You know, I almost want to just thrash this thing and have done with this torture once and for all, but lets make it interesting, why don’t we? We’ve had an excuse to see almost every Esper in the game. Let’s bust out the rest, because I intend to dwell on them a bit in the aftermath.
Against a god of death, an angel of death: Zalera, the Death Seraph! Okay, that matchup is a bit predictable, isn’t it? Zalera went down astonishingly quick, barely clinging to (un)life before I had the chance to bust out its supermove… which did piddly damage.
But hey, let’s ramp it up a bit, for an Esper I found in a sewer: Cúchulainn, the Impure! Cúchulainn proves far more survivable, hardly reacting to The Undying’s attacks, but doing very little in return; at the same rate that Cúchulainn can throw out his regular Malaise attacks, Fran was throwing out Flares that hit for five times as much damage. When you’re being out-fought by Fran, you need to step your game up. Next!
Time for Exodus, the Judge-Sal! Exodus turns out to make a fantastic ally, slamming Comets and Ardor attacks left and right for massive damage. He isn’t the most resilient of Espers, but he’s quick with the Curajas and I actually managed to run his timer out before using Meteor. I always knew I liked you, you crazy arboreal nightmare.
But you know, Venat, I know of someone else who tried to rebel against the gods, and it didn’t work out very well for them. Furthermore, I hear they’re dying for a rematch. So, Vaynat, prepare to face Ultima, the High Seraph! Ultima is strong, but… not great at fighting Vayne, actually. Damage seemed pretty light, and it turns out that, yes, The Undying halves holy-elemental damage, which all of the Esper’s attacks deal. Nonetheless, the gray-blue Satan analogue riding a helicopter and palling around with a street kid managed to hold out fairly well against the black-and-white Satan analogue riding a junk sculpture of a dragon and palling around with an Emperor.
But all of this showboating is just killing time before the main event. These scrubs all fought the gods before and lost, so screw ’em! But I’ve got an ally that makes even the gods fear: Zodiark, Keeper of Precepts! True to his lore, Zodiark is unfairly powerful, and watching him fight The Undying is like setting a luchador loose in a children’s hospital. Vayne was on the ropes even before I summoned Zodiark, and I get the feeling I’m not going to get another chance to bust out his supermove, Final Eclipse. My instincts are right: in a blaze of deific, serpentine majesty, the Undying is blasted into scrap metal, unable to withstand a fight full of nothing but my bored dicking around.
The orange glow of nethicite begins to bleed from the amalgamated villains as they seem to lose control. Three lights blast their way out of Vayne’s body, spiraling into the sky before departing to the corners of the earth.I can’t help but wonder if this is supposed to be the spirits of the Dawn, Midlight, and Dusk Shards; it’s hard to get a glimpse, but they seem to resemble the angelic apparitions that accompanied the 8th Fleet’s demise over the Tomb of Raithwall. The draconic metal shell falls to pieces, the hollowed head of the rebel Occuria falling away. The parts which had merged with Vayne’s body melt and boil, and as the entwined beings give one last roar of protest, they are consumed in a vast conflagration.
The mask that had covered the Emperor’s visage is flung into the hull, its empty eye staring as it disintegrates into the wind. Vayne Carudas Solidor is no more.
Standing on the cannon superstructure under a once-more blue sky, the party collects themselves. Balthier and Fran give each other a well-deserved bro fist. Basch silently dwells on how he never got any kind of character arc, eventually finding peace in the idea that no development at all might be the best he could hope for. The princess herself gazes down upon Dalmasca, stunned with knowledge that it is finally free, and finally hers, and she has absolutely no idea how to run a kingdom oh my god oh my god somebody help me out here.
Within the central shaft, Larsa awkwardly admits to himself that calling somebody with a knowledge of field medicine might have been a better call as the by-now gelatinized body of Gabranth loses its last few gallons of blood. Once the camera cuts away, though, he reflects on how his father, brother, the Senate, and the entire Ministry of Law except the spineless Zargabaath all lie dead, and gives a malevolent grin. All is as planned.
Vaan and Penelo, two poor kids from the desert, can hardly believe they ended up wrapped in the affairs of gods and emperors alike, and came out on the other side unscathed. They stare at the calm, beautiful sky, and… nearly shit themselves as a flaming fighter ship buzzes out of control right above their heads.
Oh, FUCK! The battle is still going on! We thought, you know, killing the main dude would wrap it all up! It kinda worked in the movie, dammit! The entire party takes on their strongest “Well shit” stances before high-tailing it away back to the Strahl.
It would seem our fuckwit pilot left the engines running when we parked, and the damned thing is fresh out of gas. But unfortunately for Rabanastre, so is the Bahamut! It would seem that all of that energy Cid siphoned into the fortress’s gas tanks from the Sun-Cryst was used up by The Undying, and raining that energy back onto the fortress as Teraflares and Gigaflare Swords probably didn’t do it any favors. The lift and propulsion systems of the massive structure have failed, and it turns out we really aren’t playing by Star Wars rules anymore: if the Bahamut falls where it is, Rabanastre will fare little better than Nabudis.
Balthier had been heading to the engine room to fix up the Strahl,The hell is this sudden drama manufacted out of, anyway? An enemy fighter pursued us on the way in, but wasn’t shown to land any hits. So why’s the ship broke? Did the moogle mechanics get bored and crash the ship again, like they did after Raithwall’s tomb? but he and Fran head back into the fortress instead, telling Vaan and Penelo, “You can fly the ship, probably, I’unno. Give it your best shot, peace!” As they dart out of the small ship, likely to find an Imperial shuttle to GTFO on instead, Larsa and Basch are having a moment with the yes-I’m-not-shitting-you-STILL-dying Gabranth, laid out on a cot in the back. The Judge Magister is exactly as hard to kill as I have made him out to be, but it would seem his grip on his last hitpoint is loosening. Gabranth leaves his brother with a mandate: protect Larsa. If, in this time of strife, House Solidor should fall, it would mean civil war for the Empire.
…What. I honestly can’t even believe the audacity of Gabranth’s last wish here. Gabranth joins up with the Empire that destroyed their homeland and helps them destroy and enslave Basch’s new homeland, pinning the assassination of Raminas on him and leaving him to hang in an oubliette cage for two solid years. Then Gabranth constantly and unapologetically continues to try and assassinate or imprison Basch and Ashe, to further the aims of the brutal Solidor regime. He has no regrets until he is defeated in combat, whereupon he… charges Basch, of all people, with taking up the work that he should have been doing, to aid a nation that he has every right to hate?
And is Larsa really their only hope? First of all, the entire Imperial system in Archades was brought about through the violent seizure of power by the military; the Senate was a holdover from the republican ancien regime. And even the ostensibly-elected Emperor’s seat was rigged when the Solidors violently purged all competition generations ago. Now that the senate is dissolved through a patricidal ruse, the Imperium asserts itself solely by the power of a military in the process of a sudden, total defeat at the hands of a multinational coalition. Larsa will be lucky to end up exiled as a Rozarrian hostage while the Valendian kingdoms crumble. Nothing that emerges from the settling dust could be worse than we should expect of a nethicite-powered dictatorship as led by Loki Fucking Solidor, author of all lies and sire of discord.
Naturally, Basch agrees to Noah’s request immediately. I fucking hate Basch.
Falling airships crash against the beleaguered paling above Rabanastre as Vaan miraculously gets the Strahl working again. Balthier had indicated it was a mechanical problem that needed direct attention, but apparently he can’t fulfill either half of the “sky pirate” title, since jiggling the gearshift seemed to do the trick. Vaan blasts off at once, boldly leaving Balthier and Fran behind. I’m still not sure what their plan for the duo was; maybe they intended to go back for them once they were done trying to stabilize the Bahamut, but if this is so, they certainly never act on it.
The bridge crew of the Garland observes the Strahl departing the fortress, and Ondore realizes at last that the Bahamut has been neutralized. Did no one see a conga line of demons battling a cyborg dragon god on the superstructure?! Ondore prepares to concentrate all fire on the Alexander and crush the last of the Imperials’ command structure, but before he can command the volley to be fired, Gabranth’s voice comes over the radio, ordering all parties to cease fire at once and announcing the signing of a cease-fire with Her Royal Majesty Ashelia. Aboard the Strahl, we can see that this is actually Basch impersonating his brother over the voice-changer, but whether this is because the Judge Magister has finally passed from the world, or because we aren’t willing to risk Gabranth fucking up his last duty in life like he did everything else, is left to our imagination. Basch passes the mic to Larsa, who announces his lord brother’s honorable death in battle (Did no one see us fighting Vayne on the— ugh, never mind!) and announces the passage of command authority to himself. The Garland’s crew asks orders of Ondore, but the Marquis bides his time as the princess comes onto the intercom, wisely announcing herself as “Ashelia Dalmasca” (the canny girl knows well enough not to bring that goofy middle name up) and bidding her assent to the cease fire. She commands that all Resistance ships stand down, and as the two sides slowly halt their cannon fire and retreat to their own lines, she declares the war over.
It’s a touching scene, but the danger has yet to pass: no sooner does the fighting stop than the Bahamut alights upon the paling over Rabanastre; the wall of blue light is clearly being pushed beyond its limit, and will not hold for long. Luckily for all those totally fucked peasants, the show of solidarity between the two sides caused our dear Judge Zargabaath’s heart to grow three sizes that day. He opens a line of communication to the Garland and announces his intentions: the Alexander will ram the sky fortress, and push it right off the city’s airspace! Ondore actually bids him refrain, knowing this is a suicide charge in the making. Frankly, I’m curious if this would just result in the Bahamut and the Alexander both being scattered over the city, but Zargabaath is resolute, ordering everyone to concentrate fire on the Bahamut’s remains once it is clear of the city.
On board the failing hulk, Balthier and Fran hear the announcement over the intercom and ruin their drawers. Balthier makes a mad dash to the PA system, begging, “Wait, wait! I got this! Calm your tits! Oh God please don’t kill us!” Ashe comes onto the mic and coolly inquires, “Do you actually have any fucking idea what you’re doing in there?” This is a fantastic question! The Bahamut is larger than an aircraft carrier and, Marvel universe notwithstanding, aircraft carriers don’t also fly. Yet Balthier seems confident he can fix the world’s most advanced and secret technology from the kind of damage that it took the entire Resistance fleet and the indiscriminate bombardment of a nuclear dragon cyborg to inflict, all with nothing but a ratcheting wrench.
Incredibly, it seems the massive “glossair rings” that let the fortress fly are powered by magical D-batteries, a handful of which Balthier frenziedly replaces, praying to Ultima that following whatever basic instruction placards are posted around the machine room proves enough to get the Death Star up and flying again. For all we know he and Fran have been hauling ass around the ship, tearing panels off and swapping fuses, yelling, “It’s got to be one of these! Throw me the open-end!”
Balthier offers one last entreaty to the gods of plot and genre, demanding that his role as the leading man should give him enough plot armor to get out alive. Incredibly, his blasphemous incantations are acknowledged, and the glossair rings light up as they come back online! As the Bahamut begins to lift itself from the Rabanstre paling, the exultant Balthier tells Fran to redirect all power so they can get the fuck out of this death trap. Unfortunately, Fran is the Black Widow of our would-be Avengers, and when you put Black Widow on a failing Helicarrier, it’s only a matter of time before she gets trapped helplessly under a pipe. Turning to see that this is exactly what has happened, Balthier gives a hilariously cold, “Really bitch? There was no better time for this?” Sometimes I think the game should have played up Balthier’s capacity to be an utter dick to everyone around him, like Alvin in Tales of Xillia. You can’t tell me this game wouldn’t have been improved if he had, apropos of nothing at all, turned and shot Penelo right in the back, shrugging his shoulders coyly as the party explodes in shock and outrage.
Ashe demands he haul his ass on out of there, suddenly becoming very concerned with his well-being, or at least of the sentimentally valuable jewelry he’s still carrying around. Balthier scoops up the viera failure like a sack of old laundry, and as he carries her away she chooses this moment to tell him that he’s in “more of a supporting role.”
If I was Balthier, and this chick had the audacity to call me a second banana, with a pun, while I was sweating to haul her ass out of an exploding doom fortress over my shoulder, no one would ever see her again. Accidents happen. There’s not a jury in the world that wouldn’t believe me. If I get lonely for another viera butt-buddy/sidekick, Ktjn is still hanging around Rabanastre somewhere. Or hell, see if Krjn from the clan needs a hunting buddy. That lady’s tough. Or hey! Best yet! See if Mjrn still has the old wanderlust! That’d make the mahogany shrew spin in her grave.
But Balthier can’t bring himself to betray that wookiee life debt, and sticks with his old elfbunnygirl buddy to the bitter end. One last transmission comes from within the Bahamut, a stern warning to Vaan to take care of the Strahl for him. Vaan promises, and the party watches as the glossair rings give their last, falling away from the massive structure as it crashes into the barren Westersand.
—ONE YEAR LATER—
Looking back on the last year, Penelo, sends a letter to Emperor Larsa. her voiceover of this letter serves as the game’s epilogue. Visible on her writing desk is a copy of Coping with Severe Traumatic Stress Through BELLY DANCE! Five Easy Steps. Rabanastre has more or less gone back to normal, other than the massive wreck of the Bahamut visible from every part of the city. It seems the sky fortress simply stuck into the ground like a lawn dart, leaning there like a cross between the Shinra No. 27 and a dropped colony from the Gundam universe.
It seems the city likes the wreck right where it is, since one of Ashe’s first acts as queen was to surround it with a lake, build a fancy bridge over to it, and cover the thing with vegetation, a fantastic use of resources in the middle of a desert. Even if the Bahamut, by pure chance, struck an underground spring and the oasis formed naturally, there is simply way, waaay too much greenery to have formed naturally in a year, especially on every surface of a barren metal wreck. So yes, it looks like the broad’s first act as queen was to dump all the corpses out of it and turn it into a Hanging Gardens for her to gawp at from her balcony, a lush reminder to the world of what happens to people who fuck with Dalmasca.
Ashe herself has been cutting ties with the two street rats leading up to her official coronation, growing quickly accustomed to having all her whims sated immediately and without question. Within another year everyone that knew the truth of the war will be dead and she’ll be set up as a Kim Il-Sung-style cult of personality, having single-handedly driven off the cowardly Valendian forces and created the oasis of Rabanastre in a majestic wave of her miniskirt.
Over in Archadia, Basch has taken up Gabranth’s armor, his title of Judge Magister, and his fucking identity. The idea is that Basch is, and will always be, too marked by his past to live freely and openly, and that revealing Gabranth’s death at the battle of Rabanastre would be too dangerous. I don’t even have the strength to itemize how drastically fucking stupid this is, but I hope I simply don’t have to at this point. Basch, my most earnest desire is that tragedy stalks you to the end of your days, because you will always blithely accept it, and that’s exactly what you deserve.
Penelo speculates that Ashe is hiding her wishes to see Basch again, but I know she’s playing the long game. Ashe knows all too well what happens when Basch swears to defend something, and with the alleged kingslayer sworn to defend Larsa, Dalmasca needs only wait until they can sort through the cinders of whatever inevitably befalls Archades. With Valendia under her crown, Ashe and Al-Cid Margrace can laze around whichever continent’s pleasure domes they wish that weekend, smashing up all the furniture as they crank out a new Galtean Dynasty.
Zargabaath is presumably mad as hell that, as far as he knows, Gabranth is still top-dawg Judge Magister, and not himself. Over thirty years in the Ministry of Law, and some Landis pup manages to not only snipe the top spot out from under him but shit up the works year after year, growing ever more an insecure scenery-chewer until he comes back from the Dalmascan campaign all stoic and aloof. Thinks he’s so cool with his beard and that neat-o scar. If only he’d rammed the Bahamut his name would have been spoken in reverence for generations. Don’t worry JZ, I’m still pulling for you. You should retire and soak up your pension in Bhujerba, drinking up all that famous Madhu wine as an Archadian ambassador to Ondore’s realm. Pour one out for Ghis and that magnificent hair.
But the big surprise is that the Strahl has been stolen! Vaan and Penelo had gone in to check on it after servicing, only to find the hangar barren. Left in its place is a note, and a small envelope. “Something more valuable: The Cache of Glabados. I await in Bervenia.” Dun Dun DUUUUUUNNNN! And on the back, “Give this to our Queen for me, will you?” From out of the envelope slides an elegant ring.It occurs to me upon seeing it that the ring is massive; it looks like the One Ring held in Isildur’s palm, newly slipped from Sauron’s fell finger. Ashe must have the hands of a Dullahan! An excellent detail: Ashe sets the ring upon the table, rather than wearing it, conveying she has at long last let go of her grief for Rasler.
With the bait laid for Vaan and Penelo, the two are heading out in their own airship to chase after Balthier and Fran. I don’t know how they got their own airship. Did they get an equal share of the hundreds of thousands of gil the party had at the conclusion of the game? Does it pay, indeed, to have a friend on the throne? Did they just shank some poor bastard in Nalbina and fly away in a hail of bullets? No matter. With their sights set on the horizon, the two fledgling sky pirates head to parts unknown to kick off the plot of Revenant Wings.
And that, as they say, is that. I have some things left to say about the game, but the narrative is concluded at long last, and the Travelog portion of our journey is done.
My conclusion remains, and therein I will have a nice sit down, peel off my boots, and pull my thoughts together— which, after all, was what I had initially set out to do when I first started putting this together nearly a year ago. There will be vitriol, yes. But I do have a lot of positive things to say about the game that didn’t come out over the course of the narrative. I do still very much like Final Fantasy XII— or, at least, I like the idea of it very much. I wouldn’t have bothered if I didn’t.
I couldn’t have put this kind of effort out for a game that I thought didn’t have great potential to fulfill, like Final Fantasy XIII. Nor would I have seen fit to do so for a game that managed to largely fulfill its potential, like— thankfully!— most of the Final Fantasy games have. It is in this awkward space, in which the reality of the game and the fullness of its possibilities are divorced, yet close enough that the sparks of your imagination may jump freely from one to the next, that Final Fantasy XII sits.
I suppose, as they say, that there are no “other words.” My journey through Ivalice in 706 Old Valendian does and must stand for itself. But in the conclusion, I will try to distill somewhat my total and final thoughts on an imperfect but remarkable game. Among them: its handling and mishandling of its thematic endeavors; its characters, for good and for ill; its place in an old and storied series; and, indeed, the shocking implications of its place in the world of Ivalice.
We conclude next week.
 I can’t help but wonder if this is supposed to be the spirits of the Dawn, Midlight, and Dusk Shards; it’s hard to get a glimpse, but they seem to resemble the angelic apparitions that accompanied the 8th Fleet’s demise over the Tomb of Raithwall.
 The hell is this sudden drama manufacted out of, anyway? An enemy fighter pursued us on the way in, but wasn’t shown to land any hits. So why’s the ship broke? Did the moogle mechanics get bored and crash the ship again, like they did after Raithwall’s tomb?
 It occurs to me upon seeing it that the ring is massive; it looks like the One Ring held in Isildur’s palm, newly slipped from Sauron’s fell finger. Ashe must have the hands of a Dullahan!
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