An Unbiased Review of Final Fantasy XII

I made a promise that I’d write an unbiased review of FFXII, and I’m damn well going to keep it.

Three Things That Sucked:

1. Boring Townsfolk


Is it just me, or do 90% of the townspeople in this game have nothing interesting¹ to say? If I wanted to hear boring conversations go absolutely nowhere, I’d talk to people in real life (and I don’t).

¹Interesting [in-tuh-res-ting] -adjective: where to find treasure

2. Slow Leveling

Only 55 levels in 80 hours (past FF games have taken me about 50 hours for 50 levels). On top of that, my entire party had been equipped with Embroidered Tippets (doubles EXP earned) since level 38. Without them the game may have taken 100 hours. It’s a sad state of affairs when the most useful item in the game isn’t something that helps you in combat.

3. Unexplained aspects of the battle system

  • Opening one random treasure chest early in the game precludes you from obtaining the most powerful weapon in the game
  • A second quickening level doubles your max MP
  • The strongest weapons and armor aren’t necessarily the best (though you have no choice but to buy them since attack power and defense are the only stats you see while shopping)

I didn’t know any of this until late in the game. Sure, the Forgotten Grimoires might’ve said all that, but I’d rather catch Weil’s disease from swimming in a pond contaminated with rat urine than pay 18,000+ gil for an instruction manual.

Three Things That Rocked:

1. Balthier

Best character in Final Fantasy history.

2. The Hunts

I hate random bosses popping up out of nowhere (e.g. Elder Wyrm and Ahriman), but if they’re optional, it’s a completely different story (e.g. Wild Saurian).

3. Axes & Hammers

Axes and Hammers present a classic trade-off between risk and reward. They’re typically the most powerful weapons you can acquire at any given stage of the game, but they vary in effectiveness with each hit. Are they worth it? Yes, in terms of attack power they have the highest expected value of any weapon. Finally, a practical use for math.

Three Things I’m Indifferent About:

1. Penelo

I don’t know why she’s in the game, let alone a playable character. Her only role in the story is giggling in the background while real characters take care of business.


Al-Cid: what a player

That’s why it’s so fun to make her your plaything. I’d alternate her with Basch and send her into battle with unfitting weapons (poles, katanas, etc…). Much to my surprise, she often survived.

2. Gambits

They’re certainly useful, but I was too lazy to take advantage of the fancy ones. My formations didn’t change much from the ones I used at beginning of the game.

Center: Ashe/Vaan (party leaders, equipped with axes/hammers)

  1. Attack party leader’s target
  2. Attack nearest enemy

Wing: Basch/Penelo (usually left unsupervised, equipped with axes/hammers)

  1. Attack party leader’s target
  2. Attack nearest enemy

Defense: Balthier/Fran (equipped with guns/bows/crossbows, occasionally used axes/hammers in my ultra-offensive “Hammer Time” formation)

  1. Cure HP-Critical Ally
  2. Attack party leader’s target

Flexibility is nice, but when all the characters’ stats are basically the same, I will not have a dedicated mage. I am cheap, both in real life and in video games. Why waste all my precious magic points on black magic when I can pound away at the enemy for free?

3. Technicks

The only ones I ever used were Libra and Steal. I can’t even remember any others.

23 people love sucking up to me

  1. @Aizen: It was fun while it lasted. Imagine my delight when I stepped out of Rabanastre and saw the dinosaur tyrannizing some wolves.

    @Omisyth: Right now I’m about halfway through Shadow of the Colossus. I’ll consider Rogue Galaxy for my next game.

  2. I never thought Id see the day when youd find an FF character you liked more than Squall… or weapons you’d like more than the gunblade… tis a sad, sad day for FFVIII.

  3. Once I noticed them, the hunts succeeded in distracting me from the process of levelling up, which is exactly what most RPGs I dislike fail to do.
    The best thing though? Fran’s voice. Good lord, Fran’s voice. Every single Fran+Balthier conversation raised the game massively in my estimation.

  4. Call me a hardcore gamer, but since final fantasy moved from 2D to 3D, i haven’t enjoyed playing it anymore… despite the fact that i grew up and had to take care of other affairs in life (college, work, girlfriends…etc…) i don’t have much time to play video games either…so i’ve to carefully choose the best games to play in my short span of time… and undoubtely … i preffer such games like final fantasy vi, tales of phantasia, chrono trigger…etc all those baddass titles from the good and best rpg plataform ever made (SNES).

    Here’s my suggestion , instead of posting another “An unbiased review of…” another crappy game, you post “A baddas review of the best game ever…” and that would be, without doubt… Chrono Trigger.

    Maybe i’m pushing it too hard, but you could apply this rule to animes reviews too 😛

    Instead of another filler/crappy post of some random anime out there, you post a “A Baddas review of a *** rated anime”.

    That would reaaaaaaaly be GAR…

  5. Uh, FFXII remains the only Final Fantasy title I didn’t complete, so I can’t meaningfully comment on it. For what it’s worth, I applaud the direction in which the series is taking, but they don’t feel the same anymore ever since Hironobu Sakaguchi left… I knew you’d pick Balthier, considering there aren’t any other guys in the party…

    I hope you’re going to do a Shadow of the Colossus review, since that was arguably one of the best games ever to grace the PS2, in my opinion. I find myself occasionally going back to it to beat my best times.

  6. @Praz: Neither did I, but I’ll always respect the hair.

    @coburn: Yeah, leveling up was perhaps the #1 factor that got me to do hunts in the middle of the game (usually I put off side quests until the end). I think I gained about five levels fighting off Zombies in that Vorpal Bunny hunt. It’s a shame the targets only gave out ability points and no EXP.

    @Laguna: Unfortunately I don’t get to play enough video games to be selective about what I review. I played 2.5 video games in all of 2008 (Kingdom Hearts II, FFXII, Shadow of the Colossus), and that’s with the New Year’s Resolution to play more games. However, I do have plans to review Crystalis, the best RPG for the NES.

    @Shin: Hey, there was Basch too. Besides, there are plenty cool female characters in Final Fantasy, such as…ummmm…wait…give me a moment…Agrias?

    @issa-sa: It’s true, by the end of the game you’ll want to rip off Baltier’s clothes.

  7. Crystalis had its glorious days… but in those old nes days i haven’t played any rpgs… someone there mentioned Hironobu Sakaguchi… but in my opinion, that old an good days were the best for rpgs… in that time squaresoft had it’s own dream team of visionaries and not the actual team on squareenix of “sold-outs”, they released an incredible set of awesome games for the snes ( Chrono Trigger included 😀 ) , and managed to keep up the good party work, until the release of final fantasy vii, which the team were gradually spliting… with the exit of Yoshitaka Amano and later of Nobuo Uematsu in the 10th release…

    Catridges are the best !!! No loading screens ever !

    I guess that for now…i’ll stick to my snes to death and refuse to trade it for another console 😛

  8. I found this phrase that explain it all:
    “If Zelda and Final Fantasy mated, Crystalis would be their love child.”

  9. When I heard that Basch and his facial hair were originally going to be given center stage rather than that poor man’s Aladdin, the cry of my soul could be heard for miles around.
    And by my soul, I mean walls and support beams. I thought Raiden would have been enough of a lesson.
    My hope is that sooner or later, somebody in marketing is going to realize that only frightening, 30-year-old yaoi fangirls give a shit about those early-teens personality-less (not that it stops them from whining) spectator-heroes. And Nomura is going to be fired for his unhealthy S&M obsession.
    And then Glenda the good faery will travel across the land, delivering chocolate smiles to all the good little boys and girls of middle earth.
    Fuck. Marketing ruins everything. At least I still have Valve. Right, Valve?…Right?

    In other news, I just noticed Balthier’s shoes’ similarity to Crocs, and can’t unsee it.

  10. Penelo should be pushed off a cliff, and be replaced with Balthier. Or a loli. Fine too.

    Indeed, it wasn’t all that great, and yet I played it for ~150ish hours, and my bad habit is to level EVERYONE at about the same level, which means I couldn’t get them above lv75 before I got bored. Even ordered the official guidebook so I could try to beat Omega and other hidden bosses… But never got around to actually do it, because the ruins are just fucking huge. Didn’t thrill me as much as trying to beat Penance in FF X without Zanmato. Plus trying to find all the ingredients for the weapons, let alone gathering them is just frustrating. Or finding out that opening one single box prevented you from getting the strongest weapon in the game. Nevertheless, in my opinion XII ranks third ex aequo with FFX, behind FF XI and FF VII.

    I tried playing the DS sequel, Revenant Wings, but it looked just weird when I played the first five minutes… Might we have an unbiased review of it too, B-R?

  11. @Laguna: Cartridges were great until they got dusty. Then you had to blow into them or wipe them out a billion times until you stopped seeing random lines and boxes all over the screen. My biggest problem with cartridges was that my saved Crystalis data would often get erased. Crystalis was the best NES RPG, but any above average SNES RPG would easily blow it away. Even if you ignore the difference in graphics, the SNES games had much longer and more robust stories. The NES couldn’t compete with that.

    @LJ: Congratulations, you just ruined my day.

    “Basch was initially meant to be the main character of the story, but the focus was eventually shifted to Vaan and Penelo when the two characters were created later in development. The development team explained that their previous game, Vagrant Story, which featured a “strong man in his prime” as the protagonist had been unsuccessful and unpopular; the change regarding Final Fantasy XII from a “big and tough” protagonist to a more effeminate one was thus decided after targeting demographics were considered.” – Wikipedia

    What the hell…

    @natsuneko: Sounds like my experience with Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. I put in about 60 hours (I think), beat most of the plot, but gave up on finishing it because most of the side quests I wanted to do were too damn long and tedious. Somewhere along the line it became all work and no fun. Anyway, I probably won’t play Revenant Wings because I don’t have a DS. Too many PS2 games to catch up on first. Although I’d like to call myself a game, it’s embarrassing how few games I’ve played in my lifetime. My RPGs:

    NES: Crystalis, Zelda I (quit), Final Fantasy (quit)
    SNES: Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, a few others I played on my computer for a day and then quit
    PS: FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX, Chrono Cross
    PS2: FFX, FFX-2, FFXII, Kingdom Hearts I, Kingdom Hearts II, Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne (played most of it before quitting)

  12. I was born in 1990. The first Final Fantasy I played was the re-release of Final Fantasy III for DS, and I personally like the redo of Final Fantasy IV better. Something about how Phoenix Downs can be bought in a shop instead of peppered throughout the game is relieving.

    I also tried Etrian Odyssey and died on the first level. Bah!

  13. (…) You’re right , those old nes catridges could be easily damaged…but cds damage MUCH easier…teheheh
    (…) It was like a ritual… to blow all my catridges everytime i got to play them 😉
    (…) But not all “above average” playstation 1 or above rpg could easily beat Chrono Trigger up to this date…even that horible sequel Chrono Cross, which sucked… what’s the point of having thousand of characters to choose from , if you could only put two in your party (as the main character could not be taken off until late in the game)… ?

    Is there a rpg that is better than chrono trigger ?

    I challenge anyone to find me one.

  14. I never did finish this game… mostly because I lent out my ps2 ages ago and never brought it home. I should get it and finish this one already. I liked the game for the most part but it wasn’t my favorite of the series.

  15. Penelo is there to make Vaan seem less pointless and out of place than he already is.

    I used gambits to make everyone a healer, each with a different HP percentage before they start casting. I think it worked…the games a bit of a blur, all I remember is tilting the analog sticks until I hit more and more cutscenes. Occasionally there would be a boss battle and I’d have to wake up halfway through to see if I needed to do anything besides watch my murderous mannequins dance around.

    I’m pretty sure Telekinesis was useful, if only for punching Pterodactyl’s out of there so you don’t have to completely rely on Balthier or pithy magics to win the day.

    P.S. I love Crystalis.

  16. I adored gambits. I set mine like this:
    1)Ressurection – Dead ally
    2)Most powerful healing spell – HP Crit/HP<30..40% (Depended on Bubble status)
    3)Various Buffs – Self/Party leader (Turned on and off for difficult areas, usually only Haste on for normal activities)
    4)Charge/Syphon – MP NEEDED PWEASE
    5)Attack Lowest HP

    Also, I equipped the double LP item all the time except during tougher battles or for stealing (Thief’s Cuffs), getting the enhancement stuff and all my mist charges early in the game.

    I did get the zodiac spear by looking at the guide. (It was a dumb game design choice).

    Vaan and Basch has the highest str, the stat most important as alot of the dmg from normal play being the weapon physical dmg. So I had those two and Ashe for the first part. Then I realized I didn’t care much for Basch, as I much prefer to look at a woman’s butt while playing. So I put the ladies into play. Yum. Unfortunately, Fran was a underpowered character spec wise so I reluctantly put Vaan with Z-spear back in.

    Defeated Gilgamesh (both parts) pretty early for the genji gloves+masamune combo to equip Ashe with it, as she’s the 2nd most competent wielder, behind Vaan who is overspec’d.

    So. I ended up with:
    Vaan w/ Z-spear on the side | heavy body+helm | haste+bravery+berserk=lolwut | Main powerhouse
    Ashe w/ Masamune/GenjiGloves | heavy body+mystic helm | haste | Secondary powerhouse
    Penelo w/ Main Gauche+Best shield | mystic body+helm | haste | MAGETHIEF

    I also had 3 Fomalhauts for the other characters just for the hell of it.


    I enjoyed the game. I died 2 times throughout the entire game. Once I attacked the goddamn dinosaur and died. The second time I failed to do a run for the zodiac spear due to the oversoul killing my characters as I did the run. After the z-spear, combat was easy.

    Shadow of the Colossus is a rather short game. An epic game nonetheless. I recommend Persona 3 FES or Persona 4 if you’re looking for another JRPG. Other great PS2 titles: God of War I&II, the MGS series, Soul Calibur II&III, Silent Hill 2&3, Dark Cloud 1&2, Time Splitters 1&2, Deus Ex, Sly Cooper 1-3, Ico, Odin Sphere and Rez. You’ve covered Final Fantasy X, X-2, XII, SMT Nocturne, Kingdom Hearts, and Shadow of the Colossus.

    Play Persona 3 FES and 4 though. Those are a blast. (OH BTW, if you havent figured it out, the progression of the Persona series has nothing to do with the previous titles other than recurring themes/gameplay mechanics, like Final Fantasy series.)

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