Final Fantasy XII is the twelfth game in the butt-blisteringly popular Final FantasyRPG series, and the first main game in the series to be set in Ivalice. It's a standalone prequel to Final Fantasy Tactics and takes place in the era of Ivalice that the dream land of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was created from.The story begins with the defeat of the Kingdom of Dalmasca at the hands of the powerful Archadian Empire, and subsequent occupation. Two years later, an energetic young street thief called Vaan finds himself sucked into the languishing resistance movement led by none other than Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, princess heir to the Dalmascan throne, thought dead. Ashe is determined to regain her kingdom and take revenge against the Archadians, and the key to this might just be the legendary nethicite once used by her ancestor to unite Ivalice under his rule.The story is also about Basch fon Ronsenberg, a proud knight of Dalmasca thought to have betrayed his king on the eve of Dalmasca's defeat, now imprisoned in a cell far from human contact. It's about a dashingSky Pirate called Balthier and his frosty Viera co-pilot Fran, who have their eye on the riches they can acquire while tagging along with Ashe. It's about Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend who finds herself yanked into the chain of events thanks to her relationship with Vaan. It's about Archadian nobleman Vayne Solidor and his ruthless campaign of intrigue and reformation, and about his young brother Larsa, who wishes to unravel the web of deceit his brother has woven.Final Fantasy XII is a complicated and detailed game noticeably different in storyline from other Final Fantasy games; whilst other games focus on individual characters, XII is less about people and more a story of Nations and nationalism, and the lengths some will go to gain power and control destiny. That's not to say it isn't a character study, with Judge Gabranth's clouded conscience and dark history being one of the major subplots - and hence why he's on the boxart. It's full of intrigue and interweaving stories, tactical team-based fighting, well-crafted dialogue and Limit Breaks (here called Quickenings). It explores the ideas of freedom, revenge, loyalty, peace, and the importance of dreams. It's also a Deconstruction of the "Find powerful McGuffin to Save The World" plot that's been around as long as the genre has, taking a much more sombre look at the pursuit of what is essentially a Weapon of Mass Destruction and the lengths to which people would go to gain — or regain — power.The game happily ties in old Final Fantasy adversaries, as well: Gilgamesh makes his requisite cameo, as do several of the main antagonists from the earliest iterations of the series, as optional summoned beasts.note Chaos and his Elementals, Emperor Mateus, Zeromus, and Ex-Death/Exodus. Still, it's very much a standalone title that can be played without having any previous Square Soft knowledge.It is also the first in the series to go into extreme detail on the nature of items and locations. Expect to find tufts of Phoenix Down and strips of rotten flesh instead of just the items, thorough explanations on the topics of evolutionary biology and monster habitats, a comprehensive history of Ivalice and its tribes and races, and incredible amounts of flavor text in every page of the in-game encyclopedia.For the first time since Final Fantasy II, the player has the option of strategizing around weapon types and character skills almost indefinitely, and to explore the whole world from the very start of the game. It's also noticeable as having a step up in difficulty compared to previous installments, and demanding more hours of investment from the player. Whereas in previous games you can level up reasonably well by just defeating every enemy you encounter en route from point A to point B, in XII enemies in one area can be very easy and in the next Nintendo Hard, so the game will force you to level grind just to progress with the plot.Final Fantasy XII is currently one of only fiveClick for the others IV, VII, X, & XIII of the main Final Fantasy series to gain a direct sequel, Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings, a Real-Time Strategy title for the Nintendo DS. A manga adaptation of the game was released and canceled before its completion. Some characters (notably Vaan and Penelo) also have cameos in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (which also borrows a few tracks of XII's music).
This game provides examples of:
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The Garamsythe Waterway. The in-game codex makes it clear that it actually isn't a sewer, but an underground channel used to bring water to the city, since Rabanastre is in the middle of a desert; hence the sluice control valve to prevent flooding. Its uncleanliness and infestation has gotten to sewer levels because Cuchulainn is there.
Achievement System: The "Sky Pirates' Den" gradually collects sprites as the player meets certain tasks like completing story mode or hunting down rare Elite Marks. Each sprite in the Den clearly details the accomplishment it was awarded for.
A lot of cool ideas, such as the backstories for the Espers, that were probably left on the cutting room floor have at least some existence as text background in the Bestiary.
An Aesop: Revenge solves nothing, along with the examination of what is truly important when it comes to being loyal to a kingdom - loyalty to its ideals, its people, its rulers, or the physical kingdom itself, and if any of these should be sacrificed for the sake of the others.
Different characters seem to draw different Aesops from the story.
Basch: What is shame to me? If I could spare just one person from the horrors of war, I would bear any shame. Bear it proudly.
Antidote Effect: Subverted. Poison is a pretty hazardous status ailment, and you don't want it to compound (Poison + Sap will make your HP go down the drain quickly). The game mechanics (items are used nearly instantly) help it a lot.
Anyone Can Die: None of the six main characters, mind you, but the death toll for this story is reasonably high. Reks, King Raminas, and Rasler all perish during the prologue, all but one of the Judge Magisters die, all but one of the Guest Star Party Members die, everyone in Nabudis prior to the main events, and anyone elsethe Occuria might've exterminated through the use of 'Dynast Kings' much like Raithwall.
Applied Phlebotinum: Mist. Appears as a fog in high concentration, Mist increases the power of magic, causes mutations in monsters, and can have negative effects on the environment. It can also cause races that are sensitive to it, such as Viera, physical discomfort.
Artificial Brilliance / Artificial Stupidity: What you get depends on how you set up your Gambits — they can do a lot, but they can't do everything, and relying on them to fight all your battles for you will find you frustrated and possibly dead.
On the Brilliance side, Gambits to cast healing spells or use healing items only execute once when appropriate. For example, if you have all three party members with Gambits to use Eye Drops on an ally inflicted with Blind, the first party member to get their next turn will use Eye Drops on the Blinded ally and the other two will keep fighting, unless more than one person has been inflicted with Blind. Allies can also detect an enemy's elemental weaknesses even if you don't know them, so Gambits that trigger when fighting an enemy weak to a certain element will go off appropriately.
On the Stupidity side, Gambits for Steal and Poach will continue to execute as long as the conditions are met again, even if the enemy in question has already be Stolen from (and thus cannot be Stolen from again) or is immune to Poach. There's no Gambit that can tell if an enemy has an item to Steal or if they're immune to Poach, so this can happen no matter what the trigger condition for those Gambits is. For Gambits that target allies with Cura or Curaja, or enemies with group-hitting spells, the caster cannot pick targets intelligently, leading to a healing spell going off but by the time it affects an ally they've been killed, or a damaging spell targeting an enemy that dies before it is cast and thus the time spent charging the spell is wasted.
Awesome, but Impractical: Espers cannot be controlled, but they can be killed and so require healing and buffing like normal party members if you want to get any real use out of them, and a lot of the optional Espers cannot be acquired until late in the game. Furthermore, the strongest Espers require three Mist Charges to summon — that is, you need to give up all your MP. The Esper will go away, too, if its master is KO'd. It simply isn't worth it. The International Version fixes this by letting Espers be controllable, and the player can Syphon MP from the Espers, as they get summoned with full MP Gauges and none of their attacks require any. That was likely put in there to counteract using a lot of MP to summon an Esper.
Zalera can be pretty useful for sweeping lower mooks you don't want to fight, provided they are vulnerable to instant death.
Bad Bad Acting: Listen carefully to Basch during the assassination scene during the prologue. That's not bad acting; that's Gabranth not quite managing to imitate his brother.
Bait-and-Switch Boss: In the Necrohol of Nabudis, where a Catoblepas is slaughtered by Fury, an adorable little bunny.
Bare-Fisted Monk / Kung-Fu Wizard: With proper set ups, your party can become this, and one license on the grid board powers up your strength when fighting barehanded. Final Boss Vayne starts the first phase of his fight by attacking you with powerful magic and his own fists and feet!
Bare Your Midriff: In addition to the party outfits, this type of fashion is widespread in Dalmasca.
Bat out of Hell: Several varieties, including some that drink blood. A rare variation of one drinks sap instead.
Become Your Weapon: The final battle is broken into three separate battles, the last of which sees Vayne and Venat fusing.
Many of the optional Espers are likewise protected. It's theoretically possible to fight Adremmalech or Cuchulain shortly after Belias, but the enemies in their areas will kill you before you even reach them without massive Level Grinding.
For both the Zodiac Spear and the Espers, it's insanely hard to get to what you want in one piece. Even if you manage to get what you're after, there's still the matter of getting back to the nearest save crystal.
Golmore Jungle, which is right next to the Feywood. Some players try to avoid That One Boss by going through the Feywood (which in the story the player does not visit until much later). It is filled with powerful enemies, including cute bunnies that can toss a bunch of debilitating status ailments at you.
The Zertinan Caverns has very strong monsters, especially in the International version, where the Archaeoaevis can oneshot a lvl 60 party.
Book Ends: The tutorial/intro culminates in Gabranth impersonating Basch to kill King Raminas and ensure Dalmasca's fall. During the ending cutscene, Basch impersonates Gabranth to stop the battling fleets before Dalmasca is destroyed in the crossfire.
Boss in Mook Clothing: Several around the world map. If an scary-looking enemy is docile, it's probably for a reason.
There's even a Schmuck Bait version of this in the very first area of the game. If you're stupid enough to anger the GIANT T-REX, you may be Too Dumb to Live.
Boss Room: All those bosses need to live somewhere, right?
Boring, but Practical: The Steal Technick. You start the game with it, half your party starts with the License for it, and the ones that don't can acquire it quickly. Stealing from enemies will quickly give you a big boost in your loot income, and it's fairly simple to set up your gambits so you attempt to Steal from enemies at least once before you kill them.
Bragging Rights Reward: The Wyrmhero Blade. The highest attack in the game, automatically grants Bravery and Faith status, and has an 80% combo rate. But to get it you need to beat Yiazmat (which is only unlocked after completing the other 44 hunts) and Omega Mk. XII. Thus, by the time you can get the blade, you've beaten the game's strongest enemies. All that's left is hunting rare enemies and elementals for rare loot and killing the optional Espers, which you're obviously strong enough to do without it.
Brick Joke: The petitioner for the Wraith mark mentions the ghost has begun haunting the Garamsythe Waterway and suspects it came into being to seek vengeance for the slain rats and other vermin living in the sewers. Guess what Vaan spent his time doing to train prior to the game?
If you talk to the petitioner several times, she actually subtly implies she knows Vaan is the culprit:
"I'm not pointing any fingers here..."
Broken Aesop: At the end of the Gil Snapper hunt, Elder Brunoa gives a speech about how it's wrong to kill animals to sell parts of them at market, in a game where this is your primary source of income, at the end of a mission where you killed an animal just because someone was willing to pay you to do so. In an area not too far away from packs of Worgen, which occasionally drop a loot item worth more than a thousand gil, no less.
Broken Bridge: It wouldn't be Final Fantasy without them. While there are plenty of opportunities to wander into areas with monsters stronger than you are meant to face yet, all the paths to places important to the plot are locked via gates, bridges, weather, Imperial guards, etc.
You can get into the Mosphoran Highwaste long before you're meant to by spooking a guard with a chocobo, but even that option is a Broken Bridge at the beginning of the game.
Character Filibuster: Gerun sweet-talks Ashe for close to five minutes straight, barely letting her get a word in edgewise, and when she finally asks a legitimate question, it goes ballistic.
Chekhov's Gun: An early cutscene introduces Balthier's voice changer device. It's completely forgotten until the very end of the game, when Vaan uses it to impersonate Larsa, and Basch uses it impersonate Gabranth..
Class and Level System: In the International Zodiac Job version, you have to pick your job before you can start getting licenses for that character, but thankfully earned LP up to that point is still retained. You can't change classes once chosen like in other FF games, however. Some characters are naturally better at some jobs than others due to their base stat growth. The jobs available are:
Archer: Fights with a bow and wears light armor, standard bowman archetype.
Black Mage: Casts offensive black magic and a few green magic spells, wears cloth armor. Generally the best class for Penelo.
Breaker: Uses axes and hammers with shields and heavy armor. Pure offensive power. Best used for Balthier.
Knight: Uses swords and broadswords with heavy armor, and learns defensive magic. Good for Balthier or Basch.
Machinist: Uses guns with light armor. Good for characters with high speed stat.
Monk: Fights barefisted or with poles, wears light armor. Requires high strength characters.
Monofunu: Samurai class, fights with katana and cloth armor. Generally regarded as Ashe's best class.
Red Mage: Fights using all forms of magic (along with staves and cloth armor), but misses out on the last 2 tiers of each. Good for high magic characters.
Shikari: Combination of hunter and ninja classes, fights with daggers and ninja swords and wears light armor. Ties with Monofunu as Vaan's best class.
Time Mage: Fights with buffing and debuffing spells, uses crossbows and cloth armor. One of the better choices for Fran.
Uhlan: Dragoon class, fights with spears and heavy armor. One of Basch's best classes.
White Mage: The healer, fights with rods and cloth armor. Penelo and Ashe both perform excellently at it.
Classically Trained Extra: The majority of the voice actors are classically trained theatre actors, some of whom had no prior voice acting credits and were simply chosen because of their theatrical experience.
They put up a paling to make themselves immune to physical damage, a barrier to become immune to Magick attacks, or both at once.
Some use a certain ability to double their level, making them one-hit kill your party members with regular attacks.
Zodiark is a cheater among cheaters. Darkja has a chance to inflict Instant Death on a party member, in addition to doing high damage. It hits all party members and is a cinematic attack so you can't act during it or just move party members out of his range, and it so happens this is one of the few games in the series where there is no equipment piece to block instant death attacks. Ergo, Zodiark has the capacity to deal a Total Party Kill, and all you can do about it besides Rage Quit is cast Shell on the party to slightly reduce the chance of Instant Death hitting.
Late game bosses and many marks have a "CT=0" ability that triggers once their HP falls to a certain amount. This ability lets the enemy attack at any time without having to wait for the charge time, meaning they can attack as fast as their attack animations can allow it. If you have your battle speed set to low, this will work heavily against you as the enemy wails on you while you wait for your turn to come up. Lord help you if this enemy is Hasted.
Some bosses also have "null evasion" as a passive ability, which means their attacks never miss. A lot of bosses and some regular enemies have "null vitality", which lets their status abilities hit every. single. time. unless you are immune to the effect in question. Also, most enemy abilities are programmed in as Technicks, meaning that they have no MP cost and bypass Silence.
Competitive Balance: Vaan is the Master Of All being able to comfortably slide into any role, Balthier is a Lightning Bruiser while not as strong and durable as Vaan and Basch has higher speed but low magickal talent, Fran is the Master of None with no strengths in particular but no glaring flaws other then general mediocrity, Basch is a Mighty Glacier being the strongest with the most HP but suffers from low speed and poor magick, Ashe is a Glass Cannon Magic Knight with fair strength and powerful magick but low speed and health while Penelo is a textbook Squishy Wizard.
Cool Mask: The Judge Magisters' and the Garif's helmets. The latter is lampshaded by the cockatrice Shurry when she escapes Giza into Jahara.
Creating Life Is Bad: The extra bestiary entries for the Urutan-Yensa are project notes of the man who created the mimics as living weapons.
Cute Monster Girl: The Viera, who are bunny-girls. You just never see the males in-game.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: You get your first hunt assigned to you during the progression of the story, but if you forget to go back to Tomaj for your reward until after a number of other plot events - such as after you've gotten back from Nalbina - he'll complain about how long you took and say that he already heard about your success from someone else. He'll still give you your reward, of course.
Listen carefully to Basch during the introductory sequence. The developers had the foresight to have Gabranth's VA do the lines for when Basch stabs Reks, because of course, it's really Gabranth disguised as him.
Two guards block the entrance to the Mosphorean Highwaste from Nalbina Fortress. If you Sequence Break and get into the Highwaste another way then come back through the Fortress, they wonder how you got in and survived the trip through.
The International version removes the Zodiac Spear run from the game, mainly due to balance purposes (your jobs make tend to make you a lot stronger for most of the game now that you're focused). If you talk to an NPC next to the first jar to avoid, he says along the lines of "you can go ahead and grab this treasure here, that thing can no longer be obtained that way."
Disc One Final Boss/Dungeon: Averted or outright subverted. Major boss battles happen to include very important plot points used, like how the Manufacted Nethicite is revealed during an boss battle with Tiamat due to Mjrn's twisted inflence from the Nethicite itself. This is because the Undying have an indirect control through the Nethicite.
Disc One Nuke: The game at times seems purposefully designed to allow players to find powerful weapons and armor well before they become available in stores — if the player knows how and is willing to brave powerful enemies to acquire them.
The Zodiac Spear, one of the best weapons in the game with power at least double the other entries listed here, can be acquired as soon as you set out to the Jahara. All that's stopping you is a Beef Gate, nothing a bit of level grinding can't fix.
After killing eight of the optional bosses or marks, you can get the the Nihopalaoa. It causes all items in your inventory to have the opposite effect. Combine this with a Remedy and you can inflict every status effect in the game on a single enemy almost instantly, while also allowing turning the Phoenix Down into an item that inflicts Instant Death. From there the game's difficulty comes toppling down like a row of dominoes.
For specific items - the Deathbringer, normally sold in the final town, can be found in Raithwall's Tomb. The Burning Bow is dropped by the Dive Talon, which is found in the Westersand, which can be accessed as soon as Vaan beats the Rogue Tomato. The Main Gauche can be stolen from an enemy in the same area immediately after returning from to Rabanastre with Basche. The Gladius can be stolen from another enemy in the Westersand, who can be found as soon as you come to the area. The Arcturus can be purchased at the Bazaar by the time you get to Raithwall's Tomb if you know how to get your hands on the three loot items that unlock it, all of which are won from enemies fought in the Sandsea on your way to the tomb.
Disposable Woman: Judge Drace, who gets maybe ten minutes of screen-time before getting killed by Gabranth so he could continue to protect Larsa. Granted, all ten of those minutes are raw awesome, but it's kind of egregious considering she's the only major female character outside of the main party.
Dracolich: You can run into several types of these including a couple of rare monsters and a boss.
Drought Level of Doom: The game can be like this when trekking between key locations. The long road can wear you down with nary a save crystal or a shop in sight as you waste MP and items on monsters that keep swarming you.
Elemental Tiers: The elemental weapons vary wildly in power. Often they are only effective in the chapter they are first available.
You only get the first water-elemental spell, skip the second wind-elemental spell and have a fourth Fire spell called Ardor. In addition (and this seems to be a Final Fantasy tradition), you get no abilities that deal earth damage.
Another example. Each Esper is associated with an element, but they are divided into three tiers.
Yet another example. In this game, after performing a chain of Quickenings, you may perform an extra attack called a Concurrence. There are eight Concurrences, and while they all do Non-Elemental damage, their animations are very clearly based on the elements. Their order from weakest to strongest are : Inferno (fire), Cataclysm (earth), Torrent (water), Windburst (wind), Whiteout (ice), Ark Blast (lightning), Luminescence (light), and Black Hole (darkness).
Escape Battle Technique: A subversion to the trope. Since all battles take place in real time, there isn't any escape techniques. Holding the flee button forces the party to put away their weapons and their running speed is slightly increased to help them get away from enemies.
Enemies can run away like this, too. Usually on a path that attracts more enemies.
Even Evil Has Standards: Vayne may be an evil, scheming son-of-a-bitch, but his hostility appears to be reserved only for those who oppose him. He's polite and well-mannered during his first appearance in Rabanastre, even going so far as to insist that he be addressed as "Vayne" rather than "Lord Consul", a title he says he finds cumbersome. He declares himself "a citizen of Rabanastre" rather than acting like a ruler and orders his soldiers to be respectful to the other citizens.
Exponential Plot Delay: The game moves very fast between Rabanastre and Bhujerba, moves at a steady pace through the Sandsea and the Tomb of Raithwall, then slows to a crawl between that and Draklor as you are sent on fetch quests by supporting characters that often take you through at least one new area to traverse, often more. Then you get to Giruvegan and suddenly the plot begins to rush to a close.
The game as a whole also seems like an Expy of Final Fantasy II at times.note Fitting given that the project was handed over to the lead developer of II in the middle of Development Hell, and that II felt a lot like Star Wars meets The Lord of The Rings at times. Especially in mechanics (you can choose what you're proficient in) and in exploration (II was the only previous game in the franchise in which your exploration was limited by Beef Gates rather than by convenient geographical accidents).
There are early-game enemies called Slavens, which are described as being "beasts of burden gone feral" that are twice as tall as your characters, but that are barely any more dangerous than the wolves or bats from the areas they show up in.
The Wild Saurian you run into in the very first wild area of the game, however, is very much not this trope, which is why the thing doesn't attack first. Once you reach a certain point in the game, there's a one-fifth chance of a variant popping up, which attacks on sight and is even stronger than the Saurian regularly. There's also the pair of Werewolves in another early game area are hostile, and will one-hit kill you at that point in the game. Some in-game dialogue says that local villagers play chicken with them.
Fallen Angel: Invoked and played straight by Ultima, who led the Espers in rebellion against the Occuria.
Fantastic Nuke: Nethicite is the reason Nabudis became the Necrohol of Nabudis. The interesting part is that it parallels Real Life nuclear technology - there is no way to undo its development. Not only are nethicite city-smashers being stockpiled, but originally there were huge swaths of land that airships couldn't fly over, all but isolating Ivalice from the rest of the world. Nethicite not only negates that effect, but makes airships faster. By endgame, just about every nation uses nethicite-enhanced airships.
Reddas: Would you like to know the best use of nethicite? Will or nil, I'll tell you. You pick it up, and throw it away.
I Love Nuclear Power/Nuclear Nasty: The high concentrations of Mist released by deifacted nethicite have a tendency to mutate monsters the same way nuclear radiation does in older works of fiction.
All that said, it can be put to peaceful uses, too. For example, Cid had developed a skystone that lets airships fly in Jagd. Reddas gives one to Balthier.
Especially in the earlier levels where you can't yet touch the Hunts you've been given. If you go through the game and just kill every monster on your way from point A to point B, you will not level up even near the amount you need to tackle the next area, usually. Sometimes even having all the Hunts that you can done will not save you from having to grind.
Besides that, Level Grinding in general is highly recommended in this game, and it could be argued that the enemies are designed in such a way to encourage this, because many have equipment pieces to be stolen or won that are much stronger than what you have at the point you first get to them. For example, an enemy met in the Giza Plains, the second area of the game, rarely drops a Katana with 52 attack, while an enemy in the Westersand (accessible at the same time) drops a Dagger with 45 Attack. You just need to know where to go, what to kill, and have the willingness to invest the time in getting it.
Foreshadowing: Balthier's Mysterious Past is hinted at quite a bit in the earlier parts of the game. Notice how he flinches or otherwise perks up whenever nethicite or Draklor Laboratory are mentioned. To say nothing of his accent, and this particular line of dialogue to Larsa:
Balthier: "You can never know another, even your father."
Framing Device: The entire story is described in Marquis Ondore's diaries and documents. Often, especially after important events, he will narrate from them personally.
Gambit Pileup: When the creators of Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story are involved, and it's the same world as in those games, this is only expected. You'd best pay attention during cutscenes because the game does not spoonfeed you the plot as you may expect from some other Final Fantasy games, said plot concerning the political struggles of two feuding nations and their elite generals as well as the various insurgents, some within their ranks, who are trying to keep them from going to war with each other.
Get Back Here Boss: Vorpal Bunny, good god. Almost all of the Dreamhare monsters are like this.
Getting "Nightsoil" Past the Radar: Also, the textures for the wolf enemies. They were... very, very realistically detailed. To the point that you could tell that the wolves were, in fact, females. And that the larger one used as a bounty was in heat.
Ghostly Goals: Some of the deathscythes, such as the Ixtab mark, are vengeful spirits. Some of the ghost enemies remain in the mortal world because of regrets or hatred.
Gods of Evil: Debatable. Venat, the heretic is substantially more "evil" in action, but could also be considered a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Also subverted in that the Occuria don't refer to themselves as "gods", whereas everybody else does. It's entirely possible that there's something(s) much bigger out there in the XII world than them.
... Except the good guys are monarchist, and the bad guys, while still called an 'Empire', actually have democratically elected leaders... Well, it's a little more complex than that: Dalmasca had a House of Commons that still exists (albeit with little power) under Archadian rule, and if you listen to NPCs in Archadia, you will learn that the senate is controlled by the wealthiest families of the Empire. The greatest irony about the Empire is that the ruling House Solidor rose to power by taking control of the army and making sure that it remained a meritocratic institution. The brilliance is that while there is a clear social divide in Archadia, the game drops subtle hints that show that the Archadian army allows people from different social background to work together and that people from unprivileged origins can rise to the top of the hierarchy (a feat nearly impossible in the civilian society), thus explaining why Vayne is popular and why Larsa is pretty certain for most of the game that his family holds the moral high ground.
Additionally, the Archadian Empire isn't evil — despite their leaders' actions in the war, many Imperials are usually decent guys who uphold the safety of the Empire's citizens, even in conquered territories, and the Archadian people are as sympathetic and human as anyone from Rabanastre. That doesn't change the fact that Vayne is still a megalomaniacal asshole who wants to rule the world, nor does it change the fact that the Empire conquered other realms for power. It's more of a case of both sides having issues. The good guys are just a lot better.
Gratuitous Foreign Language: Sanskrit. The Bhujerbans use it often. Bhadra is essentially the Sanskrit version of Sir/Madam. Parijanah means "guide". Madhu means "honey". And there are various other examples too.
Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Literally, in the case of Venat and occasionally the Judges Magister. The rest of the Occuria speak in iambic tetrameter.
Gratuituous Spanish: The Great Crystal's name in Japanese is "Cristal Grande", which translates to 'Big Crystal' in Spanish. AlmostGratuituous Portugese, too, but the right expression in Portuguese would be "Grande Cristal".
Word of God says they actively went for this, giving the party members character flaws and the antagonists virtues. In their own way everyone is just doing what they think is right, for themselves, for others or for their country, and it's not hard to at least understand why they feel the way they do, even if you don't agree.
It even continues into the credits, what with the still image of a quite happy (and sane) looking Dr. Cid holding baby Balthier, who is turns out from said image is the spitting image of his father in his younger days.
The Grim Reaper: Zalera's bestiary description states that he was this originally.
Guide Dang It: The game has a slew of bonus content including optional areas, sidequests with NPCs, optional bosses and rare items that you will simply never find if you don't know how. To recap some of them:
The Zodiac Spear. It's the most powerful weapon in the game. You find it in an optional area in a normal treasure chest, but only if you avoid opening four chests in the early areas of the game, and the game gives you absolutely no hints or warnings to this. If you fail to acquire it the normal way, fortunately it randomly appears in a chest in another area. However, there's only a 10% chance of the chest appearing, a 10% chance it contains an item, and a 10% that item is the spear. For those who aren't good with math, that works out to a one in a thousand chance of finding the spear.
The Bazaar will eventually sell the best equipment in the game, but only if you sell the right combination of items in the proper quantities—by the way, you aren't told what you need to sell or in what quantities. Finding these items is also a Guide Dang It because some of them can only be stolen/dropped/poached from a handful of enemies, and you're not told what they are or where you can find them. And speaking of finding them, a lot of enemies in the game only spawn under certain circumstances, like entering an area with a party member at low HP, killing a certain number of enemies within an area, or waiting around a certain point for a period of time.
Particular mention must go to the Tournesol, the second-most powerful weapon in the game. It can only be obtained by purchasing it at the Bazaar by selling three particular ingredients. You get one each of them from Montblanc for doing various tasks, how do you get the other two each? You have to track down very rare loot items, most only obtainable as Steal or Drop items from one or two enemies, often times Rare Game. Sell those very rare loot items in the right quantities to unlock the Tournesol's trade components in the Bazaar. And make sure you do it one at a time, if you have the trade items to unlock three of a component and sell all of them at once, the Bazaar only "credits" you one purchase of it, go back and get more!
It's fairly obvious that a lot of the dungeons you enter have additional areas, you can see them on the map and will often find locked gates and other obstacles blocking your path. Good luck figuring out how to access these areas though.
A number of the treasure cheasts that can only be opened once can be wasted by using (or sometimes not using) the Diamond Armlet, an accessory that improves the quality of items you find from chests, but sometimes screws you over by turning a really good item into vendor trash. This was at least fixed in the No Export for You international edition, in which all one time cheasts will always give you a specific treasure (though some of them still have a limited chance to spawn in the first place).
Heel-Face Turn: Several, some prior to the game's beginning. Arguably, Princess Ashe and friends, when they refuse to do the Occuria's bidding to exterminate the Empire. The aformentioned Gabranth as well.
Lampshaded by Balthier: "I am the leading man. Might need to do something heroic." He does, of course, go on to make a heroic sacrifice... and survive it. Smooth operator. It's lampshaded again, too: During the Heroic Sacrifice, Balthier tells the party members not to worry about him, as the leading man, he claims he can't die.
On the other hand, it's played surprisingly straight by several of the Judge Magisters, including Gabranth, Drace, and former Judge Zecht. Even Zargabaath is about to make one at the end, when some last-minute assistance makes it unnecessary.
HP to One: Sight Unseeing will reduce the target's health to single digits with a chance of the number selected being 0 (insta-kill) if the user is blinded. Unfortunately, it's pretty inaccurate and a lot of enemies are immune to it.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Humes are portrayed as very power-hungry and driven to make their mark on the world due to their short lives, including via war and conquest. Ashe gets singled out several times by non-Hume characters for embodying this trait including the Occuria.
Impersonating the Evil Twin: In order to keep up appearances (and to maintain the pretext of the fragile Arcadia-Dalmasca peace treaty) Basch takes over the role (and identity) of Judge Gabranth at the end of the game from his twin brother Noah.
Improbable Aiming Skills: The Imperial Trooper who kills Rassler does so by shooting him with an arrow. Through the one unarmored spot on his body. While Rassler is mounted. In the middle of a pitched battle. Across the span of a bridge. At night. If it wasn't for the fast Basch kills him, the man would probably be deserving of a promotion.
Inconsistent Dub: In that subtitles and spoken dialogue often come out very different. Though it's rare, sometimes the two just don't match up.
Cid (dialogue): Alas, the hour of your return is late.
Cid (subtitle): Alas, your return is too late.
This was actually intentional, as the game's text was translated long before voice acting was recorded. In this particular instance, the change line comes from the actor rewording or improvising it to sound either more natural, or more in-line with how the character speaks.
Informed Ability: Fran, as a Viera, is implied to possess powerful magical abilities ("The Magicks binding the door to the Oubliette are quite strong. Too strong even for my talents."). Until Lv.50, she has the second lowest Magic stat in the game. At Lv.99, she ends up with the third lowest Magic stat.
Around the middle of the game, however, it's revealed that her magic has grown weaker since she left her Hidden Elf Village, so this may be at least partially justified.
Fran and Balthier have slightly modified attack animations when using their default weapons (bows and guns, respectively.) Thing is, these animations take longer than the normal ones, making their rate of fire slower - meaning that they are each the worst at their preferred weapon type out of the party.
Injured Vulnerability: The Poach skill only works on weakened enemies, but you can gain rare items with it.
Instant Runes: Concurrences take the form of runic symbols appearing over enemies and blasting them with some elemental force (though all Concurrences are non-elemental). Each Esper appropriates one of the Concurrence graphics to reuse for their cinematic attack when fought as bosses.
Interface Screw: Some optional bosses such as the Espers are this way, particularly those that disable certain parts of your battle menu (you can't do standard attacks against one, you can't use items against another).
Lady Drunk: The Antlion sidequest woman is still feeling under the clouds even after her children came back home. You can give her some booze for 1000 gil, and she'll stand atop a box and do some weird movements.
Lady of War: Ashe. Also the older and more experienced Judge Drace.
Large Ham: Dr. Cid - "A trial for Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca!"; also, to some extent, Balthier (runs in the family), Judge Ghis and Reddas.
Also, the volume of Vayne's voice goes up a signifcant number of decibels during the final boss fights....
Gilgamesh says your silverware are forfeit to him.
Layered Metropolis: Rabanastre is divided into two halves following its occupation by Archadian forces. "Lowtown", as its name suggests, lies beneath the streets and is comprised of storerooms, now converted into residences.
Lazy Backup: Averted. If all three party members are KO'd, you have to switch in your reserve characters. In fact, the ONLY way to get a Game Over is to have all six party members wiped out. The active characters can even cast spells and use items on the reserves.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Right from the get-go, Balthier refers to himself as "the leading man", and furthermore makes mention to "the story". He seems a bit too aware of his role as one of the leads in a video game.
The irony is that he fancies himself the leading man, but that status more rightly belongs with Ashe or Basch. He's more Wrong Genre Savvy.
Balthier is also one of a few characters to break the fourth wall to give tutorials on how the game works, particularly the gambit system. The gambit system itself leans on the fourth wall considering conversations with NPCs in gambit shops and with one woman in Archades whose husband accidentally developed a shopping gambit that she was the unwitting guinea pig for.
Leitmotif: The very distinctive "Theme of FINAL FANTASY XII" (which itself uses the overworld theme to Final Fantasy I) and "Imperial Theme" are reprised throughout a variety of themes, such as the boss-battle "Strike of a Blade," "State of Urgency," and "Desperate Fight." Even the iconic "Prelude" is augmented with a few chords from it. The Final Battle theme, "The Battle for Freedom," includes a very somber, ominous arrangement of "Imperial Theme," but as the sequence plays out it is overcome and drowned out by a heroic version of the main theme.
Lethal Chef: In the first game, a minor character who gives you a chop when you find a philosopher of food willing to try her... unusual cooking ("it's painful, yet delicious!"). Penelo starts out as this in Revenant Wings, but slowly improves over the course of the game to the point where Larsa gladly pays to have her airship cafe remodeled after sampling her cuisine.
Lethal Joke Item: The Manufacted Nethicite that Larsa gives you usually doesn't see much use, as while it gives you half-damage from elements, it casts permanent Silence on its user. But you can get a lot of mileage on it by designating someone a tank (Basch works well for this, as he doesn't come with any magic), and giving it to him. That way, you've got someone who can wade through elemental attacks with ease, and always has full MP to start a Quickening chain.
Light Is Not Good: The ultimate mark, an ancient dragon with 50 million hit points, that killed Montblanc's mentor, is light elemental.
If the Bestiary info is anything to go by, Ultima also applies.
Arguably the Occuria considering their mysterious, celestial appearance.
Limit Break: Each party member, guests aside, have three that can be chained together in a lengthy sequence. do it right and you can get a Concurrence to really up the damage output. Espers and Bosses seem to have them as well.
Loads And Loads Of Sidequests: The game has tons of these, ranging from hunting marks and getting rewards to pretty much just running around and running stuff. It could be said that the amount of extra content is larger than the main plot.
Lost Forever Unless We Have Lots Of Time On Our Hands: The Zodiac Spear - see Guide Dang It above. Otherwise, rare Loot items can be acquired either easily from bosses and marks, or you can spend hours farming normal enemies. For example, the Orthros mark has Slime Oil to steal - miss it and you're stuck racing Rikken 90 times to get another one. And then there's Gilgamesh and all four pieces of Genji Equipment you can steal from him - no other enemy in the game can be stolen from more than once, or has the item you can steal from them change depending on their HP.
Magitek: One of the most prolific uses in the series, even more than the Trope Namer. Airships run on mist-infused magicite but use spinning rings to somehow generate lift instead of traditional propellers and engines, guns and crossbows can somehow fire status and elementally-attuned bullets and bolts, the Moogling system teleports people across Rabanastre, and high exposure to mist can mutate animals and humans into superbeings with magical powers. And that's all within the first few hours of the game.
Male Gaze: The camera tends to hug the backsides of the party, and the females of the group have outfits that are very tight and form-fitting in that area.
Manual Leader, AI Party: It was the first game in the series to use this. The player controls one party member at once and has the option of customizing the AI of the party.
Marathon Boss: Omega Mk.XII (an hour), Hell Wyrm (hour and a half) & Yiazmat (twelve hours, which nabs the page's picture) are all offenders here. Zodiark can turn into this if you're not careful.
Getting some rare enemies requires chaining a specific number of a single enemy type. The biggest offender is the Urutan Exile, which requires kill 100 Urutan Yensa in a row.
Maximum HP Reduction: A status ailment called "Disease" prevents healing, by reducing the victim's maximum HP any time they take damage.
One-Hit-Point Wonder: Disease lasts after a character has been KO'd, meaning that you first have to revive them, then remove the status, THEN heal them.
May the Farce Be with You: In many respects, the game could be considered how the original trilogy would have gone if Luke had no Jedi powers, wasn't Darth Vader's son, and the Separtist movement from the prequels were still around as a faction strong enough to oppose the Empire.
Mood Whiplash: Finding the Sword of Kings. After a lengthy dungeon and a battle with what is likely your second Esper, you enter a chamber full of Clock PunkMagitek. The magical machinery grinds to a halt, its glow fades, the sword floats forward for Ashe to take hold off...then clangs to the ground as she finds it too heavy to hold with one hand.
Money for Nothing / Money Spider: Mostly averted. You only get money from humanoid enemies, but can sell the loot you find to get new items from the Bazaar.
Motive Rant: Bergan gives one about Vayne's intentions after murdering the Gran-Kiltias.
Mouth Flaps: Subverted. The characters' mouths will sometimes move much faster than their lines would suggest, most notably the scene where Vaan delivers the sword to Vossler.
The name of one of the Bonus Bosses is Omega Mk. XII. Simple, but gets the point.
Most of the Airships are named after some of the iconic summons and characters in the series.
The Final Boss, the Undying, fusion of Big Bads Venat and Vayne, is a literal mechanical dragon. In addition, some of its special attacks have Flare in their names (e.g. "Mega Flare"). Most of the parts that make up this monstrosity came from the Airship/fortress "Bahamut".
See Gilgamesh and his, erm, "borrowed" swords.
The whole last chapter of the game seems to be an extended mythology gag. Let's see... The party climbs an incredibly tall, well-guarded tower to obtain the ultimate power, and upon leaving, they find the Emperor hovering outside of their hometown in a large flying fortress guarded by a cyclone. Hmmm, now where have I heard that one before?
There's actually an homage to Final Fantasy's rival series, Dragon Quest, in the form of the Wyrmhero Blade (Called 'Tolo's Sword' in Japan.), modeled after the sword of the legendary hero Loto (also known as Erdrick).
A stranger form of Mythology Gag is found in Yiazmat's name. Yasumi Matsuno, the man behind Ivalice, was known to his peers as 'YAZMAT.'
At the end of the game Balthier is said to be off looking for the "Cache of Glabados"—a reference to St. Ajora Glabados of Final Fantasy Tactics. According to background information, Ajora is supposedly alive around the time in Ivalice when Final Fantasy XII occurs.
He's still looking for it when he appears as a cameo in the PSP version of Tactics. How he did the Time Travel is not explained, but, unlike Cloud, nobody sees him as strange because he's talking about something that probably has some (even if probably different) meaning in their timeline.
In Final Fantasy X, when fighting the Behemoth enemy, Wakka will sometimes quip "How many steaks do you think we can get out of these?" In Final Fantasy XII, the Behemoth enemies sometimes drop the Loot item "Behemoth Steak".
The differences might be due to translation, but Ashe loosely quotes another Final Fantasy Princess,Garnet Til Alexandros, at least twice:
Garnet: I have a favour to ask of you - I wish to be kidnapped right away!
Ashe: You're sky pirates, aren't you? Then steal me! Is that too much to ask?
Garnet: Someday I will be queen, but I will always be myself.
Ashe: I am simply myself, no more and no less. And I want only to be free.
Non-Human Undead: Many of the monster types have an undead version. Examples include undead wolves, undead war horses, undead vampire bats, undead slimes, and undead bombs. There's also the requisite undead boss who is a Conjoined Twins demon with visible skull.
New Game+: In the International version. Beat the game, and it unlocks this, where nothing carries over, but everyone starts at level 90 (not as great as you think; you'll find out fast just how gear-dependent this game is). Beat the 100-man trial, and you unlock New Game Minus, where no one gains any ExperiencePoints, period.
No OSHA Compliance: The city of Bhujerba is on a floating continent in the sky, and some portions of the city have no railings. However, it's said in-game that no one who falls from Bhujerba dies, and a fallen Bhujerban is found in Phon Coast, amnesiac but alive.
Older than They Look: The Viera live much for longer than Humes. Fran for example, left her village 50 years before the start of the game, yet still looks like a fit twentysomething.
One Time Dungeon: Several examples. Some of them are removed from the world map after the player finishes them, but others are not.
Nalbina fortress, which is destroyed during the attack in the prologue.
Rabanastre Palace during the heist.
Nalbina Dungeon is only accessible during your escape.
Several airship dungeons, including the Leviathan and Shiva, though the latter is less of a dungeon than an area for a Climax Boss fight.
Draklor Laboratory in Archades.
One-Winged Angel: The final form of the final boss has wings formed out of parts of Sky Fortress Bahamut.
Only One Name: In a game where most characters have not just first and last names, but middle names too, Vaan, Fran, Penelo, and Reks only have first names. With Fran it's a cultural thing, while Vaan and Penelo are commoners and orphans. Reks, in addition to being a commoner and orphan, doesn't live long enough to need a last name.
Our Werewolves Are Different: Bipedal monsters called "Werewolves" live in the Giza Plains south of Dalmasca. They're similar in function to the Behemoths encountered much later, but lore from the game's Monster Compendium claims that they used to be human, and became transformed into monsters after eating some kind of contaminated meat.
Paper-Thin Disguise: It usually isn't too difficult to tell what treasure pots are really Mimics, especially later in the game when some Mimics are bright red, while the treasure pots they're supposed to be hiding as are usually gray and black.
The famous sequence in which Vaan runs around Bhujerba declaring himself "Basch fon Ronsenberg of Dalmasca!" is a subversion: it was designed to stir up trouble rather than convince anyone that he really was Basch. It worked.
Party in My Pocket: In towns your party is represented by Vaan (even if he's not in the active party). Out in the field and in dungeons your three active characters (and whatever guests are with you) are always present and can be swapped out for your reserves at any moment.
Pause Scumming: The player can enter the party menu any time, during combat or otherwise. This enables such things as removing equipment from characters who are under Confusion ailment and about to murder a party member, or switching accessories and armour to nullify the effect of a status ailment or elemental spell the enemy is readying.
Percent Damage Attack: Gravity and its variants. Enemies also have abilities like Tri-Attack, which deals damage equal to a third of the target's health. The game determines damage using the target's maximum health.
There is now a translation patch for the International edition which makes the game 99% in English.
Point of No Return: Of the merciful kind, as the game clearly warns you that once you go for the final area, you cannot go back. Furthermore, at several points the game advises you to save in a new slot because you won't be able to go back for a while.
Portal Network: You can expend a teleport stone to use save crystals you've visited before to get to all the important locations in the world. In fact, despite Balthier owning an airship, this will be your dominant means of long-distance transport in the game, and it can take you to far more locations than the airship can. Given that it's cheaper than commercial travel in the game (which you'll never use outside of one sidequest), one wonders how the aerodromes stay in business!
It's possible that Teleport Stones are only available to those affiliated with a clan of monster hunters and due to some bureaucratic nonsense are not commercially available.
They can only take you to places you've been to before. Your average non-adventurer/non-trader doesn't really have any reason to go to the Sandsea or Golmore Jungle or most of the other wilderness areas that have gate crystals. As such, it's more convenient to use airships or go by sea (as is the case for Mt. Bur-Omisace) to go to another place for the first time and you might as well enjoy yourself on the way there.
The Power of the Sun: The bonus note in the bestiary for Garuda-Egi suggests that the sun is aligned with holy power, not fire, dispelling the "myth" that the sun is a just large, firey sphere.
Punch Clock Villains: When you're not busy carving your way through their ranks, most of the Archadians are a fairly decent lot. The Archadian civilians are worried about normal day-to-day issues like finding employment and buying their spouses gifts, and some of the Archadian soldiers stationed in Rabanastre show a genuine concern for its citizens and truly want to keep the peace. For example, the Wyvern Lord Hunt is petitioned by an Archadian soldier in the city who saw it while on patrol and is worried it could pose a threat to the city, but his superior brushed him off. Thus, he decided to pay money out of his own pocket to hire you to kill it before it causes trouble.
Purple Prose: The Magic Pots return again in this game. Rather than simply asking for an elixir in a crude manner such as they've done before ("Gimme Elixir!"), they clamor for the elixirs, and are outraged whenever you attack them.
Read the Freaking Manual: The reply of every person frustrated with newbies who equipped the Goddess Magicite or the Dawn/Dusk Shard (They cause forever zero MP or Silence as long as it's worn) without bothering to read the item information displayed on screen, and then asked why they couldn't use magick.
Realpolitik: Pretty much the core theme of the game. The Archadean Empire is not on a war of conquest for glory or power, at least not only for those things, but because it is surrounded by nations who are the puppets of the Occuria. The twisted scheme to force a total surrender on Rabanastre - they couldn't comb the city for nethicite otherwise. Their quest for nethicite, again not for selfish reasons - nethicite is the tool used by the Occuria to manipulate humanity, and the only means Archades can fight back. Vayne is actually completely honest about accepting Rabanastre's hatred of him - he knows he's temporarily reduced them to slaves in his quest to free the world from the Occuria, and accepts that he'll be remembered as a monster for it. Anything as long as the Occuria are defeated, because that's the only way his nation will be safe. The numberless people who suffer and die due to this are regrettable but disposable.
Recurring Boss: Gilgamesh in more than one sense. You can fight him twice during the game. Furthermore, this could be the same Gilgamesh from previous Final Fantasy games as evidenced by him possessing various (replicas of) familiar swords such as the Gunblade and the Buster Sword.
It was implied in an earlier game that Gilgamesh's "death" in FFV really just sent him careening through time and space, sticking his nose into every game along the way and borrowing trophies.
Repeatable Quest: The game has only one repeatable quest, and it's very modest, and available very early. By visiting the Giza village and running around in the Giza Plains area, you can create multiple Sunstones, which sell for what is a moderate bonus for the player at that part of the game — but the player could get the amount from just killing wolves and selling the loot, and on the side get both EXP and LP.
Revenant Zombie: Zombie mages are described in the bestiary as mages who wanted to live forever, but settled for undeath.
Royal Blood: Played with: Ashe's royal name carries weight, but not enough. The entire reason Ashe wants the Dawn Shard is because she needs power to back up her lineage and with it could try to rally kingdoms to her cause, or maybe negotiate for Dalmasca's freedom. Ghis comments though that the Shard is the real item of worth against her bloodline: if Arcadia needs Ashe, they can come up with a look-alike and use the Shard to declare her the real thing.
Early on in the game, you'll start hearing random citizens in Bhujerba going on about "Bhujerban Madhu," a local brew that's in short supply. Then you start seeing NPCs who are suicidally depressed, half-drunk, or raging over a bad day, all of whom are jonesing for Bhujerban Madhu. Then you start finding caskets of Bhujerban Madhu. Then you start selling them...
Vossler is a straighter example, dying at approximately the quarter-way mark of the story. He's a former Guest Star Party Member. At this point, it became clear that even the protagonists weren't completely safe.
Satan: Venat. To prove how much of an utter group of jackasses the Occuria are, Venat is the game's Bigger Bad and still comes across as the most sympathetic among them, and even performing a Villainous Sacrifice to help Vayne. This doesn't work, but it still wins, as the Occuria have been rendered powerless now that all their conduits to the physical world have been severed.
Secret Shop: Very, very much. It's in the optional dungeon, which opens after you beat an optional boss that becomes available to fight midway through the game and is filled with powerful enemies, and it's invisible. Its best wares are only available near the end, though.
Sequel Difficulty Spike: While still not all that hard once you get the hang of the battle system, this is still one of the harder main series Final Fantasy games. Enemies have group attacks and status attacks and they will use them, and conversely paying or not paying attention to the elemental and status vulnerabilities of enemies can make a big difference. Level Grinding and the subquests aren't mandatory, but the game assumes you're at least taking your time between areas and not just zooming through them, because if you do you'll be overwhelmed in the next major area when the enemies suddenly get stronger. Money for Nothing is also averted: new skills and equipment are expensive and you may not always have enough loot to sell to afford what you want.
Sequence Breaking: With a few exceptions you're free to move between areas freely as you like, accessing rare drops and new shops ahead of time. However, you still have to do the storyline events in a specific order and a few areas are sealed off before you do. Plus, if you skip ahead to a later area out of order, the monsters you meet will often be at a much higher level, and thus sequence breaking is very dangerous unless you flee from fights.
Science Is Bad: Most tech you see hails from the evil Archadian Empire which isn't evil at all, and the divine Occuria condemn it for manufacturing Nethicite ("the power of the gods") because they don't want mortals to have control of their own fates.
Completely averted with the Moogles, whose engineering skills are second to none, kupo!
Moogles are the source of a lot of other technology, including Bhujerban airships.
Shaggy Dog Story: From a certain point of view. As early as the Tomb of Raithwall the Empire actually offers to let Ashe take the throne publically and rule over Dalmasca again, but she refuses because she wants to keep fighting the Empire. Ultimately her attempts to attain power or weaken Archadia's don't amount to anything, and while it's her Character Development that convinces her to change her mind, up until then the party really doesn't do a thing to affect the grander scheme of things except making the world powers more suspicious and paranoid than they already were. Which of course almost begins a world war that the party has to act to stop in the climax.
Most notably, the plot references Star Wars with some enthusiasm: Apart from the obvious comparison between Judge Gabranth and Darth Vader, there Princess Ashelia and Princess Leia, as well as Balthier / Han Solo and Fran / Chewbacca. Wedge and Biggs make a cameo as well, with their names scrambled up a little this time around.
A background conversation between Vaan, Penelo and Larsa while Ashe and Basch discuss weightier matters is a shout out to the notorious Good Bad Translation of Final Fantasy Tactics. "I had a good feeling." "This is the way!"
None of the traditional summons from the main games are featured in the game (a first!) but their names survive as the names of the airships used by the Archadian and Resistance fleets. Notably, two flagships which serve as mini-dungeons are Shiva and Leviathan, Marquis Ondore's ship is Odin and the final dungeon is Bahamut.
Furthermore, the ship destroyed at the beginning is called "Tonberry."
At the start of the side-quest "Anne and her Sisters", the gentleman that Anne is talking to is named Rande.
A Pirate Gossip in the bar in Balfonheim tells you about a strange fellow he met who talked about defeating a wyrm on Cerobi Steppe... "But I heard all he does is yell at windmills. Pity the man that rides with him."
Bhujerba has a large castle, which sports a pair of massive angelic wings, a visual reference to Final Fantasy IX. There is also a scene set within this castle wherein a Rebellious Princess asks to be kidnapped by pirates in their airship.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Fighting on the field in Ozmone Plain, Cerobi Steppe, Paramina Rift, and the Great Crystal. Also, hunting Marks in these areas (music does not change when fighting Marks (except for when luring out Ba'gamnan and encountering Gilgamesh), such as Trickster in Paramina Rift, where you fight a particularly tough Bonus Boss with a calm movie score-like song playing.
The music does not change for Quickenings either, so you get to hear the calm music of Ozmone Plain or Paramina Rift while your characters tear asunder space and time.
Space Cold War: Rozarria = NATO, Archades = Warsaw Pact, Nethicite = Nuclear Weapons, Dalmasca = any country that got a proxy war in it such as Korea and Vietnam. This game could even be viewed as what would happen if during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba was researching ancient magic that would let them mass-produce even more nuclear weapons. All in all, this is why so much of the plot of the game is about politics and faction leaders while your party tries to get an edge in on the coming conflict — Rozarria and Archadia both don't trust the other to back down and don't want to do so themselves for fear of appearing weak, and while Archadia's nethicite research is allowing them to acquire more and more power, Rozarria is itching to seize the chance to make the first move before Archadia can. This is why the game's climax centers around stopping the battle between Archadia and the Resistance, because it's the chance Rozarria has been waiting for and if they get involved the dreaded world war will begin.
Subverted since the conflict between Archadia and Rozarria was sparked by Vayne moving toward an unrelated goal that is revealed later in the game.
Spanner in the Works: Despite his status as the Decoy Protagonist, Vaan of all people manages to undermine the Occuria's plans. His ability to see Reks, as Ashe saw Rasler, implies that the Occuria would use him were Ashe to turn aside from their plan for her. Instead, he overcomes the illusions, refuses to take revenge on behalf of his brother, and ultimately may have been the role model Ashe needed to reject the Occuria.
Sticks to the Back: All greatswords stick directly to your back, with a slight clang, suggesting they're stuck there using magnets.
Stripperiffic: Ashe and her micro-skirt and Fran and her armored teddy for the guys, and Vaan's vest and pants for the girls. Penelo's skintight jumpsuit is modest by those standards, but still pretty revealing.
The arguable winner in this category is a minor NPC in Reddas' crew◊. She wears a coat that might as well not exist for all the coverage it provides and sports a pink g-string over hot pants. It's as though she's had clothing described to her, but doesn't actually understand the concept.
Sword of Plot Advancement: Uniquely, all the magic doodads you find during the course of the game - such as Nethicite and the swords you're sent to find, etc. - are equippable but have ridiculously bad stats. Nethicite, true to its plot purpose of sucking up magic, reduces your MP to zero, but also reduces magic attacks against you big time. Helpful against the boss fight with Mateus.
Justified in the case of the swords, seeing as they were made with the sole purpose of destroying nethicite and the Sun-Cryst and not for combat.
Tell Me How You Fight: Although with the proper license, any character can use any type of weapon, each of them has a particular style that's visible regardless of weapon equipped. Balthier tends to use everything one-handed, even two-handed weapons, which reflects on his laid-back persona. Fran holds anything that isn't a ranged weapon elegantly to one side. Vaan uses low, wide stances that, in real life, generally allows a person to cover ground quickly. Penelo, starting with a knife, has an acrobatic, dance-like fighting style most easily seen with her unarmed style with Brawler unlocked. Ashe's style is pretty defensive, with even her unarmed stance has her putting a hand up in front of her like she's using a shield. Basch is pretty much the Combat Pragmatist given that all his moves are basic strikes executed from a natural standing stance and border on Boring, but Practical.
Tiered by Name: The game has another Omega named Omega Mark XII, one of the last marks you fight and also an optional superboss. In the Japan-exclusive version (named Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System) Omega Mark XII is also fought on the 99th floor of trial mode.
To Be Lawful or Good: Judge Zargabaath struggles with this most of the game, usually deciding on Lawful.
Too Dumb to Live: The second page of the Chimera Brain's entry in the Bestiary is Report #A0075 O.P.O.D:
Eat the head of the wise, and his wisdom you shall gain! Like eating food whence to gain nourishment. To determine the truth of this, I have just now eaten a whole chimera head. No effects as yet. On the morrow, we shall see.
No further reports, poacher no longer at large. Investigation closed, by Imperial Decree." Sgt. Xerse of the 8th
Underground Monkey: Subverted. The in-game encyclopedia gives long explanations on monster genus origins and the subtle differences between subspecies in different areas. The monsters are never just pallete swaps, but actually reflect their habitat in their designs.
The Unpronounceable: An NPC called Ktjn is involved in an optional sidequest. According to supplementary materials, it's pronounced "kitten", though in Japanese it's "Katrine". Most of the other Viera fall under this too - Fran seems to be the only exception as one of the few Viera fortunate enough to afford a vowel in her name, which seems to fit considering she's not like other Viera.
Krjn (Caroline in other languages) is her sister.
Unique Enemy: The Wildsnake, Darkmare and Emperor Aevis and most rare game only appear in one location each. For the Darkmare to respawn, you have to leave the region where it can be found entirely. This trope applies even more to the trophy rare game, which actually ARE one-of-a-kind and never respawn after they are defeated.
Updated Re-release: The wrongly-named "International Version" of the game, whose changes and additions are too numerous and important to list here. Despite being subtitled "International Version : Zodiac Job System", it is Japan-exclusive.
This is mainly due to the fact that FF VII and X were also given "International Releases", which essentially means that it's all the additions the US versions got that Japan didn't in their initial release, and then some. That being said, the Zodiac Job System version might as well be considered a brand new game.
The most blatant example is the Water spell. In the original version of the game, you could only learn the basic Water spell and not the next tiers of the spell tree while enemies could use the stronger version of Water. The only way to do a ton of damage against enemies weak to water was to use a gun with bullets that have the water element.
Vendor Trash: It's your main source of income. Unlike previous entries enemies don't randomly drop gil when killed, they drop Loot instead, which you have to sell to make money.
Humanoid enemies do drop money, and you can steal gil from some other enemies, but that's a drop in the bucket.
Victory Pose: Each character has a multitude of victory poses available after boss fights, mainly depending on what sort of weapon they're carrying. An extensive list can be found here on the official Wiki.
Videogame Geography: The Kerwon continent is screwed up. Frozen tundra & mountains border lush tropical jungles. Most oddly, Mt. Bur-Omisace, at the top of a long climb through the frozen Paramina Rift, is relatively nice & sunny (or rainy). It's warmer on top of the mountain than at the base! Similarly, the continent temperature varies strongly east-to-west instead of north-to-south.
Of course, this is in a game with sand seas & floating continents. At least all the deserts are equatorial.
It is heavily implied the Mist has a profound effect on the environment and the ecology, so Mist concentrations are likely the cause of Kerwon's badly put-together jigsaw puzzle status.
There's also the fact that with certain environmental conditions (mainly volcanic heat), things like Mt. Bur-Omisace is very much in the realm of possibility.
The Walls Are Closing In: The game has two Demon Wall enemies. The first one you fight presents a twist — it is powered up and offers you little time to defeat it, but it is fortunately a Skippable Boss and you are meant to flee the battle by using the door that it would crush you against, and instead fight the second wall in the next room. The second one (the one you must defeat) is much weaker and offers much more time to win. If so desired, you can come back later in the game to rematch against the first wall. Unless of course, you've done a lot of Level Grinding, in which case you can just off the first one right away and pick up a weapon that you're not intended to have at that point in the game yet (still not quite the Infinity+1 Sword though, but it is one of the games many, many Disc One Nukes).
War Is Hell: Basch is very much of this opinion. Vossler believes this to an even greater degree, betraying Ashe in an attempt to peacefully restore Dalmasca.
Wave Motion Gun: The battery of Mist Cannons mounted on the top levels of SkyFortressBahamut, used to sink (read:utterly disintegrate) Resistance cruisers in one shot.
"The Humes ever skew hist'ry's weave. With haste they move through too-short lives. Driven to err by base desires, t'ward waste and wasting on they run. Undying, we Occuria light the path for wayward sons of man."
Win-Win Ending: Ashe restores Dalmasca, Archadia is in Larsa's gentler hands, peace between Archadia and Rozarria is not very likely, Vaan is a sky pirate and so on. However, the villains also reached their goal, namely ending Occuria's manipulation of mortal affairs even if they died in the process.
Whole Scene Reference: The game's plot draws a lot of inspiration from Star Wars, and the final assault on the Bahamut is virtually identical to the Death Star assault in Return of The Jedi, except that it's in the sky rather than in space.
Earlier, breaking Ashe out of the Leviathan is so similar to the parallel sequence from A New Hope that you half-expect Vaan and Balthier to mug Imperials for their armor. Also, the Chewbacca analogue, Fran, is the one who makes the escape possible in the first place.
Will Talk For A Price: Jules of Archades, a "street-ear" who Balthier states would "bite a Gil given him by his own mother, and shave it by half to pay for her funeral." He's always willing to provide your party with information... for the right price.
Jules: I’ve a message from Master Balthier. He’s waiting in Central. He says to come quickly.
Vaan: On this? But we need a... a Chop. What is a Chop, anyway?
Jules: When a boy wants information…that’s right… A boy pays. 2500 Gil sound about right.
Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Awesomely averted. The semi-Shakespearean dialogue is performed so smoothly and naturally that you stop noticing pretty quickly. When you do notice it, it's only because it's awesome and memorable.
Ashe, the Princess who lost her country to invaders.
Balthier, AKA Ffamran mied Bunansa, the son of one of the architects of the invasion.
Basch, the guy who took the fall for the invasion.
Vaan is the Player Character because he has the best perspective of the whole train wreck - a civilian who not only has to live in a conquered country, but lost family to the conquest. Penelo tags along with him to keep him from snapping due to the three blowhards who play their power games, ignoring how normal people suffered in the turmoil.
Fran is there to remind them that the world is bigger than humes and their squabbles.
You Bastard: Some of the Mark hunts are memorably harsh, particularly the "Legendary" ones such as the White Chocobo and Black Chocobo, who keel over with a pathetic "Kweh." It's enough to make an FF fan die inside.
The Behemoth King is tough to even find: the player must slay every monster in the south Feywood within a set time limit. Once the King perishes, its dossier reveals that it's a guardian spirit which protects the creatures of the Feywood. Oops.
The manga adaptation provides examples of:
Adaptational Badass: The Judges have been each upgraded from Elite Mook to One-Man Army, possessing superhuman strength and speed in addition to their fighting training making them powerful duelists. Take Ghis for example—he kills Firemane single-handedly and then takes on Fran and Balthier and was beating them until Vaan intervened. And he was barehanded the whole time.
Standard operating procedure seems to be for the game's bosses to suffer Badass Decay so the party members can gain this trait dealing One Hit KOs to them — Fran uses a Quickening to freeze a second Firemane solid, and Basch cleaves the Mimic Queen apart in one swing. Using a rusted and cracked sword he repaired to working condition using Heroic Willpower.
Adaptation Expansion: Flashbacks show the circumstances of how Ashe and Rasler fell in love, why Archadia began the war, and Basch's side of the story during the night Raminas was killed.
Pragmatic Adaptation: As the chapters progressed from backstory to the in-game events, it still follows the general outline of the game's plot, but a lot of scenes are swapped out and new ones added in.
Ascended Extra: Vossler's role in the early game is much more fleshed out.
Hotter and Sexier: While Ashe is the focus of this as described below, Fran and Penelo aren't exempt either. Penelo appears in her home in her underwear in one scene, and overall the three female party members are often shown from angles that emphasize their breasts and rears.
Ms. Fanservice: Ashe is prone to being depicted very gratuitously, her rear particularly being emphasized often, and on one page she's fully nude with Barbie Doll Anatomy.
Shout-Out: When Ashe "borrows" Lord Rasler's sword and runs off, he calls out after her.