For the past several years, I have intended to return to Final Fantasy XII for my second playthrough. But, as is often the case, what I intend to do and what actually happens are two very different things. I repeatedly had other games to play, keeping the twelfth numbered installment in the Final Fantasy series on the shelf. Plus, I have to admit that I always had a bit of a grudge against the game. I remembered being pretty apathetic towards the characters, I wasn’t very fond of a politics-related storyline, and… Now this last one is kind of silly, but…I thought the game was too big.
Too big, eh? I like large open worlds to explore far more than I like cramped or linear stages with little freedom to move around. I love searching through every nook and cranny and discovering new things, a task that is, naturally, far more rewarding in a large world than a small one. And yet, I recall several times in the past saying I didn’t like FF12 because it was too big. What’s the deal?
Gee, I sure hate that this game gives me more than my money’s worth.
Sheesh, I guess I’m just a complainer. Well, I recently thought the matter over, and I believe that my dislike for the game’s huge world can be explained quite simply by the fact that I was still fairly new to RPG’s when FF12 first came out. Yes, I had played Final Fantasy X and both main Kingdom Hearts games, but compared to nowadays when I’ve played FF4-13 (not including 11), not to mention a bunch of other RPGs, I was still a toddler when it came to the RPG-genre. I was a level 2 wimp. Was FFXII really too big? No. I think the real problem was that I was just not prepared for such…large-ness back then. Maybe I was just too wet behind the ears, so to speak.
It’s funny how much we change over the years, and now that I have finally gotten around to replaying FF12, I take back everything I said about it. I no longer think it’s too big. I also no longer think the series went downhill after FF10 because FF12, well, it’s actually way more awesome than I remember, even if I always felt it had a strange Star Wars Episode 4 vibe. Maybe it’s just me, but you have the impoverished main character living in the desert. There’s a powerful empire controlling everything. Our hero eventually runs into both a sky pirate and a princess. I dunno. It just smells pretty fishy to me.
Bizarre resemblance to Star Wars aside, I am having a great time with this game, and my favorite thing about it is…how big it is. FF12 gives you a massive world to explore, and I have found that this one of its greatest strengths, not a weakness. Being ten years older, I can also appreciate the characters and story more than I could before, even if politics and the like still aren’t my thing. But it is really exploring the giant land of Ivalice that I have been enjoying most of all. And the Marks.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but hunting those Marks has been strangely thrilling. In fact, it’s almost become like an obsession to me. Tracking down these beasties has really been my main focus, while the story itself has really become more of a thing I do on the side when there are no Marks left to hunt or when my characters are too weak to defeat anything else. Oh, and in case you’re not familiar, Marks are simply extra tough enemies people ask you to defeat. If you defeat them, you get rewarded with some items and money, and after you earn enough points, your rank goes up. (I’m currently a “headhunter”, in case you’re wondering.) Few things have been more satisfying to me lately than taking down a really tough creature ten times my size.
In addition to hunting Marks, I’ve been having a blast just exploring this giant world and visiting locations completely unrelated to where I should be headed. At the moment, I am supposed to be trekking through Golmore Jungle south of Rabanastre. Where am I now? Why, I have instead gone east of the city, across the river to the Mosphoran Highwaste, where I have been dealing with baddies I have no business facing right now. Once I’ve explored as far as I can there, I’m going to revisit Barheim Passage. Then it’s off to the Garamsythe Waterway! Why, I don’t know when I’ll be returning to Golmore Jungle. Maybe never. Maybe I’ve lost interest in fighting back against the Archadian Empire and would much rather just focus on becoming the world’s greatest hunter.
The longer I play FF12, the larger the world Vaan and his comrades inhabit seems to be, but rather than feel overwhelmed, I welcome the challenge. Never before have I had so much fun getting completely and hopelessly sidetracked.
Ivalice’s Greatest Duck Warrior…Fear Me as I Repeatedly Bombard You With Gravity!
Image from Flickr User: Hallion