A Travelog of Ivalice, Part 3: Flush with Success

By The Rocketeer Posted Wednesday Jan 26, 2022

Filed under: FFXII 58 comments

So with the entire setup of the game thoroughly fistfucked by our party’s newest addition, our heroes steamroll another non-story-pertinent boss and are spat out into the desert just east of Rabanastre.

Et voilà.
Et voilà.

Here, we smack down some cockatrices. What is a cockatrice? I’ll let the game tell you.

“Lo, the mighty cockatrice, proud-feathered sphere, known as much for its ill humor as its dire rotundity. The great naturalist MerloseAn obvious name reference to Vagrant Story, but not the same character; the events of Final Fantasy XII are ancient by the time of Vagrant Story. once remarked: ”…live they in the sands and other arid climes, whereabouts they moveth in a rolling fashion most peculiar. Subsist they principally on small creatures and vermin &c., for the incapacitation of which they disgorge a sticky saliva, thence devouring captured morsels only when appetite moves them. Swollen sacs containing airs are found under the surface of the skin, these lifting the creature upon drafts unseen, whence to espy suitable prey.”

The writing in this game is in this faux-Elizabethan style that’s fancy enough to sound period-appropriate but not actually too archaic in vocabulary. Everything in this game, the dialogue, the item descriptions, flavor text, bestiary entries, is in this style, and I goddamn love it. It’s very nearly as endearing as the accents in Chrono Cross or Fallout 4. Actually, the only characters that don’t speak this way are Penelo and Vaan, because being disappointingly incongruous is their entire character concept.


I admit a personal weakness for it, but even beyond that it really does rattle me how much attention to maintaining this air the game goes through, and how it packs flavorful writing into every nook and cranny it can spare. See, FFXII was born feet first, and that experience (and the oxygen deprivation) informed the rest of its life. Even when games have good writing, they tend to focus on the structure and large strokes, and it’s rare that they have so much time to spend on the little touches. FFXII took a big ropy shit on its story, narrative, themes, and characters, and then blew all its spare effort on tiny setting details and flavor. Every NPC has a line or two about the setting or their motivations, every location has a history behind it, every throwaway loot item has an origin and purpose, all related in that pitch-perfect antique style.

This game may have put most of its themes in the food processor and left the thing on fucking purée, but maybe the only one that they really nailed is that humans, for all their power and ambition, are small and short-lived. They share a gigantic world with things far, far older and grander. The writing, and the way in which it props up the setting, has a two-fold purpose, then: it makes the world feel larger than its playable borders. It creates the illusion of purpose and motion where there isn’t. (The open world helps a lot too, but I’ll dive into that later.) When you walk into some dusty crypt, the walls give off the sense that they’ve stood long before you were born and will endure long after you die, completely indifferent to your passing. When you hunt down some powerful creature, there’s a palpable sense of having found out something rare and truly mighty, and killing it carries a weighty feel of finality. The sum of these thousand small touches is a sense of an ancient but living history, whose surface we can only tap at, the contents and actors of which would raise our hair and baffle the limits of our conceptions. In short, it feels Ivalician.

But Hiroyuki Ito just can’t raise wood if he isn’t fucking up something that could have been decent, so of course a mighty portion of interesting tidbits are walled off in the most tedious and bass-ackwards way they could justify: the bestiary. Sure, of course the bestiary makes sense as a spot to cram flavor text… for monsters, sure. You get that above description for cockatrices after you bring one down, same as for any other creature in the game. But if I wanna know more about the hot patch of dirt west of Rabanastre, I arbitrarily have to kill eight more of them. Getting these secondary bestiary entries is time-consuming, and of course there’s no indication which ones are actually worth finding out. Maybe it’s the flavor text for the area you’re in. Maybe it’s a hint at what kind of rare loot that enemy carries, or maybe it’s a completely unhelpful allusion to how to unlock certain bazaar goods. (Bee tee dubs, bring a raincoat once I go off on the bazaar, it’s gonna be a fucking Gallagher show.) So in practice, one either spends a billion goddamn hours killing the sixth palette swap of the wolf-model to find a blurb about how platinum armor fucking sucks, or disregard the entries and miss out on all the decent flavor text that would otherwise round out the fourth featureless desert you’ve slogged through.

Why would they do this shit? Well, allow me to roll out the old standard: it made sense at one point in development, and stuck around after it stopped making sense. According to the game’s executive producer, the game started as an MMO, at least in its earliest stages. Now, for an MMO, this makes a lot more sense. MMO’s, rightly or wrongly, tend to offload a lot of their setting details into out-of-the-way places to allow people to look for them if they want, while letting everyone else get on with the game to make things more accessible. Since grinding monsters is the oil of the MMO’s rotary engine, doling out this info after some mild grinding would actually be pretty refreshing: kill ten wolves, get some flavor text, or some pointers about rare item locations, or a crafting recipe involving goods dropped from that particular creature. Actually, there are a TON of things in this game that make more sense if you picture them in the context of an MMO, and FFXII has been described by many, many people— including yours truly— as feeling like a “single-player MMO.” I’ll try and point out these quirks as I come to them.

<b>Basch:</b> ''I'll be okay.''
Basch: ''I'll be okay.''

After getting back to Rabanastre, Basch runs off on his own to link up with the Resistance. Yes, this is like John Wilkes Booth traveling to Washington, D.C. and linking up with the Secret Service. Fran and Balthier run off to do… I can’t even fucking imagine. They aren’t romantic, and getting conversation out of Fran is like juicing a walnut. I can only imagine they just sit at the bar while Balthier cracks wise to himself and Fran gets drunk off her ass.

It suddenly occurs to Vaan that the crystal he stole is probably cursed as shit and he should probably chuck it off an embankment and never stop running the other direction. On the other hand, being faced with life in prison has finally made him realize that he might not want to lose his virginity to a pack of starving bangaa, so he runs off to find Penelo and show her a crystal the size of her head. Fortunately for those bangaa, it would seem she’s not been seen around lately, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering she was last seen openly consorting with thieves and revolutionaries.

One of Vaan’s gutter rat friends suggests that he go see Dalan, an idea Vaan immediately warms up to. I can’t blame him; the old man gave him a map and key to one of the richest treasures of the Galtean Empire in exchange for some tourist junk. At that exchange rate, he might could trade up the Goddess Magicite for the Lunar Whale from FFIV, or a decent voice actor.

<b>Dalan:</b> ''Wonderful to see you alive, m'boy, even though I now owe Kytes 10,000 gil.
Dalan: ''Wonderful to see you alive, m'boy, even though I now owe Kytes 10,000 gil.

Dalan is impressed enough by the stone to promote Vaan to his lead errand-runner for the moment, narrowly edging out Kytes (Vaan’s peasant friend from earlier) for the privilege of Fed-Exing weapons to some terrorists. Holy shit, Dalan, if robbing a palace of eons-old magic superweapons in the middle of a combined land/air battle and escaping the most notorious prison in the nation is what it takes to secure your trust, what the fuck kind of legendary bullshit is Kytes getting up to off-screen while I’m getting my ass kicked by chickens in the desert? He becomes a mage in the sequel; maybe he’s running Dalan’s magicite racket through the Ozmone Plain for him.

A short trip through the sewers and Vaan arrives at the Resistance hideout, where Dennis the peasant and his buddies are busy arguing the shocking revelation that Basch might be innocent. It would appear that Basch, as soon as he was out of our sight, sprinted through the streets of Rabanastre screaming his identity and blowing the lid off the Empire’s betrayal in every alley and doorway. Given the events that will take place in Bhujerba, this isn’t actually that farfetched, and is depressingly likely to have worked smashingly.

Flush with success, Basch chooses this moment to stroll right into Revolución HQ, where their interim leader, an old friend named Vossler Azelas, welcomes him as warmly as circumstances allow. Peasant #3 points out that if Basch is telling the truth, then Reks must have been lying, corroborating that the conspiracy really did hinge on the word of a single soldier in the midst of a hallucinating, wasting death of sepsis. Vaan chooses this moment to begin speaking very loudly and angrily, while carrying a sword, in the middle of a pack of paranoid revolutionaries who don’t know him.

Now, Dalan wanted that weapon, a sword of the defunct Order of Dalmascan Knights, delivered to Vossler to “remind him of what it once meant.” This is something to keep in mind, but for now Vossler merely yanks the sword from Vaan’s hands without comment and tells Basch that as far as he’s concerned, Basch is still a traitor and everything he claims is a lie. Nevermind the fact that Basch and Azelas were both knight captains,I couldn’t confirm if Azelas was also a general in the Japanese translation; if Vossler is a captain in both versions, this would naturally have made him Basch’s subordinate in the original translation. led the assault on Nalbina shoulder to shoulder, and would have been privy to the same information beforehand. Vossler should never have believed the ridiculous conspiracy in the first place, but especially not now that it’s been explained in plain terms to him.

Basch suggests that rescuing their leader, Amalia, might be of some importance to Vossler whether or not he’s ready to trust Basch again. This stings Vossler pretty sorely, but he retorts by pointing out that the Resistance is still hurt very badly from walking into a trap once, and any attempt to rescue Amalia would be even more likely to backfire on them, implicitly accusing Basch of being the one who would sell them out if they attempted such a thing. Regardless, he decides to let Basch merely walk away with little more than the threat that they’d be keeping an eye on him. While this also doesn’t make logical sense, for once it’s a decision I can easily chalk up to Vossler’s conflicted emotions. That, or the Resistance simply doesn’t have a cage mighty enough to entrap fon Ronsenburg’s fantastical cojones. Vossler chucks the Knight’s sword back to Basch in contempt,Symbolism! Foreshadowing! and with it he and Vaan leave before things get even uglier.

Once outside, Basch is surprised to learn Vaan has met Amalia, which raises an important point: motherfucker, how do YOU know Amalia? The Resistance sure as shit didn’t tell you about her, you had no possible way of hearing about her while rotting in Nalbina, and you wouldn’t know her by her alias anyway; you’d have simply known her as Ashe, what with having known the Royal family personally.At Nalbina, Gabranth teases Basch with news of Amalia’s capture, implying that they both know Amalia’s identity. I suppose it’s possible Ashe was already using Amalia as some sort of Secret Service codename before Dalmasca’s fall, but clearly I’m not following the logic here. This brain teaser aside, Leia asks Artoo to take him to Han and Chewie, claiming he needs to fly somewhere.

<B>Vaan:</b> ''Also, I feel absolutely awful about the debilitating, probably lifelong physical and mental effects of being trapped in a small cage for two straight years.'' <b>Basch:</b> ''The what?''
Vaan: ''Also, I feel absolutely awful about the debilitating, probably lifelong physical and mental effects of being trapped in a small cage for two straight years.'' Basch: ''The what?''

On the way, Basch stops to gawp at the crowd of homeless orphans, which gets Vaan talking about his shitty life. It’s actually a good little scene; Vaan beats around the bush a little before admitting he doesn’t think Basch could have killed Reks, forgiving him and apologizing for treating him like an asshole. Once inside the cantina, Migelo (the bangaa that uses Vaan, Penelo, and the other street rats as cheap labor) is dressing down Balthier, who unfortunately has no shits to give. It turns out Penelo really was taken captive on account of her momentary acquaintance with Balthier and co., but not by the Empire; it’s Ba’Gamnan, the bounty hunter, who has set an obvious trap at the floating sky-city Bhujerba with Penelo as hostage. Nevermind the fact that Balthier doesn’t actually know or care about Penelo.

It’s likely the reptiles would have just gotten bored and eaten her while Balthier got super wasted in various Ordalian bars if Vaan hadn’t wandered in during that very conversation and demanded Balthier take him there to sort it out himself. In addition, it seems Bhujerba was Basch’s intended port of call as well! Balthier is doing his best to tell them all to kiss the palest cheek of his bony ass when what should Vaan offer in payment but— that’s right!— the Goddess Magicite! Fran facepalms as hard as she fucking can, but Balthier relents and the plot hook is grasped by one and all.

In theory, Basch should instantly recognize the stone and strongly interject right here. In actuality, it's not yet important to the script that he knows what it is, so he doesn't.
In theory, Basch should instantly recognize the stone and strongly interject right here. In actuality, it's not yet important to the script that he knows what it is, so he doesn't.

Which is to say I immediately ignored it to fight the world’s angriest chicken. The less said about my girlish screaming and the many retreats which ensued, the better for all of us.

Balthier puts on his most punchable smugface as he shows off his airship, the Strahl, to the wannabe sky pirate Vaan. Once aboard, Fran points out that the quickest route to Bhujerba is over Dorstonis. Dorstonis is the “sky continent” comprising Bhujerba, so this is like saying the fastest way to Manila is through the Phillipines. Basch is concerned that, since Bhujerba gained much of their favor with the Empire when their Marquis Ondore urged everyone to stop fighting after the King was assassinated, they might then lose that favor if knowledge of Basch’s survival or the conspiracy became common knowledge. Now, that doesn’t really make sense— there’s no reason you would turn on an ally/vassal and provider of valuable natural resources if someone figures out that the bullshit they backed you up on was, in fact, bullshit— but keep it in mind anyway.

Meanwhile in a Bhujerban warehouse, Penelo is indeed held by Boba’Gamnan and his cronies. Penelo’s (true) claims that she doesn’t even know Balthier ring hollow when they get word that he flew right off once the ransom reached his ears. He points out that they need Balthier alive, but Ba’Gamnan’s weapon of choice is a freakin’ chainsaw and he states his intent to kill Balthier in his very first on-screen appearance, so I’m not sure how serious he is about that. I’ll level with you, he may not actually be a very good bounty hunter given that he never catches the only bounty we ever see him hunting.

Fun Facts with Rocko™! This little scene of Ba’Gamnan and a tied-up Penelo was cut from the Japanese version of the game. Yes, you read that right! The Japanese version cut a scene featuring a bound underaged girl while the Western releases kept it. Is there anything this game can’t do backwards?

Apparently, the scene seemed too evocative of the graphic serial murders of Tsutomu Miyazaki; although his horrific crimes had taken place between 1988 and 1989, Miyazaki was back in the news in January 2006, two months before the release of Final Fantasy XII, as the Japanese supreme court upheld his death sentence. As game developers, Square-Enix may have been especially sensitive to these allusions as Miyazaki’s killings had been attributed to his otaku lifestyle, branding him “The Otaku Murderer” and spawning a moral panic against hobbies like anime. Tsutomu Miyazaki was hanged in June 2008.

Oh, I’ve just gotten an update! Fun Facts with Rocko™ has been canceled forever.

The Travelog continues next week.

 

Footnotes:

[1] An obvious name reference to Vagrant Story, but not the same character; the events of Final Fantasy XII are ancient by the time of Vagrant Story.

[2] I couldn’t confirm if Azelas was also a general in the Japanese translation; if Vossler is a captain in both versions, this would naturally have made him Basch’s subordinate in the original translation.

[3] Symbolism! Foreshadowing!

[4] At Nalbina, Gabranth teases Basch with news of Amalia’s capture, implying that they both know Amalia’s identity. I suppose it’s possible Ashe was already using Amalia as some sort of Secret Service codename before Dalmasca’s fall, but clearly I’m not following the logic here.



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58 thoughts on “A Travelog of Ivalice, Part 3: Flush with Success

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Wait, some people liked the crappy script to simulate “accents” in Chrono Trigger? That’s sarcasm right?

    1. Fred Starks says:

      It’s not sarcasm.

    2. Xamenos says:

      You mean Chrono Cross, and I came to the comments to say exactly that. That has to be sarcasm.

      1. Fred Starks says:

        …Wait, I thought it said Chrono Trigger, but looking back, it does indeed say Cross. That’s a much different matter than the Woolsey CT translation.

        In that case, then fully agreed. I disliked the CC accents, and I’ve read lots of books with heavily accented dialogue. A few of them were tolerable, but they mostly felt like shallow attempts to characterize the storm of unnecessary characters thrown at you.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I suspect the sarcasm is more obvious for people who clicked the Fallout 4 link.

          (and for those not in the know: The Chrono Cross accents were algorithmically generated. They literally took a regular English line and put it through some function designed to give it French stereotypes or a lisp or whatever depending who was talking. This was meant to make you feel the effects of whatever 2 characters out of 40 or whatever you had put in your party)

          1. tmtvl says:

            I mean if Fallout 4 actually was as it is portrayed in the video, I wouldn’t have refunded it.

  2. Thomas says:

    Wow the positioning of Fran in the title image is … something

    Penelo’s jumpsuit bothers me more than her lack of accent. Everyone else has those lovely ruffles and collars and vaguely Elizabethan twiddly bits, and then Penelo is dressed like a kids TV presenter.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      Good lord I didn’t even notice Fran. Yeah, that image is a mess.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Well, only from the top up. If you include her boots, the JRPG-ness of the costume become apparent.

      Also…kids TV?
      I mean I know *I’d* have paid more attention to kids TV as a boy if the female presenters wore skin-tight catsuits with panels cut out of the inner thighs, but I think various parents’ organisations would have had something to say about it…

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        I mean I know *I’d* have paid more attention to kids TV as a boy if the female presenters wore skin-tight catsuits with panels cut out of the inner thighs

        We kind of had something approaching that in Oz in the 90s, with the chick presenting the block of Looney Tunes cartoons every afternoon wearing tiny hotpants and low cut tops.

    3. Retsam says:

      Penelo has pseudo-wings on her back (which aren’t super visible in the image) which is the more ‘decorative’ bit of her costume.

      If anything – and I’m surprised I’m saying this – I’m surprised how much her outfit covers – basically everyone else from Dalmasca have loose and open outfits, presumably for the heat. There’s obviously a fan-service motive here too, (no, I’m not buying that “Amalia” is leading a revolution in a microskirt “because of the heat”), but at some level it’s a consistent element of character design. But Penelo’s skin-tight body suit, and thigh high boots seem the odd one out, (even with the lack of sleeves and ‘thigh windows’)

  3. BlueHorus says:

    Hang on…
    Second picture from the top:
    a) Agh, what the hell is that costume Basch is wearing?

    b(i) So either Balthier or Fran is hitting on Basch, right? Which is going to be awkward for at least one of them*…
    b(ii) And didn’t he just spend two years locked in a cage? And then fight his way through a sewer? Okay, guys, maybe he’s hot, but come on – it’s called a bath.

    *Unless they’re in an open relationship. Which, well, she is a bunny, so…

    1. Retsam says:

      For b, that’s another fake caption. (I don’t know if any of the captions are actually direct quotes – though ones like “it’s not your fault” could be – but a lot of them are just jokes, like the Ba’Gamnii-san one)

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Well the Ba’Gamnii-San one seems plausible. As did a lot of the others.
        I suppose it says something about me being silly that I could believe that was a genuine line – but also the nonsensical nature of the plot, too.

        1. Retsam says:

          I’m glad the “Gamnii-san” one seemed plausible to you. That means there’s still light in this world, and not everyone is familiar with memes referencing stereotypical hentai plotlines. (Does mean you’re probably not cut out to be in the Italian Senate, though)

          1. Hal says:

            I don’t understand the Italian Senate reference, and I’m afraid to ask what it could possibly mean.

            1. Fred Starks says:

              Someone hijacked a Zoom meeting of the Italian Senate with Final Fantasy porn, apparently.

              What a world we live in.

              1. BlueHorus says:

                Truly, the land of lovers…

              2. Henson says:

                The joke going around is that Tifa Lockhart and Julius Caesar now have something in common.

                1. bobbert says:

                  Stabbed in the crotch on the floor of the Senate?

                  1. Henson says:

                    The operative word has been ‘impaled’.

    2. Pax says:

      Speaking of the outfit in a, I realized from the pictures in the article that after being freed, Basch both cleaned himself and got a trim, and changed clothes so he could actually wear LESS of a shirt.

    3. Rho says:

      This was a follow-up gag to the last entry’s joke that Fran got addicted to Basch’s prison funk.

      Don’t tell the yaoi fangirls tho.

    4. bobbert says:

      I love how to read the caption, the codpiece is front and center.

  4. Retsam says:

    I’ve always been confused by the MMO thing with this game – it definitely feels like a single-player MMO, but FFXI, the previous game in the series was already an MMO. (Incidentally, FFXI is still running, and coming up on it’s 20 year anniversary in May)

    Apparently, from the interview linked above, they were originally intending that all the games past X would be “online games”. That’s pretty wild. I can’t imagine they were all intended to be full-blown “MMO experiences”, but maybe the idea was that you’d have a basically single-player experience in town, but out in the wild you’d party up with other players? That does make more sense for why the game has a system for killing the same enemy over and over for drops and why the game is a bit grindy.

    Maybe that implies the Gambit system wasn’t really the original vision for this game, but something they had to add when it no longer was an online game.

    Tangentially, on the open-world bits of this game. I find it hilarious that the first Hunt of the game is like:

    Them: Hey, there’s a dangerous monster over on the Westersand that’s attacking travelers and merchants that we need you to take care of.
    Me: Oh, you mean that the giant T-Rex?
    Them: What? Oh, no, anyone who gets too close to that thing deserves what they have coming. I mean this small angry tomoto.

    1. Rho says:

      The only issue I have with that idea (that this might have been meant as an MMO), is that that could not possibly have survived very long in design. While some systems have similarities to MMO’s, very little in the world design, story concept, or gameplay seems to fit an actual online game setup. If they ever planned for an MMO-space setup, it had to have been dropped almost immediately.

      1. Retsam says:

        I suspect when they say “online game”, they didn’t mean MMORPG in the sense of FFXI or WoW – I’m imagining the idea was closer to something like the campaign from Monster Hunter (or to a lesser degree, Destiny) where it would have been largely the same content as what we’ve got but you’d play it with other people.

        1. Thomas says:

          That would have been quite revolutionary for the time. Destiny felt like a bit of a revelation at the time and people took a while to understand what it was.

          1. Thomas says:

            Oh Monster Hunter was already doing 4 player hunt monsters coop, that makes sense.

          2. Retsam says:

            Yeah, though I think this was an era where that sort of thinking was more common. Online gaming was really starting to take off and I think there was a really optimistic mindset where a lot of people expected online play to become ubiquitous in a way that really didn’t happen in reality, where “online games” and “offline games” largely stayed a lot more siloed.

            Granted, this is largely speculative, but that’s certainly the attitude I imagine when I see them say something like “all Final Fantasy games after X were going to be online games”.

  5. Rho says:

    This is pretty much the part when the plot (for me) ran off the rails. In most FF games, this is about the time when we could expect the story to gain an overall goal. That goal might change, or the stakes get raised such that we need to escalate the characters’ motivations. (Stop Golbez from getting the crystals -> stop his giant machines -> now stop a Lunarian war criminal spirit.) However, here the characters all have wildly different motivations, and they’re barely even allies of necessity. This wouldn’t really be an issue except that Square really tries to go into the “realism” style and some of the lighthearted antics of older FF games just won’t work here. (I.E., in FF6 Setzer joins the party basically on a whim.)

    I vaguely recall it’s not until almost the halfway mark that the party actually figures out something of a goal for itself. Could be wrong there – it’s been a long time since I played.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Surely most games would have explained what we’re doing and why we care long before this point?
      If memory serves, it’s usually about 5 minutes into an old Final Fantasy game that we get our charcters’ first motivations.

      1. Sleepyfoo says:

        The party is almost entirely reactive in the early part of the game. The party motivation for this segment of plot is “escape” and rescue at this point.

        Escape from the palace, escape from the prison, escape from the mine under the prison, Rescue Penelo, Rescue Ashe.

        Once Ashe is back in the party, her motivations drive the party, Basch is protecting her, Vaan and Penelo are sort of there, and Balthier and Fran have a tenuous but extant reason to follow Ashe around. The party is still pretty reactive for the rest of the game though.

    2. Mye says:

      That’s one of the big, if not the biggest, issue of the game, the player essentially spent the entire game going “Why should I care about any of this?”. At this point the big plot should have been freeing the country while the smaller plot should have been trying to get the resistance trust, maybe find ally in other nation and so on.

      But instead the closest things to a smaller plot is rescuing Penelo, a pointless character that will literally do nothing important after this (her one shining moment in life was getting kidnap, even FF9 Quina, essentially a joke character, has a more important role in the story). And the big plot is still completely unknown to the player, most genre savvy player would realize the magic crystal must be important but nobody seem to care about it, least of all the imperial who obtain it during the prison stint and do nothing with it.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      This is probably a big part of the reason why Rocketeer’s comment about “running off to fight a chicken in the desert” is pretty typical. Why should I care about this plot? idk, I’m going to go hunt monsters.

      1. Syal says:

        I keep remembering Trails in the Sky 1, where the game literally tells you “The Orphanage is on fire, we have to save the children!” And then the player responds, “yeah, but there’s still sidequests. This guy lost his keys somewhere in town. I think that takes priority.”

        Sidequesting transcends clarity.

  6. John says:

    You know, I normally don’t care for hair styles like Vaan’s. Anime hair rendered semi-realistically will never not look weird. But I think that in Vaan’s case, the weirdness makes a certain amount of sense. If everybody in Final Fantasy XII had stupid anime hair I’d call that a bad artistic choice on the developers’ part, but I note that the stupid anime hair appears to be limited to just Vaan. The adult men in the party have relatively normal looking hair. Balthier’s gone for a practical hairstyle. Baasch appears to be too preoccupied with other things to do much more than give to the ‘do he developed in the oubliette a cursory trim. Thus my theory is thus that Vaan has stupid anime hair because Vaan is a stupid teenager. Of course he’s going to get an awful haircut and of course he’s going to spend a ton of time and use a ton of product each day in order to get his hair to look just so.

    I’m probably wrong. There are probably other characters with anime hair who aren’t stupid teenagers. But I don’t know the game well enough to prove that I’m wrong, so I still have hope.

    1. Fred Starks says:

      I mean, you have to look your best as a street rat with no money, doing… uh… whatever it is exactly Vaan does.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ll add that “lots of product” probably doesn’t work with his street rat background. Might be his natural grease or something he scrapes from sewer walls though.

      1. John says:

        Nothing about Vaan’s appearance works with his alleged street rat background. Not his hair, not his clothes, not his overall level of cleanliness. That’s why I choose to believe that he’s a not a street rat at all, but a rich kid who goes slumming for thrills. Every evening he goes back to his house in the nice part of town and lies to his parents about what he did all day.

        Vaan’s Dad: “Tell me the truth, son! Have you been sneaking off to fight monsters in the sewers?”

        Vaan: “You don’t understand me!”

        1. Syal says:

          I’m semi-convinced there was supposed to be a reveal that Vaan was actually a member of the royal family at some point.

          1. Henson says:

            I got that feeling as well. It would certainly explain why he and Ashe keep seeing visions of Rasler, and no one else does. Except…Ashe isn’t part of the royal family by blood? But I guess ‘married for 20 minutes’ counts.

            1. Syal says:

              I was going to mention Rasler’s the non-blooded one, but half my reasoning was Reks looking like Rasler, so… right, still a mess.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I mean, that might have given him an arc…

        3. Philadelphus says:

          Now I’m imagining there’s a really long-suffering butler:

          Butler: Good evening, Master Vaan. Shall I have a bath drawn up and notify the servants to make up your hair again?

          Vaan: *sigh* Yeah, fine.

  7. bobbert says:

    Did the “remind him of what it once meant.” ever actually go anywhere? To the best of my memory, it didn’t.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I think it means loyalty to Dalmasca or something, since Basch is still loyal despite those 2 years and him being called a traitor. And Vossler threw the weapon to Basch to foreshadow his betrayal later

  8. Syal says:

    I was surprised when Penelo wasn’t arrested in the first cutscene for charging an Imperial squad to talk to people being arrested for conspriracy, and was pleasantly surprised at this point when actually, yeah, they totally arrested her immediately.

    Except she wasn’t really arrested, she was grabbed by a headhunter. But the headhunter works for Gabranth? So maybe this is sanctioned by the Empire? So much of this game requires a very specific level of squinting for things to make sense.

    On the other hand, BEHOLD THE COCKATRICE!

    1. Chad Miller says:

      It’s clear from later context that the Bangaa gang only kidnapped Penelo because they thought she’d be Balthier bait (which is in a way related to her running up to the heroes after their arrest, but not in any way the Empire would care about)

      1. Syal says:

        Which is even weirder, because shouldn’t they think Balthier is still in jail? And if they manage to hear he’s on his way to Bhujerba, then surely the Empire could too? So maybe the Empire did hear about it, but left them alone because Ba’Gamnan’s already doing it. Or because they don’t think Balthier is important? This whole plotline is another big mess.

        1. The timeline makes very little sense. I mean, in an older game with a more stylized visual style or an overworld map that more obviously abstracted the time or distance of travel it would make more sense, but without a more direct indication of the passage of time (the party makes camp for the night, title card reading “two days later,” crossfades of the party traversing distant landscapes or at different times of day or the like), Final Fantasy XII is realistic enough that I, and I suspect most players, will intuitively feel as if the amount of time that’s passed as they traverse the field is more or less the amount of time that has passed in the logic of the story, even if we know that it’s probably farther from Rabanastre to Archades than the several minutes walk it actually is in game if you don’t stop to fight all the wolves.

          The audience sees Ba’Gamnan arrive in Nalbina to purloin Balthier, and he gets blown off. Minutes later, the party escapes the prison through the Barheim Passage and returns to Rabanstre through the Estersand. If you don’t stop to fight and pillage literally everything like I do, you can accomplish this between thirty minutes and an hour. As presented, it seems like we get captured at night, wake up in Nalbina in the morning, emerge into the desert about midday, and roll back into Agrabah in the early afternoon. Vaan starts looking for Penelo the moment he walks back into town, and she is already missing and is in fact half a continent away in Bhujerba. This makes sense if the journey back to the city took three or four days, maybe a week, assuming a small airship like the Strahl or whatever the bangaa are flying can make the journey to Dorstonis in as long as a couple days. But it doesn’t feel like that amount of time has passed!

          What it feels like is this: the party leaps down the oubliette, and as soon as the uproar reaches the headhunter’s ears, Ba’Gamnan knocks down the Imperial who transported us to Nalbina and threatens to liquefy his innards with a chainsaw if he doesn’t tell him where Balthier might hide out around here. Sarge yelps that he has no idea but the pigtail girl that spoke with the thieves in Rabanastre might know. Ba’Gamnan and crew SPRINT to their airship and fly to Rabanastre at Mach 4 while Basch is telling the dumbest story ever hundreds of feet below in the Barheim Passage. They crash-land in the central fountain plaza of Rabanstre, where Penelo is standing, yelling, “Vaaaan! Vaaaaan, where did you goooooo? Are you still in prison with that sky pirate? I had to work a double last night because you didn’t show at the bar!” Ba’Gamnan grabs her by the waist and tosses her like a javelin into the backseat of their airship, hops into the pilot’s seat, and screams at a stunned Migelo, “TELL BALTHIER WE’LL EAT HER IF HE DOESN’T COME TO BHUJERBA!!!” They take off in their fantasy MiG-31, shattering all the windows as they instantly kick on the afterburners and haul ass into the eastern sky, just above the heads of the party as they roll into the gates of Rabanastre. Total time elapsed: twelve minutes.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            The best part about reading these sort of retrospectives about games I haven’t played is that the improved versions people come up with become the version in my head.

          2. Gautsu says:

            Shit sounds like Ba’Gamnan should have been yelling “Danger Zone!”

  9. Chad Miller says:

    I generally hate grinding and won’t play a game if it expects me to run around killing stuff solely for loot or XP.

    But in this game I generally went out of my way to fill the Bestiary, even though it’s almost literally just number-go-up until there’s flavor text.

    Even I don’t pretend to fully understand it.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    Brace yourselves because I’m about to go in another tirade against FFXIII.

    I actually mentioned this before, but let me go a little deeper. If you think it’s bad how this game hides its flavor text in the Bestiary, FFXIII goes a step further and hides character and story development in its Datalog. I mean, the characters dialogue in cutscenes is relegated to give exposition (and by that mindlessly repeat the same thing they all already know every five minutes), but if you want to know how characters feel about what’s happening and about everyone else you have no choice but to go to the datalog.

    For instance, due to circumstances too dumb to relay them here, the mother of one of the playable characters, Hope (a kid), dies while trying to save the life of another character, Snow (a local idiot who fancies himself a superhero). While Hope’s expression at watching his mother fall is one of shock, after the fact all you see in his face for the great majority of the game is either confusion or dull surprise. Yet if you read the datalog apparently he’s supposed to be furious at Snow. The datalog says he’s full of rage, hates him, blames him for his mother’s death and wants him dead. Snow is supposedly guilty about her death too. You really don’t get any of this from the game at all until hours later Hope picks up a weapon to try to kill Snow. If you haven’t been reading the datalog this will come entirely out of nowhere.

    Man, I can’t wait until we start talking about villains in this game so I can rant a bit more about the villains in XIII.

    1. Mye says:

      The best part is that the entire motivation for the bad guys evil plan is hidden in a datalog (as a cryptic prophecy), without reading those everything they do seem completely pointless and stupid, once you read the datalog you find out its merely stupid.

      I’m still conflicted about the Snow/Hope things, on one hand I guess I can see why Hope would be pissed at Snow in a dumb teenager way, on the other, why isn’t he more angry about the people who actually killed her mom? Plus Snow is such a stupid/buffoon and the game never acknowledge that, in fact it flat out support his “do something stupid, hope things work out” approach to everything since at the end everyone does something supremely stupid and flat out just goes “if we hope things will work out, they will” and they do thanks to a literal Deus Ex.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Hmmm.

      …are there any codex entries that explain why Vanille acted like she just wasn’t seeing or experiencing the same things as everyone else?

      1. Chad Miller says:

        If you mean what I think you mean, it’s part of one of the game’s few big reveals:

        Vanille and Fang were the Pulse L’Cie behind the attack that cracked open Cocoon. Vanille figures her focus is to finish the job and destroy Cocoon, but has actively decided that she’d rather suffer the Cieth curse than go through with it, so she’s spending most of the game’s running time in a deliberate attempt to ignore the gravity of her situation in favor of strained cheerfulness. Fang is still willing to follow through with her Focus and the rest of the characters don’t know about it and aren’t accustomed to being L’Cie the way she is.

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