Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ragequit - Final Fantasy XII

This post will contain spoilers from the game, so if you would rather not see any for whatever reason, you may want to skip this one.

The year is 2006.  Five years after the last Final Fantasy that many will argue was the last "real" Final Fantasy to that point (since "MMOs don't count", apparently, regardless of how much storyline is there) the air is thick with anticipation, both positive and negative as all titles in the series will ultimately face on release, as the next one is upon us.  Carrying a story behind the game almost more interesting than the one featured -in- the game, one of the more divisive games in the franchise is launched October 31st in America.


The backlash became widely known.over time though perhaps not critically and definitely not economically.

I'll stop writing like I know how the climate of the situation was back then.  Because, in all honesty, I didn't buy FFXII when it first came out.  I didn't hear about it, I didn't really care to read about it; I simply wasn't that interested in the Final Fantasy franchise.  But I did buy it eventually.  And it's probably the easiest game for me to write about in this first installment of the "Ragequit" series, for reasons I'm sure you can imagine at least right now.

I was not a fan of FFXII.  At all.  It's hard to not type down some sort of qualifier for that statement like "It's an understatement" or "I'm bordering on outright lying by not writing a string of vitriol here", but I'm not going to.  Because in truth, all I have to say is the truth.  In absolutely no way, shape or form, was I a fan of the game.

What is...what...no.
This right here is probably the very first image of the game I saw.  Way back in one of the various magazines that I got at the time, I remember seeing the words "Final Fantasy XII Details Inside!" emblazoned on the cover, and going "Eh." before opening it to simply leaf through it as I usually do when I first get a magazine, saving the actual reading for later.  And when I hit the section for Final Fantasy XII, you couldn't help but see that picture or the other, possibly more-known pose.  It was unavoidable, and it was atrocious.  I was already unconcerned with the game as it was, and that certainly didn't help.
What also didn't help was that he was an entirely useless character throughout the whole of the game.  Not only was he useless, really, but he was annoying.  Which is, of course, worse than just being a waste of everybody's time and space.  The game starts off in what I will always remember as one of the worst cock-teases in my entire gaming life, in which you actually start out playing as the fairly decent brother of Vaan, Reks.

I say fairly decent, as he wasn't really developed in the miniscule window he existed, but he was far, far better than he-who-would-be-MC, Captain Inverse Abs Vaan.  For that small time when you're playing as him, it simply feels mediocre, but not particularly offensive; you're on some sort of mission with an older knight, Basch, and it's just alright.  Were the game to get better, it would have certainly just been a subdued start to something entertaining.  As it stands, it shines as one of the few times you won't hate a single person in your party.

The section ends unexpectedly with failure, Reks receiving wounds that later wind up fatal in the cutscene that introduces our fantastic little Protagonist.  About a few hours later, Reks is simply gone from the game.  This is after Vaan parties with Penelo (Who is almost irrelevant as soon as she joins), fails at being a thief, runs across two new characters who are totally not analogues for Han Solo and Chewbacca in this whole mess, and generally just attempts being something that he is not:  interesting.

They even have an airship!  Separately, their tropes would make them simply generic, of course.
The rest of the game can be summed up by throwing around terrible clich├ęs from more popular movies and TV shows and the knowledge that yes, the Empire is still the enemy at any given time.  Well, except for the ending, which, I won't even bother spoiling.  I'll just say it's dumb and leave it at that, since it basically just goes crazy for no reason.

The License Board is one of the least offensive parts of the game.
The rest of the game is no better; the battle system plays out like a poor single-player MMO for some reason, and the hated-or-lauded Gambit system could make the game play with itself in certain situations, namely being when you got one of those points with infinitely respawning enemies and set it up so you had near-zero chance of actually dying.  Walk away, come back a few hours later, and hey, your party has super-leveled!  While not as bad as one could make them out to be, the sheer complexity of it, rather than a simple slightly-more-custom-than-normal Tactics system (as in, beyond, "Heal dudes" and "Hit things") makes it unattractive at the very least.

Bear witness to the breaking point.
Everything mentioned isn't even the biggest problem I had with this game.  The biggest problem that eventually drove me to ragequit (see?  This is where the classification comes from) the game were the Hunts.  Well, not even the hunts.  I should say -one- hunt:  The goddamn Trickster.

This goddamn chocobo was insane.  Not only was it -huge-, but it could cast crazy powerful spells, move really really quickly, as chocobos do, but it could turn invisible and render the stupid attack targeting useless.  Upon coming out of invisibility, it would already be casting the new spell so, by the time your attacks have queued up, you're in a severe amount of pain.  The windows to actually hit it is small, it has 61,321, can cast Paling which renders it immune to physical damage, and can, during those times, only be harmed by one element that will change over the course of the battle, leaving the other elements to actually heal it.  In short, this goddamn thing is more monster than it is bird.

At the time I got the quest to go out and actually look for this thing, my interest in the game was beyond waning; The story was going nowhere (and barely does, regardless), the characters were more or less completely uninteresting (Basch and Balthier being the exceptions but only barely so), and it just was more of a boring chore than a gaming romp.  And after getting demolished soundly a few times, I just gave up, as it just wasn't worth it.

Even he's unimpressed with the game.  And he's -in- it!

Anymore, I'm not even angry at FFXII.  I can't even muster up enough to actively hate it anymore.  It's just not worth it.  You know when you hear, "Son, I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed" and you go, "Oh noooo, that's even worse!", well, that's what it is.  I'm just disappointed in FFXII from start to finish with what it ended up as, when it could have been so much better.  Other resources have covered it better, but, in essence, XII was going to be a completely different game than what it ended up as.  Unfortunately, Squeenix managed to drive the Director, Yasumi Matsuno, so crazy that he left the company completely.

It's hard to argue definitively that the game would have been better with him than it was without him, but looking at the product that we're left with, it's not necessarily wrong to hope that it could have been, well, good.

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