This game, I must say, is one of my favorite Final Fantasies, alongside VI, VII, and IX.
For some, the story is the biggest sticking point. Yes, there are "problems". Vayne is a pretty unmemorable villain, and Vaan doesn't really add much to the story — even Penelo had her Larsa subplot — but in a way, I like
FFXII features a measured, politically-oriented storyline about a small nation between two superpowers
and a cast of average people with understated characterizations, fighting overwhelming odds and only achieving small victories, tempted to use weapons of mass destruction to even the odds. The subtle strokes the game paints speak far more than the anime-style histronics in the single-player Final Fantasies surrounding it. Everything screams verisimilitude
: the bookends
of an old politician reading his memoirs, the small, restrained gestures of emotion the cast share, the lengthy globetrotting across wide open fields, the Shakespearean machinations for the throne, the ethical quandries about free will and destiny, the incredible depth Ivalice's history has, and more. It isn't well-constructed as a story, but it doesn't need to be; it feels organic, like you could read about it in a good history book.
The graphics are a delight, full of eye-popping visuals and fantastic design. The sprawling, Istanbulesque Rabanastre especially is a sight to behold, whether its the packs of orphans scurrying through the streets or the fascinating spires stretching into the skies. Outside the city, meanwhile, seeing the way the lens flare glimmers in the sky is breathtaking to a gamer raised on Super Nintendo
. The strong structural lines, well-defined characters, and bright color palette, full of yellows and browns and reds, makes the world feel like it could be a Persian miniature
The gameplay is great, although not without its problems, tedious dungeon crawling in particular. Since the items are randomized, some controller smashing results when you slog down a monster-infested sidepath only to get 41 Gil. The open-world expansiveness is a great way to waste hours exploring or just marveling at the scenery, and the Gambits help alot with the tedium of Level Grinding
and random encounters.
All in all, not without flaws, but great nevertheless.