A Travelog of Ivalice, Conclusion: DAWN

By The Rocketeer Posted Wednesday May 25, 2022

Filed under: FFXII 59 comments

Final Fantasy XII vainly serves two masters. It’s both a member of the so-called “Ivalice Alliance,” following Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance in the setting created by Yasumi Matsuno. At the same time, Final Fantasy XII folds this spin-off sub-series back into the main Final Fantasy series.

Like many Final Fantasy titles, the game follows a reliable narrative structure. We start out with what proves to be the B-plot: the Archadian occupation of Dalmasca. In time, this plot reveals and is supplanted by the A-plot: a timeless, inscrutable race has directed world events since ages unknown and now wages a schismatic proxy war via human champions. Similarly, fighting the Shinra in Final Fantasy VII opens up into the vendetta against Sephiroth. In Final Fantasy X, the Pilgrimage to ward away Sin expands into the unraveling of the entire Yevonite regime and the hidden thousand-year-long conflict that it propped up.

In other games, the B-plot eventually wraps up heading into the finale, or ends up entwined with it; the Shinra collapse just before Cloud and friends fly to the Northern Limits, but the quest to defeat Sin is recontextualized and expanded by the revelations of Spira’s last pilgrimage.



The games of the Ivalice setting specifically aren’t too different, but specialize this structure to a narrower purpose. The transition from the outer struggle to the hidden struggle acts as a stakes-raising device in both cases, but in Ivalice, it also serves to introduce a conspiracy, a threat that relies on the B-plot to take proper advantage. In Tactics, this is the Lucavi using the War of the Lions as a cover for the resurrection of Ultima. In Vagrant Story, the story seems to be Müllenkamp’s attempt to sieze the Gran Grimoire, but in reality it turns out to be a scheme by Sydney to pass the Dark onto someone who will not fall to its corruption. And in FFTA, Marche, in the course of building up his clan, discovers that the very world he inhabits is an illusion given shape by Mewt’s wishes.

In the Ivalician tradition, this dynamic resonates with the recurring ideas of virtue and corruption, truth and deception, and the ensorcelling lure of power. The heroes pursue the B-plot out of duty, and find themselves thrust into the hidden world at great personal cost. Ramza Beoulve, in cutting the true path through the War of the Lions and the Lucavi revolution, is remembered as a heretic by history. Ashley Riot becomes traitor to his order and, bearing the Blood-Sin tattoo, a pariah from humanity. Marche becomes the enemy of the world, known as an outlaw and a madman by the end.

These stories resolve ambiguously or bittersweetly, in keeping with the motif of conspiracies and histories clouded by shades of gray.

Ramza departs into the unknown, remembered as a traitor for all time. The audience can believe that he and his sister found happiness, but we are shown time and again the unkind fates of his kind in Ivalice. Only because Ramza’s doom goes unrecorded by history may we hope that his ending was aught but cruel.

At the end of Vagrant Story, Ashley has tasked himself with correcting the Dark’s perversions wherever they have spread, and wanders the world as a Vagrant, setting down no roots and living as an outcast. Did he, cursed, ever manage to improve the world? Did he die terribly? Was he consumed by his powers? Who inherited the Dark upon his passing, and did they render his efforts all for naught?

In the relatively lighter Tactics Advance, we see that the children have gained a measure of maturity and strength from their tenure in the illusory Ivalice— strength well needed in their difficult lives, with meager promise that their lots will change, particularly for Mewt, who comes from a poor family with an alcoholic father, and for Doned, who will again be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.I can’t decide whether Marche, who had no explicit complaint with his life, or Ritz, whose secret shame was that she dyed her hair, deserves more scorn from their peers.

What remains, proof against the depredations of such dark times, is virtue alone. Reward enough, or so pray we all. In Ivalice, we have our glimpse, our special and invaluable insight into a rare inflection point in history, and beyond it lies an enigma. These stories are histories, and though mythologized by their posterity, our characters aren’t myths, they’re human. They don’t live happily ever after, nor are they borne to Avalon. Many are the great figures of history whose lives beyond a palmful of deeds and moments fade first from memory, and then from history. Theirs was a crucial part to play in the plot— in history— but once it was done, they went on to whatever life was left to them. Their lives are uncertain because life is uncertain; don’t let life’s perversions compromise your virtue, and only one thing will remain which the enormities of fortune can’t tear from you.

But not in the Ivalice of 706 Old Valendian! The cast of Final Fantasy XII receives an unambiguously happy ending. Basch kind of got fucked over, but that’s the only way Basch can raise wood.

The heroes of the game receive unambiguous fairy tale endings, because they are unambiguous fairy tale heroes. A conflict constantly at the core of the game comes down to this: Ashe, Basch, Balthier, Fran, Vaan, and Penelo are characters from a softer, swashbuckling fantasy world inhabiting a world that is otherwise thoroughly Ivalician, and the grinding of these gears constantly introduces problems that the game does not know how to address.

The world seems to know that the main characters of the game are the main characters of the game, and bends over backwards to accommodate them. Our trouble with Vaan, writ large upon the setting! One can say Vaan had no real reason to serve as the main character despite the game dutifuly accommodating him in the superficial trappings of that role. But our Ivalice provides like service for the party and their role in the world. In the three previous Ivalice games, the heroes play a direct and active role in the primary events of the game, yet Final Fantasy XII seems to set up a very dull main narrative for our cast separate from and parallel to a richer background narrative, which is managed by the adults while we, the kids, dick around.

I can understand why this might have happened; it seems to gel with precedent, after all. In the three predecessors, the A-Plot is a mystery to the world at large, and the B-plots (The War of the Lions, Müllenkamps’ terrorist/cult actions, Marche’s revolt against King Mewt) can stand as its own set of events without them. But these games use our vantage to demonstrate how the visible course of events is merely instrumental to the occult machinations underlying them, and how the outward-facing conclusions of these events only came about through the hidden interventions of the main cast.

Final Fantasy XII uses this vantage point to demonstrate that our actions in the game have only the most tangential and incidental, even accidental relationship with the “other narrative,” which seems so detached from our actions as to be more of a wallpaper behind our quest than a setting. As pointed out by Venat at the end of the game, her plans were mostly effected at Ridorana as we sat and watched; our greatest effect on the overall plot is the destruction of the 8th Fleet, which we didn’t intend and which may have occurred had we not even been present. Beyond that, the war against the Empire proceeds totally indifferent to our actions, managed by Ondore, tireless MVP of Team Good.

Final Fantasy XII, likely through the struggles of its long development and constant rewrites, seems to reflexively recapitulate the A-plot/B-plot structure, ineptly. I’m not implying that this structure itself is somehow sacred, nor that the game is somehow bound to it by custom. But half-heartedly attempting to implement it, and failing, twists the backbone of the plot into lameness.

The B-plot resolves at last with the halt of the Imperial forces and the end of the war. Vayne, Cid, and Venat are slain, and the Ministry of Law is all but dismantled. Rozarria and Archades will not war over the realm, and Dalmasca and Bhujerba regain independence.“Landis and Nabradia can go fuck themselves. Got mine, bitches!” -HRM Ashelia B. Dalmasca, 707 O.V. Archadia is Larsa’s to rule. Perfectly fine outcomes for this plot thread.

The galling problem is this: the A-plot is never resolved satisfactorily! No part of the staggering revelations of the Occuria, which overshadow and underpin the mundane struggles of the plot, are addressed. The Empire still knows how to manufacture nethicite. Rozarria will want it. Deifacted nethicite may still exist in Giruvegan, and the Occuria may have any number of alternate plans or weapons that we know nothing of and have no defense against— Venat’s incredible dismissal notwithstanding. This is important, because the Occuria, who still desire control of history, of whom we know nearly nothing, who might overpower all the nations of men, still watch from Giruvegan. And our party, their would-be agents on the earth, defy them, insult them, and forget them.

They aren’t merely unresolved, but unaddressed. The game completely forgets that the Occuria existed. They aren’t treated as a looming threat, to be dreaded, but as unworthy of attention and concern. This is like defeating Shinra while Sephiroth abides deep under the Planet, and just going back to business as usual. It leaves an extremely uncomfortable feeling of dissonance and unease for the player, knowing that the Undying are simply looming in their vast alien citadel like Meteor hanging red and fat in the sky. No one pays it any mind when they should be shaking in their boots, glad to have dispensed with the small potatoes while the main threat may now be pressured into drastic measures.

''Out to lunch.''
''Out to lunch.''

But here’s the rub: having hung all the narrative tension on the B-plot, our party hardly has a role in wrapping that up, either! At the end of the day, the entire B-plot is handled by Ondore and the Resistance he assembled and managed through years of sly, careful plotting and then personally led into battle over Dalmasca. The only thing the party has to do while the weight of the world rests on our Bhujerban compatriot is to deal with the Occuria and the A-plot. Which we never resolve. The main cast, already sequestered so completely from the narrative, accomplishes nothing of substance. Nothing happens in this fucking game!

But this is a problem that exists only because our villains are consistently nearly as ineffectually marionetted by convenient unseen narrative strings as our heroes.

We are told the Empire is unopposable, and our sextet battles them regularly without difficulty. Imperials are typically battled in sequences that the party cannot easily escape, and must be toned down so an underpowered player does not become stuck. So the forces of the Empire are frequently demonstrated to be incompetent. The party regularly strikes down the most powerful members of the Imperial war pavilion, supposedly some of the greatest warriors in the realm, revealing their leadership as mostly talk. If Vayne and Venat’s demise at the final battle somehow adversely affected the Bahamut drastically enough to tip the scales in Ondore’s favor, this is hardly clear; thus, it really does appear as though the Resistance Fleet managed to destroy the Bahamut, the ultimate magitech weapon, on their own, as we assassinate Vayne.

Which would make the entire plot a farce.

We are told that Cid and Vayne are brilliant, and their actions frequently make no sense and make life difficult for them. Their entire plan— to use the deifacted nethicite to power the Bahamut and use it as a Death Star— relies only upon their using the Sun-Cryst with the Shards. If they do need all three of them for this, then they would also need to retrieve the Shard our party possesses. If they accomplish these tasks, the Empire wins. They never seek to accomplish these tasks with the remotest sense of urgency, and, in fact, wait until the latest, most dangerous moments to attempt any part of it. They do seize the Midlight Shard before the game even begins, but the Dusk Shard goes undisturbed for two years as Vayne, schemer extraordinaire, and Cid, mad genius, cannot find or open the closet in which it gathers dust. They gain the Dusk Shard only because the party, entirely through chance, had it with them when they were captured by Ghis the first time.

What of the Dawn Shard? Did they never seek it? Cid seems to know all about the nethicite; indeed, he must know, since his entire plan is to use them for the Bahamut. Even if they didn’t know, the Tomb of Raithwall seems to be an obvious place to look on a wild guess. And this is setting aside for the moment that Venat apparently knows everything and can do anything.

But while they may not have known themselves, they certainly knew enough to follow us thereVossler probably told Ghis of our intentions before he even reconnoitered with us in Ogir-Yensa. Or maybe not, since he wouldn’t have known; Ashe reveals her destination as she absconds from Ondore’s care; Vossler is away treating with the Bhujerba Belligerents at the time. He catches up with us at the edge of the Sandsea, so it’s more likely the Empire knew our goals better than we did and told Vossler our destination, rather than the reverse. We never actually learn for sure even a single thing Vossler did to act against us or aid the Empire, other than pressuring Ashe to cooperate politically with the Empire to attempt to leverage more favorable treatment for Dalmasca. and ambush us on our way out. But if Ghis knew where we were headed and for what, why didn’t they grab the last Shard themselves, then? We had to walk across the entire desert to get to the tomb, when they could have simply flown out and gotten there first. It’s not like only the party can enter. As long as you can survive the trip to the basement, you get the Shard, and an Esper to boot. They expected our party of six people, half of them teenagers, to succeed. Were they, with the might of the Empire, unable? Did the Empire know that the Dusk Shard they possess would apparently allow them to skip the trials of Raithwall’s Tomb and Lindy Hop straight to the Dawn Shard? Either they were too weak or too stupid to succeed in their plans.

But sure, we accomplish their work for them. We get captured, the Stone is stolen, and the Empire blows themselves up. It’s a cut-and-dry, “My evil has overtaken my intelligence” show of Ghis’s conniving doing him in and taking out the entire 8th Fleet with him.Or so it seems the audience is meant to take it. From what the Imperials say, however, I’m not sure they could have anticipated any risk in trying to measure the Shard, and the events that ensued were the result— the only practical effect in the game, in fact— of the Stones’ supposed self-will, of which Ghis didn’t know and the party only learns later through occasional vague gestures by e.g. the garif. And we have no reason to think that this wouldn’t have happened without us there to observe! So the destruction of the Fleet, the most important event in the overall plot, is one that we had no real effect on. Why are we here?

I suppose we’re here to snipe the Dawn Shard from the ashes and delay Cid’s plan even longer. We are able to do this because the main party were the only people who fled the explosion, and were the only people who survived. Well, that’s handy.

So, the enemy’s first attempt to seize the Dawn Shard failed. What’s their next attempt? There is none. Our party is never pursued again. The next time anyone in the Empire goes looking for us, it will be Vayne sending Gabranth after us as a private practical joke. We run into Larsa by chance, and thereafter into Bergan as he comes after Larsa. We deliver ourselves directly to Archades and escape unimpeded. Why, we even run into Cid, who directs us to Giruvegan. He directs us to the Occuria only because he implicitly understands they will direct us to the Pharos, where he apparently needs us.

Cid and Venat countenance no threat whatsoever from deliberately linking us up with the Occuria. Maybe they’re just that confident. Maybe they have such a minute understanding of the warp and weft of fate that they know this will put us right where they want us. Maybe this is just the plot happening the way it does because it needs to happen the way it does.

Yes, the Empire is going to bide their time and let us take the Dawn Shard to the Pharos while they wait to accomplish the next phase. They never again make any effort to pursue their own goals by pursuing us directly. And in the end, it works: once atop the Pharos, we literally drop the Dawn Shard on the fucking floor and Cid picks it up. As usual, the Empire has conceived of the sloppiest plan in the world, and it has worked somehow.

This makes sense if, once again, our six guys are smart and strong enough to summit the Pharos, while the entire Empire is not. But no, they demonstrably do not need us to reach the Sun-Cryst, since they simply fly up and meet us at the top. If I believed for a second that Gabranth quietly shadowed us up 100 stories of the Pharos, while Cid quietly shadowed him in the exact same way, Hiroshi Minagawa wouldn’t have knees. The enemy demonstrates that they could have proceeded with their plans at any moment they chose, and not only did they never attempt to do so for no reason whatsoever, they chose to wait until their most dangerous opponents had the greatest chance to intercede.

Even at that, their plan would only be necessary if they needed all three stones for their plan to work. Er, do they? They don’t seem to be a package deal in their function or anything. They’re just the three stones that the garif kindly handed over to Raithwall. If all Cid is doing is siphoning power from the Sun-Cryst with the stones, why didn’t he? Not that I understand why they need smaller fragments of the Sun-Cryst on hand to do this at all, but did he ever attempt to use the Dusk and Midlight Shards on their own? Mightn’t that work to a lesser extent or at a slower rate? Did they really have no other ideas besides the Bahamut, which may indeed have needed all three to power?

In Final Fantasy XII, the blind duel the lame for an unclear stakes. We hokey-pokey across the continent learning things that will avail us nothing and influence our actions not in the slightest, amassing an arsenal of Maguffins we never find the moment to use, harried passive-aggressively and inconsistently by a foe merely shoved from mark to mark by the undisguised hand of the author. When at last our foil finds its mark, the stagehands are already striking the set.

These are some of the higher level conceptual and structural problems with the game’s narrative, the practical inadequacies of the story concept’s manifestation into specific actions and events. The lower-level problems, the moment-to-moment befuddlement and bullshit, compose most of the Travelog and warrant but little relitigation. From the delirious conspiracy to assassinate RaminasYou didn’t forget, did you? to the bathos of Venat’s declaration of victory atop the Bahamut, the narrative of Final Fantasy XII is a catastrophe. By my lights, the game’s foundation is already too cracked to bear weight by the end of the first act, as our party is at last assembled in full at Bhujerba. There’s little sense in plumbing the ruins further in search of higher meaning. I could really just stop here.

The conclusion continues next week.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I can’t decide whether Marche, who had no explicit complaint with his life, or Ritz, whose secret shame was that she dyed her hair, deserves more scorn from their peers.

[2] “Landis and Nabradia can go fuck themselves. Got mine, bitches!” -HRM Ashelia B. Dalmasca, 707 O.V.

[3] Vossler probably told Ghis of our intentions before he even reconnoitered with us in Ogir-Yensa. Or maybe not, since he wouldn’t have known; Ashe reveals her destination as she absconds from Ondore’s care; Vossler is away treating with the Bhujerba Belligerents at the time. He catches up with us at the edge of the Sandsea, so it’s more likely the Empire knew our goals better than we did and told Vossler our destination, rather than the reverse. We never actually learn for sure even a single thing Vossler did to act against us or aid the Empire, other than pressuring Ashe to cooperate politically with the Empire to attempt to leverage more favorable treatment for Dalmasca.

[4] Or so it seems the audience is meant to take it. From what the Imperials say, however, I’m not sure they could have anticipated any risk in trying to measure the Shard, and the events that ensued were the result— the only practical effect in the game, in fact— of the Stones’ supposed self-will, of which Ghis didn’t know and the party only learns later through occasional vague gestures by e.g. the garif.

[5] You didn’t forget, did you?



From The Archives:
 

59 thoughts on “A Travelog of Ivalice, Conclusion: DAWN

  1. ContribuTor says:

    I’m not implying that this structure itself is somehow sacred, nor that the game is somehow bound to it by custom.

    I’d argue it sort of is. Since at least FFIII (where “the world is bigger and stranger than you’d ever imagined!” Is a very literal reveal), this is to me what put the “Final” in “Final Fantasy”.

    The plot is not just the ending of the story. It’s the ending to a bigger, more epic in scope story than the main characters could have imagined at the start of the story.

  2. ContribuTor says:

    the Occuria, who still desire control of history, of whom we know nearly nothing, who might overpower all the nations of men, still watch from Giruvegan. And our party, their would-be agents on the earth, defy them, insult them, and forget them.

    And even this is generous by assuming we didn’t react exactly as the Occuria predicted and do exactly what they wanted.

    The fact that the impossibly wise, elder gods who have studied humanity for millennia TOLD us they wanted us to do something specific doesn’t necessarily imply that’s what they actually wanted.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      This is a good point. The protagonists did, after all, eliminate the one dissenter among them.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Not to mention it would be ridiculously easy to, with a single cutscene, suggest or even outright state that humanity rejecting (in broad strokes) the power of the stones implies either some level of maturity where the Occuria no longer need to give them these destructive toys, or that the old tricks stopped working and they’ll need to do something more radical possibly setting up a sequel*. It wouldn’t fix the overall inconsistencies in the storyline but a ten second “Occuria talk to some silhouette about this” scene after the credits would at least address it.

      If we were more ambitious I remember someone pointing out that the oil platforms suggest that a more traditionally technologically advanced civilization must have functioned here before and the story could be easily spun in the “technologically advanced but destructive culture was indirectly bombed into the fantasy ages by elder gods handing out magical nukes to chosen ones”,

      In either case you can play it as fairy tale or sinister as you want with minimal effort.

      *I assume the actual sequel has nothing to do with this whatsoever…

      1. The Rozzarian-built oil platforms in the Sandsea aren’t ancient. They’re merely obsolete, not lost technology; they became outmoded with the increasing availability and efficiency of magicite power sources in recent decades.

        Oil power does still have uses in applications with sudden large power demands, and I believe the party makes use of old traditional generators during the escape through Barheim Passage.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Ah, I see. As I’ve mentioned in the past I have not played XII and my knowledge of it comes mostly from this series. Still was just tossing ideas around and in all honesty even then it’s a low cost change using the already existing assets.

  3. Thomas says:

    I know it’s been discussed before, but when it’s laid out like this, it’s hard to imagine how the story got into this state.

    Surely ‘What do the main characters do?’ should be one of the first things you write on the paper when mapping out a story.

    It feels like someone walked in on a game where 1) Most of the levels were already built 2) The major story cutscenes were already done (but finished by a team who apparently weren’t on talking terms with the level designers) and 3) The main party hadn’t been decided yet, but they did know they definitely weren’t any of the people in the cutscenes.

    If that’s their starting point, I can see how this story was their end product.

    1. Syal says:

      I know it’s been discussed before, but when it’s laid out like this, it’s hard to imagine how the story got into this state.

      “From the makers of Chrono Cross.”

      1. Hey, don’t be mean to Final Fantasy XII!

        1. Randy M says:

          I would be interested in that take down. Like FFXII, Chrono Cross entertained me through the end with the gameplay and visuals (and nostalgia for the series, I guess) but trying to follow the plot was rarely worth the effort, as this series extensively demonstrates.

        2. Rho says:

          Ooooh… brainflash…

          So, Rocketeer, thinking ahead: feel like a Chrono Cross series? Because wow do I have a lot to say about it.

        3. Mintskittle says:

          Okay, now I wanna see you do a tear down of Chrono Cross. For all its audio/visual greatness, the bloated cast ensures very few of them get any meaningful character growth, and the plot just repeatedly hits you over the head with what an awful person you are, even for events you weren’t responsible for.

          It just got a rerelease on Steam not too long ago, so now’s the perfect time.

          1. Blessedly, your wish is already granted: there is already a superb Let’s Play of Chrono Cross by my very favorite LP’er, The Dark Id.

            Id does an excellent job of treating the game even-handedly and overall likes and enjoys the game, but revels in the game’s self-indulgent Masato Kato weirdness and does not spare its many terrible, baffling, long-winded writing decisions, its bottomless vomit bucket of characters, or its inexplicable relationship with its beloved predecessor. And a healthy dose of Id’s personal charm.

            It’s not a quickie hack job, either; that LP is 105 parts; Id’s LP’s are frequently quite completionist. If that’s not enough TDI Square Co. goodness, he’s also LP’ed Xenogears, Final Fantasy X, I am Setsuna, and… Dirge of Cerberus, the FFVII spinoff.

            1. PhoenixUltima says:

              I’ve always thought that Chrono Cross was a good game in its own right (convoluted plot notwithstanding), but a TERRIBLE sequel to Chrono Trigger. Like, the game basically says “None of the events of CT mattered at all, and also all the heroes are dead, fuck you.”

              1. The Nick says:

                Ah, the worst part of Chrono Cross is the “SS Waste of Time”, where a trip to a random boat somehow ends up sidequesting you through… I dunno, 1/3rd of the game’s running time, just for it all to not matter? I hated it.

                “None of the events of CT mattered at all, and also all the heroes are dead, fuck you.”

                This is such a good summary of the problem with CC, but it’s even worse than that – it retroactively posits all of your previous contributions as not just not mattering, but somehow being villainous. It’s *rude*.

            2. Scerro says:

              Oh no.

              I really need to go back and play Chrono Cross again, as the last time I did I was mid-teens, so like 15 years ago. I know half my adoration of the game comes from the soundtrack alone. The impact of “Dream of the Shore Near Another World” hits HARD when you first go to the other dimension.

              I could list them all but I’ll just drop this orchestral medley instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC31xi_hTnE

              Thing is, I was too young to have played Chrono Trigger. So CC was my first exposure, and I missed a lot of the CT references.

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                Ha, I need to go and play it for the first time. I only played CT way back in my teens on a toooootally legit emulator and when it came out on PC I got it at the very least for nostalgia’s sake but held back on replaying it because I heard the sequel was coming too.

            3. Aceus says:

              How about an extensive praise on TWEWY, then?

              Unless there’s anyone out there you know of who’s done that deed justice already? Or is this a job meant only for The Rocketeer!

    2. Trevor says:

      I mean, it feels very MMO-like, right?

      In WoW the movers and shakers are the Warcraft 3 heroes and their decisions shape the plot. Your character joins in on major events or helps to secure certain artifacts that the big important NPCs then use to move the plot along to the next point. Your character isn’t really a person, they’re just a tool that observes the plot and participates in it orthogonally. It seems like the chuckleheads of FFXII fill a similar role. Basch and Ashe have backstories that make them look like they’re important, but in practice they’re just as much of an MMO character as Vaan and Penelo are.

  4. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I have always understood FFXII to suffer from executive meddling. Vaan is the protagonist because Square execs wanted someone who fit a more traditional JRPG hero mold, so he’s wedged in there but eventually cedes almost all narrative ground to the more adult characters that Matsuno actually wanted as protagonists. And let’s not forget that Matsuno had a nervous breakdown and essentially ended his career over this game; there’s the real tragedy. Instead of ever getting more meaty games from him, these days he just provides some writing for FFXIV. Depressing.

    Anyway, I think the most consequential thing to happen in this game is the freeing of the Espers. Yeah, this is an unusually happy ending for a Matsuno game, but if you’ve played FFT you know that this entire civilization is on the path to extinction and the party’s summons seem to be at the root of it. I like that dark lining a lot.

    1. With all due respect to Matsuno, even allowing for the huge amount of tinkering from the office we know of, I don’t think you can credibly lay the moment-to-moment writing decisions, the script generally, or the direction of individual cutscenes on executive meddling. I also doubt the readiness with which certain people lay all the blame on Matsuno’s co-creators generally and Hiroyuki Ito in particular. I have a few bones to pick with Ito, but by any measure the guy has a monster résumé, and I’m skeptical of the idea that he led a horde of wreckers, saboteurs, and kulaks to undercut in a year of absence the vision that genius Matsuno had spent five years building. And unless Matsuno’s illness/nervous breakdown/whatever suddenly sprang on him overnight, we should acknowledge it likely impaired his ability to lead the project to some degree and for some span of time we can’t really measure.

      I’ve never discounted the possibility that Matsuno was simply out of his depth in foreign water. He’d never managed a project as large or ambitious as Final Fantasy XII and it’s possible he just couldn’t handle it. Or it’s possible they just misfired. It happens to everyone.

      Also, I’m impressed you managed to jump a couple weeks ahead of the series twice in a row.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        At this point I think it’s also unfair to lay so much blame on Vaan, specifically. Twice now I started FFXII and, sadly, it was removed from Game Pass before I’d be able to finish it, so this LP is my first real exposure to the entirety of the game. I still like a lot of the production value to the (early) cut-scenes and the JP voice acting seemed to elevate the characters to be charming and charismatic early enough. In the end, however, it seems like Vaan was the obvious, easy scapegoat for a lot of people, especially after it came out that he wasn’t originally intended to be the protagonist. If this LP makes anything clear, it’s that none of the characters really “work” as good characters.

        However, as I think I noted in an early comment, when I watched Balthier and Fran heading on into a castle on a very bright and loud bike and somehow still maintain silence, only to be followed by the Hollywood bombastics of escape after, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a game trying to do two things. Perhaps it wasn’t executive meddling, but Matsuno simply trying to write a “Final Fantasy” style story. The series had always tried to push the boundary for flashy set pieces in its own way, and with 3D cinematic rendering being what it was, made it easier to pull off Hollywood-style spectacle. Was this sort of thing mandated, or was it Matsuno attempting to deliver what everyone wanted?

        Something else that came to mind and had me wondering was how these projects were developed in a post-Sakaguchi world. The more we’ve received information regarding the development of the older FF games, the more clear it becomes that Sakaguchi was very much a manager and allowed his team to contribute ideas altogether. This is one of the reasons I think FFVI is such a success: he wasn’t the one writing every character or their backstory. Multiple members of the team were contributing, and he worked to bring it all together. This was true as well for Final Fantasy VII, where Yoshinori Kitase was placed as director but the entire team’s ideas were being brought in to create the whole. These were not auteur games, and I assume FFIX was the same. However, what was the development of FFVIII like, where Sakaguchi was more hands off due to Spirits Within and FFIX? How did it change with FFX and FFXII? Matsuno very much comes off as an auteur given the shared and consistent vibe between Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, FFTactics, Vagrant Story, and even Crimson Shroud (do you remember Crimson Shroud?!) (Also, fun fact, he was the writer for MadWorld, that old Platinum Games black-and-white violence simulator for the Wii).

        Of course, the Wikipedia article on him had this little tidbit: “He has described the development culture at Quest as having been a ‘kind dictatorship’ while Square’s was more ‘democratic’, and is not personally fond of other team members having input on his narrative work.” Unfortunately, the source is a JP interview from 4Gamer that I’m not sure has a full translation. Nonetheless, I’ve reached the point of rambling, but I suppose there’s just a lot of factors I’d like to know regarding not only the development of FFXII, but how the shifting tide inside of Square Enix impacted the development of games as a whole.

        1. That’s part of what I mean when I say Matsuno may have been out of his depth with this game. Not to go full Marshall McLuhan, but the fidelity and perspective of FFXII affects how the story is told and received in a fundamental way that Matsuno may not have been as comfortable with; that is, Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle can actually paper over a lot of details by its nature as a game of isometric grid-based squad battles interspersed with dialog and text to help motivate the story forward.

          Nevermind “trying to tell a Final Fantasy story” or whatever. Take your problem with Fran and Balthier and translate it into that older medium. If FFXII was an FFT game, the scene where they find the Goddess Magicite and introduce Balthier and Fran would involve three sprites hopping around a lozenge-shaped field viewed from an isometric perspective; if Fran had a flying motorcycle at all, we’d briefly see it zoom off the edge of the map and then after the player tootles around a top menu or a world map with maybe a little text narration of the situation and we fade up on the three in the sewer again. Even though this is basically what happens in FFXII, I think the more simplistic presentation actually encourages the audience to fill in much more and the writer to present things in a way where the details of time and place don’t matter as much and only the meat ends up on screen, e.g. the audience says to themselves “oh I guess they eventually ended up back in Garamsythe somehow” rather than thinking, “Wait, how did they get back into the sewer? They were just flying away!” But the larger point is that the story would not exist as it does at all, what with the scene of airships bombarding a huge melee of dozens of people. The medium through which the story is told shapes the story that the writer chooses to tell, and we can’t really imagine how Matsuno would have told this story of Archadia, Dalmasca, Undying, etc. in the idiom with which he had been more accustomed, nor how the transition that was not only much larger and more complicated but fundamentally demanded a different approach with which he had no real experience; the previous Matsuno game which most resembles FFXII in terms of presentation/camera/etc. is Vagrant Story, and they don’t resemble each other very much!

          Not that I want to be too down on Matsuno even if you could somehow pin every creative misstep to his hands. The best hitters still strike out all the time.

          1. Joshua says:

            This is what I talk about when I say the older games can benefit from the simpler graphics as the player understands that everything is an abstraction…somehow.

            One of the major scenes from VI is Kefka poisoning the water around Doma, and soldiers just start falling down left and right. So, if this is supposed to be a consumable poison (like poisoning the water supply suggests), why is everyone suddenly falling down at the same time? The poison acts more like a gas, yet Yan and one of the other guards is completely unaffected. The answer is never given, but the simplicity of the graphics allows the player to make up their own answer. But soon as you introduce photo-realistic graphics, it’s harder to get away with such hamhandedness because the players are literally seeing things happen as realistically as they’re going to get, and be asking “What is going on?”

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Absolutely. And it’s not even “make up their own asnwer”, it’s like you said in the first sentence: we embrace the abstraction. You don’t ask why the airship is the size of the town, you know it’s not and this is the limitation of the graphics. You understand that the moment when that character sprite turned away from that other character sprite represents emotional turmoil. The “hit noise” followed by the character switching to a horizontal sprite means they got stabbed, no need to question how they didn’t notice the other person pulling out the knife or if they should have died from that one strike, it’s an abstraction, we get the message.

      2. Drinking with Skeletons says:

        I am not nearly as down on FFXII as you are; it’s a top three FF, as far as I’m concerned (the other two being FFIX and FFX-2). And I do see a LOT of Matsuno’s go-tos here: a love of faux historical retrospectives, a distance between the political overtones of the plot and the ground-level story, extremely important characters who aren’t anywhere near the front of the story, subtly jokey gameplay mechanics that sometimes just plain old don’t work well. And the people who finished up FFXII have always said that the plot wasn’t significantly tinkered with after Matsuno’s departure and was never going to be particularly different from what we got (though presumably there may well have been elements that got cut or not as fully fleshed out as they might have been). But Vaan and Penelo stand out as being exceptionally pointless in Matsuno’s output and just never feel like characters he chose.

  5. John says:

    In the relatively lighter Tactics Advance, we see that the children have gained a measure of maturity and strength from their tenure in the illusory Ivalice— strength well needed in their difficult lives, with meager promise that their lots will change, particularly for Mewt, who comes from a poor family with an alcoholic father, and for Doned, who will again be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.

    Well . . . that’s a determinedly pessimistic reading. Forgive me for mistaking you if it’s not a serious one, but I really don’t think that’s the tone that the ending of FFTA was aiming for. Marche and Ritz are unequivocally better off. Marche needed to learn to stand up for himself, which he did. Ritz needed to get over her stupid hair thing, which she also did. Mewt’s much less of a sad-sack. Mewt’s father seems to have cleaned up and is about to get a good, new job. The only one stuck in exactly the same situation as he was before is Doned, and even Doned seems to have perked up considerably.

    1. Ander says:

      Is there any melancholy of the Link’s Awakening sort?

      1. John says:

        I haven’t played Link’s Awakening, so I can’t really answer that question. The ending isn’t happy in the sense that it’s jubilant. Nobody’s throwing a party. But nobody’s sighing over Ivalice either. The ending is happy in the sense that all of the children seem more content and more well-adjusted and that Mewt’s dad seems to be getting his act together.

    2. I know I shouldn’t try to read FFTA with the same seriousness as its predecessors, but even taking its lighter, more kid-friendly tone at face value I think I’m being fair and in fact I’m sparing the game a lot of grief by not alluding to just how fucked up FFTA is, as many people have done over the years. I do seriously contend that Marche has no complaint with his real life (“he needs to stand up for himself” is news to me, that must have cleared up offscreen ten minutes after arriving in Ivalice and learning to hunt people for money and fame.) Ritz’s “problem” is pathetically self-absorbed compared to her friends.

      And I’m not just talking about how Marche might actually be bringing about the end of the world for the people of Ivalice, who may cease to exist when the kids leave. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms you can find anywhere else the game has been discussed. But if Cid really has cleaned up his act, we can’t attribute this to “character development;” Cid didn’t remember his real life. He was already a completely different person the moment he awoke in Ivalice and after the game he has essentially had his self magically overwritten by his son. That’s pretty fucked up! And if that kind of brainwashing can take hold, I want to know the long-term psychological effects of wandering a snowy pass for months as a zombie before being killed by Marche.

      There really isn’t an end to the holes you can poke in FFTA so I’m not going to bother poking too long or too hard.

      1. John says:

        The story in FFTA is about and is mostly aimed at children. Does Marche have “real” problems? From the perspective of an unsympathetic adult, perhaps not. But from a child’s perspective he absolutely does. He’s the new kid at school, where he’s getting harassed and low-key bullied and he doesn’t know how to handle it. His younger brother’s got some sort of serious illness that has obviously put a lot of stress on his family. These are the foundations on which classic children’s literature is built.

        None of which is to say either that FFTA is classic children’s literature or that classic children’s literature is not sometimes fucked up. I admit that many things in the game are deeply unclear. How many of the people in Ivalice, for example, are real people like Cid who have been brainwashed? How many of them are people who have been not only brainwashed but have had their bodies transformed into strange new shapes? All of them? None of them? I have no idea. The game never gets into it. I don’t think the game knows or cares. It’s this lack of clarity that leads people to characterize the game as fucked up. Absent concrete information to the contrary, they tend to gravitate to the worst-case assumptions and interpretations.

        Personally, I think it’s important to make a distinction between what the game was trying to do and the potentially unfortunate implications of what the game actually did. I think it’s clear, for example, that the ending of the game was unequivocally supposed to be a happy one–if for no other reason then because all of the named characters are happier at the end of the game than they were at the beginning. If you want, you can argue that they shouldn’t be happy, that their happiness is bound to be short-lived, or that they were stupid to ever have been unhappy in the first place. That’s fine. But I have yet to hear any compelling argument that the designers or the writers deliberately intended to suggest anything of the sort.

        Incidentally, this comment constitutes the most swearing I’ve done in years.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Personally, I think it’s important to make a distinction between what the game was trying to do and the potentially unfortunate implications of what the game actually did.

          But, isn’t this sort of thing the entire point of an analysis like this very one? To point out that regardless of the intentions of the writers the message they end up imparting can be an entirely different one? Yeah, we all know what they were trying to do. We’re just saying they did a sloppy, mostly terrible job of it.

          1. John says:

            Sure. But what the game’s thinks it’s doing, what Rocketeer thinks it’s doing, and what I think it’s doing are (at least potentially) three different things. And if they are, why not say so?

          2. Retsam says:

            I personally don’t think a writer necessarily should put a high premium on making a story bulletproof against every consequence of every potential interpretation the fandom (or the unfandom) can come up with, no matter how obviously unintended it was.

            Especially when we’re talking not about stuff that’s unequivocally, canonically in the story, but stuff that’s already basically just speculation.

            Like, specifically, yeah, the game doesn’t directly say how the whole Ivalice of the Grimoire works: but I think any interpretation that leads to the conclusion that Marche is committing genocide or that people are being psychologically damaged has probably strayed off the track and can safely be discarded.

            1. guy says:

              The residents of Ivalice do protest Marche’s plan to destroy their reality to go to a home they don’t believe exists. The genocide idea isn’t necessarily accurate but isn’t out of nowhere.

      2. Retsam says:

        I also think FFTA is often wrongly maligned, and I love it’s story for its rejection of escapism. It’s an isekai (“portal fantasy”) in the vein of Narnia, where the ultimate payoff of the fantasy world is becoming more able to deal with the real one.

        This is my favorite kind of ‘isekai’ plotline, which is a shame because it represents approximately 0% of the modern genre, which is basically all “Average Japanese Loser Is Reborn As Amazing Person In Awesome Fantasy World” which is exactly what FFTA is subverting.

        And it’s metaphorically criticizing escapism as a whole – yeah, children don’t actually wake up in a dream world where they’re awesome bounty hunters, but escaping from a painful “real-world” by withdrawing into fictional worlds of video games and stories is essentially the real-world equivalent, and in the extreme cases becoming complete recluses (‘hikikomori’). And while video games and stories can be helpful – just as their time in Ivalice is helpful – the goal should be to deal with the real world, not just escape it.

        I love that message, and thought it comes across pretty clearly.

        As for the criticisms, I think portraying Marche as some sort of villain is wrongheaded for a few reasons: importantly, because the resolution of the story is convincing his friends to go back to the real world. And, yeah, undoubtedly Marche has it the easiest – he has the least to lose by leaving the dream world. That’s what makes him the protagonist, the one who realizes they should leave and has to convince the others. It doesn’t make him wrong. You don’t stay in the Lotus Eater Machine because it’s more comfortable here.

        (But also John’s point above – yeah, Marche and Ritz’s problems are small in an absolute scale, compared to having an alcoholic father or being wheelchair bound, but childhood trauma isn’t a dick-measuring contest where only the biggest wins and everyone else’s is invalidated – being the new kid in town, being uncomfortable with your natural physical appearance are still real issues)

        And, yeah, there’s a few ways to interpret what’s actually going on, but I tend to just take the “it’s a dream world: only the four protagonists are actually there, everyone else is just a part of the dream”, as that avoids pretty much all the Fridge Horror implications that were clearly not intended.

        And, yeah, that means if Cid is getting better at the end, it’s just a bit of coincidence for the sake of a happy ending. But I don’t think that’s a huge deal – I think the implication of Cid’s character is that he really does care about his son and wants to be better, he’s just still struggling with the death of his wife.

        1. Rho says:

          Well, I am not going to decide for you what to think. However, let to suggest that the following will not work for everyone: “And, yeah, there’s a few ways to interpret what’s actually going on, but I tend to just take the “it’s a dream world: only the four protagonists are actually there, everyone else is just a part of the dream”, as that avoids pretty much all the Fridge Horror implications that were clearly not intended.”

          That is sort of literally deciding the facts on the basis of what outcome feels good. Which is generally a bad idea in both life and in literary critique. However, there’s another issue in this specific case. If the whole thing was a lie, then it really makes no difference. All the characters who inspired the “real” people to change (supposedly) are just fake and the entire thing really *ought* to be written off as a meaningless dream. Because that’s what it is.

          Again, my point isn’t to try and force you to believe the second. It’s to point out that it’s rarely a good idea to write a story where the reader has to tie knots around their brain to only think of it in the quote-unquote “right” way.

          Which, uh, kinda applies to FF12 as well.

          1. John says:

            That is sort of literally deciding the facts on the basis of what outcome feels good.

            Is deciding the facts on the basis of what outcome feels bad okay? Because I think that’s what the people who insist that FFTA is some kind of twisted nightmare are doing. The player does not have to “tie knots around their brain” in order to come to the conclusion that Marche is a kid rather than a monster. All the player has to do is not assume the worst at all times.

          2. Retsam says:

            It’s not “deciding facts on the basis of what feels good”, it’s looking at the story with a strong bias towards interpretations that are consistent with the rest of the story.

            The story as a whole is clearly presenting Marche’s goal of bringing them back to the real-world as a good thing, it’s clearly framed as a happy ending. So the “Marche just committed genocide” interpretation would require strong evidence for me to accept, because it’s so clearly inconsistent with the rest of how the story is portrayed.

            I don’t think I’m “wrapping my brain in knots”, to the contrary, I think the “fridge horror” interpretations of the story basically all involve adding things that aren’t explicitly in the story: making leaps of logic that, while not directly inconsistent with the facts of story, aren’t necessary to it, either.

            —-

            All the characters who inspired the “real” people to change (supposedly) are just fake and the entire thing really ought to be written off as a meaningless dream. Because that’s what it is.

            Just because it’s a dream doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe itself ends with a conversation about whether Narnia is “real” and whether that matters, but I think the better answer comes from Harry Potter:

            “Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

            “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

          3. Syal says:

            That is sort of literally deciding the facts on the basis of what outcome feels good. Which is generally a bad idea in both life and in literary critique.

            Life, yes, but I see no problem with that in literary critique. Stories are entertainment, so read them however it entertains you. Whether fan-canon happy endings, or ridiculous nitpicks designed to turn a happy story into its opposite, it’s all in the service of entertainment.

  6. Sartharina says:

    I think I figured out Gabranth’s angle back at Pharos. Larsa tasked him with figuring out if Ashe and company were gonna get Nethicite to nuke Archadia. Obviously, the kid expected good-faith diplomacy, because for all his cunning, he’s too naive to realize Archadia and Gabranth are unambiguously the villains. Gabranth is not, even if he wishes otherwise – he knows what he did.

    So, armed with the knowledge that he’s the Bad Guy, Gabranth had a few non-options, and one semi-functional option to get the answer. Asking directly if Ashe was going to get Nethicite to nuke Archadia would not give an honest answer. Asking her not to nuke Archadia would not give an honest answer. Eavesdropping would not give an unambiguous option. But, by confronting the party and goading them, he’d get an answer – either they’d see the villain telling them to do the thing as a trap and unambiguously not get Nethicite and blow up Archadia because the Empire clearly has countermeasures if they try to do exactly that, or they take the bait/call the bluff and start unambiguously getting Nethicite to blow up the empire.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Man, I don’t believe for a second that that was the intent, but that kind of novel interpretation would be a really interesting dynamic between villains in a better-written game.

  7. Sartharina says:

    I just had an epiphany thinking about Gabranth’s motives and the heroes of FFT being regarded as villains and heretics.

    Vayne, Venat, Cid, and Gabranth are the heroes of the A-plot. We got a peanut-gallery seat to how the rest of the world perceives their invisible struggles to free Ivalice from the meddling of the Occurians. This should have been obvious with Cid being the bad guy this time around, despite always being the Airship guy for The Heroes.

    Or maybe I’m just way into the implications of the story of the newest Final Fantasy game, Stranger of Paradise.

    Edit: Why are my comments always awaiting moderation when I make them? I’m a regular here! I see entire conversations pop up between posting and getting posted, so I’m pretty sure not everyone gets sent to purgatory.

    1. guy says:

      The ways of the spam filter are not for fleshlings to question!

      In seriousness, that’s a genuine problem with a lot of adaptive systems; on some level we don’t know why they do what they do. It might be you’re trapped in a feedback loop where it moderates you because you were moderated in the past.

    2. Retsam says:

      It’s very strange that it happened in a comment with no links. I generally find if I put one or two links into a comment it is very likely to be moderation queued.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Whereas I—occasionally—scatter a link or two in a post, and don’t think I even know what being “moderation queued” looks like (unless it’s just showing my post to me as soon as I hit Post, and is secretly sending it to the queue). All very strange.

        1. Thomas says:

          It shows you the post when you hit send, but puts some italics at the top saying something like ‘Waiting for moderation’

  8. Retsam says:

    While I think the main cast has too much ‘baggage’ to really be called “fairy tale heroes”, I do think the ending is too unambiguously happy. I’m not against happy endings, as a rule, but I don’t think it fits with the historical “realistic” tone they open the game with.

    I also think there’s actually a fairly easy fix: kill Balthier. Or rather “don’t have Balthier survive through mysterious reasons we don’t know about”. Have him unambiguously die while saving Rabinastre and Fran and the party, and make part of the ending about dealing with that. And I think it’d be fitting on a number of levels:

    For Balthier himself, it’d be a better payoff to his whole “leading man” schtick than Fran saying “lol, nope” at the end – have him actually be the leading man he always claims to be. It’d work better if Reddas were dropped (or changed to be a normal pirate) as two former judges dying to atone for past mistakes is probably too much, and I think having Reddas play that role in the plot at all was a mistake.

    For Vaanelo, it’d complete the passing-of-the-torch where Vaan and Penelo basically replace Balthier and Fran as the new Dread Pirate Ffamran and Sidekick. (Also the game should have actually had scenes where Balthier like… trained Vaan, or done anything other than pay lipservice to the idea that he’s basically training Vaan as his successor)

    For Fran, it’d kick her out of the sidekick role and force her to ask herself Uncle Iroh’s Big Questions. I don’t know what she’d end up doing – (hanging out with Vaanelo is a lame answer, lets not do that) – again she has a terminal lack of motivation in this plot, so I guess we’d be inventing some purpose out of thin air… but I dunno, ambassador of the Viera or travelling to set right some mystic mumbo jumbo. Maybe she can be the one going to ensure the Occuria are actually gone.

    It really doesn’t matter what Fran ends up doing, just having her do something would be more interesting than what we get where Fran’s doing the exact same nothing at the end of the story as she was at the beginning.

    And for Ashe, it’d bookend her story: it’d begin and end with her losing a man she’s close to. (Yes, I actually think lean a little into the Ashe/Balthier ship would help here) And having her handle Balthier’s death better – not going ice queen and revenge driven, but looking fondly on the time they had together – would show growth as a character for her.

    As for Bashe… well I’ve got nothing there, but Bashe already has enough going on and already the least “fairy tale ending” of the bunch.

    I know “kill a main character” is like the most common, laziest way to add bittersweetness to an otherwise too happy ending, but I really think it’d work here, and it’s not like this game has been shy about using tropes up to now.

    1. Syal says:

      I don’t know what she’d end up doing

      Tour guide. Really take advantage of her skillset.

  9. Lati says:

    Sorry if this has been previously asked, but will the “Something Completely Different” tangent about floating cities not be included in this incarnation of the travelog?

    1. No. Too long, too bad, too self-indulgent, and mostly irrelevant— yeah, even by the standards I’ve demonstrated! It only ever existed in the first place because I was essentially tossing the thing onto the Internet for people to take as they find, like a suspicious stain on a curbside couch. I cut it right off the bat when I began re-editing the Travelog for the blog; my first priority was economizing the saggy prose.

      I basically failed in that regard and continuously added nearly as much as I cut. Overall, the Travelog is now as long or longer. And that’s without counting the pictures, which I hear are worth a thousand words each. I keep telling myself it lost fat and gained muscle, but I’m suspicious that’s as true of the writing as it is of the writer.

      1. Sleepyfoo says:

        That’s sad, I rather enjoyed that rant in particular as part of this for the broader context it brought to the Bahamut/Death Star.

        I also missed some of the color commentary, like Bergan “chewing the scenery as hard as he can”.

        That said, I am glad this series has been reposted like this, edits and all. It has been a fun reread.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    As usual, the Empire has conceived of the sloppiest plan in the world, and it has worked somehow.

    Every time I complain about this sort of thing happening in the MCU I’m labeled a “hater” who “hates fun” or some crap like that. But I’m certainly neither. I don’t hate things just for the sake of it, and of course I like to have fun. I don’t deliberately seek to expunge fun out of something, but I do notice the fun slithering away whenever this sort of thing becomes noticeable and for some reason it gets even worse when no one else seems to notice.

    So yeah, when Zemo infiltrates the government agency banking on no one doing a check on his false credentials and they leaving him with a dangerous prisoner without a guard, and that’s exactly what happens, or when a guy calling himself Mysterio shows up in S.H.I.E.L.D. claiming to be from a different universe hoping that absolutely every single person will believe him without question and it ends up working out for him… that’s the sort of thing that takes me out of a story faster than a city-wide power outage.

    This was very common in Super Friends. Most of the villains’ plans relied on the heroes acting like complete and utter idiots. But that show had the excuse of being very old, when no one took that form of entertainment seriously. Not even back then people were praising it as “the golden standard” of superhero writing.

    I know I get crap from people all the time about this. To be clear: I have absolutely no problem with people enjoying this sort of writing. Hell, I enjoy it from time to time when characters are engaging enough that I can ignore the faults of the plot. My problem comes when they get upset at me for not enjoying it or when they outright pretend these problems don’t exist.

    Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, it looks like a lot of the problems with the FF franchise began when they started sequelizing the games. It’s like they lost track of the plot but didn’t care because they’d figure they’d just fix it in a sequel. But then the sequels ended up mostly being worse.

    1. Rho says:

      There’s at least one key difference: in movies you have, in most cases, less than two hours to introduce all the characters, the setup, and the world or situation and make a plot about all of that. Most people will accept a premise with considerable flexibility, because the story is about what happens once we grant the premise, not the premise itself. I think that people who are subject nerds and/or ask annoying plot questions have a tendency to want to know all the details. However, even if a filmmaker can include them, a key question is always going to be, “Does this improve the work as a whole?” If the answer is “no”, then it basically get cut even if they bothered to film the scene in the first place.

      However, it’s understandable that these kinds of works just won’t appeal to people who want incredibly detailed backstory and showing every step of the plot & etc. Compare Michael Crichton novels to the films made of them. The movies are fun, and they include the parts of the story which are personable or action-oriented and contain the whole plot, but they leave out all the key explorative detail that the made the books noteworthy. That’s just part of the difference between film and books.

      That said, it’s not really a difference between film and comic books, one reason that as soon as effects were available the comic-book genre took off. Those are absolutely filled with these kinds of plots. Complaining about those kinds of details in a comic book movie is sort of like swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat.

  11. bobbert says:

    Dalmasca and Bhujerba regain independence.

    Doesn’t Bhujerba start the game free and end as a Rosearian Client? (Help on THAT scale is going to come with all kinds of strings.)

  12. Philadelphus says:

    The galling problem is this: the A-plot is never resolved satisfactorily! No part of the staggering revelations of the Occuria, which overshadow and underpin the mundane struggles of the plot, are addressed… the Occuria may have any number of alternate plans or weapons that we know nothing of and have no defense against— Venat’s incredible dismissal notwithstanding. This is important, because the Occuria, who still desire control of history, of whom we know nearly nothing, who might overpower all the nations of men, still watch from Giruvegan…

    They aren’t merely unresolved, but unaddressed.…It leaves an extremely uncomfortable feeling of dissonance and unease for the player, knowing that the Undying are simply looming in their vast alien citadel like Meteor hanging red and fat in the sky. No one pays it any mind when they should be shaking in their boots, glad to have dispensed with the small potatoes while the main threat may now be pressured into drastic measures.

    So, the game ends with a small group of people who have knowledge of a race of cosmic beings of unknown power and intentions, who have demonstrably acted to influence history before, who seem interested or highly likely in interfering again in the near future, one of whose members has already secretly made contact with—and completely suborned—a powerful, highly-placed agent for years? And we end up having to fight this member atop a giant artificial construction? Now where have I heard a setup like that before?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Just to restate my question from above, I assume the sequel addresses the Occuria not one bit?

  13. Mr. Wolf says:

    “The conclusion continues next week.” and other straightforward oxymorons.

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