GameSpite Quarterly 2, #18: Final Fantasy XII

18. Final Fantasy XII
Hey kids, it’s a piece on Final Fantasy XII! And since I didn’t write it, it’s only very positive instead of embarrassingly glowing. You know, I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the game… I get closer from time to time, but I guess I was waiting for Square Enix to up-port the game to Xbox 360, or release the Zodiac Job Version, or something. But no! Silly me. Uh, anyway, good article. Read it.

40 thoughts on “GameSpite Quarterly 2, #18: Final Fantasy XII

  1. I’d be curious of your opinion of the game if/when you finally do finish it. The plot and characterization that everyone praises is somewhat shoved out of the way by the need for a more classic jrpg villian. I’m not saying it pulls an FF9 and brings in a last minute substitute, but motivations and personalities get murkier. It’s tough to explain without spoiling. I’m assuming either Matsuno got overworked and lost the thread of the story, or the clean-up team who took over for him were responsible for the final act and just didn’t quite get it.

    Usually people who love or dislike the game fall into the camps of those who wanted a more traditional jrpg experience, and those who enjoyed the western slant. You, or at least I, don’t run across many who enjoyed the mechanics but felt like the narrative lost its way in the final third.

    Say what you will about FFX’s voice acting, but in XII I missed that focused plot and cohesive, more fully thought out world.

  2. Great article. When the game first came out, and everyone was saying how un-FF it was, i scoffed. It’s not THAT different, I say. But after re-playing it last month, it really strikes me as completely different. In a good way. Probably my favorite of the series.

    One of the best parts? the return of ‘challenge’ to the series. I mean, there hasn’t been a challenging FF game, since, what, IV? I don’t remember if V was hard or not, but VI-X were all pushovers. I died plenty of times on my first playthrough of XII.

    Immediately after re-playing it, I had to re-play FFTactics as well. Love, love, love the Ivalice setting. Too bad the Tactics sequels were so effing lame.

  3. The Star Wars borrowing bothers me to this day, as do Vaan and Penelo, but this game is and probably always will be my favorite RPG ever. I totally agree about the final act being weak, though. The story really ends in the Pharos, with the reins of history back in the hands of man and whatnot. It managed to have good characters and evil characters without reducing their exploits to another story of good versus evil. Bravo.

  4. I reeeeally need to get around to getting deep into FF XII, but I have seen something rather odd: FFXII got universally glowing reviews when it came out, but gradually started getting a bit of a bad reputation. I don’t know why, but the general opinion seems pretty meh among recent audiences.

  5. turkish101: what are you talking about? Final Fantasy Tactics didn’t have any sequels.

    Now let us never talk of it again.

  6. I only ever played an hour or two max of FF12. I did however watch my roommate play almost the entire game. At around level 15-20, he decided he was going to sit down and grind the licence board – to see how far he could get unlocking stuff at until the leveling system plateaued and he was forced to stop until advancing further through the story. That point never came, and only two or so chapters into the story he had unlocked just about everything on everyone’s licence boards. Our respect for the game took a huge hit after that, since everything afterwards was so ridiculously easy. It still had a great story and he (nor I while “back seat gaming”) was ever bored of the combat, but I’m not sure what to think about games that let you break the combat system like that so easily. One thing is for sure, FF12 is hands down the easiest Final Fantasy game.

  7. I loved the article. FFVI was my previous favorite as well, and I wonder if that’s a pattern among fans?

    Turkish: I wouldn’t call them sequels. They’re more like gaiden games, and can be enjoyable if not constantly compared to FFT. It might just be me though… I enjoyed Chrono Cross too.

    Ken: Almost any game that you grind in until you are really powerful will seem to be easy… I don’t understand the point of “breaking” a game, and then claiming it’s too easy. FFXII is one of the hardest in the series.

  8. IMO, any game where people can say both “it’s really hard” and “it’s really easy” is probably doing something *right*, because it means you can adapt it to your own play style by using the systems in different ways. I love options.

    I also love this game to death, and yes, VI was probably my previous favorite.

  9. I loved the combat and the feeling of a living world most of all in FF12. No other FF world felt as alive. The only problem I had is that I played it intermittently over an eight month stretch, and the story almost completely lost me because I could remember so little.

  10. I’m one of the FFXII haters. I really like my JRPGs and just don’t like WRPGs. I’ve tried to get into countless Bioware games and just never liked them and gave up. FFXII reminded me of these games and I just didn’t enjoy it. I managed to finish it but it was begrudgingly and was really glad it was over because I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I can see how people could love it but for me when I buy a Final Fantasy game I expect a JRPG.

  11. This is a game I really just couldn’t get into. I put about 30 hours on the game, but couldn’t finish it. The combat in XII is just so boring. After you set up your gambits normal gameplay became nothing but movement and occasionally equiping new stuff. It’s a special game that makes normal RPG combat even less involving.

  12. Different strokes, I guess. Played for 80 hours and was never bored. There’s plenty to do, if you do it.

  13. I felt the plot was inarticulate in a Star Wars prequel kind of way, but the combat was exactly what JRPGs needed. Put this combat in a story overseen by Kitase or Sakaguchi and you have the perfect modern JRPG.

  14. Much as I hate to be negative, I’m also a person that didn’t enjoy the game after a certain point. I always felt the need to go grind for more levels, something I usually don’t like to do anymore. On top of that, equipment is insanely expensive, which only further adds to the grind-like nature. It really is a MMORPG without the MMO aspect. And I’ve never had the patience for those, what with the slow leveling curves and tedious combat.

    That being said, it did keep me there for 30 hours or so before I gave up on it for greener pastures. Perhaps I will try to pick it up again, maybe get some pointers on how to beef up and make things a little easier with minimal effort (short of hacking the game with a Code Breaker).

  15. @Ken

    So, what you’re saying is that if you grind for hours upon hours upon hours, the game will be made absurdly easy?

    Pretty sure that’s true of almost every RPG ever.

  16. Huh. I never ground out a single level in this game. Not once. I also never obsessed over buying all the new equipment that was available as soon as it was available. There are spots I farmed gil, or enough LP for a new spell or accessory, but levels were never an issue. Of course, I got way into the game and was doing lots of side quests. Trying to beat hunts as early in the game as possible is great fun, since whatever people say about the gambit system, there’s a ton of strategy to work in this game.

  17. I find it interesting that even people who like FFXII (like me) tend to stop either in the middle of or right after the lighthouse. It’s like your will to play just runs out after that dungeon.

  18. I think the plot-based impetus to play does run out after the lighthouse. You’ve already freed the region from the shadow-faced weirdos who’ve run it for centuries. Now you’ve got to smack down that uppity emperor guy. Feels a little anti-climax.

  19. I’m not sure where this vibrant magical world everyone talks about is, because it sure isn’t in FFXII. Everything is either Sand, Cave or Tree(occasionally Cave Full Of Sand to switch things up), and the whole game seems to be wearing sunglasses(I’d say this was a TV problem, but no other game does this for me).

    I really did want to like it, but it just didn’t feel like an FF game to me. It wasn’t the battle system(while the Gambit system is boring, Beserk Basch is a whole new vista of entertainment.), something just felt off the entire time. I just kind of puttered out midway through.

    On grinding: Dragon Quest has taught us that if we don’t meet their ridiculous money requests we will suffer. This isn’t the case with FFXII, but I still felt the need to get everyone the best stuff I could. I was still overpowered even while cycling everyone to keep levels even.

    I guess it just plods too much. Everything’s just so…boring. Dull environments, dull characters(sans Balthier), dull fighting, dull story, dull, dull, dull. No matter how bad the others got, there was always SOMETHING going on to at least make you see it through.

  20. I guess one man’s ugly hell is another’s playground. I never had to grind for levels in the 80+ hours I played because I was so enthralled by the huge, open, interesting, interconnected world that I spent most of my time just trying to see where I could go and ended up tackling the plot portions of the game somewhat out of order.

  21. I’ve said this before, but my only criticism of FFXII’s world is that there’s a jungle right next to snowy mountain terrain. There’s not even a sudden increase in elevation—just…jungle, snow.

    I love Gambits, though. I love Balthier, Fran, and Dr. Cid. I love the strategy, the music, and Gilgamesh’s most illustrious appearance yet. Every third Final Fantasy must be charmed, because this is right up there with FFVI and IX.

  22. The comparisons to Star Wars are really getting tiresome. If you want to write an original article on part the twelfth, you should draw parallels to The Hidden Fortress.

  23. FFXII is probably the franchise’s biggest tragedy. could’ve easily been the best of the series had it not been for Matsuno’s departure. That isn’t to say it isn’t good, but it could’ve been more. It’s a shame FFXIII will probably be nothing like it.

  24. I thought the game’s story itself owes more to the myth of Prometheus than Star Wars. The Star Wars stuff did provide great accents and incidental material, never better for me than a certain stylistically familiar piece of music called “Theme of the Empire” on the soundtrack. (In a cruel blow, the soundtrack’s version is differen from–and lacking compared to–the in-game version for that three-second part that is my favorite.) If the music didn’t make you break out in joy during the Draklor sequence, I cannot fathom you.

  25. “If you want to write an original article on part the twelf-”

    I really didn’t, though. Sorry.

  26. Curious Incognito: Expanding on my above comment because it’s a bit too glib: I couldn’t have written the article with reference to The Hidden Fortress. I haven’t seen it and until I looked it up after your comment I didn’t know it had in part inspired Star Wars.

    But a lot of things inspired Star Wars, and Star Wars has in turn inspired a lot of things, of which FFXII is a pretty obvious one. I’m sorry if you’ve read one too many articles making the comparison I used, but I don’t have much control over what you’ve come across in the past. I went with what I knew. So maybe if YOU want to write an original article on part the twelfth, YOU should draw parallels to The Hidden Fortress. I’d read it.

  27. Kudos, Onomarchus, for the Prometheus analogy. Spot on, and everyone till now had overlooked it.

    And as always, I will defend Vaan and Penelo –they’re ordinary kids swept into something greater than themselves, and they’re meant to be such. I never felt they imposed upon the other characters; in fact, I thought their moments of levity and amusing interaction with the Grown Ups provided a good respite from the generally-somber proceedings; better yet, they humanized Basch and Balthier, and it was great seeing them crack a smile at Vaan’s stupid antics. But once the actual plot kicked up, the kids were there as backup, as faithful companions to the true protagonists, and when they had their small (but shining) moments of heroism, they felt natural and complimented the others’ actions nicely.

    I think the reason they get so much scorn is simply because they’re so prominent in the presentation; if the game allowed you the chance to change the “in-city” avatar, people would probably forgive Vaan’s presence, or at least see him as they see the alternate FFVI “protagonists.” Frex: in FFVIII, Selphie got an entire act to herself, a bizarre and schizophrenic mix of humor and violence. But people don’t hate her because she took the spotlight for a while, do they? Just think of Vaan’s introductory chapter in the same way and ignore him once it’s over. Me, I like to think that Ashe, Balthier, and Basch are the protagonists of the greater narrative involving the Empire, Dalmasca, and the Occuria… but Vaan is the hero of his own sidequest, the Clan Hunts (and the others humor him by lending a hand in them, because all of Ivalice benefits from them.)

    If I have any complaints about FFXII, is that I’d like to take a shovel to the head of whoever thought up the Random Chests with Random Contents, and the Bazaar. Also, there should have been a Gambit Editor hotkey right on the Battle menu (much like Vagrant Story needs one for changing weapons.) Going into the Main Menu to edit Gambits takes you away from the action and breaks the flow, which is disappointing when fighting an intense battle like the optional Espers or the bigger Hunts.

    I also find it amusing that many of us used to think of FFVI as our favorite until this one came along :)

  28. I never had to grind in FFXII either. I explored every area but kind of ignored the hunts. It wasn’t that tough but at such low levels the game became a chore. Boss battles were excellent and required a lot of strategy but I found myself running around in circles after most fights just to get my mp up to cure myself. I came to a brick wall with the last boss and there was no way I could defeat his second last form but a small amount of hunts and I was able to get bubble and murder the last boss. Still didn’t find it an enjoyable experience.

  29. I prefer RPGs with actual villains. I continually found myself wanting to help Vayne instead of whiny little Ashe, but the game didn’t give me that option. Additionally, Vaan is probably the most annoying and inconsequential-to-the-plot main character in a game.

    It’s not that it’s a bad game, but it’s easily my least favorite in the series.

  30. Lemmie put things into a little better perspective: my friend loves MMOs and he loves to grind. We both naturally assumed that, like most RPGs, we’d hit a plateau where the enemies stopped giving us adequate experience to the degree where it would take forever to level up. While that was the case with EXP, we found that LP given out at various locations and times during the plot didn’t vary. This meant we could grind LP fairly easily and unlock the entire licence board quickly and relatively effortlessly. It would be like being able to max out all your materia before leaving Midgar with relative ease – kind of ridiculous.

  31. re: David

    The fact that Vayne isn’t a super evil villain is what makes it interesting. His motivations are, on a large scale, actually pretty noble, but his methods and disregard for those he has to kill to achieve his goals are what make him the villain. Same with Venat.

  32. FFXII is the best one in 3D, although frankly the single feature that forces me to that conclusion is the ability to skip cutscenes.

    I do have a strong sense of disappointment with the game, though, because with a few gameplay tweaks and a more focused plot it could have been so much better.

  33. You can take out Penelo, but please leave “Penelo’s Theme”… one of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s best compositions ever.

  34. @Ken: Even so, I don’t see how maxing out the License Board broke the game. Mastered Materia (or FFVI Espers, or FFV Jobs) is useful because it yields the game-breaking abilities right away. In FFXII, you still have to wait for the plot to dole out Magick, Technicks, and most equipment –and you still have to grind for Loot/money to buy those. Sure, you can the licenses for Holy or Scathe before you first leave Rabanastre, but that’s a lot of wasted LP until you finish the Pharos and reach the endgame.

    Maxing out the Board ahead of time can only help you via Augments, extra Gambit slots, and the Zodiac Spear license if you’re close enough to visit (and survive!) Nabudis. But the weapon with the strongest ATK rating in the game can only do so much if your character’s stats aren’t there to back it up.

  35. “I’m assuming either Matsuno got overworked and lost the thread of the story, or the clean-up team who took over for him were responsible for the final act and just didn’t quite get it.”

    This is my sentiment, but substitue “final act” with “latter half of the game”.

  36. This is the last game I was able to play and complete before my original PS2 died on me, and I completed the hell out of it. An excellent game!

    Oh, and you people who think the story dropped off towards the end are hopped up on goofballs. The tragedy of Vayne is my favorite part of the story, and Ventat’s final lines rate up there in moments with things like Tidus giving Jecht the ‘ol high-five.

  37. I definitely think this is the best RPG ever. Considering how great all the FF games are (yeah, all of them…II and III are debatable, but hey), that’s saying something.

  38. So cool to see the love for XII here, among all the widespread hate for it elsewhere. Been playin’ ’em since the 80s, and this is my favorite as well. Only thing I’d wish for is an unlockable HARD mode. Great Article!

Comments are closed.