Tag Archives: final fantasy 12

FGC #627.2 Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

This article contains spoilers for not only Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, but also potentially the entire Final Fantasy franchise. It won’t get too nuts, but if you don’t want to know a certain location exists in a certain game, and if that location has any plot relevance, I wouldn’t keep reading. You have been warned!

This is not a placeStranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has one very important thing going for it: it is an enormous love letter to the Final Fantasy franchise. With the exception of a few “plot” stages, every level in SoP:FFO is based on a different locale from a different Final Fantasy game. And that is amazing! You’re looking at 35 years of videogame locations! From castles to caves to whateverthehell was happening in Final Fantasy 15! It’s neat!

But, as a tremendous nerd and 35-year-old critic of the Final Fantasy franchise (uh, to be clear, I am not 35, but I have been a critic of Final Fantasy as long as it has existed) I, naturally, have opinions about the various locations chosen to represent various Final Fantasy titles. Were these good picks to be representative of their attendant games? Are these good choices independent of nostalgia? Does anything in this game make a lick of sense? Let’s answer these questions on a game by game, level by level basis.

Note that this list will be going in order of Final Fantasy game featured. Actual level order is an entirely other thing. Please be as confused as possible.

Stage 1: Illusion at Journey’s End
Location: Chaos Shrine
Origin: Final Fantasy (1)

It is chaos out thereConcept: Stranger of Paradise is a kinda sorta remake of Final Fantasy, so it is only natural the game starts with Final Fantasy’s first ever dungeon: the Temple of Fiends. Oh! And the final boss of the area is Garland (after a fashion)! That is as Final Fantasy as it gets!

Does it work for SoP? This is absolutely a ruined temple (of Fiends!) filled with monsters, which is all you really need from a Strangers of Paradise stage. There are enough decomposing balconies and collapsing turrets to justify something more complex than a straight line, but the layout is still recognizable enough that you won’t easily get lost. And there is at least one cactuar running around, so there’s everything a stranger could want.

Does it represent its parent game? Going to give this one a “yes”, too. The defining characteristic of Final Fantasy’s Temple of Fiends is that it was clearly the crappiest temple in the world (but looked pretty alright a solid 2,000 years back), and we’ve got a similar architectural flare going on here. The Temple of Fiends is meant to be the trojan horse of adventure for the Final Fantasy franchise, and it serves the exact same “more to it than it seems” function in 2022. Good job, Level One! Now let’s move on to Final Fantasy 2…

World of Final Fantasy Part 13: What Even Happened?

This post contains spoilers for the whole of World of Final Fantasy. You have been warned!

A long time ago in a dimension far, far away, there was a woman named Roksanne. Roksanne had a cute little pet fox buddy, and, apparently, put on a red light for a living castle. Noted summon Alexander merged with Roksanne, and she became Enna Kros.


“Bow before me and bring some snacks, mortals”

Shortly thereafter, Enna Kros discovered The Girl Who Forgot Her Name, and, rather than be a good friend and give her a goddamn name, she decided to exploit the amnesiac’s powers to create whole worlds.


You could name all sorts of people in the old Final Fantasy games

Thus, any dimension created by Enna Kross aka Alexander became known as an A-World.

So, while Enna Kros is the god of World of Final Fantasy, there are worlds that are not created by Enna Kros out there. Cogna gotta come from somewhere, and you do not want to hear about what happens in YT-Worlds.


Typical YT World nonsense

Thus, Enna Kros created the “Champion System” whereby when one of her worlds is threatened, “Champions” will manifest in the population, and these champions will copy the traits and personalities of heroes from other worlds.


A dashing champion

So there’s your excuse for why Cloud, Squall, and that cat lady from the spin-off franchise are all running around, and they’re kinda like their original versions, but, ya know, different enough to be interesting. Or not interesting. Whatever works, we’ve gotta let the “real” heroes shine somehow.

Speaking of heroes, one A-World is Grymoire…

FGC #375 Final Fantasy 12 The Zodiac Age

Where's my intro?So here’s my idea for the next Final Fantasy game.

First, let’s revisit how I played Final Fantasy 12 initially. Overall, I assume my maiden playthrough of Final Fantasy 12 was pretty typical. I was confused by the gambit system at first, but the game very deliberately eases the player into learning how to control a three man band at all times, so it wasn’t so bad. In short order, I was very comfortable with the neophyte system, and, since I still had access to all the old Final Fantasy standards (curaga, blizzaga, fire monster summoning), it was just a matter of adjusting old standards to a fresh title. In a way, that is no different than any other Final Fantasy release, and, whether Tidus is using an If HP <= 60% gambit or not, he’s still swinging around a Masamune. By the end of Final Fantasy 12 (over a hundred hours by my own clock) I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and, unlike some other titles (Final Fantasy 15 comes to mind), I did feel like I understood the game, its ins and outs, and why I won battles against so many gods. Final Fantasy 12 was new and different, but, in the end, it was still Final Fantasy.

But, even after seeing Yiazmat buried beneath an ocean of dragon blood, there was still an unmistakable feeling that I had done something wrong. And it all started with Penelo.

I’m a Final Fantasy veteran, so, even with FF12’s new systems, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of how these things go. I looked at the main cast, and I mistakenly believed that I knew the stats of these characters as well as their personalities. Vaan would obviously have the speed and stamina of a thief, and Basch should be decked out like a knight. It’s so obvious! Now, with the glory of hindsight, we know that Final Fantasy 12 characters all start at about the same stat level, but back when the game was fresh, who the heck had time to look at a bloody menu for longer than seven seconds? Not this guy. And Penelo? I see you there. You’re the obvious white mage of the group. Come on, you have Rosa written all over you.

GrossSo, while I missed the detail of all the characters starting as nigh-blank slates, I did read up on the weapons system of FF12 beforehand. One item class that stood out was the axe, which could deal “variable” damage. This sounded perfect for Penelo! She was going to be a useless white mage, right? So her strength stat was going to be useless, so she may as well carry around an axe that could do random damage. Random means it could easily knock off a thousand HP or just one, right? A white mage barely does any damage with a staff blow normally, so if she’s potentially going to do nearly zero damage anyway, why not give her the option of occasionally scoring a useful critical? An axe-wielding white mage made so much sense in my head, it was practically cheating.

Those of you familiar with how Final Fantasy 12 actually works likely already know the punch line to my Penelo experiment. The license board of Final Fantasy 12, the only real way to advance your character’s abilities and stats, is fairly well designed. If you want to equip the latest axes, you’re also likely to pick up a couple of axe-based stat buffs, like increases in strength or armor weight. Stay on the axe path, and it’s not just about axe proficiency, it’s about becoming a golden axe hurling goddess. So, with Penelo following the way of the woodcutter, before I’d even reached the halfway point of FF12, my main strategy for random monster mobs was to cast berserk on Penelo, point her in the general direction of an enemy, and sit back as she bathed in the blood of my adversaries.

This quickly led to a large gulf between story Penelo, who appeared like this:

Thanks, Penny

And Battle Penelo, whom I would imagine like so:

Thanks, Penny
(The extra axe is in case the first axe breaks)

But that was Vanilla Final Fantasy 12. Final Fantasy 12 the Zodiac Age is a totally different beast with all new features. Now the License Board is separated into different jobs so every character doesn’t wind up homogenized by the time you’re boarding the Bahamut. In other words, it’s very much like Final Fantasy games of old, like Final Fantasy 5 or Final Fantasy 10-2, and you can designate Penelo to actually be a white mage or an axe-maniac. Very big difference between the two, and an endgame Monk-Penelo would be completely different from Mage-Penelo.

Except.

Here’s Monk-Penelo.

Thanks, Penny

And here’s Mage-Penelo.

Thanks, Penny

See the subtle differences? Liar! They’re the same! They’re exactly the same. And that’s a shame, because Final Fantasy has a rich tradition of function dictating form, and Dancer-Yuna is a totally different animal from Gambler-Yuna. Hell, even going back to the original, being blessed by a dragon could dramatically change everything from your hair color to your apparent gender. Penelo doesn’t change a lick whether she’s a warrior or a wizard, and, come on, don’t our jobs impact every facet of our lives? I know I’d be a totally different person if I’d been digging ditches for the last fifteen years (for one thing, I’d probably smell worse. Probably).

So here’s my idea for the next Final Fantasy game.

Cid!Let’s stick to an “old school” four person party, like Final Fantasy 5 or Final Fantasy 15. And, for the heck of it, let’s make ‘em typical FF archetypes, too. They don’t have to be some things in particular, just something recognizable for a Final Fantasy expert. One general wanderer hero, one grizzled old timer (maybe he’s thirty), one princess (royalty of some kind is a must), and a wildcard of some sort, maybe a moogle ghost robot. And the story is basic: there’s a sealed bad guy, some lesser bad guy is trying to release the big bad guy, and maybe there is some random betrayal where an anonymous secondary nerd gets possessed by the biggest bad and turns into Cyber Hitler or whatever. Basic conventional story all around, and the party learns a valuable lesson about (spins the Wheel of Climaxes) proper motorcycle maintenance. Roll credits.

But! Here’s what I want to see: a jobs system, and a jobs system that impacts the story. Basically, incorporate a WRPG-style morality system (or whatever we’re calling the basis of Fallout right now), but base it entirely on choices made in the job system. No, you don’t get an option between save baby and eat baby, but you do choose if your main dude is a fighter or mage-r. That princess character? By the finale she can be a demure white mage that is all about helping her teammates and her country, or a blood thirsty dark knight that is beating back the big bad because it looked at her funny. The veteran might be back in action exclusively to feel the joy of battle again, or be slowly sliding into his own retirement as a spoony bard. Is the hero a worldly blue mage, or a barely-verbal berserker? And, for that matter, your job choices could impact other, more traditional bits of a typical FF experience. A whole party of thieves might not see a lot of cooperation from the local merchants, and stick to a party of berserkers for too long, and you won’t even be able to understand the dialogue. Bartz smash!

And, to be clear, this game wouldn’t permanently lock a character into one job for plot purposes; however it would “remember” your choices, so, while switching from Geomancer to Fighter might be painless on the mechanics side, your hero might still miss his floppy hat for a few towns.

Dance to deathIn my heart of hearts, I feel like this was always the intended future of job-based games like Final Fantasy 5, but the technology wasn’t available at the time. From the first moment of Final Fantasy 1, you’re choosing your heroes and their vocations, and it’s obvious that Fighter is not the same “person” as Black Mage, even if they’re working toward the same goal. Obviously, there couldn’t be 126 different plot configurations to fit Final Fantasy 1’s multiple choice parties, but that technology is here now. If a game can remember you pissed off a random merchant in the first town, it can certainly remember you were a blue mage for ten minutes. And, for that matter, if we get voice acting that can react to every damn thing Shepherd ever said for an entire trilogy, we’re definitely entitled to someone reacting to the fact that the princess is wearing a cat costume for some reason.

So, there, that’s my idea for the next Final Fantasy game. Expand the job system to encompass everything, and let Nu-Penelo be whatever she wants to be. Or whatever I want her to be. Or just give me a few more axe-wielding maniacs, Square, and then we’ll talk.

FGC #375 Final Fantasy 12 The Zodiac Age

  • System: Playstation 4 exclusive… Until the PC version drops, at least. Obviously, any other Final Fantasy 12 versions are available on… what was the modern system of ten years ago?… probably the NES.
  • Number of players: Multiple players are for other genres.
  • Hey, what about modern job-based games like Lightning Returns or Bravely Default: Lightning is still Lightning when she’s wearing a bunny costume, and Tiz is still Tiz when he’s decked out like a monk. I want more.
  • Nerds!Favorite Zodiac Age Feature: Gosh, you get past the job system implementation (which, to be honest, doesn’t thrill me), and I can barely tell what’s been changed here. Fast forward is great, but it’s very finicky with the context-sensitive menu vs. exclamation point X-button problem, and having all the gambits available at the start from any given shop is… daunting. Oh! I know! The Zodiac Spear is no longer based on the most opaque treasure hiding ever, so that’s a plus.
  • Most Missed: Where my Pirate’s Den, Square? I heard it was supposed to be part of a patch, but guess what, I don’t got no patch!
  • How about Penelo: Playing through the plot more rapidly than my initial playthrough, I noticed that Penelo seems to be the only character that gives a damn about Fran having allergic reactions to magic/mist-rich locations. Vaan is an idiot, so he gets a pass, and Ashe and Basche have their heads so far up their asses that they barely notice there’s a party at all, but it really seems like Balthier should show a little concern once in a while. What’s the matter, sky pirate? Caring isn’t cool enough for ya?
  • Did you know? Larsa does not have his infinite supply of potions in Zodiac Age, and all “fourth player” buddies really have no excuse not to join your party permanently. I don’t care if some of these characters are supposed to die! That never stopped the cast of Final Fantasy 4!
  • Would I play again: I want to play my new Final Fantasy game, but maybe I’ll give this old one another try in a decade or so. I think I’ve killed enough Owl Man Creatures at this point.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ghostbusters for the NES! Will busting make me feel good? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

Cry about it

FGC #077 Final Fantasy 12

Here comes a special gameFlash Gordon: Star Wars :: Star Wars : Final Fantasy 12

Search your feelings, you know this to be true.

As many people know, Star Wars was birthed by a George Lucas who, in an attempt to blow his American Graffiti cash on the dumbest thing he could find, tried to purchase the rights to Flash Gordon, because young George had a vision of updating the sci-fi serial of his youth into a big screen hit for the audiences of today (yesterday). George Lucas, unfortunately (maybe?) was not able to secure the Flash Gordon rights, so he figured he’d make his own damn space franchise, but, like, with samurai, and furry dudes, and maybe a woman in a golden bikini. What could have been a shameless descent into nostalgic wallowing with a graduated fan at the helm became a wholly original universe that has the potential to last until the end of time. And, let’s be real here, the only reason anyone today knows about Flash Gordon is The Best of Queen collections, so maybe things worked out for the best.

Even with the Flash Gordon influence aside, Star Wars is about as “original” as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just, I don’t know, with some marshmallow substance wedged in there. After George jettisoned the only original idea he ever had (Willow… it eventually became its own movie), Star Wars was reduced to merely a hero’s journey to overcome his samurai dad and avenge his wizened old mentor while his royal sister makes out with a charming rogue. It’s all archetypes, but, more importantly, it all works, and the world doesn’t need another article cynically ranting about there being no original ideas in Star Wars.

So let’s talk about how there are no original ideas in Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy (and we’re just going to look at the main, numbered series here, and ignore the myriad of spinoffs, because I don’t have all day, geez) has always had a sort of… let’s be generous here and say “homage” issue. Final Fantasy I was, as many people realized the minute they met a real life dungeon master, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign baked into a digital world, and frosted with a dab of sci-fi. Final Fantasy 3 was, at its core, a battle of the gods and primal forces that tugged your nameless party along for the ride (ignoring remakes). Final Fantasy 5 was a comedy, Final Fantasy 6 was an opera, and Final Fantasy 8 was a WB/CN superhero tragidramedy (admit it, Squall and Oliver Queen could hang out, and you’d watch it). Final Fantasy 7 was Final Fantasy 6’s steampunk universe dialed up to eleven with a cast of whacky adventurers, and Final Fantasy 10 was either a hero’s journey or a particularly subtle take on the idea of being sucked into a video game universe. All of these games, and I do mean all, are great games with plots I’ve enjoyed, but I wouldn’t call a single one of them particularly original. PEW PEW PEWIf you told me William Gibson created Midgar, or Gary Gygax rolled up Matoya, I’d believe you.

Of course, there are two games I didn’t mention in that rundown. Final Fantasy 4 is the game where protagonist Cecil upgrades himself to a shining knight with a magical sword while exploring the ancient, mystical society that is his heritage, then learns that the scary, heavily armored general is actually a blood relative… but fear not! At the last moment, the man in the frightening helmet turns to the light side, and helps the good knight vanquish hate from the galaxy. Sound familiar? Or how about Final Fantasy 2, literally the second Final Fantasy game, where a group of plucky rebels fight against a malevolent emperor who commands a floating battle fortress and a lieutenant who is revealed to be an assumed-dead family member.

Who needs Kingdom Hearts to crossover with Star Wars? Square has already got that one wrapped up.

Admittedly, I may be just a tad too cynical here. We’ve already established that Star Wars wasn’t original to begin with, and stuff like “main villain is secretly… your roommate!” has been an easy story writing crutch since the days of Homer. And an “orbiting death station” really isn’t that different from any given “gain the power of the gods” power play, death from above is death from above no matter how you play it.

But then there’s Final Fantasy 12.Take a Gambit

Final Fantasy 12 starts on a desert planet, but never leaves, because you know that the minute it hit space, Lucas would have sent the lawyers out in force. But don’t worry! There’s still the signature Star Wars hectic space battles with rebel forces combatting imperial fleets and gigantic battle stations… it just all takes place in a slightly lower atmosphere. And all your old friends are here: the rebellious princess without a kingdom, the plucky desert kid that turns out to have a magical attunement with ancient forces, the hero of the last war reluctantly returning to battle to right past wrongs, the smarmy pirate with the superpower of owning a spaceship (I mean… airship), his constant, animalistic companion, and they’re all battling against a mysterious, heavily armored darth judge, who, incidentally, will eventually be revealed to be blood-related to your party and makes a last second turn from the dark side to confront a corrupt and malicious emperor.

But now I know I’m being too cynical, because, when you get right down to it, Final Fantasy 12 does what Star Wars did: takes the same basic elements of the story, and makes something new and interesting.

Consider the Death Star. Yes, it’s an easy parallel to compare the Death Star of Star Wars to Air Fortress of Doom Bahamut in Final Fantasy 12. All the same elements are there: a floating, heavily guarded citadel that is infiltrated by rebels to save the day, because if they don’t, everything on the ground below is going to be a rust mote. I'm Captain BaschBut if we really think of Final Fantasy 12 as Star Wars, then Air Fortress Bahamut is merely the second Death Star, the half completed mess from the finale of Return of the Jedi. The true Death Star in Final Fantasy 12 is the nethicite/magicite weaponry from the opening acts of Final Fantasy 12, and, rather than make it a simple threat to be destroyed, Final Fantasy 12 asks a much more interesting question, “What if Princess Leia gained control of the Death Star?”

If you think about it, it’s a valid question in the Star Wars universe, too. Afterall, those bothans died retrieving the plans for the Death Star, so, hey, why can’t the rebels get their act together and build their own Death Star! With blackjack! And hookers! They don’t even seem to consider it, because, hey, good guys (and maybe there aren’t a whole lot of rebel contractors). Princess Ashe of Final Fantasy 12, though, she pretty quickly gains access to ultimate, city-destroying power, and a significant portion of the plot is given over to the moral ramifications and considerations of using a WMD. Hell, considering the influence of the “old gods” on the FF12 world, you could claim part of the game is about considering if “the force” is ever a morally good thing to utilize. On occasion, it’s some heady stuff, and it makes Final Fantasy 12 better for it.

But would Star Wars be better for it? I very much doubt it.

Please don't lookThis is why Final Fantasy 12 is so great, and, tangentially, why Star Wars is so great. Star Wars, the original trilogy as we know it, very much could be a serial television show, much like Flash Gordon. Like I’m sure many of you have, I rewatched the complete hexology over the course of the last week, and I was amazed at how easily it would be to separate each Star Wars movie into individual, television-friendly chunks. This week, Luke and Han on Hoth, next week, special guest Frank Oz, and then you introduce Lando and his amazing Sky City for sweeps. But, no, Star Wars is a series of movies, and they are optimized for two hour chunks, not commercial breaks (though I would argue that the TV-friendly plotting of the films may have been a factor in their popularity in the era of the local broadcast channel Saturday Afternoon Matinees). Star Wars may have had its origins in a television serial, but in graduating to another medium, its directors and writers wisely ignored the easy pull of nostalgia and built something new and different (and, incidentally, influenced future films forever).

Star Wars is a whiz bang pew pew pew movie, and it has no place for measured discussions on the nature of responsibility and civilian casualties. But Final Fantasy 12? I believe my timer for this game is somewhere exceeding a hundred hours, so I’m going to go ahead and say that at least a few moments can be spared for quiet contemplation before we get back to sky-piratry. Final Fantasy 12 might practically be Star Wars, but it emulates the best part of Star Wars, that, while it’s generally completely unoriginal, it knows what it’s doing, and using the medium to its maximum, so it creates a massively memorable experience.

Final Fantasy 12 isn’t original. Star Wars isn’t original. Flash Gordon was just a racist western in space. But it doesn’t matter. They did what they did well, and they will inspire generations to come.

What is originality in the face of being timeless?

FGC #77 Final Fantasy 12

  • System: Playstation 2. Maybe something portable one day?
  • Number of Players: One. I literally cannot imagine how a second player could be incorporated into this system.
  • You mean the battle system? Yeah, you know, the whole gambit system, where you manually assign macros to your party members, send them into battle, and hope for the best. I know there was a lot of hoopla around the release about “a game that plays itself”, but, come on guys, it’s not like it took that much A lot of time...brain power to hammer on the “Fight” command over and over again, why not just automate and save us all some time? That’s my roundabout way of saying I liked it… except for the fact that all the best gambits aren’t available until the end of the game. Vaan, could you just know what to do with a poisoned teammate? Please?
  • If everything is Star Wars, then how about Penelo? Well it’s not like it’s a 1:1 thing, but considering she’s Vaan’s constant, unwavering companion (which I’ve noted before is a great trait), but is wildly unequipped for the adventure itself, and possess a very specific skillset, she’s basically R2-D2. I know I could see her tasering ewoks.
  • So this is how you close Star Wars week, with Final Fantasy? Well, it’s not like ROB can’t randomly pick another Star Wars game ever again, but I maintain that, even more than anything Lucasarts ever produced, Final Fantasy 12 captures the spirit of Star Wars the best… just happened to forget to acquire that license.
  • Did you know? I feel like Yiazmat is the most misunderstood super boss in Final Fantasy (or maybe even video game) history. He’s not there to be defeated over the course of hours, he’s there so you can play with all sorts of gambit setups, see how long you last, and then adjust accordingly. This is actually pretty great, as Final Fantasy 12-2 was a completely different genre, so here’s one final sendoff for the gambit system before the franchise switched over to… what do we have here… paradigms? That sounds dumb.
  • Would I play again: Pretty inevitable, but it’ll take a local release of the International version or some kind of HD rerelease (or both). I poured far too much of my life into this game, and a rerelease of some manner is pretty inevitable, so I’d hate to start out on the cruddy ol’ PS2 and then upgrade halfway through (and you know you won’t be able to transfer any saves, jerks).

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Neo Geo Battle Coliseum for the PS2. Finally! A fighting game including Neo Geo characters! Who would have ever foreseen that? Please look forward to it!

Darth Judge