If I had to describe Final Fantasy XII in two words, I would pick “fascinatingly flawed.” The game is like a junk sculpture: a grand amalgam of pieces that, individually, are often nothing special, and are often, well, junk. But sometimes, in the right light, from the right angle, these parts form a whole that pushes back all of your expectations, and, for a moment, appears to take a new form, alien and intriguing, moving as though alive. And in that next moment, a hunk shudders and falls away, and the illusion is broken again. I’d be very hesitant to call it a great game, and at times I’d balk at calling it a good game. But nonetheless, I found myself circling it, time and again, stalking that one special angle, hoping to get one more glimpse of a mystique I was certain it hid.
Then a character would open their stupid damn mouth, and the spell was shattered with my controller.
Around a year ago, I got the chance to play through a real oddity: the final, updated version of Final Fantasy XII, verbosely entitled the “International Zodiac Job System.” I was curious about the mechanical, gameplay-oriented changes, but in the back of my head, I think I’d decided I wanted to play the game one last time, and get it out of my system once and for all. This was a real pull for me; I’d played the game two or three times already, and not in a dabbling, skittish fashion. FFXII, as I’ll be abbreviating it from here on, is not a short, small game, and I had multiple times pressed it headfirst into my mouth and kept pushing its flailing mass until nothing remained of it. This, despite finding the game often infuriating, blatantly flawed in several easily— and widely— observed facets, and, by this time, offering extraordinarily little I wasn’t, by now, well familiar with. Little, but not nothing.
In embarking on my last great odyssey of mist and magicite, the imperial and the empyreal, I set out to record and, with luck, pin down, if even for a moment, this ephemeral but inexorable pull the game seemed to have had on me. In fits and starts, whenever I played the game, I jotted down my impressions of it, assuring myself that when I was done, I’d be left with a concise distillation of all my sophisticated impressions of a bizarre, many-splendored game of our yesteryear. Looking back on the final product, so many months after first embarking upon it, I am struck by what I see:
I have created absolutely nothing of value in this respect.
So I said in 2014.