You might remember that back in 2016, I did a retrospective on Final Fantasy X. You might also remember that during that series, The Rocketeer showed up in the comments, throwing down these huge walls of text that basically ran circles around my analysis. On one hand, it’s sort of embarrassing to have a member of the audience upstage you like this. On the other hand, I loved his analysis and always looked forward to his comments. I even went back to the series years later, just so I could re-read his posts.
What I didn’t know at the time was that he’d already done a full retrospective on Final Fantasy XII, which he posted to the Escapist forums way back in 2014. Then he re-posted that series to my own forums here on shamusyoung.com.The forums broke ages ago. Fixing them has been on my to-do list for a long time now. You know how it is with maintenance. People sent me links to it saying, “Hey Shamus, did you see this thing? You’d really dig it.” But I get a lot of messages like those, so I missed it again.
Then earlier this year I played through FFXII again. People once again sent me links to Rocketeer’s series, and I finally took notice.
So here is the situation I found myself in:
- I loved Rocketeer’s series on FFXII, and it killed me that the only version available was posted to an obscure pocket of the now-defunct Escapist forums.
- I wanted to cover the game myself. However, this is a big, complicated game with a ton of plot. I had about 20k words of useful analysis, but recounting the plot for the reader would take 50k words. That just wasn’t worth it. That’s not analysis, that’s just a really predictable Let’s Play. I knew my analysis wasn’t incisive enough to warrant that workload. Moreover, I’m basically an interloper in the JRPG genre. I suspected that my non-expert views on a 15 year old game would have a fairly limited appeal.
- I wanted more people to see the Rocketeer’s series. Alarmingly, the whole thing could vanish at any time.
- The Rocketeer’s original series wasn’t in the best of shape. No screenshots. No real formatting. It was mixed in with other comments from randos, and the Escapist forums were not designed for readability on the scale of 80k word novels.
The answer I came up with was to repost his series here on my site. We could clean it up, give it some screenshots, and give it a permanent home where it’s not going to vanish the next time someone cleans out the attic over at the Escapist.
By doing so, it will give me a way to piggyback my analysis on top of his. He can recount the plot, and then I’ll have a post later in the week where I use his entry as a jumping-off point to complain about stuff.
Note that I didn’t want to make my series part of his. So the two posts will be filed to different categories. Rocketeer’s work will stand alone, as it originally did. From the archives, you’ll be able to walk through his series without having it mixed in with my stuff. My own posts will be filed in the now-familiar “Retrospectives” category, with cross-links to the Rocketeer’s post for the week for people who need the plot summary.
All screenshots were captured by me. In both series. This is important because Rocketeer’s series took place in the context of an expert ultra-completionist run, but all the screenshots and footage come from my casual meander through the game. He is going to talk about steamrolling bosses that I did not, in fact, steamroll, and he’s going to talk about picking up espersBig stompy monsters that you can summon. and equipment that I’ve never seen or even heard of.
Also, while Rocketer is the author of the series, blame for formatting oddities should be aimed at me. I thought that, “Hey, would you care to fill my blog with content for the next several months, and also you’ll need to learn the countless eccentricities of my cobbled-together WordPress variant to get your document looking right” made for a lousy sales pitch. So he handed me a word processing document, and from there I wrangled the text into WordPress. If there are any missing paragraphs, wrong fonts, odd spacing, misaligned headers, or incongruous profanity-laden digressions regarding Kai Leng, then it means I messed up somewhere. (You can totally blame him for any spelling / grammatical errors you find, though.)
During this series, I’m going to make a lot of comparisons to Final Fantasy X. This is not because I think that FFX is an unimpeachable masterpiece. In fact, I was all too happy to impeach it myself, on several different occasions. It’s just that both games are part of the same franchise, from the same era, and targeting the same hardware. This makes for a useful apples-to-apples comparison.
I’m also going to refer to the games using numbers rather than the proper roman numerals. So in my series this game will be called “Final Fantasy 12” rather than “Final Fantasy XII”. I realize that looks a little weird, but this gives me a handy way to differentiate between Rocketeer’s stuff and my own when searching archives. This is important because I’ve never run two simultaneous series on the same game at the same time and I want to make sure I have an easy way to do bulk searches / edits.
Please note that I’m not even going to try and keep up with Rocketeer in terms of analysis. He’s already cut the story open and pointed out all the problems that ultimately killed this game.Actually, “killed” is probably too strong a word. “Egregiously wounded and rendered frustrating and bewildering by inexplicable choices” is closer to the mark, although not as pithy. The autopsy is done. I’m just here to mop up. My analysis is going to be a little shallow – and perhaps even frivolous – in a few places. I’m fine with that. Not every retrospective needs to be prosecuted on the level of Mass Effect 3.
If you’d like to play along at home and you don’t have a working Playstation 2 lying around, then you can pick the game up on Steam. I think Square Enix is being unreasonable with the default $50 price tag. That’s a lot for a 16 year old game. But if you can get it on sale, I say it’s worth a look. It’s pretty long, so it might be a good way to burn a lot of hours if you’re cowering indoors in these cold months of COVID-flavored anxiety.
So that’s it. The Rocketeer is going to cover the game in exhaustive detail, and I’m going to piggyback on that and whine about little things that bugged me. The series will launch later this week.
 The forums broke ages ago. Fixing them has been on my to-do list for a long time now. You know how it is with maintenance.
 Big stompy monsters that you can summon.
 Actually, “killed” is probably too strong a word. “Egregiously wounded and rendered frustrating and bewildering by inexplicable choices” is closer to the mark, although not as pithy.
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.
Bethesda’s Launcher is Everything You Expect
From the company that brought us Fallout 76 comes a storefront / Steam competitor. It's a work of perfect awfulness. This is a monument to un-usability and anti-features.
The Opportunity Crunch
No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.
How I Plan To Rule This Dumb Industry
Here is how I'd conquer the game-publishing business. (Hint: NOT by copying EA, 2K, Activision, Take-Two, or Ubisoft.)
A wild game filled with wild ideas that features fun puzzles and mind-blowing environments. It has a great atmosphere, and one REALLY annoying flaw with its gameplay.