So I’ve finally finished Final Fantasy XII. Took me about 4 weeks and 65 hours. I can now say that I’ve completed 3 of the 5 Final Fantasy games I’ve played. Never finished 8 or 10. 10 I won’t finish because I already know the ending, and I don’t need to make the emo-ending any worse for me than it already is.
So I decided to write an informal comparison of the Final Fantasy series, why some of their stories are just not as epic as VII.
I give Final Fantasy XII a 6 out of 10. The reason I never finished it the first time I played it 4 years ago (I got halfway through it) was because the story was way too complicated, I was completely lost and didn’t know what was going on, and it was extremely hard. All my fault. I do have to mention this: the score would have been lower had I not realised that the world of Ivalice is much more expansive, used in other Final Fantasy games (Tactics, Vagrant Story, and sequal: Revenant Wings), so in essence, XII was just a piece of the Ivalice story. That redeemed the unsatisfying taste I had in my mouth while playing it. But don’t get me wrong, I love XII’s characters, I love the world and the races, everything about it. I just didn’t care for the actual story. I’m going to tell you why.
Take the story of Final Fantasy VII: you are immediately thrown into the fray. Granted, the catch is a little cliche (grumpy mercenary who has no recollection of the past), but the cliche is pardoned as the story goes on. You are immediately made aware of a deeper goal, a political conspiracy. Emotions are pulled as ruthless acts are committed early on in the story. You learn of the antagonist within the first quarter of the story, and the short chance meetings you have with the antagonist make him (Sephiroth) even more enticing and interesting. Character development is excellent, every character is emotionally involved with the plot and the stakes, everyone has a reason to be there (except for maybe Yuffie. Never did care for her much, but then again, I never care much for any “third” female character in the FF stories). The MC has a direct link to the antagonist, and even gets involved with the evil scheme. Characters are killed, things never really go their way and though you (of course) end up going to most every spot of the planet, it never really feels like a go-here-now-go-there-now-there etc. Perhaps the fact that you’re “chasing” the antagonist, all the while trying to evade the big bad government and its cronies, help to subdue the linear feeling of traveling. Also, events at every location have enough impact and last long enough to not give you the feeling of rushing through every locale. When the world is at stake, the ending is always good.
Now, let me explain why Final Fantasy XII didn’t quite do it for me (spoilers…even though whoever reads this has probably finished XII years ago, or has absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. I’m analysing story structure here, not Square’s reputation. I will always always always love Square and the FF series). I have to say that my favourite part of the story was the beginning in Rabanstre. A story was developing, and interest is at 100%. But after meeting the next few characters quite early on and then leaving Rabanstre, the story becomes so painfully linear. It felt as if it was all about getting from point A to point B. But aside from the game itself, I feel as if the story’s MC should have been Ashe…or Balthier. Vaan just did not do it for me (almost like Tidus), and as usual, I favored the characters with a stronger goal (Basch and Ashe). I liked the fact that a lot of allies temporarily join you, but here’s what bothers me most about the story.
Developed absolutely no aversion to, knowledge, or fear of the antagonist. In fact, it seemed you were just fighting an invisible antagonist because you knew so little of him. If they had developed Lord Vayne a little better even before he murdered his father, it would have helped. It also would have helped to actually been there as these turning points happened, rather than just having some cut scene. In fact, the MC’s first encounter with the main antagonist was at the very last scene!! Totally not right. I couldn’t care less what happened to Vayne, nor did his mockeries and insults affect me.
Asides from the antagonist’s lack of development or attachment/relationship to the group of MCs, the story tries to gain your sympathy by introducing a new character 3/4ths of the way in, and then making him into a hero who dies to save the cause not too long after he is introduced. Mistake. Why do I care that Reddas died? So Ashe wouldn’t? Final Fantasy VII had it right: have one of the MC’s sacrifice themselves within the first third of the story, and now you have a hell of a lot more sympathy for the cause. Don’t have some stranger do it for you.
Another note: the story did not get interesting until the last third, when they finally introduced more devious and sinister forces at work, controlling the (evil) Archadian Empire and using the human populace as puppets for their own entertainment. After that point in the story, I felt more interested in the final outcome. But until then, I just trudged on and on, wondering if open warfare would ever culminate, or whatever the heck was supposed to happen.
So learn from those mistakes, story writers. I only played XII to say that I finished that hardass game and add it to my roster of finished Final Fantasy games. You know I will analyse VIII once I finally get around to playing it again. While playing XII, I read Gardens of the Moon by Erikson which was lacking in character development (though I enjoyed how many characters he had), but reading that book as well as playing XII inspired me to write a whole new story with a male MC, which will be congruent with the whole future universe I’ve concocted over the past 8 years. Though this new story I’m thinking of won’t involve the Divisions or anything, it’ll be more of a wartime fantasy story.
ps–Judge Gabranth is one of the coolest bad guys of all the Final Fantasy’s. Total crush material hahaha
I’m trying a new method to my writing: write out a rough synopsis rather than “winging it.” Though I’m currently diverting from writing out the entire plot/synopsis of Leigh’s story by writing this blog entry–there goes my whole night. Then I will do a rough plot/synopsis of the second story with a male protagonist. I think I get lucky with male protagonists. So I’m a chauvinist. Big whup. I’m looking forward to it. Then I will read “A Game of Thrones” by the (legendary?) George R. R. Martin. I hear some raving over him, so I will test him out. I give Erikson a 7 out of 10 because he seems to lack on character depth. That’s me–I prefer character-driven stories rather than plot-driven stories. And then, I will commence Final Fantasy VIII.