Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Final Fantasy 12

I wrote this for a post on 1up.com's RPG blog earlier:
FF12 is a strange animal. It discards some of the series' antiquated things like random battles. It leaves the World Map for travel between locations in the dustbin (where it seems to be staying). And adds a system of Hunts which are much like the Notorious Monsters in FF11. It also has one of the most internally consistent, cohesive, and generally good story of any Final Fantasy game. It also really managed to balance the Cinematic RPG with the old school gameplay/battle system RPG.

It has some problems though.

The world of Ivalice, as imagined in FF12, is huge and takes a long time to traverse like the world in an MMO. There's some fast travel, sure. But the gigantic world seriously hurts the pacing. I thought, and I've seen others thought the same, that the game had most of its story in the bestiary (and there is a huge amount of info in there, just look at the info on the Espers). I also got the feeling that they could have left Vaan and Penelo out of the game entirely and had Basche or Ashe as the main character. But after watching all the cutscenes again, on a certain website, in a period of a few hours spread out over a few days instead of over dozens of hours over two months I realized how wrong I was. It made sense. It tied up loose ends. It resolved most or all of the character's conflicts by the end of the game. That, to me, is a good story in a JRPG.

The battle system wasn't very well balanced. The Espers seemed mostly useless. They were as frail as party members if not more so. They didn't do devastating damage or at least I never could squeeze any out of them. The Quickenings were similar. I'd chain a bunch of crazy looking spacy attacks together for what seemed like quite a while. Probably longer than it takes to sit through Knights of the Round. And then get crap damage. And all my dude's MP is gone. I ended up seeing it like a Shin Megami Tensei game. I'd beat things to death with physical attacks and save MP for healing afterwards. I'll only really use magic for healing to save gil.

The Hunts themselves I wasn't really a fan of. Unless you're reading a FAQ, I find it hard to believe you wouldn't spend most of your time wandering around trying to figure out where the stupid monster is half the time. They really were integral to the game, but they also directly undercut the game by further screwing up the pacing. You have to spend 2 hours wandering through the Sand Sea area to get to your next plot point. And there's 3 hours worth of Hunts to further derail the narrative. There was also the issue that they didn't really provide you any idea what the actual difficulty would be in-game.

FF12, a great, but flawed game.
I may update this with links to the intro and all the in-game cutscenes in FF12 if I look them up again on Youtube. If you didn't like FF12, you may think more highly of it if you watch the cutscenes again.

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