I was one of the most vocal opponents of the story in Final Fantasy XII, due to the lack of wangst early on in the story, until I played through it again and realized, "Hey, maybe gaining freedom from the Occurians and even taking down a god/Hume hybrid made for an excellent story after all!". —HandleThis
At first, I was a little disappointed by the ending of the game; I'm used to saving the world in Final Fantasy, after all, and liberating some dinky little desert kingdom didn't seem to have the same feel. Then, on a second run through, I realized you do save the world. Not from some eldritch abomination or some madman's plot to destroy it, but from a world war fought between two empires, using the local equivalent of weapons of mass destruction. Somehow, it feels more "real" to save the world from something like that, and gives more weight to the story. - Mr Death
When I first played FFXII, I took a month-long break after one pivotal moment... and when I picked it up again, the game was over almost immediately afterward, just as it was getting really good. Add in the unavoidable parallels to Star Wars (ordinary kid hooks up with rebel princess and a rogue and his animal sidekick with a Cool Ship to battle an evil emperor, his black-armored Dragon, and their giant battle fortress...), and I was left very unimpressed. But it was fun to play, so I tried again a few months later, and this time realized - this game injects a whole lot of Grey and Grey Morality into this and other classic scenarios. The mad genius, Dr. Cid? Turns out he wasn't mad at all, just a touch over-theatrical. The evil emperor, Vayne Solidor? He's only trying to keep his nation in order, albeit in overly-pragmatic and slightly megalomaniacal fashion. The self-proclaimed gods, taking care of mortals? Take the Old Testament God, and remove every trace of compassion but keep the wrath, and that's all these guys are. The tired twin brothers twist? The Black Knight Gabranth is exactly like Basch, your Knight in Shining Armor, only looking at things from the other side of the situation. In general, none of the "bad guys" are really evil... they just happen to be on the other side, is all. In the end, I'd argue that the real battle wasn't between rebels and the Empire, but between the mortals and Occuria (where both sides eventually found common ground), and everything afterward was just tying up loose ends. After all, good and evil are sometimes just a matter of perspective. - GalahadPC
Speaking of Dr. Cid... Balthier complains that the man used to be a good father and family man, until he began researching "the stones" and became obsessed with them to the point of neglecting his family. This caused Ffamran to grow disillusioned with his father and desert his position as an Archadian Judge to become a Sky Pirate. Match this up with the timeline of Archadia's expansion, but, most importantly, with Venat's first contact with Cid and Vayne. Cid didn't neglect his family —he completely bought into Venat's mission of freeing humanity from the Occuria. He wanted to create a better future for his family, so he put his heart and soul into it! It's even more tragic that the Nethicite eventually robbed him of his sanity, but even in the end, when he has fought his son and is dying, he still believes in Venat's goal and thinks he performed well in his service. Later, when Vayne hears of Cid's death, what is his response? To think of his own father, who he had killed in order to ascend. Emperor Gramis knew exactly that it was the way it should be, so that Larsa, the better choice for an heir, could lead Archades to a better future. Vayne knows this too, and even though he resented Gramis' choice and decided to take power for himself, he grieves for the fathers that die for their children's sake. - whisp
FFXII suddenly made tons more sense to me when I heard that originally, Balthier actually was supposed to be the "leading man" and the focus wasn't switched to Vaan until late in development. Once I saw Balthier as the Main Character, the whole game became much more interesting.
Actually, the original leading man was Basch.
What they ended up with seems like rotating main character duty. It's Vaan at the start, simply by virtue of the story being told from his perspective. Then Ashe becomes really important—but at the end of the game, it seems like Balthier is calling all the shots. So I can't really blame the above Troper for seeing Balthier as the main character; by the end, it seems like he really IS the "leading man." He's been telling the truth the whole time.
The Ink stain that we see right next to the judge on the logo? This is Venat people: they showed us the Big Bad is hidden in plain side: s/he is the first thing you see when you begin to play. -Nixou-
It suddenly hit me: the game HAS a clear villain: Ashe. FFXII plays like a start of darkness prequel with a twist ending. What would have happened if Ashe had listened to the Occurias? She would have wiped Archadia from the map and then could have become a witch-empress with a pact with the devil; exactly the kind of Big Bad you encounter in classic fantasy RPGs. -Nixou-
Then there is the role of Vaan in the story. He is usually treated as a tagalong kid not relevant to the grand scheme of things, but during the first appearance of Rasler's "ghost", Vaan also sees a ghost, but believes that it's Reks'. Since we know that the ghost is a tool used by the Occuria to manipulate Ashe, we can only assume that Vaan is seen by the same Occurias as a "plan B", another proxy who could do their dirty work if Ashe failed. Later Ashe keeps seeing her husband's ghost but Vaan stops seeing Reks', which would mean that he has already shook off the Occuria's influence. Vaan (before his Character Derailment in later games) becomes a more virtuous role model for Ashe: he has as many reasons as her to hate The Empire, but he gives up his desires of revenge, is ready to forgive Archadia, and even becomes friends with the brother of the man responsible for Reks' death, showing Ashe that there are other paths than mindless revenge and convincing her to not become the Big Bad she would have been otherwise. This shows the quality of the writing: Vaan, who was essentially a last minute addition decided by the executives of the company was incorporated in the story with a subtle but vital role: he actually manages to defeat the Big Bad by stopping her before she becomes evil. How many RPG heroes can claim such a feat? -Nixou-
Equally, the Occuria may have realised this fact about Vaan, which may have been what prompted them to send him images of Reks. Keep in mind that he and Ashe weren't the only ones hurt by the Empire. The Occuria might have sent him images to keep him from thinking clearly. Arguably, they may have been able to project images towards anyone who felt strongly enough against the Empire. Regardless, I agree that Vaan's presence certainly influenced Ashe by the end - remember how he refuses to kill Gabranth in retribution for Reks? In response to this note, I've personally put up Vaan as the Most Triumphant Example for Spaner in the Works, as well as an entry for FFXII in that same page. In light of these revelations, Vaan's Character Derailment in later games is certainly tragic. - Caellach Tiger Eye
Speaking of revenge: the events at the end of the Pharos are actually the absolute ideological triumph for Venat. Why? Because of the seven characters, 6 (all but Fran) have personal reasons to hate Archadia, and the Sun Crist gives them the mean to have their revenge. Cid and Gabranth are defeated, the Occurias are watching and would most certainly stop Venat for directly stopping Ashe & co, so nothing is stopping them for taking new nethicites and blowing up Archades especially considering the fact that the Sun Crist was used to power up the Bahamut even gives them the excuse of using the Magicites of Mass Destruction against Archadia as "legitimate defense". And yet they refuse to do so. Think about it: the Occurias' postulate is that the Humes are unable to go beyond their base instincts and need Gods' gidding hand. And here, Humes who have more than enough reasons to use violence against Archadia deliberately choose compassion. At this point Venat has won: s/he was right about the Hume: the ideological conflict between the Rogue Occuria and its kin end up in the absolute victory of Venat. -Nixou-
Finally, there is one thing that often missed about the game. Some players have complained that the main characters did not take part in the most "interesting" parts of the story: there are epic battles and political maneuvering, but Ashe & co are wandering the countryside and are seldom linked with the "heavy" stuff. But this is the whole point of the story: most of what the main characters do will be regarded as insignificant by historians, but it is these apparently insignificant deeds that will have changed the tide of history. Now, an important point of the plot of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story was that events recorded in historical chronicles (like battles, the rise of kings and emperors, etc...) are not always as important as you would believe. There is a good chance that Ashe will be remembered for infiltrating the Bahamut and killing Vayne, an impressive feat, yes, but the really relevant deed -refusing to avenge her husband and her kingdom and destroying the Sun Crist- will probably be neglected by historians and eventually forgotten. Basically, this means that the games of the Ivalice verse share a common Aesop. Damn, this game is deep -Nixou-
And on a more meta level - who hasn't played a JRPG where you eventually get around to saving the world via sidetracking off a Fetch Quest or twelve? - xyzzy
Just listening again to Ashe's Theme from the soundtrack, I noted that it does *not* sound like the theme for a game's female lead. It sounds like a villain's theme. - J Dubya
Fridge Brilliance: The crashing of the hoverbike - at first seemingly a random plot device, but careful consideration leads to the first hint of the nethicite's nature.
Fridge Brilliance: FFT actually shows how Vayne's and Venat's wishes have been fulfilled. People have said that because Ashe and co. ended the Occuria's control on history, it has caused the decline of magic, the rise of St. Ajora's ignorant religion and allowed the Lucavi to eventually attempt to cause the world's destruction; but this isnít the only thing it did: it also was what allowed Ramaza to do his actions in the first place. Ramza, a mortal, without the help of the Occuria or other gods, is able to change history on his own because Ashe and the rest ended the control of the Occuria on humanity. The whole story of FFT in relation to FF 12 shows how the reign of history has been put back into the hands of man.
So the Occuria set up a great, empire-building King hundreds and hundreds of years ago who united most of Ivalice under a single banner. Since then, the empire has crumbled to a single city-state with a relatively weak military presence, the tools/weapons given to him by the Occuria ran out of juice or were just lost, and new independent nations are dominating the world stage. How exactly do the Occuria claim to be guiding/controlling the world? And why does anyone believe them? The Occuria themselves only directly affect the plot by encouraging Ashe to pursue a goal she already had, while the rogue, Venat, takes far more direct action guiding the Archadians in the creation and use of Nethicite in the name of thwarting the Occurian interference in human history.
The Occuria rule is akin to a colonial empire, but with a different sense of scale compared to real world colonial empires: instead of directly controlling the Hume masses, they rule throught proxies, showing no interest whatsoever to the day to day administration of their domain. Plus, they are immortal beings: for them, the eight centuries between Raithwall's rule and Ashe's birth might seem like a short period: while from a mortal perspective being inactive for 800 years might seem like impotance, the Occuria might very well think that giving a few magic nukes to a pawn every 800 years is akin to strengthening their cattle pinfold every now and then, with the world being on the verge of a global war between two continental empires being from the Occuria's perspective nothing more than the cattle acting up a little. Venat's approach is much more direct because the Occuria technology is so much more advanced that they can keep on producing invincible figureheads to do their biding, unless someone either destroys their tools for control, or build weapons which matches the Occurias. The Occurias want to keep on subtly controling the mortal races forever, while Venat's goal is to destroy their invisible rule before leaving the stage.
The License Board seemed like Gameplay and Story Segregation before you realized that this is Ivalice - the world is built around law. The licenses are actually the Medieval equivalent of permits today. Makes a lot of sense that they would request you to have a license for using a certain kind of weapon or magick, not only to keep the public from planning a Coup de'tat but also because irresponsible use of weapons or magicks would wind up hurting you. This doesn't make as much sense for stuff like armour, except for maybe heavy armour meant for battle.
Makes a little less sense that they give the best licenses to people who spend all their time on pest control. (Admittedly, if you've got Battery Mimics, you've got a pretty serious pest problem...)
Basch is one of the better melee fighters of the party, but has a curiously low Vitality stat? Why? Well he's only recently finished a very long stint in prison - solitary confinement, at that. It's a wonder he can even fight.
And as much of a badass as he is even after that time in prison... imagine what he must have been like before. No wonder he was leading the Knights of Dalmasca if he can fight like that when he's barely held together with spit and willpower.
Also prison kind of explains why he joins the party with 0 MP - not only is he pretty much destroyed physically and mentally, but it's hard to run around to charge your MP up when you're dangling from shackles over a deep pit.
Talking to NPCs around Rabanastre at the start of the game made me wonder how Vaan's never been arrested before, given how many people seem to know about his less lawful activities. And sure, most citizens have been driven to poverty by the Empire, but wow, how many thieves and pickpockets does this city have? Then I realized that you can't talk to all the NPCs for a reason - Vaan's just approaching the ones he knows, or (in other towns and such) the ones he thinks would be friendly. Of course the Rabanastrans he speaks to on a regular basis are gonna talk shop with him!
Except, and this is key, so I will drop the bomb to make this as clear as possible. The point is not that maybe the Occuria can do the job, or maybe the humans can, it's FUCK the Occuria for having the audacity to give themselves the Omniscient Morality License, and FUCK them for being so abusive with the power they had. -Shaxarok
That's not really a "point" so much as a stance against the Occuria who had some very legitimate accomplishments to their name. Its much closer to grey and gray morality even if its not treated as such.
You want horror? Word of God mentions that St. Ajora Glabados is alive during the events of FFXII. Who is the Big Bad of Final Fantasy Tactics? Ultima and the Lucavi. Who are the Espers the party freed from their Occuria-imposed prisons? Ultima and the Lucavi. You cause the events of Tactics. Freed from her prison, Ultima will possess Ajora, die, and set the plot of Tactics in motion...
Remember the Omega Mark XII? The extra bestiary entries for the Urutan-Yensa are project notes written by its creator, the same guy who created the Mimics. The Mark XII got away from him and considering it's the Mark XII, the other Omega bonus bosses in the series may be his creations as well. Add that to the fact the the Mark XII and the Mimic Queen have very similar designs and you get the implication that the Mimic Queen was intended to be a prototype Omega that is capable of reproduction. Fortunately, it only spawns relatively normal mimics, but what if there are others out there that don't have that limitation?