Angst? What Angst?: Let's recap, Basch's mother died, his brother turned to the Archadians and framed him for regicide so the world thinks he's a long-dead traitor, two countries he tried to defend have been conquered, everyone he swore oaths to protect are dead or in hiding, and he's been locked up for two years in Nalbina as a potential political pawn while Gabranth visits him to taunt him about his failures. While he's certainly carrying the burdens of these events, you can count on one hand the times the guy actually visibly mopes about them, as he prefers to focus on his duty to Ashe and Dalmasca than his own problems. Gabranth even points this out, being frustrated with being unable to understand how gracefully his brother handles his burdens.
Americans Hate Tingle: While he is very popular in Japannote fan demand and outcry was so intense that he made it into Dissidia 012 as XII's representative hero, Vaan got a much less warm reception from western players, though this is mostly due to him being choosen as the "face" of the game (despite his small role) rather than him being unlikeable.
The Zodiac Age is one for both of the previous versions when it comes to the License Board/Job System. The base version was criticized because even in the early game the License Board effectively turned every party member into clones, allowing everyone to have identical ability sets and no uniqueness beyond what the player feels like building for them. The Zodiac Job System version was criticized for going too far in the opposite direction, as it had twelve jobs with much smaller License Boards, so players couldn't access all the game's options for their characters and characters had extremely restricted ability sets. The Zodiac Age goes for the middle ground by bringing back the Job System, but it allows characters to take a second job after a certain point in the plot. This allows players to utilize all twelve jobs if they so choose, gives party members a limited ability set but a much larger one than before, and invites lots of strategy discussion in how to dual class each character.
The ability to change License Boards (which also completely refunds License Points) through Montblanc for free was added to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One releases (and later patched onto the PlayStation 4 and PC versions) of The Zodiac Age, much to the relief of gamers who have complained about committing the characters to permanent jobs and regretting their choices later on and prefer flexible job systems like in Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics.
Awesome Ego: Balthier, the self-assured and self-proclaimed leading man who would prefer everyone think of this as his story. He's so charismatic and charming that most of the fandom heartily embraces the idea. Being heavily connected to the plot and villains only helps.
Awesome Music: It's Final Fantasy!note In spite of the fact that this is the second time Nobuo Uematsu did not score the soundtrack.
Badass Decay: Yiazmat in the Zodiac releases. In the original game Yiazmat was infamous for taking hours to defeat due to its massive HP and an augment that lowered the damage cap to only 6999. In the Zodiac releases the damage cap is removed entirely and Yiazmat is made vulnerable to the four stat-lowering Technicks. The rereleases also made the ideal weapon to counter Yiazmat, the Dark-elemental Ninja Sword Yagyu Darkblade,note Dark is Yiazmat's elemental weakness, and Ninja Swords have high combo ratings allowing them to strike several times per turn much more powerful and easier to obtain (whereas it was almost impossible to get in the original). The result is that with the right strategies, Yiazmat can be killed in about fifteen minutes. Few would call weakening Yiazmat like this a bad decision, though, as before even an optimized party doing everything right would take ages to kill the boss.
Best Boss Ever: The final battle of Trial Mode pits you against all five Judge Magisters, and they exhibit perfect teamwork: Ghis debuffs you and hits you with magic, Drace buffs the group, Bergan and Gabranth wail on you with physical blows, Zargabaath buffs the two with Bravery and Berserk, and across the team they'll use Elixirs to fully heal each other when weak. Oh yes, and if you try to use Reverse on your party to nullify their attacks like you've done with so many other bosses, they're scripted to start tossing healing items at you to kill you even faster than normal. By the time the last of the five falls, you'll feel like the most badass warriors in Ivalice.
Some will think this heretical, but XII was a refinement of what fans praised in X: a large, open world; a cast of likable people who all get decent amounts of screen time; a rehash of the Sphere Grid (a cleverly-designed linear path which takes the routine stat increases of levelling and makes you do it manually) which at least allows a little bit of customization. (This person will specialize in black magic, this person in white, etc.) Like X, however, some of the main characters let the side down:
Vaan: Wants to be a sky pirate pretty much because he's a stock adventurer.
Penelo: We know next to nothing about her or why she's tagging along.
Basch: Was accused of killing Ashe's hubby. Joins the party to clear his name. Hasn't been expanded on since.
Fran: Shunned by her people simply for leaving the woods where they live (?). Has a sensitivity to magic rocks.
Ashe: Wants revenge for her husband's death and wants to reclaim her empire.
Balthier: Dashing sky pirate. At least he has a reason (i.e. his father) for becoming one, or for joining the fight.
Vayne: The main antagonist who seems to be well-intentioned but tyrannical. They seem to allude to Venat goading him into it, but he still comes across as uninteresting 30 or so hours in, simply because they don't touch on it enough.
Points of contention are the shift from turn-based to real-time combat, the removal of random encounters, the story, and the characters. While the gameplay shift is a matter of opinion, critics of the story claim there is no story and the party's efforts are largely a waste of time, while supporters note the story is just told more subtly than previous entries, and is one of political intrigue and moral ambiguity. The characters, either most of the cast are utter badasses with deep characters, or they're shallow and undefined.
The Gambit system itself is fairly divisive for being too intuitive. Even a decent setup allows you to essentially run the game on auto-pilot. Some players love the sheer control and customization this offers, especially given usual party AI is such a crapshoot, while others feel it's a Scrappy Mechanic that bogs down the game.
Complete Monster: Judge Bergan is a ruthless Judge Magister of the Archadian Empire. He supports Vayne Solidor's rise to Emperor because he admires his desire for power and the ruthless means he uses to achieve his ends. When his ally Judge Drace accuses Vayne of murdering his father to take the throne, Bergan gleefully strikes her down and is the only Judge who is unmoved by her execution. Later he and his fellow Judges travel to Mt. Bur-Omisace, a major religious site and home to many refugees, to retrieve Vayne's brother Larsa. While there, Bergan leads a slaughter of the innocents who live there and murders the religious leader known as the Gran Kiltias. Even though the men he served had good intentions, Bergan was simply interested in power.
Contested Sequel: More so than most, and to a greater degree among the fandom than the critics— primarily due to the battle system and what some view as a lack of story, while others view it as more subtle.
Creator's Pet: Depending on their views, some may see this of Vaan. He gets far more time in the spotlight than any of the other characters, and is treated as an important, gifted character (especially as far as being a sky pirate goes), even though he has little influence on the plot itself. He also seems to be shoehorned into the role of "Representative of XII" whenever there's a crossover game involved.
The Abysteels from the Henne Mines, the highest-level bats in the game. Seriously, those things will bite you in half. The good part is, they give so much XP that the sections they appear in are ideal to grind to level 99.
The Baknamys from Nabudis. Their physical attacks hit damn hard for their level, they can use Fangs for elemental attacks on par with level 2 spells, parry too much for their own good, and when you find one two or three more tend to manifest nearby to gang up on you. It doesn't help that you can get to their territory completely by accident while at 10-15 levels below what the area requires.
Entites and Elementals. Most areas have one that appears and is entirely docile, they just float around casting buffing spells on themselves. But if something casts a magic spell in range of them, they go ballistic; they cast Silencega and Sleepga to incapacitate your party, Fearga to drain MP, Dispelga to remove your buffs, and they spam Level 3 magic attacks like Firaga, Thundaga, Aeroga, Darkga, etc. They also pack a lot of HP, are immune to all but one type of elemental damage, and they have a lot of passive Augments that afford them defensive buffs, immunity to most statuses and Technicks, Piercing Magick (spells ignore Reflect), and also cause them to deal counter damage anyone who attacks them. Elementals are less Demonic than Entites (lower HP, fewer Augments, weaker spells), but they'll still probably kill you if you provoke one unawares.
Necrophobes from optional parts of Great Crystal qualify. They spam Death and Doom, in a game that does not offer a way to completely block such statuses, meaning your tank can and will go down in one hit. They also like to teleport out of your final blow, essentially negating the damage. What makes them this trope, however, is that they can multiply on its own with a move called Divide, meaning you can potentially face a large army of Death and Doom spamming ghosts.
As mentioned under Boss in Mook Clothing on the main page, spelunkers in the Zertinan Caverns who are accustomed to the original version of the game are in for a nasty surprise when they run into the Archaeoaevises, once simply aevis-type enemies that were 'merely' the strongest enemies in the area, who have been buffed into Bonus Boss-level nightmares for all the Zodiac versions. They like to spam Curse to put Disease and Confuse on your characters among other statuses, have enormously strong physical hits and have at least 161,622 HP at the lowest in their level range, already making them by far some of the strongest random enemies in the game. If you happen across a level 99 one, which they can totally spawn at, they have just shy of one million health, putting them on-par with end-game bosses. And for the icing on the cake, as soon as you aggro one, the second one in the area will make a beeline for you, turning them into a Dual Boss. Oh, and you have to fight them, as they're the only normal enemies to drop the Emperor Scales you need to unlock the Mithuna in the Bazaar.
Ending Fatigue: Even those who like the game and manage to see it through to the end will agree that it just drags before the climax, in large part due to Pharos being one of the longest obligatory dungeons in the series, and before that, the trek to and through Giruvegan and the Great Crystal also being very long.
Larsa is extremely polite, tries to end his brother's war, and eventually has enough of Vayne's evil and stands against him. The infinite supply of potions that he carries as a guest definitely helps.
Al-Cid looks awesome and is extremely good-looking. He's brutally honest but not a dick about it, and serves as the sole representative from Rozarria, in addition to also attempting to press for peace. Being called "Al-Cid" also might have had fans declaring him the Cid of the game (Word of God is that it's Dr. Cid).
Judge Bergan is a fairly minor character who only gains focus during his brutal assault on Mt. Bur-Omisace, but he's deemed one of the highlights of the game thanks to his glorious rant about the power of mankind and his fantastic voice acting.
Evil Is Cool: The Archadian Judges wear plate mail with black capes and all wield a Double Weapon that can split apart so they can Dual Wield, Dr. Cid is a Large HamMad Scientist armed with BFGs, and Vayne is a Magnificent Bastard that single-handed causes a world war so he has pretense to conquer it, and fights the party using nothing but his bare hands and sheer willpower to bend reality. Then he goes One-Winged Angel and becomes a giant cyborg humanoid Bahamut with a BFS and BFG. Let's face it, we wish we could play as the Archadians in this game.note Balthier, Larsa, and Reddas will have to do.
Evil Is Sexy: Gabranth, given that he's Basch without the scars.
Fandom-Enraging Misconception: No, Vaan's last name is not Ratsbane, "Vaan Ratsbane" is just a nickname Dalan gave him because he spends most of his time in the waterway fighting rats to train. No other character, including Vaan himself, ever calls him that.
The Occuria speak in iambic tetrameter. The rebel of their number speaks in iambic pentameter. This may be a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which the Witches speak trochaic tetrameter (four feet, alternating stress, starting with a stressed syllable) to help illustrate their otherworldly nature.
Giruvegan has other examples, especially one at the very end of the map - the Way Stone which teleports you to the Occuria's realm is described as "Empyrean", which, either as either a noun or an adjective, refers to the sky or heavens. Any time after the storyline event, that same device becomes "Tellurian", which is an adjective meaning "of or relating to, or inhabiting the earth." Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you see where it takes you.
Anything if you're far enough above their level. Level 5 enemies will continue to throw themselves at your Level 50 party as you backtrack through areas in search of rare game and treasure. Fortunately you can hold R2 or turn off Gambits to ignore them, and most enemies give up and run away after you leave their zone of aggression.
Lich-type enemies. Liches can use Divide, which splits the Lich into two enemies, one retaining its previous damage and the new one having full health. The problem is that the new Lich can also use Divide. Cue a single enemy cloning itself over and over and over in a game of Whack-A-Lich. And for extra fun, the Lich variants in the late game can cast Doom and Death.
Skeletons can spawn in a given area almost nonstop. They're great to build up massive chain kills and a good source of EXP farming, but if you don't want to fight them all or are just trying to kill the ones in your way, they just keep coming and will blast your party with elemental spells while also beefing up their own defenses with Protect, Shell, and Reflect. They do eventually stop spawning, but not until after you've killed at least 50 of them.
The Trickster mark isn't particularly difficult, especially if you put it off until later in the game. The catch is getting it to hold still because it continually runs around the area, leaving your party to run after it and get in a single hit as it turns and comes back.
The 5 Mandragoras fought in the Sochen Cave Palace are highly unlikely to actually pose a serious threat, as even with their combined totals their stats are low, especially for the point you encounter them. That does not mean that they won't make you work for your victory, as their preferred tactic is to disperse themselves across the arena and inflict several Standard Status Effects whenever someone gets close, then run away again and possibly heal.
Any boss that uses palings, which make them immune to magick or physical damage for a considerable duration. Almost invariably the bosses that use them throw them up at critical health, making the last portion of the fight drag as you're forced to change your strategy.
Yiazmat. 50 million HP coupled with an abuse of Instant Death attacks creates a boss that isn't really challenging, just very, very annoying.
A certain undead rare enemy that is in an area accessible very early in the game can be killed continuously with one Phoenix Down, and made to respawn by leaving the area before the EXP numbers appear from the defeated enemy (or if you want the loot he drops, just getting back to town and back, though it takes longer). This can be used to level up Vaan (who is the only character at this point in the game) very quickly, as well as make a lot of money from its item drops.
Using the Break spell on enemies in certain areas can cause them to respawn indefinitely, leading to power-leveling and making a lot of money.
Using Break also lets you avoid breaking your chain-level when an enemy of the wrong type butts its head into your killing spree (Poison does similar as well).
Loophole Abuse: To make your way through the Second Ascent of the Pharos, you must sacrifice being able to use either magick, physical attacks, items, or the mini-map. The easiest option is obviously the mini-map, and it is not a loss at all when you can still use the larger map or The Zodiac Age's overlay map, which the developers have for some reason overlooked disabling. This is the same case for places such as the Draklor Laboratory and the Feywood, where the mini-map becomes distorted by Mist.
Magnificent Bastard: Vayne Carudas Solidor is the, calm, collected, brilliant, devious son of the Archadian Emperor. Vayne manages to march in to the land of Dalamasca to depose the king before giving a speech so powerful, even the people who despise him openly cheer. He follows this by organizing a feast to bait the resistance into attack, ready to kill or capture most of them in a trap. Vayne's ultimate goal is to defy the gods themselves, using the material Nethicite to empower himself as the Dynast King of Ivalice and free humanity from the divine Occuria's will, a goal for which no price is too great, even if he has to stain his hands in blood endlessly.
Everything Vaan says during the notoriety subquest in Bhujerba. "I'm Captain Basch fon Ronsenberg, of Dalmasca!" "Don't listen to Ondore's lies!" "Basch lives!" Dissidia referenced this with the hidden bonus line "I'm Basch!" for Vaan's EX Burst.
"I play the leading man, who else?"note Many fans would concur.
"I know something of cages."
"A TRIAL FOR ASHELIA B'NARGIN DALMASCA!"
Lara's infinite Hi-Potions. The removal of the "infinite" for the Zodiac versions saddened a lot of players.
"Oiyoiyo" (オイヨイヨ) among Japanese fans, which is misheard from Vaan's line "Tobioriro!" (飛び降りろ!), meaning "Jump down!", when the party first encounters Ashe in the Garamsythe Waterway. It somewhat doubles as a Fan Nickname for Vaan and his Japanese voice actor Kouhei Takeda.
"Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world after failing the first time. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world with your friends. Politics."Explanation The summary of the plots of Final Fantasy games from I to XI, compared to the plot of XII. Not included is X-2, which also revolves around politics.
Judge Bergan's ruthless massacre on Mt Bur-Omisace — he kills civilians, refugees, and even the Gran Kiltias Anastasias. Partly to assert his and Vayne's strength, and partly because he can. Though it's somewhat implied that he was being possessed by Venat (to strengthen Ashe's resolve against the Empire), so YMMV.
There are many points one could argue Vayne had crossed it, but it can also be argued he was doing what he had to based on his motives. However, in-game he crosses this horizon in the eyes of his younger brother, Larsa, during the final attack on the Dalmascian rebellion by announcing he would refuse their surrender and force them into a Death-or-Glory Attack against their will, all over the heads of the capital city of Rabanastre, just to make sure the citizens of Dalmasca know they are completely conquered with absolutely no hope of resisting the Empire.
Zalera's Evil Laugh. Unless you're on the receiving end.
The iconic Victory Fanfare, which is reserved for major bosses this time around.
Nightmare Fuel: There is an optional Demon Wall boss, which is much stronger and just difficult to beat altogether in case the last Demon Wall boss bored you, with very little time in store. If you haven't finished this Demon Wall before the time runs out, it'll give you a terrifying Game Over by crushing your party into the giant wall behind them. The way the game decides to show the player this scene is just plain freaky as well; the screen will cut to the other side of the wall, so you can't see what's happening on the side with your characters and the boss, and said wall shakes once the Demon Wall slams your party toward it, finishing off with a black fade.
Polished Port: On top of the changes from the International Zodiac Job System (which never released anywhere else outside of Japan) it is based on, the 2017 remaster The Zodiac Age has higher-resolution character models and backgrounds, a re-recorded soundtrack, and re-balanced gameplay. The TurboMode allows you to not only speed up the game 2x faster like in IZJS, but now 4x faster. It has also fixed the few minor gripes several fans had such as voices (of characters who weren't Judges or wearing helmets) sounding like they were recorded through a tin can, Vaan's weird-looking abs, and inverted camera controls. It also removed the Spell Queue, which was the biggest impediment to using offensive magic late in the game in previous versions. And fans who were disappointed with the loss of the original license board and being confined to one job per party member in IZJS (therefore only using 6 of the 12 jobs in one playthrough) were delighted with the news of The Zodiac Age allowing two jobs.
The Zodiac Age for PC adds support for 60fps and 21:9 ultra-wide monitors including up to 48:9 using three monitors, New Game+ and New Game- from the start (both were originally obtained by completing the game and Trial Mode, respectively), and cheat toggles for max license points and max gil in the configuration menu.
The Nintendo Switch and Xbox One releases added job resets, the ability to make and switch between 3 Gambit sets for each character, and an improved New Game+ which carries over equipment and items from the original save.
Vaan and Penelo are introduced acting very much Like Brother and Sister — Vaan and his brother having been raised by Penelo's family. Likewise, Penelo's role is almost like The Not-Love Interest to him. But the end has a line from Penelo — "every sky pirate needs a partner" — which hints that there could be an eventual romance between them.
Fran and Balthier isn't helped by the latter being The Charmer and The Casanova. But many of Balthier's Pet the Dog moments involve Fran, and she makes a throwaway comment in the sequel about him trying to woo her.
Penelo's letter to Larsa at the end has a curiously worded line about how Ashe misses Basch — the wording implying it could be romantic rather than platonic.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: For people that were seriously put off by Vaan's design in the first game, Revenant Wings gives him a shirt. It's to the point where at least one mod for the PC version of The Zodiac Age retroactively gives him said shirt
The Scrappy: Vaan. Originally despised for his Bishōnen design and perceived whininess after Tidus, once the game came out it's shifted mainly to his having little to do with the actual plot (unless you count his and Penelo's 'normal person' POV to ground the political intrigue), which means he takes time from other characters. The bizarre choice of outfit and a strange, inhuman-looking character model certainly don't help.
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.
Sidetracked By The Golden Saucer: The deeper you explore the game, the more the world opens up to you with Rare Game, Marks, optional dungeons with bonus bosses (usually Espers), and potential Bazaar items to unlock. You can easily find yourself sinking more time into exploring the game's optional content than the main storyline. In fact, one may find themselves doing the main quest just to open up new areas and trigger new optional content.
Squick: Guess where Cúchulainn, the Esper of Poison and Filth, is found? The Garamsythe Waterway... as in the sewer/aqueduct system for a major Ivalician city. Eeew...
Superlative Dubbing: The English localization done by Alexander O. Smith and Joseph Reeder is one of the best in JRPGs and probably the best in the Final Fantasy franchise.
The Japanese voice actors all spoke standard dialect, but in order to give the English version of the game "a higher degree of 'reality'", they decided to give characters diverse accents depending on their race or origins: British accents for Archadiansnote The Solidors used Received Pronunciation, while most of the Imperial Guards had working-class accents, American accents for Dalmascansnote Ashe and Vossler spoke very formal in comparison to Vaan and Penelo, who are both commoners and therefore used informal speech, Sri Lankan accents for Bhujerbansnote Bhujerba was also given a little bit of its own language borrowed from Sanskrit, i.e. bhadra (भद्र, friend), svagatam (स्वागतम, greetings/welcome), and Icelandic accents for viera. The one Rozarrian we meet, Al-Cid, has a Spanish accent.
Instead of casting the go-to anime/video game voice actors for the Judge Magisters, they used British stage actors, who nailed their scenes; and instead of using a female voice actress for Larsa, they went out of the way to cast a young actor, Johnny McKeown, who Smith and Reeder say was all worth the budget risk. And the script itself was dramatic, full of great one-liners, well-written speeches, and subtle nuances that were perfect for XII's political tone. It's a shame the English audio quality was still not cleared up 100% in The Zodiac Age, although it was a huge improvement from the compressed audio in the PS2 versions.
Because the Occuria had no mouths, lips, or moving facial features in general to make Lip Lock complicated, the only limitation on writing their dialogue was how much time it took up in cutscenes. What ended up happening? The Occuria got lines entirely in iambic tetrameter, and their rebel was written to speak in iambic pentameter instead just to allude to their alliance with humes — and anyone who's worked in ADR can tell you that dubbing a character in strict verse, much less poetic meter, is too luck-dependent to even consider. It's like Smith and co. were saying "this is how good our dubbing is when we don't have our hands tied."
Zodiark's Darkja. Not only does it do heavy Dark-elemental damage to the entire party, and cannot be avoided or interrupted due to being a cinematic attack, but it has a chance to inflict Instant Death. Unfortunately, this is one of the few times in the series where there is no equipment piece to block Instant Death attacks! Shell lowers the chance for Instant Death to take effect, but it can't block it entirely, and even if you survive, you're taking damage and probably being inflicted with Blind, which Darkja also inflicts. Zodiark opens the fight with it, uses it periodically, and when he's low on HP begins to spam it constantly. In summary, Zodiark's Signature Move lets him inflict a Total Party Kill, and there's very little you can do to stop it.
Chaos's Aeroja; which is huge Wind damage and confusion. That alone sounds bad enough; but in Chaos's battle, you can't use physical attacks at all due to the restrictionnote other than Telekinesis, so your party is left utterly helpless.
"Curse" for normal enemies and some bosses. Inflicts Confuse, Poison, Sap and Disease on all characters at the same time. Many Game Over screens were seen when trying to get to the last of the Pharos' Subterranean Levels, where there's a chance that an enemy which has this ability will rise from the corpse of a recently slain foe.
Demon Wall will use Blindga to Blind all your party members, Annul to sap their MP to 0, Telega to instantly kill them and render them unable to be revived until the battle is over, and will Silence them and put to them Sleep. The real challenge comes from the fact it's a timed battle; the Demon Wall slowly advances down the path pushing your party to the rear wall, and if you can't kill it before it crushes you, it's an instant Game Over.
Tiamat will use Breath to damage over a wide area and inflict Sap, cast Reflect on itself, and most damning of all, it can use Disablega, which will inflict Disable on all characters in range, preventing them from taking any action. Tiamat will teach players who don't spread out their characters to do so, because getting the whole party caught in Disablega is pretty much a death sentence.
The Elder Wyrm can inflict a slew of status ailments, including Slow, Confuse, Sleep, Sap, and Oil, the latter of which boosts the damage its Fireball attack does. It also inflicts these statuses with its cinematic attack, Sporefall, which cannot be interrupted and hits over a large area. The Wyrm also has quite a lot more HP than other bosses up to that point, over 70,000, when the next several bosses in the areas after it have about half that. Some walkthroughs actually advise players head south through the Jungle to get to the Paramina Rift through the Feywood, because dealing with the Beef Gate enemies in the Feywood is easier than fighting the Elder Wyrm.
Giruvegan and the Great Crystal. The former is a long Magical Mystery Doors puzzle full of powerful enemies leading up to a boss. The latter is also a Magical Mystery Doors puzzle full of powerful enemies leading up to a boss, but is is larger with a very confusing layout, you aren't given a typical mapnote the "map" shows an outside view of the Great Crystal and an icon marker your party's position in it, and the switches to open the Mystery Doors have time limits. Your mandatory first visit to the Great Crystal is thankfully short, the path to your objective is short, self-contained, and has a simple layout; when you come back to fight Ultima or Omega, you need to look up fan maps or you'll never get to them.
The Pharos, which isn't the final dungeon, but might as well be. It's a hundred-floor tall tower with several strong bosses, a lot of puzzles and gimmick-based areas to get through, and, naturally, is full of the most powerful enemies in the game up to that point.
The Shadowseer mark, which requires you to venture into the Subterra optional dungeon. The area is a three-floor Blackout Basement level where you not only need to navigate darkened rooms that all look the same, but it has lots of strong enemies. To proceed to the lower floors you need to collect special "black orbs" that only appear in this dungeon and place them in altars. These orbs are randomly dropped by enemies, and will disperse if you don't pick them up quickly (very plausible given you're probably busy fighting other enemies in the area), thus you need to patrol each floor fighting and hoping the enemies drop more orbs until you have enough to continue. When you finally get to the bottom you of course have to fight Shadowseer, who fortunately is not one of those bosses that could be considered That One Boss, but he's still an irritating boss to fight due to an abuse of status-attacks including Fearga, which saps your MP to 0, and he'll throw up palings and summon other bosses from the Pharos to help him fight. As a saving grace, after completing each level of the Subterra, you can go back up and save.
The second round with Gilgamesh. He has a lot of HP, just shy of 475,000 to be precise, powerful cinematic attacks, buffs himself each time he pulls out a new weapon, will erect a paling when weak to become immune to damage for a period of time, and he and Enkidu hit hard with their normal attacks, doing well over 1000 damage, possibly over 2000. However, what really makes him this trope is that he comes with Lv 2 Sleep, Lv 3 Disable, and Lv 4 Break, the first two incapacitating your entire party if their levels are a multiple of 2 or 3, respectively. If their levels are a multiple of 2 or 3, and if you lack accessories to block Sleep and Disable, god help you. This is also not taking into account the player going out of their way to stall and steal the last two pieces of Genji Equipment, which you want to do because they are Permanently Missable if you don't get them.
And of course, the final Hunt, the most notorious Bonus Boss in the series, Yiazmat. He's a bit easier in The Zodiac Age, but even then, 50,112,254 HP does not go down easily or quickly, especially since he also has Instant Death attacks.
Naturally, the game being a Final Fantasy title is going to attract people hating it for any changes it brought. XII introduced a more streamlined battle system where enemies spawn on the map and engage you in real time rather than the game loading another screen to have the battle in. The gambit system also gathered hate from people who felt that the game "played itself" and took control away from the player, even though it's extremely rare that you can be in a situation where you don't have to do anything (outside of level grinding and fighting low leveled enemies). Some also hated how the story barely contributed to Character Development and focused more on the story's central themes rather than the characters behind the scenes.
This trope was notably largely averted with the changes made to The Zodiac Age.
Judge Drace, we hardly knew ye. It doesn't help that she was one of the least antagonistic Judges.
Mostly comes from the furry side, but there are a few fans who've wished that Ba'Gamnan became a party member. Or, if unable to have a permanent seventh party member for any reason, at the least take either Vaan's and/or Penelo's spot in the main cast (and making either Ashe, Basch, or Balthier the main protagonist instead if replacing Vaan).
Vaan and Penelo both fade from any relevance in the narrative once the latter is rescued and the group forms up for the rest of the game. Neither gets many meaningful story moments or much character development, nor do they form deep relationships with the rest of the party. There are reasonable motivations for them to stay with the party based on their backstories, but these are never addressed in the story. For example, both want a free Dalmasca, but this is dropped early in the game and the pair get over their automatic hate for Archadians quickly. Vaan specifically could have taken up the mission Reks died for: fighting alongside Basch to protect Ashe...but if Vaan thinks of his time with the party that way, he never vocalizes it. Vaan and Penelo's token presence makes them feel like the undiscarded leftovers of a rather publicly Troubled Production.
Especially when compared to X, the facial expressions and body movements of the cast are quite fluid and realistic. However their faces look like they haven't slept in a couple days, or else they really need to wash their faces, and their eyes don't always look very natural; nearly everyone has gray colored eyes while all viera have orange-red eyes. No eye color exists apparently.
The worst is the penultimate boss. Vayne Novus falls right into the Uncanny Valley, not only having a freakish looking face but also skin that looks like it's decaying right in front of the player. There were a couple players thinking "Kill it! Kill the demon!" at that almost Nightmare Fuel looking boss.
There's nothing wrong with the main characters' eyes. What do I mean? Zoom in on an NPC's face and you'll see that they didn't bother to let NPCs blink. Now's that unsettling.
It's understandable that NPCs have a solid block for a hand (as in all the fingers are meshed together) since there can be a lot of NPCs in an area and the resource cost had to be kept down for Playstation 2 hardware. The HD remaster does not fix any of the problems; NPCs still have mitten hands, which looks even worse in some scenes when certain characters like Old Dalan are zoomed in on and their hands are low polygon.
You ever wondered what someone with those pointy little triangles that anime and manga use for noses would look like if rendered on realistic faces? congrats, everybody has it, on the Veira it would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, being rabbit people, but everyone has this weird upturned pointy nose, regardless of race.
A weird graphical design on the characters faces gives it an almost semi-transparent double-layered effect, as though someone in the graphics department was trying to make them look "3D" by copying was 3D movie gimmicks are filmed.
Viewer Gender Confusion: The sheer number of people that have confused Larsa for a girl is truly amazing. It doesn't help that his voice is a bit gender-neutral and he's initially introduced as "Lamont," not the most masculine name there is, so a couple hours later when players clue-in "wait, Vayne's brother?" they've probably been used to thinking of him as a girl. Another amusing (though unintentional) factor is that the Elite Mark Orthros, who only appears when the party is all-female, still comes out if Larsa is present. It's because Orthros is scripted to ignore Guests and most players just happen to go hunting it when Larsa is in the partynote Orthros ignores Guests because they can't be removed from the party, and by the time his Hunt is available the only Guests that join for the rest of the game are male, thus having a Guest would make it impossible to spawn him. It doesn't matter if your Guest is Larsa or Reddas, he still appears regardless., but still.
Vanilla Protagonist: Vaan's role is an Enforced Trope. He was originally going to have a much more jaded characterization, which was probably shifted onto Basch in favor of Vaan becoming an Audience Surrogate. Thus, he has a minimal impact on the plot once the player leaves Nalbina Dungeon. Between Ashe's quest to retake her throne, Basch aiding her to atone for his failure to defend Dalmasca, and Balthier discovering the secrets of Cid's experiments and coming to terms with his past, Vaan is just along for the ride. It's Played for Laughs when he accuses Gabranth of murdering his brother Reks, and no one (including Gabranth) seems to even hear him because they're more concerned with Gabranth's murder of Ashe's father and why he's there now.
When the game came out, many disliked it due to the politics-heavy plot and many scenes focusing on the power plays between the villains, leading to the criticism the game had a weak story. In years past though, players began to appreciate the subtleties of the story and how it's told, particularly with its morally complex characters and themes, and has been likened to Game of Thrones in that regard. Also, Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XV became far more contentious for criticisms about their stories, casting XII in a better light.
With the HD remaster's release ironing out many of the problems with the gameplay system, the Active Dimension Battle system has been praised as ahead of its time for getting rid of random encounters and being a comfortable hybrid of Action RPG and Active Time Battle mechanics. The Gambit system in particular was hated on release for the perception that it let the game play itself, but it has since been widely praised for the degree of customization it allows to the behaviors of AI-controlled allies, while later games like Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and even Kingdom Hearts, were criticized for AI teammates falling victim to Artificial Stupidity.
Visual Effects of Awesome: A Final Fantasy staple. To this day FFXII's aesthetics, which run on the now outdated PS2's graphics hardware, still hold up today as visually awesome thanks to a meticulous art direction.
The Woobie: It's a game with a lost war as the backstory. This trope is everywhere to varying degrees.
Oh Larsa, you poor, poor thing. First, he gives a pretty trinket to a girl he seems to have a crush on, which turns out to be nethicite, which could have possessed or killed her. Then, his brother kills his father, and becomes a bloodthirsty dictator in search of power. This means Larsa to help kill his own brother for the greater good. Near the end of the story, while the other character are looking towards the sky in hopeful poses, Larsa is inside in the dark crying over Gabranth's nearly-dead body.
Whether or not Larsa remembers it is debatable, but Vayne also killed their two brothers as well.
Vaan lost his family and lived with his brother, before his brother was killed during the end of the war by one of Dalmasca's most noble knights.note Well, so he thinks. He's since endured being trapped in Rabanastre under Imperial rule, and unable to fly as he dreams. Penelo is in a similar boat, but she's very promptly ripped out of that lifestyle and constantly has to worry about Vaan.
Basch is an Iron Woobie. He lost the monarch that he was defending, lost his homeland, lost his brother who actually turned against him, and failed to protect his king all in the backstory. By the start of the present, he's been chained up for two years and is hated by the general public. Despite this, he maintains his honor throughout.
Gabranth is a Jerkass Woobie. The twin brother of Basch, he lost said homeland and mother, but also faced the belief that his brother had abandoned them, and he joined the Archadian military and became a judge. During the game, he has to continuously watch his brother go on, infuriating him, be put down by Vayne and Cid as he fails, and suffer a major crisis of beliefs as a result.
Ashe lost her husband within days of their marriage, lost her father, and the world believed her dead. She struggles with the Resistance for two years, and also has to deal with a boatload of stress from the Occuria choosing her as their next pawn via appearing as Rasler's ghost.
Balthier real name Ffamran mied Bunansa was a former Judge candidate, but when his father, Dr. Cid, encountered Venat, Balthier believed he was slowly watching his father go mad. He eventually fled, but his past catches up with him in the game, where he is ultimately forced to kill his father.
Subtly implied with Fran, as she can no longer hear the voice of the Wood thanks to leaving it.
Woolseyism: Thanks to the modern champion of the trope, Alexander O. Smith.
The English script, as to be expected of the Ivalice spin-offs, is spectacular, with a distinctive cultural flare via the use of Old English Early Modern English sentence structure and words. The voice cast of the game also reflects the various cultures of the world, the different regions having particular accents, Archadians for example being British. The only complaint most people seem to have about the scripting and voice acting is the quality of the sound itself due to the compression done to fit it on the disc. The Zodiac Age fixed this up a bit, though it still wasn't 100%.
The names of Quickenings are almost unrecognizable, but it's for the best. You can draw a logical line from some of the originals to the changes—for instance, Vaan's "Melt Crimson" becoming "Pyroclasm" makes some sense. Some Japanese names are such intricate mouthfuls, though, that the English version had to take some small element from the original and basically make up the rest: Basch's "100 Demon Scorching Sun of Crushing Evil" becomes "Flame Purge", and Ashe's "Holy Light Explosion Slash" becomes "Heaven's Wrath".
Ass Pull: Possibly due to Creator Breakdown, as the manga ended not soon after, but the below-mentioned Squick, which is never implied in the games at all.
Moment of Awesome: Since the game showed us the events of the opening sequence from Reks' point of view, we now find out the game had an Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Basch didn't just run into the room and get captured while Gabranth walked in to pose as him. Basch tried to get the king to safety and had a duel with Gabranth in front of him. Even though the battle is a Foregone Conclusion, it is awesome.
Pandering to the Base: Characterizations are more in-line with the fandom's perception of the characters rather than how they are in-game (Vaan is an Idiot Hero, Balthier is a Chivalrous Pervert, Basch and Fran are total badasses), a lot more time is spent on the subplots concerning Vossler and Arcadia than the party's adventure, and most of the new or changed scenes exist to serve that purpose. The manga essentially foregoes being a faithful adaptation to instead focus on Rule of Cool and this trope.
Squick: The backlash of Ashe summoning Belias causes her right arm to rot off from the elbow down. We get to see it happen.