Editorial: Revisiting Final Fantasy XII

Over the past year or so, I have had the distinct craving to play Final Fantasy XII again. I held off for a bit on the vague hope that an HD version would be announced. But seeing how long it has taken Squareenix to even give us a look at Final Fantasy X HD, I decided it was a bit of a silly reason to hold off.

Watch boring characters in exciting combat!

The perfect single player MMO.

I apparently lost my copy, so after an emergency borrow from a friend, I re-embarked on the quest for the Ash Stones. Er, or Sun Princesses. Or whatever the plot is supposed to be about.

Although, to be fair, it was plot that was the first thing to surprise me. The game gets so caught up in uninteresting things later on that I forgot that the intrigue is pretty strong out of the gate. While it takes a bit for actual gameplay to start, the game marries and kills off a young royal couple, starts a war and reveals a traitorous kingslayer in its opening sequences.

Hell, despite his croptop, even Vaan’s humble beginnings are promising. Clichéd, sure, but the next surprise for me was recognizing how many clichés the game rolls out at the start.

The reluctant thief, underground waterways, a secret passage in a castle, being thrown in prison and losing all equipment and weapons for a short time. The game feels so fleshed out and genuine, that it took me until this playthrough to recognize how familiar the scenarios were.

It has been mentioned before, but now after the Final Fantasy XIII games I am doubly impressed at the incredibly natural voiceover and dialogue work in XII. Especially at the beginning when the characters are still interesting and Balthier first enters the picture. They do not just talk about their drama or the main quest or their sappy all-encompassing views on life or where to find their big sister. The characters actually just seem to act according to the situations they are in. For a JRPG, it is especially refreshing.

I mean sure, Vaan is hung up on a sibling as well, but he does not go around in a permanent melodramatic state. Seeing that Final Fantasy XII came out six years ago, it is both impressive and upsetting to see that it is still one of the finest examples of scene tone and direction in gaming.

In fact, it still blows my mind a little that this game seemed to be so ignored by non-RPG fans in terms of its accomplishments. The size of the world, the depth of the lore, the life in the streets. I cannot think of many games even in the current generation that has a town as brought to life as Rabanastre.

The point is that I am very much enjoying my return to the game. I am both appreciating the music more and becoming more steadfast in my opinion that it is far too epic far too often.

I realize that I will likely start to lose some of my interest after I gain all the party members, the scale of the world becomes less novel, and the story becomes far less interesting. But I have no regrets about peeking into the best of Final Fantasy XII and the things I hoped it would be and the things I forgot it was.

11 Comments

  1. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.31 at 12:29 | Permalink

    Yeah, that was pretty much my response when I started playing it for a second time. I had forgotten that the opening was actually quite good.

  2. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.07.31 at 12:34 | Permalink

    I think that perhaps the biggest tragedy is that we didn’t get a proper XII-2, as it would have been far more useful than a sequel to XIII. Imagine, the strong foundation of XII with an actual story… *sigh* it’s probably just as well, they’d only have given it to Toriyama to squander..

  3. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.31 at 12:55 | Permalink

    @SN: Totally agree. We needed a XII-2. We did not need a X-2.

    I suppose it saves us having to see Dancing Penelo, clad in belts.

  4. Mel
    Posted 2012.07.31 at 13:31 | Permalink

    But guys, they DID give us something more from the XII world. Revnant Wings, a handheld game that was likely easy to shit out at a low cost because that’s always what happens to the RPGs I like as opposed to the ones I despise. Those games get serialized and given so many chances to improve on what they did wrong.

    What? I’m not mad.

  5. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.08.01 at 00:12 | Permalink

    WHY did you mention Revenant Wings? KEEP IT CLEAN!

  6. Mel
    Posted 2012.08.01 at 00:36 | Permalink

    Well, that’s why I wrote “Revnant Wings”. It wasn’t a typo, I was just trying to be tasteful, like writing BULLSHT. Incidentally it sums up my thoughts on the title.

  7. evilpaul
    Posted 2012.08.01 at 06:07 | Permalink

    One of my problems with FFXII is that sure Rabanastre is awesome, but it’s also obvious they blew like 20% of the budget making it huge, lively and amazing and less so on what comes after. There’s a lot of environments that are just huge and empty and forgettable. The next biggest place is that Sun Cryst tower which is the second biggest dungeon of any in a JRPG I’ve played. I don’t count the Triple Corkscrew Prison of FFVIII because that game is objectively speaking worse than permadeath and somewhere, perhaps less bad, than pedophilia. (I view FFVIII negatively.)

  8. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2012.08.01 at 09:04 | Permalink

    FVIII’s corkscrew isn’t huge – it’s only one room that you have to run through ten times!

  9. Korusi
    Posted 2012.08.05 at 11:58 | Permalink

    I think my problem with FF12 is more that it feels like a one player MMO…. The story gets too easily sidetracked by everything else going on that it doesn’t feel important or pressing to complete. With FF7 at the very least you had a meteor hurtling to the planet pressing you to finish the game…. so all the sidequests you did didn’t matter because there was something looming in the distance reminding you that you have to hurry.

    While I like the characters and the idea I don’t think it was well executed. If the game had better gameplay and less grinding it might have been fine but…

    With that said I think I should say that FF12 isn’t the only Final Fantasy I feel this way about… Final Fantasy 3 while probably the most interesting NES Final Fantasy did have a somewhat weak story. It hinged on the quest and even the updated version where you don’t have nameless heroes doesn’t give you that feeling of desire to love the characters or the events that take place.

    Final Fantasy 1 while it had nameless heroes was just the first and is a classic NES game… so it gets a pass. Nevermind the fact that right out the gate it introduces the paradox of evil always recycling it’s self. Much the same way Necron in FF9 says that he is eternal as well. (I still think that Necron came out of left field but it’s sort of a callback to the more classic games in the series where the final boss says the same thing in each one. Such as FF1 and 4)

  10. The Legendary Zoltan
    Posted 2012.08.14 at 19:52 | Permalink

    I think XII might be my favorite FF with VIII as a close second.

    I agree that they give you all the good story right at the beginning and ending and not much during all the middle stuff. I totally LOVED the gambit system though. I want to make a system where I never have to micromanage anything. Hahaha. I also thought the music was great despite being such a departure from the usual FF lot.

  11. Mel
    Posted 2012.08.14 at 20:53 | Permalink

    I feel like there was still a fair amount of micromanagement in XII, especially in some of the harder Esper fights, where you need to modify a lot of the Gambits on the fly. But, for the most part, you didn’t have to do that.

    Personally, I wish the Gambits were more detailed (I may have said this here before), and allow for more precise directions.