Forcing the square peg

I’ve been forced to set aside my playthrough of FF Tactics in order to review… Final Fantasy II Anniversary. Honestly, the things I do for my art.

This means I currently have all three Matsunoverse games in a state of suspended play: War of the Lions is frozen at the beginning of Chapter Four. FFXII is still stalled just after Archadia, since I was forced to give it up back when I was using all my free time for Bonus Stage and haven’t had time to jump back in. And Vagrant Story is halted a mere two hours in, since I just started up a new game a few days ago in order to test out the new PS3 firmware update’s backward compatibility enhancements for HD. (Verdict: pretty nice.)

The continuity of Ivalice mystifies me. Does such a thing even exist? I see all these weird, loosely stated connections between the three games, but mostly they serve to thwart any and all efforts to create a consistent timeline. Granted, anything that frustrates people who take games a little too seriously is fine by me. Sure, I wrote a dissection of the overarching Mega Man storyline, which does throw my mental competence into question, but all of those story details are right there in the open; it’s not like I was trying to prove that there’s an incredibly convoluted continuity that encompasses every Zelda game or anything. Because that would be just silly.

Besides, someone once posted this image in the late, lamented Talking Time forums, demonstrating that all of the Ivalice games actually do fit together, at least in a jigsaw puzzle sense of the phrase. But the continuity is pretty much impossible, since FFT refers to Moogles as extinct. And Moogles are in FFXII, meaning it has to come before Tactics. But FFXII features extensive notes on wildlife by a woman named Merlose — who is in Vagrant Story as an observer, meaning it takes place after Vagrant Story. But Vagrant Story contains items which are relics of Tactics’ characters, including Agrias, Beowulf and Orlandu. So it has to come after Tactics.

So, yeah. Can’t wait to see people’s contrived split-timeline theories. “See, when Ramza defeated Ganon in the future….”

Anyway, I managed to Yell and Accumulate my way through Riovanes Castle, so I’m at chapter 4 of Tactics. I stumbled across another new Delita/Ovelia battle and met Luso, who might actually be the most redundant character ever. He’s… Ramza. But with uglier clothing. (Yes, even uglier than the butt-pants.) But at least his intro cinema is nice. Yoshida-style behemoths in full 3D appeals to a strange place in my soul.

By the way, if you’re having trouble accessing 1UP, please go into your browser’s cookies and get rid of everything attached to the domain. I have no idea what the deal is, but clearing my cookies was a lovely miracle cure for me. And it can be for you, too! Act now and save, etc. etc.

Today’s surprise: I’m actually really enjoying FFII. The Japanese FFII, not the fake Super NES one. Will miracles never cease?

61 thoughts on “Forcing the square peg

  1. Don’t talk about Talking Time like that! You make it sound as though you’ve given up! Keep fighting the good fight and all that.

    I think it’s going to take Hideo Kojima-level retroactive storylines to fit all of Ivalice together, which is really too bad. I’m partial to worlds that are continuous, without being directly related (see: Suikoden).

  2. Where does FFT Advance fit into thistime line? Huh? It has Moogles and rabbit-women who would fit better in furry porn than in a video game. But I digress.

  3. FFTA is a practical joke meant to fool us all into thinking the Matsunoverse is stupid.

  4. FFT Advance doesn’t really fit into the timeline. In FFT Advance, FFXII is a video game (I guess?) that the main characters play, then wish themselves into. So FFT Advance is kind of concurrent with FFXII, except it takes place in a version of that Ivalice that’s been filtered through the imaginations of the three kids.

    Anyway, it’s hardly canon. Assuming you can arrive at such a thing at “canon” after Jeremy’s little demonstration above.

  5. You’re enjoying FF2?

    What, did they finally fix the item system, or are you just still really early in the game?

  6. Maybe the moogles died out from Ivalice, but not from the places where FF XII takes place … or something. I think the FF XII moogles are a different species, anyway; they wear clothes!

  7. I’ve got my contrived, ad hoc explanation ready! Much as horses were extinct in the Americas before the first humans ever got there, moogles were only extinct on the west end of the Ordalia peninsula, where FFT takes place!

  8. Or, more easily, they could just say that moogles aren’t actually extinct. That’s a much easier retcon.

  9. Or that the Bestiary person in FFXII is a different Melrose than Callo and it just goes FFXII -> FFT -> VS.

  10. Can you tell us a few things about Final Fantasy II (this is the one for the PSP, correct?) this time around that makes it better?

  11. Ah, how weird, I’m just a few steps behind mr. Parish in the FFXII storyline, and the game has likewise rested still with me for a while now.

    I do recall that there were some other references to Vagrant Story in FFXII, but I can’t really recall the exact names or what direction of time they were pointing to. Something they said in the holy mountain, perhaps. Maybe they are just common names, but it is tempting to try and see a connection that would actually link the games.

  12. Jeez, I can’t wait to play that new Tactics. Well, new-ish. But things get even more confusing when you look at the bestiary entries for the espers. Are they referring to the Zodiac Brave business? Or… well, no, wait… Oh, nevermind, I’m too tired to even go anywhere with this.

  13. I just listened to the 1up Yours podcast this afternoon. I got the impression from Shane that FF2 was bad game.

  14. FF2 Anniversary more enjoyable this time around? If that’s the case, it’s too bad it had to be in the one solo release. I’m guessing you’re on embargo right now.

    And this review of FF2 seems really early right now.

    By the way, am I missing anything by skipping on FF1 Anniversary? Either way I’m pretty sure both will eventually end up on clearance.

  15. I think Matsuno might be like the Tokien of videogames, creating a vast world, spawning stories here and there in different timelines. But unlike Tolkien (who obviously took his time), maybe Matsuno is creating it by the day, taking any chance he has, with some guidelines already in paper.

    About moggles and stuff, well, its a trademark in the series and Matsuno is (was?) an employee in the end, doing what his bosses tell him to. Like forcing Vaan and Penelo into FFXII.

    Nevertheless, he’s a great designer, storyteller and torturer (that Belius in FFT is TOO MUCH). One of a kind in this wierd world called videogames.

  16. The difference being that Tolkien’s publisher didn’t retain the rights to Middle Earth when he was ready to move along, squandering it on poor imitations. Unless you count the Christopher Tolkien stuff, but that’s just mean.

  17. I haven’t played any of these games, but I like to think that a pair of moogles were found encased in ice. Once thawed, they were put into a forced breeding program until the population stabilized.

  18. So you’re saying that Moogles are the Matsunoverse’s answer to FF 6’s Espers? Oh, I get it. FFT Advance was just one of Matsuno’s accidents he was forced to get rid of via a shove from the top of the stairs. That makes sense.

  19. Actually, I would imagine the timelines would be quite workable if you allowed for some George Lucas-esque revisionism. Maybe not to the “midichlorian” degree, but even a simple “Greedo shoots first” would possibly suffice. Tell me, does the FFT remake have that comment about moogles?

  20. It mentions that they’re extinct in one of the blurbs about the hidden places you can find on jobs, if I recall.

  21. I irrationally like the idea that Ivalice is not actually the same world each time, but is instead a different world each time with lots of shoutouts; and that it’s been done that way to save on reinventing the setting any more than necessary while still being able to reset things depending on whether the artists want to do a floating city this time, and as a bit of a smartass take on the idea that Final Fantasy games are all set in a different world.

    I think that the efforts to unify the Zelda world are mostly because the Zelda devs egg people on at every opportunity with their talk of where each game fits on ‘the timeline’. While it’s fun to do, somewhere deep in the pit of my soul I reckon pretty much all the games from before Ocarina don’t go anywhere, and that the only reason people try is because Nintendo have decided that Zelda has a timeline while Mario, say, doesn’t.

    Or because the Zelda devs are jealous of Metroid, which has a timeline that wasn’t forced in at the turn of the century.

    And because I haven’t used enough paragraphs yet, I’m reminded of my own brief stint writing game canon that the fans take canon a lot more seriously than the writers do. I mean, it’s the writers’ job to just make stuff up! What’s ‘canon’ and ‘non-canon’ and where the story can go from what’s canon is a ludicrous discussion when you know that you can change or discard pretty much anything you like to make it work with what you’ve got planned at the moment. Canon’s something the fans make up.

  22. I wish I knew that about cookies on Friday. I was trying desperately to be helpful and answer someone’s question on the 1up boards and a combination of Safari and 1up refused to let me.

  23. It’s just one of the great unspoken nerd mysteries, like whatever happened to the Klingon’s foreheads. If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.

  24. There’s no rule that says there can’t be two people named Merlose, especially considering that Merlose is a surname.

  25. Perhaps time flows like a river, and history repeats.

    Re: FFII, I told you. The original had bugs and balance issues, but the core gameplay was pretty solid as far as 8-bit RPGs go. The newest remake presumably fixes that stuff even more than the Origins version did.

  26. Parish, are you telling me you never entertained the idea of naming some kind of pet or progeney after a long dead philosopher/historian?

  27. Merlose has got to be a surname–its just like Durai–who not only was Ramza’s friend in FFT, but also the name of the historian that dug up the story of FFT and relates it to you, the player (you know, the guy that’s talking at the very start of the game). Also, doesn’t Balthier of FFXII have the same surname as Mustadio? So I think there are several surnames that continue throughout the Ivalice timeline.

    After the awesomeness of FFXII I’ve been playing the other Matsunoverse games lately as well, and a thought occurs to me–since the summons in XII are the zodiac monsters in Tactics–is Ashe and her crew the original Zodiac Braves?

    Matsuno’s good at making worlds–remember he created the Ogre Battle series long before Ivalice. Now that he’s no longer with Square, and Square seems quite happy to milk Ivalice for all its worth, will he imagine yet another parable of medieval Europe for his next projects? Can’t wait to see.

  28. Neo-Ivalice? Or Ecilavi, perhaps. Whatever it is, as long as they let the man do his work, it will be great.

  29. Huzzah! My love of FF2 is finally vindicated by a significant source! I have waited so long for this day!

  30. “The newest remake presumably fixes that stuff even more than the Origins version did.”

    And the Dawn of Souls version as well?

  31. I’m pretty sure it goes FFXII -> FFT -> VS. The tendency is that the world becomes less magical as time goes on. FFXII has an economy (and technology) based largely on magicite, and the sky is littered with airships and islands. FFT is pretty much medieval, ships and land long since grounded, but summoners and mages are as common as sellswords. VS is renaissance, and magic is regarded as a myth by regular, sensible folk. Leá Monde seems to be the last bastion of the supernatural.

  32. So Jeremy, though I’m pretty sure you still wouldn’t recommend this remake/port at full price, in terms of a dollar amount you’d be willing to spend on it, how strongly do you recommend it so far? I know that sounds REALLY lame, not to mention that you’ve hardly cracked the surface.

    Speaking of all things FF, the FF4 DS trailer from SE Fiesta 2007 is now live on the official website, and it’s looking pretty hot!

  33. “Parish, are you telling me you never entertained the idea of naming some kind of pet or progeney after a long dead philosopher/historian?”

    All kidding aside, Plutarch really would make a pretty ok dog’s name. Heck, I once had a dog named Brutus.

  34. Chronologically, FFXII is set about eight centuries after FFT. Ajora’s birth takes place 12 centuries ago in FFT and 20 centuries in XII, so simple math would dictate an 800-year-gap between them, with Vagrant Story pitched somewhere in the middle. What’s confusing matters is the fact that the games aren’t meant to share a timeline per se — according to the FFXII Ultimania Omega guide, FFT and FFXII are actually parallel histories that happen to take place on the same world. FFTA is easier to explain away, as it’s basically Mewt’s FFXII fan fiction.

    It isn’t impossible to unify the games in one timeline, though you’ll have to use the “unreliable narrator” excuse in liberal doses. FFT says Moogles are extinct? Clearly they’re talking about the Kingdom of Ivalice specifically — Moogles are still flourishing in the east, but nobody in the Kingdom has ever travelled far enough to notice. Ditto with the Unexplored Lands — people just attached names from ancient history to random towers. Happened in the real world all the time.

  35. Perhaps they pulled a Star Trek and there are TWO species of moogles – like the curly eyebrowed Klingons from the original series and the bumpy foreheaded Klingons from everything else (it wasn’t budgetary constraints, it was Gene Roddenberry’s creative vision)!

    Or perhaps a creator who was used to directing modest 2D strategy games couldn’t foresee that in less than ten years, he would be directing the biggest RPG of all time – in the twilight era of the next generation of video game systems – and that, meanwhile, other people would be messing around with the world he created.

    Perhaps Matsuno is obsessive-compulsive. It would certainly make sense going by the nature of the gameplay systems his titles feature. Perhaps he felt a need to include in FFXII all the changes to Ivalice the pretenders had wrought in FFTA. Hell, their was even a Nu Mou in the Hunters Guild, and who likes them?

  36. Classic — I had a cat named Grendel, does that count?
    Moriyosi — Outside of interviews with developers, Ultimanias aren’t really meant to be official.

    Anyway, I like the idea of irreconcilable continuity. Why you guys gotta mess with it? Slavish devotion to an overarching timeline is the bane of effective serial storytelling. See: any mainstream comic book, Star Trek, Star Wars.

  37. Actually the very first time I saw that Ivalice map it had the FFTA world map attached to the bottom right, underneath the FFXII map. Mewt’s fan fiction or not it seemed to match geographically.

  38. So the battles at the end of chapter 3 are still nightmares unless you take the cheesy way out?

  39. Yeah, still nightmares. I tried to beat Wiegraf/Belias (Velius) fairly and lost twice, so I turned Ramza into a Monk with Guts, Yelled and Accumulated for about 30 turns, then punched the dude to death in three hits before he even moved. I also discovered that Chakra restores health based on strength, since a few Accumulates doubled its potency. Who knew!

    And two ninjas on the roof of Riovanes was, of course, enough to win the day.

  40. I think the easiest explanation is that the Matsunoverse doesn’t have a timeline, it has a timemobiusstrip.

    Honestly, circular time would solve a lot of storyline problems all over video games.

  41. “The official timeline, however, was eventually given in the Final Fantasy XII Ultimania Omega, and placed the events of Final Fantasy XII before those Final Fantasy Tactics. This would seem to place Vagrant Story latest in the timeline, given its direct references to the events of Final Fantasy Tactics.”

    From Wikipedia’s article on Ivalice. This would indicate that the bestiary was written quite some time after FFXII and FFT. Assuming that, there’s no contradiction in the timeline FFXII->FFT->VS that I can see.

  42. Jeremy: Upon double-checking, that wasn’t even Ultimania, but fan interpretation of a small timeline in the book that didn’t have a thing to do with what said timeline was saying. My bad. Looking at the actual timeline, though, I can see your point — it’s pretty much total speculation.

    …and on triple-checking, Wikipedia claims that the bit of Sage Knowledge dating Ajora’s arrival 2,000 years back was added during localisation and doesn’t reflect the original Japanese text. Which means that the ‘certain’ eight-century gap probably doesn’t exist, either.

    If it’s any consolation, the Japanese fans are about as confused as we are. Ogre Web Book, probably the single most obsessive-compulsive Matsuno fansite out there, has been trying to cobble together a coherent timeline for ages now, but even that’s fraught with guesswork. You might be interested in their attempt at a unified map, though:

    The two circles are Romanda and ‘Zipang,’ the Japan/China knockoff where all the Ninja and Samurai hail from.

  43. As an interesting aside, if FFT really does take place to the southwest of FFXII, that suggests the whole of Ivalice is south of the equator, considering the tropical or subtropical climate of Dalmasca, compared to the more temperate one in FFT.


  44. That was too much. Besides, wheather NEVER makes sense in videogames, specially in RPGs. There’s always one desert, one frozen area, one jungle… and lots of rain forest.

  45. Oh man, Shivam’a alive!

    Honestly, this is just like the 2nd half of FFVI, with Parish as Kefka and his supposed “stupid mistake” being moving the three statues out of alignment.

  46. As I said on Nerdhampton, I get to be Sabin because he’s my favorite. So there.

  47. Whatchu talking about? I totally dig Mr. Thou. He’s a kickass samurai with a tragic past, what’s not to like?

  48. Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble with Wiegraf where I wasn’t looking for it (archer SCC ;_;). My first time through I’d chosen the Zodiac sign that gives “worst” compatibility with him and happened to have Auto-Potion. The rest of the time I make Ramza into a mage type… it’s usually a one turn battle. :D

  49. i beat weigraf in two rounds, with ramza as a monk with ninja dual attack. it was pretty ridiculous damage.

  50. Wiegraf is easy. It’s the second part of the battle that makes everyone want to die. Punching Wiegraf to death in three hits is no big deal; doing that to Velius before he even moves, however, is sweet satisfaction.

  51. I too tend to get a little crazy with the yelling and accumulating, so I’ll usually one-shot Velius and his archaic demons before they move a muscle. Ramza must just be a blur of tiny fists to them.

  52. Has anyone beaten Wiegraf without yelling / accumulating? And if so, then how did they do it?

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