Tuesday Top Ten: Disappointments in Final Fantasy XII

It’s Tuesday, and we know what that means—time for another Tuesday Top Ten!  Each week, we run down the top ten somethings-or-other at least tangentially related to gaming.  This week, it’s the top ten disappointing or just head-scratching elements in Final Fantasy XII.

Yes, I know we recently ended our discussion on the Final Fantasy series, but in researching the article series, I was reminded of this game.  Over all, I enjoyed it, but there were quite a few moments of scratching my head, wondering why it was thought this or that was a good idea—and a few that I was pretty sure I knew the answer for.

Now, again, I liked the game.  The political intrigue in the plot was interesting, different than the “save the princess” stories that usually came before, and there was a strong female protagonist in Ashe (her choice of a miniskirt with an emphasis on “mini” as part of her outfit notwithstanding).  Yet—there were quite a few things that I found either sadly disappointing, or head-scratchingly confusing.

This is also the last time we’ll delve into Final Fantasy for at least a little while, I promise!

10. Viera
This one falls under the “Yes, I know the reason…” category of the disappointing side of things.  I mean, look at this image of Fran (though it’s from Revenant Wings, it’s not any better than her appearance in XII proper).  Then there’s this image of a couple of other Viera.

It’s a race made for one thing and one thing alone—fan-service.  Unlike most of the other fan-service Square-Enix has done in its time, this was of a decidedly more—base—variety.  That the race to a member generally had the personalities of kumquats certainly didn’t help any.

09. Lack of an Airship
Okay, yes, I know you technically get access to the Strahl late in the game, but it really functioned more like a “travel-skip” option than anything else.  That’s what makes this a head-scratching idea.  I would have imagined having no access to an airship at all would have been better than this, or perhaps something like Final Fantasy XI‘s version; airships as mass-transit where you wait at a “station” for the ship to arrive at a certain time.  Either way, it was one of the things that disappointed me the most.

As we discussed, airship travel is one of the things that branch out through most of the series, and most of the time, it was player-controlled, and you could even walk around the ship in question.  The Strahl was a tiny thing, sure, so not having the option to walk around the ship is understandable.  Unfortunately, due to the map structure of the world itself, having a player-controlled ship that can go wherever the player wants wouldn’t necessarily have worked, either—but there was seemingly no attempt at a middle ground; something like more “drop points” or something, perhaps.

08. Constricting Level Layout
Much of the world consists of bite-sized levels, where the walls feel like they’re closing in.  Compared to previous titles, there’s hardly any room to really explore.  It made navigating through some of the territories downright tedious.

Even the more open areas tend to restrict just where you can go due to the design of the area.  That even those areas feel smaller doesn’t help any.

07. Chocobos
Thinking about travel, chocobos underwent an interesting change.  Like quite a bit of the rest of the game, it was more in-line with its M.M.O. XI counterpart.  You “rented” chocobos for a short time; how long at a time varied.  What matters, though, is that when the time expired you got dumped on your tuchus, no matter where you were.

The times alloted were never really enough, unless you knew exactly where you were going and how to get there, and could calculate which rental place was the best to start out from.  It really took part of the fun out of having the chocobo in the first place, and can make one’s first play-through somewhat disappointing.

06. Switcharoo Protagonists
Interesting development note—originally, Basch was going to be the protagonist, but it switched to Vaan and Penelo—who were added to the story at the last minute—because of “taking into consideration the target demographic“.

This is felt most keenly in how the youthful pair really don’t have much of a cohesive storyline, themselves, and they kind of fall by the wayside late in the game.  You can even forget they’re around, as the story focuses on Basch, Ashe, and the political intrigue that abounds.  This leads to a somewhat disjointed feel, since they were shoved in at the last second and thus didn’t get their story arcs smoothed out and woven into the game very fluidly.

Interestingly, one might remember jokes about, shall we say, Vaan’s masculinity that were passed around gamer-to-gamer at the time.  If it weren’t for the Japanese voice actor Kôhei Takeda, Vaan would have been even more effeminate.  Takeda’s input made them change the character into simply being more upbeat and positive.

05. Gambits
On the face of things, I didn’t mind the Gambit system too much.  It certainly seemed like it could make battles a little easier—but then again, it’s not like battles were ever all that challenging in the first place.  The issue comes when one realizes that, structured even half-properly, the gamer can set the controller down and watch the battle unfold for them.

The issue with that is that it takes away a lot of the interactivity.  As it is, games are still something like racing/fighting to get to the next cut-scene, which we watch passively.  Gambits made it so the battles could be passive, too.  It made for a much less interactive experience, and thus a somewhat more disappointing one.

04. License Board
More of a head-scratcher, this.  Previous games had Ability Points, which were pretty straightforward.  You used this or that item a lot, you gained Ability Points from battles, and eventually you “mastered” the ability the item granted.  In some cases that meant you could use the ability without having the item equipped, and in others it meant the ability was more powerful.

What made the License Board confusing was its layout.  It was never exactly clear where certain things on the board would be, and as such if you wanted to try and get the characters to specific points, almost like giving them “jobs”, it was sometimes simple guesswork—combined with saving and reloading—to figure out what you wanted them to have.

03. Quickenings
The new form of the Limit Break required incredibly quick reflexes to press buttons as the appeared on the screen.

That, right there, made it disappointing, since it was so frantic and hectic.  Button-mashing mini-games aren’t exactly anything new to the series.  However, they weren’t really this frequent in the same game.  The closest that comes to mind, in terms of frequency in the same game, are Tifa’s and Cait Sith’s Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy VII, which were more slot machine-like mini-games than anything else.

02. Those Four Chests
You know which chests I’m talking about.  The ones you don’t open to get the game’s ultimate weapon.  The requirements to obtain this weapon (at least to guarantee that you’d get it; there was another spot where it might be obtained, though there was less than a snowball’s chance) were nuts, even by Final Fantasy standards.

It’s not like there weren’t occasional moments of, “How in the heck was I supposed to know this?!” in previous games, or anything—but rarely, if ever, with this sort of hand-slapping involved.  Further, they rarely if ever involved such a basic, intrinsic aspect of the setting—opening chests.  You see a chest, you open it.  That’s how it went.  There was nothing, at all, to really even suggest to the player that opening every single chest may not be a good idea.

01. Monsters Absolutely Everywhere
The world of Final Fantasy XII was, in a word, beautiful.  Even if many of the actual levels were—or at least felt—confined and restricting, they were nonetheless interesting to look at.  They made the player want to just dicker around and go see what was “over there”.  The problem with that—the monsters.

Due to an attempt to make the game more streamlined, to keep random battles from taking the player out of the map and keep the immersion intact, they tipped their hat yet again to Final Fantasy XI by having the monsters roam the map.  Battles were fought on the map without transition.  That’s actually fine, as far as it goes.  The problem is that they were so numerous it made travel incredibly difficult, more than it had to be.

While it would be different for every gamer, for me what drove it home was the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea.  Even after being insanely over-leveled for the area, I found it tedious to simply explore an area that was, to me, incredibly interesting.  Nearly the entire game is like that, and it made exploration—another staple of the series—a chore rather than an adventure.


4 Responses to “Tuesday Top Ten: Disappointments in Final Fantasy XII

  1. Elisa Michelle Says:

    See, I bought that game, left it at my boyfriend’s house, then broke up with him a day later. Never got that damn game back. But I loved the monster battles in that game — at first. After a while, I admit I got lost and just wandered around killing things without furthering the plot. But I liked Fran, though the lack of clothing was just… pointless as usual. F(r)an service to the max, definitely. Wink, wink.

    All vulgar jokes aside, the game was definitely gorgeous. I wish I had managed to at least complete the storyline.

    • You should be able to pick it up on the cheap. If you don’t have (or if it can’t be found at) a used game store, you might want to check out pawn stores. Sometimes people pawn their games instead of taking them to a used game store.

      • Elisa Michelle Says:

        I never thought to look at pawn shops for games. I should check that out.

      • In the western United States, pawning games and gaming paraphernalia isn’t as popular. In the South, though, it’s incredibly popular, even though they have stores like GameStop and whatever mom-and-pop places. So you never know, and thus I’m glad I gave you that idea.

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