Thursday, November 09, 2006

Final Fantasy XII

I do not own a PlayStation 2, nor do I have a copy of Final Fantasy XII, but I bought the special edition guidebook, mostly to get the artbook. Of course, with six randomized covers, one doesn’t always get the character one wants. My guide turned out to have Basch on the cover, my absolute last choice. I have no interest in manly men. I really wanted Fran, but would have settled for any of the girls.

Well, one of my friends, who rather prefers the manly man type, traded books with me. This got me Vaan, flaunting his feminine wiles. He’s almost girly enough for me, and I hear tell that in the original Japanese version of the game, he was overtly bisexual. So I was happy enough to have the “family” boy.

Then another friend turned up Fran. Joy of joys! So I traded up yet again, and now I have the sexy warrior woman, Xena with long ears and wicked claws.

Fran on the cover of the guide and the artbook open to a picture of Montblanc.

Being a die hard fan of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which has sucked away hundreds of hours of my life, I was already familiar with the viera race. (A viera multiclassed as a red-and-white mage with doublecast is nigh unstoppable! I could send her into battles alone, and she was always victorious.) Thus it was Fran that attracted me to FFXII in the first place. That and the fact that the game is loaded up with moogles and bangaa. I was ecstatic to discover Montblanc and Nono in the artbook, beloved friends from FFTA.

So tonight, I went over to a friend’s house to play FFXII. The graphics are luscious, with many charming touches. There’s no gameplay or programming reason to have an unnamed child in the city spontaneously do a handstand, but it adds to the richness of the world. The background characters seem like individuals with distinctive personalities. When you look up at the sky, you get realistic light effects from the the sun. Sand blows from the tops of the dunes. The dark crystals shimmer in a way that makes you want to reach out and touch them. It’s magnificent and beautiful. And if the gameplay art is amazing, the movie sequences are jaw-dropping. Animation--especially hair--has advanced considerably even since Advent Children.

And it’s fun! This game has a lot of humor, once you get past the grim, depressing opening sequence. It recaptures the playful spirit of Final Fantasy VII. I never got very far in VIII because it was too serious. It lacked the charm that had sucked me into VII and held me there. (And I never played any of the games after VIII, although from what little I've seen, X and X-2 had their fair share of humor.) I think XII will be able to have the same hold on me that VII did.

I look forward to eventually having a PS2 and my own copy of the game. But I will have to wait a bit. Once the PlayStation 3 hits the market and people start ditching their PS2s en masse, I hope to score a used PS2 on the cheap. Probably after Christmas. And by then, hopefully, used copies of FFXII will be showing up, as well.

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