• Final Fantasy XII 9th Anniversary Review I

    At the time of its release in 2006, Final Fantasy XII was probably the most innovative single player RPG of its time. Yet, it was also one of the most derivative works Square Enix ever produced. Final Fantasy XII is truly a mash-up of the original and the influenced, all set up in a nice package of political intrigue and deep mythology.

    Final Fantasy XII is part of the “Ivalice Alliance”, a series of games based in the world of Ivalice that was introduced in Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997. The connection between these games seems to be a bit of a fan service at times, yet the connections between this game and the Tactics series seem to be more deeply rooted than the connection with Vagrant Story.

    Much like Tactics, which chronologically follows Final Fantasy XII, this story is very political instead of “Let’s save the world from this big bad”. The story sits in a morally gray area. Prince Rasler of Nabradia recently married Princess Ashelia B’Nargin Dalmasca of the small Kingdom of Dalmasca. When the Archadian Empire, which is long at war with the Empire of Rozarria, looks to expand its control by invading Nabradia, Prince Rasler leads the charge to protect his homeland, leaving behind his bride.

    Unfortunately, the paling upon Nabradia’s Nalbina Fortress fell, and Prince Rasler was slain by an enemy arrow. Soon after, Archadia invaded the Dalmascan capital of Rabinastre. King Raminas, the father of Princess Ashe, was to sign a peace treaty in hopes of saving his people from the plague of war. This is where the opening video ends and you gain control of a Private in the Order of the Knights of Dalmasca, Reks.

    A rumor began spreading that the peace signing was a front for the assassination of King Raminas. Captain Basch fon Rosenburg, Captain Vossler York Azelas, Reks, and a crew of unnamed soldiers rushes to the King in order to thwart the Archadians deception. When Reks finally makes it to the throne room, he is taken back by the dead bodies that surround him, including that of the King. When he turns, he is shocked to see Captain Basch standing before him, sticking a dagger into his abdomen. “Why… Captain…”

    Fast forward to the present. Captain Basch has been executed for Regicide, Princess Ashe has been rumored to have commited suicide, and the Archadians are in control of the Kingdom. The Rabanastrians are second class citizens in their own home; the streets are filled with urchins, many of whom lost their families due to the war. One of those urchins is the protagonist of Final Fantasy XII, Vaan.

    Vaan is the brother of Reks. Their parents were taken by disease many years before. Vaan went to live with his friend Penelo and her family. Tragically, they also died in the war and Vaan and Penelo were left orphans. Vaan spends his time as a thief. From his dress, you can see an Aladdin influence. I imagine that’s what Disney’s Aladdin would’ve looked like if Hitler had won World War II.

    Penelo is the personification of Vaan’s conscience. She’s the Jiminy Cricket to his Pinocchio. Penelo makes due by doing odd jobs for the local shopkeeper Migelo, a Bangaa who makes sure to give the orphans of Rabanastre some honest work to keep them out of trouble. Vaan finds these odd jobs a bore and wishes to one day own an Airship. He wishes to be a sky pirate and be free of the Archadian oppression.

    Vaan isn’t the only one wanting freedom from the Archadians. Later on, as he’s getting himself into trouble (which he promised Penelo he wouldn’t do), he runs into a couple of Sky Pirates, the debonair Balthier and his exotic partner, the Viera Fran. When the three of them face direct trouble from the Empire, they make their escape and come across a somewhat recognizable Resistance Fighter by the name of Amalia. To tell any more would be giving away too much for those who haven’t played the game.

    At this point, you’re a few hours into the game with much more to come. Thematically, the thing you’ll notice the most at this point is the glaring similarities to the Star Wars Series. Both are largely based in desert areas (Rabanastre/Dalmasca from Final Fantasy XII and Tatooine from Star Wars).

    Vaan could be viewed as the Luke Skywalker of the game, a young blond idiot who must learn his way to being a hero. Balthier and Fran fill in quite nicely for Han Solo and Chewbacca, a roguish outlaw, and his not so human humanoid companion. Balthier’s Strahl is Ivalice’s Millennium Falcon. Balthier and Fran also have a bounty on their heads and are chased by the sadistic bounty hunter Ba’Gamnan, much like how Han and Chewy were tailed by Boba Fett. The politics of Ivalice shadow the politics of the Galactic Empire, as you have a Princess leading a resistance against a ruthless, bigoted tyranny; outlaws that reluctantly join the resistance, and a sky city that plays it neutral but has its own agenda.

    The story is filled with intrigue, deception and most of all hope. Yes, hope is a large part of the narrative of Final Fantasy XII. From the Rabanatrians hope that things will turn out better for them, from Amalia’s hope to drive the Empire out of Dalmasca, to Vaan’s hope of getting away from it all, Hope is a main theme.

    Outside of the larger narrative, there’s the relationships between the characters. You have Vaan and Penelo, whose relationship has been labeled as both “brother and sister-like” and that of very young love. Personally, the latter seems more apt, as the bickering between the two comes off more like an old couple than a brother and sister going at each other.

    There’s also Balthier and Fran, whose relationship is eluded to as being more than business. But it isn’t the relationship between the two of them that is most interesting, but the relationship each has with their own pasts. All the characters must come to grips with their pasts in this game. Balthier’s and Fran’s stands out as neither is totally connected to the main narrative as the others. Not to give much away, both are running from their pasts, which were part of societies that they found restricting. Balthier, in particular, is running from a troubling past, which we won’t go into here.

    As for the side quest, almost all of them either involve hunting beasts or gathering items (hunting and gathering seems like a nice primordial theme for this game). The biggest side quest is Montblanc’s Clan Centurio. Various Hunts are available in the game, as many petitioners come across ghastly beasts they can’t handle themselves. The members of Clan Centurio take care of these baddies, and Vaan joins them early in the game. Unlike the mundane sidequests that filled past Final Fantasy games (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy X ) Final Fantasy XII’s side quest are mostly action based, with a few collecting items and giving them to certain characters. Other sidequest involve responding to characters in a certain way, guiding them to make the tough choices in life (as well as giving you cool weapons).

    The best part of the sidequests is that it allows you to visit the vast world of Ivalice. Unlike its descendant Final Fantasy XIII, it’s a large world that can be largely explored. Ivalice has vast deserts, jungles, frosted mountains, deep caves, and twisting mines. The ruins are haunting, the wastelands filled with horrifying beings. In contrast, the cities are filled with life. Seeq vendors jovially advertise their wares, Bangaa traders barter for a deal.

    There is quite a variety of races in Final Fantasy XII. Humes make up the largest group. Bangaas, reptilian like beings that don’t like the comparison seem to visually remind you of the Gungans from the Star Wars prequels. However, they are a hearty, tough race. Ba’Gamnan, his family of bounty hunters and Migelo are the most prominent Bangaas in the game. While the same race, they couldn’t be any more different from each other. Ba’Gamnan and his crew are vicious sociopaths, while Migelo is kind-hearted and sacrificing. The bounty hunters are mainly selfish and looking for their reward, only holding back when faced to face with one of the Empire’s Judge Magisters (the heads of the Archadian Army). Migelo shows reverence to the Empire as well, but only to protect those he cares about.

    Other races include Seeqs and Viera. Both have their good and bad characters as well. You’ll meet a ton of friendly porcine Seeqs in the cities, while in the Nalbina Dungeons you face off against a trio of boar-ish Dungeon Master rapists (or as they would be if this was an HBO production).

    As for the Viera, they are the race of Fran. They are tall, waifish figures, generally shown as female. They have long ears like a rabbit. They seem like something out of Hugh Hefner’s science fiction fantasies. The vast majority don’t like outsiders entering their Eruyt Village in Golmore Jungle. Viera who leave, such as Fran, aren’t generally welcomed back. Viera are said to lose connection with “The Wood” when they leave. This plays a big role in Fran’s story and why she says/does some things in the game.

    There are a few other races as well, one more of note is the Urutan-Yensa. Another Star Wars inspired race, they are a cross between Tusken Raiders and Jawas. Another group that doesn’t take well to outsiders. One does ask for help at a point, but you don’t want to know what they do to him. :ohnoes:

    And yes, there are Moogles. These are very bunny-like and wear cutesy costumes. They are all friendly and one of them, Nono, is an engineer for the Strahl, keeping it safe for when the party is away. The founder of Clan Centurio, Montblanc, is also a Moogle of note. In text they speak, but audibly they only make a cutesy little animal sound.

    Of all the single player Final Fantasy games, this one probably has the most diversity. Both friend and foe appear in various races, even though your team is Hume heavy (sequels to Final Fantasy Tactics rectifies this, so hold off on the letter writing campaign).

    The races we all really care about, though, in an RPG are the races of fiends which we cross paths. There’s a large amount of undead in this game (fitting for a game that was released in the US/Canada on October 31st). The Necrohol of Nabudis is filled with these horrors and might be the most frightening place in a Final Fantasy game. Outside of the undead, you have a large variety of canines, ranging from desert Wolves to Hyenas and terrifying Cerebus. You’ll also come across the Mandragoras and their distant desert cousins the Cactoids, who add a little light-heartedness to the mix.

    Final Fantasy XII is much more than a world and characters. Tomorrow, we’ll cover the gameplay mechanics and abilities, including the Espers and Gambit System. We’ll also look at how the License Board works in both the Standard and International Zodiac Job System editions of the game.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Final Fantasy XII 9th Anniversary Review I started by Colonel Angus View original post
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Depression Moon's Avatar
      Depression Moon -
      Ah yes, I remember it clearly. It was the first game I preordered and had fully paid before hand at Gamestop. I think actually it is still the only one. Well, I remember picking up my collector's edition that day and playing the game that night just a little bit before the trick or treaters came to the house. There's no feeling like loading up a Final Fantasy game the first time and this world captivated me for the time being until the story started to get absent around the desert area.
      I was dressed as Dr. Salvador from Resident Evil 4 that night too and scared a few people. It was neat. A great game that excels way more in the gameplay than in the story and music like most other Final Fantasys. I've still yet to play XIII yet and I'm eager to try out XV. Thanks for the memories FFXII.
    1. Ayen's Avatar
      Ayen -
      Played it as a teenager, got real into it until the tutorial ended, then dropped it. Came back to it as an adult and loved it. Ashe and Balthier are my favorite characters. Though honestly, I preferred the characters and the story to the gameplay at times. Especially the minigames. Not a fan of the Monster Hunts. The world map didn't do any favors for my Ryouga Syndrome. Got lost more often than not.

      Didn't care much for the blatant ripping off of Star Wars, but that is neither here nor there.
    1. CactuarKing's Avatar
      CactuarKing -
      Spent a lot of time on this game, but for some reason it did not grip me like FFX.

      Gambits kind of ruined it a bit for me, as they automated most things and it just felt like walking-from-place-A-to-place-B-and-letting-the-console-do-the-fighting-for-me affair. This is an unfortunate trait that FFXIII inherited whereby you only controlled one character and job classes dictated the actions that would be taken.
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