As you probably know if you’ve poked around in the numerous articles at this site, I really like Final Fantasy XII. As in, like like. The game gets a lot of flack in certain quarters, most of which seem to revolve around its story. To me, that sounds like a point being missed, like buying an extraordinary lobster and steak dinner and then complaining because you don’t like the color of the plate it’s served on. FFXII is great because of its expansive world, its great balance of structure and freedom, and its seamless, non-nonsense combat mechanics which often turns enemies into obstacles but never impediments. Its plot is really a secondary consideration at best.
I was convinced, back in 2006, that the rest of Japan’s RPG developers would be hopping on the FFXII bandwagon, offering up countless games that built on the model offered in the most recent numbered Final Fantasy. I was sadly mistaken; instead, Japan retreated from its design, offering up either dated, bog-standard, PS2-style RPGs with shinier graphics (see: Star Ocean), tiny handheld RPGs (see: everyone), or stripped out anything resembling freedom altogether (see: Final Fantasy XIII).
At last, though, someone has spoken up about their intent to deliver a new RPG in the FFXII mold — a big, free world; seamless, automated combat; less emphasis on story. Great news, right? Well, the final kick in the pants here is that this RPG is Xenoblade, the spiritual follow-up to Xenogears and Xenosaga. Yes, my old nemeses have birthed what sounds like one of the most intriguing RPGs in years.
Enjoy having your laugh at my expense, Tetsuya Takahashi. You’ve earned it this time. At least I can take some pleasure in the fact that, for the time being, an image search for “Xenoblade” mostly brings up images of “X-Blades,” last year’s embarrassingly pandering action crapfest. Pettiness is my only refuge in these darkest of days.
PEE ESS: Here are some screenshots! They’re very pretty. Look at them vistas, guys. Even if these are bullshots, hot dang.
40 thoughts on “Thy blade, forged of irony”
You know, considering my own reaction to this post, I’m pretty sure Takahashi is not the only one laughing at your expense.
My interest level in this just took a dive.
“I’m pretty sure Takahashi is not the only one laughing at your expense.”
Because… the creators of several promising but ultimately lousy games are creating something that’s almost completely the opposite of their previous work? That’s not really what I would call “come-uppance.”
I knew the guys behind the talking chairs RPG and that Cabbage Patch Kids in Space B-movie trilogy were making a Wii RPG, but it’s gonna be an FFXII-like? Suddenly I have a little more interest in Xenoblade beyond it being an addition to the Wii RPG genre that isn’t a Virtual Console game, cheap cellphone sequel hack to a beloved RPG, or another Harvest Moon installment.
I probably shouldn’t speak for others but I think Zed Tea may have been referring to we the reader as the other people laughing at your expense.
My interest level in this just took a dive.”
Honestly, what’s the difference between you pressing the confirm button to select attack over and over from a menu, and the game doing it for you, besides saving your thumbs a few additional days from developing carpal tunnel syndrome?
Well, just selecting attack over and over sucks too. But if the game has a good amount of pre-battle customization, then the automated fights will still definitely be worthwhile. Strategy is what we’re looking for here.
Ken, Ryan D. – I agree so much. A lot of people I know hate FF XII because of the lack of pressing X. There are other problems with that game, but that is not one of them.
I think you’re over estimating the game’s likeness to FFXII. Takahashi did state that it would be very exploration heavy and such, but he didn’t say the story was necessarily be light or bad, he just said it wouldn’t consist of XS length cut scenes at that the narrative style was being approached differently.
this game is going to fail hard. the high definition lcd/plasma tv, 720p, 1080p, widescreen, shallow gamers/graphic whores are going to rip this game to shreds.
“Honestly, what’s the difference between you pressing the confirm button to select attack over and over from a menu, and the game doing it for you, besides saving your thumbs a few additional days from developing carpal tunnel syndrome?”
The difference is that in one case I am playing a video game, and in the other I am watching a 60 hour cutscene. I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I “beat” every boss in the last two dungeons of FFXII without touching the controller. I laid it on the floor in front of me and sat with my hands in my lap. That is not a compelling or entertaining video gaming experience; it is essentially the complete lack of an experience.
I’m really looking forward to this one. Xenosaga was so-so, but I really dug the Baten Kaitos games for the Gamecube (which approximately nobody played). Visuals look fantastic for Wii and it’s nice to see they’re thinking outside the box.
Working with Nintendo ups pretty much any developer’s game (just look what happened to 2nd parties like Rare and Silicon Knights without Nintendo steering them straight). I’m optimistic.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that I “beat” every boss in the last two dungeons of FFXII without touching the controller. I laid it on the floor in front of me and sat with my hands in my lap. That is not a compelling or entertaining video gaming experience; it is essentially the complete lack of an experience.”
Like others have pointed out before me, what you’re leaving out of your description is the fact that you easily spent hours beforehand fine tuning your character’s equipment, stats, and gambits, all so they could totally kick-ass with minimal input – an activity that a lot of us here find infinitely more enjoyable than selecting summon>>knights of the round twice to beat the game… maybe with a healing spell thrown in there.
“this game is going to fail hard. the high definition lcd/plasma tv, 720p, 1080p, widescreen, shallow gamers/graphic whores are going to rip this game to shreds.”
Failure and being torn to shreds by graphics whores are not automatically a package deal. There are more people bellyaching about tiny text in Mass Effect 2 on their SD screens than there will be people analyzing grass textures in Xenoblade.
Also, calling FFXII a 60-hour cutscene because it offers some level of combat automation is a silly strawman argument that really should have died in 2006 back when everyone played the game for themselves.
wouldn’t the plate be graphics and the story be the steak? I’ve never really found somebody that could compare story in a game to a plate. That would be a very odd proposal. Not impossible based on a persons perspective, but still odd.
The screens remind me more of of FFXI than anything. Odd.
I guess Ogre Battle is a point and click automated game then? Because all you really do is point and click to send your units somewhere and then the battles happen automatically.
The fact that you could literally play through FF XII while putting your controller down for several minutes and progress killed it for me. Those of y’all saying “you can customize so that it plays itself” are totally missing the point: The game has *less* interactivity than a QTE-fest like Shenmue or Indigo Prophecy, which constantly get railed on.
I loved FF XII’s writing and presentation (outstanding voice cast).. but the gameplay was a joke. When your game’s claim to fame is that you can play it *without* playing it, you have nothing to brag about. I’ll take an iceberg-slow battle engine like Xenosaga Episode I over FF XII’s, because at least I’m playing a substantive combat engine rather than a MMORPG-lite autopilot.
Finally, a game featuring an androgynous protagonist with a comically oversize weapon! The future is now!
I’m dying to know how the “put your controller down for minutes” people set up their Gambits. The Great Crystal, the Pharos, and the endgame (not to mention over half the Hunts and all Espers) had me fighting for my life in spite of my lengthy pre-battle License/Gambit/equipment preparations. If you could share screens or text descriptions of those Gambits so I could survive those rough spots, I’d be much obliged :D
Wait, people actually FINISHED FFXII?
HOW? Not even Parish would admit to that.
I’m happy that the beautiful scenery will help distract me from the rather distressing character designs.
You know you could turn off gambits, right? FFXII gave you many ways to play it; you chose the one you least enjoyed, and then blamed the game for your choice.
In any case, do we know Xenoblade isn’t going for a more Star Ocean / Kingdom Hearts system, where you have complete control over the main character while the automation handles the allies?
I just re-read the article, and judging by the line “the hero and your choice of two AI-controlled friends”, I’m going to guess that the KH/SO thing is more accurate.
I, for one, am all for more custom character AI.
Having played through and beaten FFXII twice, I couldn;t get enough of it.
Though I do wish Yasumi Matsuno hadn’t gotten the short end of the stick. The story would have been less the plate, and more the inviting side.
Any word on who’s composing the soundtrack? I’d kill for a new game to temper my Misuda withdrawal.
Create a world as full of life as Ivalice an I’m sold. Final Fantasy XII was JRPGs grown up.
FFXII is the Chrono Trigger of its generation. History repeats itself: A dream team under Square’s banner makes a game that dares to break out of the rigid and tiresome formula of its day, and the industry stubbornly ignores their innovations. Of course, the flaw in this analogy is that Chrono Trigger is still a better game, but that’s FFXII for you – brilliance and disappointment walking hand-in-hand.
I have been amazed for so long by the lack of FFXII copycats. That game had the best battle system ever and I would play anything resembling it.
“The game plays itself” was to 2006 what “you need to summon again and again and smash X like crazy to get anywhere” was to 1999.
In all honesty, you could only ever set the controller down with certainty of not being killed during boss battles if you did the level grind and made your fighters invincible – in which case, you’re just going through the motions anyways to see the plot progress. Why are you complaining then?
I adored Final Fantasy XII. The open world, the amazing music and graphics that pushed the PS2 to the limits of its capabilities, the voice acting, the mark hunts… I easily spent over 100 hours playing it without even noticing, and the only other games that have come close to having that effect on me were Skies of Arcadia and Dragon Quest VIII.
I also think Dragon Age really could have learnt a few things from the battle system of FFXII, as it made controlling the whole party and queing up commands a breeze.
Having said all that, I do like to play a more linear RPG from time to time just to keep things varied, though I personally have found Xenogears and the Xenosaga games to be completely impenetrable. Maybe I will try and enjoy them again some day, but I’ve tried several times already and found them really hard going.
Unfortunately, I am also in the camp of not really enjoying Final Fantasy XII. To me, it seemed to ape some of what BioWare does with their games, but the game felt too grind-happy to me. Honestly, it felt like a single-player MMORPG, and that’s certainly not what I’m looking for in my gaming. The real irony in this is that I’ve enjoyed a few of BioWare’s games, mainly because they seemed better paced. The difficulty curves seem more balanced, at the very least.
That being said, I sunk 30 hours in before hitting a brick wall and giving up. That means it’s not all bad, and for those of you that enjoy this type of game, I can mostly understand why.
I think gameplay mechanics like exploration and automation come a lot easier to Western developers than Japanese developers, so by the end of FF12’s development Square was so exhausted they didn’t have any energy left to convince customers to like the innovations.
Companies and cultures have to play to their strengths. The west is beating Japan at gameplay innovation. What can Japan still do better than the west?
“Companies and cultures have to play to their strengths. The west is beating Japan at gameplay innovation. What can Japan still do better than the west?”
Uh, make character designs that look genuinely cute or attractive without looking like some hideous abomination that makes me wanna blow my brains out?
Really though, I think a big part of the increase in quality of western games has to do with the PC boys moving into the console market and making good console games instead of just releasing shoddy ports of good PC games, as well as genuinely good console western game developers like Insomniac and WayForward.
i agree with metal man master. when it comes to art direction, character designs, music and polish, japanese developers rule over western developers.
Final Fantasy XII had an interesting battle system, which I enjoyed for that game, but would not want to see mimicked. I want to see a DIFFERENT battle system in each game, using traditional turn-based RPGs as the starting point to branch in different directions. FFXII was one interesting direction; time for the next one. Unfortunately, the gaming world doesn’t really agree with me. Every RPG has to be an “Action RPG” unless it’s on a handheld system, now.
FF XII is so not an action RPG.
@Flint – You would have a point if all those features weren’t entirely optional. I played through the game using basically no gambits, constantly pausing to issue new commands all the time and had a blast. The ability to set ai behavior is nothing new in rpgs, and has been around since Baldur’s Gate and such, and again, its completely optional. The fact that its so expansive that you can make the game play itself is to its credit. BUT, you don’t have to use it at all, so putting so much complaint on a largely optional feature is silly.
Btw why does Dragon Age not get the same complaints? Its ai controls are almost identical to FFXII.
@Parish The story is the biggest complaint about the game sure, but I think largely it gets the job done and keeps you interested throughout, even if things are never explained all that well.
The inherent problem with this article and, as a result, comments is that is that author misinterpreted Takahashi’s explanation. He described a controlled auto-activation system where your controlled character excecutes his turn after a set period of time and between turns you make selections of what actions to be taken. Not a full-out automated, MMO-style system.
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