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tirsdag den 4. juni 2013

Final Fantasy XII

This update got a little delayed. I wanted to connect it to some writing about Final Fantasy Tactics. Anyway. Here are some thoughts on Final Fantasy XII. I played it years ago and was greatly dismayed. But the aesthetics of the battle system drew me back and I discovered a very misunderstood game.

- - - - Final Fantasy XII - - - -

Story and mechanics are most often very separated in video games and very much so in Final Fantasy. But at least both made a wonderful, natural evolution with Final Fantasy XII.

Penny arcade lampooned the combat for masturbating, others think it "lacks" turn based mechanics.

A friend of mine once accused the narrative of being not epic enough. That's a personal preference, but I'd counter that the writer(s) didn't feel it necessary to fit the game into a Final Fantasy story-mold.

I'm mostly interested in the play, but I have to briefly touch on the narrative. The most important element to realize is that Vaan is not the main character. Neither is Balthier though he likes to claim it. Basch and Ashe are. Noting this makes the tale far more logical to follow.

Narrative and mechanics both evolve past old expectations into modern, yet still familiar and uniquely Final Fantasy and (for the mechanics at least) japanese territory.

I regard the defining character of japanese game design (for good and bad) as being rigidity. It makes it snappy, clear and a great contrast to many american and european games.

FFXII still has rigid combat mechanics. The player controls a group of people who can be instructed to react to enemies in a limited (but increasingly less so) manner. The automization lets me relax, enjoy the visuals and allows my units to continue by themselves while also allowing for higher-level strategy.

FFXII contains many systems that all point back in some way to its core battle system. They are functional and occasionally a little redundant. There are various ways to customize and take part in and contextulize the battles. This points towards the unified snappy rigidness I like to observe in japanese game design. It becomes easy to just take in the play experience: it's focused, aware of its roots and modern.

It becomes hard to be succint with a game like this. The work begs verbosity.  But what's important to note for enjoyment and appreciation, is that FFXII explores the core idea of  even the very first Final Fantasy: "How to digitalize the table-top rpg experience" while still respecting the traits of its history over the previous two-three decades. No longer hindered by the technology of that time but simultaneously equipped with the aesthetics, sensibilities and vocabulary of experience. 

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