: Absorbs Fire, don’t cast Fire”, coupled with Foe: Any, cast Fire.” a “Foe: Has no item, do not steal”)
Overall though, the Gambits served their purpose fairly well. I did find myself turning them all off for the last battle though.
The abandoning of random encounters was a welcome change. No longer did combat seem like a chore, or a grind. In fact, I’ve never had so much fun grinding in an RPG.
Overall, the gameplay was fantastic, the boss fights were epic, and the world was vast to travel in.
The other thing that I liked about FFXII was the world. The very atmosphere and premise fit so nicely with what I believe should be the Final Fantasy theme. Ivalice is quite different in style than most of the other Final Fantasy games, drawing only to Final Fantasy Tactics, and its predecessor – Vagrant Story. The old 16-bit games don’t really count because the styles were a bit more ambiguous.
While Final Fantasy’s Japanese title literally translates to Space Warriors, FFXII’s world was very medieval, but still had just the right amount of technology – it was industrial-like with rough edges, unlike the ridiculously impractical looking FFVIII technology, or the overly industrial FFVII. Both FFVII and FFVIII conflicted with the idea of swords coexisting with guns as practical weapons, where as in FFXII, the guns were 1800’s style and worked well. Seeing where FFXIII goes into the FFVIII style technology makes me cringe. I really want more Ivalice.
The story of Final Fantasy XII is simple – a princess backed by a resistance group attempts to overthrow the empire and stop them from taking over the world. Sound familiar? That’s because it was started in 1977 with Star Wars.
Take a look at this humorous youtube video:
Someone took various footage from FFXII, and spliced it together to fit with a scene from Star Wars.
It’s surprisingly close!
Let’s take a look at some of the characters of Star Fantasy XII:
Vaan – Pretty much the first character you play as. It seems at the time that he’s the main character, living a fairly normal life, dreaming of bigger things. Parents are dead of course. He later gets thrust into a crazy adventure that he didn’t plan on, and ultimately plays a part in saving the world. He even gets a mentor along the way! You’d think that he’s Luke Skywalker, but unfortunately, his role as the main character pretty much disappears as soon as his big adventure starts. He just ends up along for the ride.
Penelo – I can’t really say who Penelo represents in terms of a Star Wars character. Maybe C3P0 fits the bill, as she’s Vaan’s companion throughout the adventure. She does require saving at some point, much like how C3P0 gets rescued. Her character is fairly flat, with no real special personality traits. Like Vaan, she ends up being just along for the ride.
Balthier – He’s got an interesting “Ladies Man” personality, is a sky pirate, and flies one of the fastest ships this side of the galaxy. He’s also got bounty hunters after him. Right from the get-go, his closest match is Han Solo. Just like Han, money is his thing. Anytime there’s treasure involved, he’s up for it. He does however, take up some of the other roles from Star Wars characters, especially in the latter half of the game. One such is his hatred for his father who works for the Empire. He ends up confronting him late in the game. And then he’s also Vaan’s mentor, though this role was rarely emphasized. Out of all the male characters, his was probably the most developed.
Fran – Balthier’s partner in crime and co-pilot, she left her home to learn about the world. She’s your Chewbacca. Her kind, the Viera, live in trees, with architectural design so similar to the Wookies, you’d think they hired Wookies to build it. Their weapons of choice include bows and crossbows, they are a tribe, and they exile/banish those who do not follow their way of life or leave the tribe never to return. Chewbacca’s growls of “I have a bad feeling about this.” is even similar to Fran’s “The mist here is thick…” Honestly, the only difference between the Viera and Wookies is that Vieras are damn sexy. Their god obviously knew what they were doing when they created them.
Ashe – Princess Ashe’s objective is to stop the Empire, and bring peace back to her homeland. After her home was invaded, she had no choice but to flee. Rumors spread that she was dead. Vaan, Balthier and Fran rescue Ashe early on in the story, and from that point on, everything that happens revolves around her. She seems to show some affection towards the male characters, but not so much of a romantic one.
Basch – Rumored to have killed the king of Dalmasca, and died, he was imprisoned and tortured. His charge after being rescued was to protect Ashe. Near the end, he faces against his former colleague Gabranth, in a duel to the finish. He’s your Obi-Wan, except he doesn’t train Vaan to any effect. His character is just as flat as Penelo, as he doesn’t have any other motivation than protecting Ashe.
Gabranth – Works for the Empire as a Judge. He gets sent out on certain high-profile tasks by Vayne. In the finale of the game, Gabranth fights Basch, and after that, defects from Vayne’s side in order to protect Larsa. He’s pretty much Darth Vader.
Cid – Balthier’s father, he plays an integral role in putting the wheels in motion for the story. He’s basically the cause of the war. Balthier’s face-off with him could be considered Luke and Darth Vader’s battle, but unlike Darth Vader, Cid never waivers from his objective, and remains evil. To that effect, and his role in the story, he’s a lot more like Emperor Palpatine.
Vayne – He inherits the throne to the Empire, and pretty much runs martial law, dissolving the senate, and taking full control. In more ways than one, he’s the Emperor Palpatine. Outside of the political actions, he’s not much more than that.
The Bahamut – unlike other Final Fantasy games, the summon names are actually names of ships. The Bahamut being the ultimate big one. It’s basically the Death Star, complete with big-ass death beam. It takes its time and approaches the city of Dalmasca as everyone tries to stop it. (Well, it’s not quite like that. More like Dalmasca ends up being the battlefield between the Resistance and the Empire).
The Strahl – Balthier and Fran’s ship. The Millenium Falcon. Enough said. Even its take-off is ripped off from Star Wars!
Sky City Bhujerba – Cloud City rip-off. Both were promised neutrality and freedom from the Empire for their “resources” if the best was given to the Empire. And both were back-stabbed, and ended up helping the Rebels escape in the end.
Does this mean FFXII is a rip-off of Star Wars? Actually no. While the higher levels of the story seem very similar, and there are even similarities between characters, it’s quite a different story because of the way the game plays it out. You’ll laugh and enjoy the similarities though.
Overall, I’d have to say that FFXII is one of the best Final Fantasy games I’ve played in a LONG time. The atmosphere is amazing, the world is well imagined, the style is perfect, the characters are stylish, and the combat is outstanding. FFXIII may have a tough time topping this one, in my opinion.
K, midnight. Time to sleep.
In closing, more lolz: