Grandma Has Destroyed Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII is a difficult game to review for Grandma and I. I remember showing her the early Japanese trailers when they first appeared on IGN.
"OOoooooooo.... That looks awesome as hell. Still, I remember Final Fantasy X-2. I'll have to wait and see."
Then she stumbled across the demo that came with Dragon Quest VIII; proudly announced on the cover of the damn game as if it were the most dramatic selling point.
"OOOoooooooo... I.. I still don't know if I can trust them!" Grandma replied.
Then she was escorted around the closely guarded Square-Enix booth at E3; tempted by the flashing lights and hypnotic visuals of FFXIII as the FFXII demos were bogarted by lonely gaming journalists.
"Goddammit, what are they HIDING?! I can't wait any longer!!"
And then it happened. Two weeks before its USA release on Halloween, she received a forwarded e-mail exchange between her producer at MTV and a Square-Enix rep. The game was on the way. It arrived the next morning while Grandma was dutifully plugging away at Okami. She was to review it for a short spot on a special broadcast of The G-Hole.
The wait was over. What began as a skeptical reunion with a long loved franchise ended as the longest logged single game in Grandma's gaming history.
It's hard not to repeat what has already been printed about the game; solid graphics, great cutscenes; bloody fantastic musical score; easy acclimation to the combat system; fun gameplay; somewhat corny "Tony Kushner-esque" dialogue, etc.,.. so I'll skip ahead to a major point of criticism: The Gambit System.
For instance: Gary Hodges over at Cleveland Scene Magazine titled his review of the game "Hands Off- Final Fantasy XII: Role-playing on autopilot." To his credit, he seemed to like the game for its strengths, but his principle problem with the game was the macro-like quality the Gambit System imposes on the game.
For Grandma, that seemed a bit unfair.
"Look, people have said The Gambit System makes it too easy; they say it takes away from the good ol' days of RPGs where you actually have to 'press the button' to make your characters 'do things'. That's a bunch of bullshit. First of all- The Gambit System is entirely optional. You can go the entire game without turning on a single Gambit. Hell, you can even turn off the wait system entirely and go Active Battle and maybe turn down the speed a bit to give yourself a bit of time to respond to situations. It's not for everybody, but that's what makes it so damn cool- it's customizable. Everybody can play a different way. You don't HAVE to level everyone up to 99 and get every Esper and fill up the License Board- but trust me, some of us do. You don't even need to use every character! The game doesn't force you. That's what makes it a good RPG. YOU decide your own handicap. If you can't live with yourself because you played it on the easiest possible setting and it made the game seem pointless, don't blame the game. Just because it didn't have an option at the very beginning spelled out clearly: 'EASY' 'NORMAL' 'HARD' doesn't mean that the options weren't there.
You don't have to be a die-hard Final Fantasy fan at all to enjoy the game on its own, but it does make the game better. Yes, there is a character named Cid. Yes, there are Chocobos. Yes, there are airships. Does the name "Bahamut" mean anything to you? How about a weapon named "Save The Queen"?
Yeah, you know it does. Don't be embarrassed about it, just enjoy it!
Towards the end of the game, Grandma developed a strong case of "Level Up Exhaustion"; maxing out every possible attribute; equipping everyone with the best armor; getting three or four ribbons; preparing for any possible situation. Even after she achieved this feat, she still didn't like certain characters. It doesn't matter that when on even levels equipped with the same weapons, the only difference between characters is their appearance on screen (they'll fight the same way, take the same HP; heal the same, etc.,..)
Grandma: "Goddammit, why do I have to use THIS chick? She fucking sucks."
Me: "But... she's the same level as your main dude."
Grandma: "I don't care. She always screws everything up."
Me: "But... she's a princess descendant of the mightiest king ever known to the realm, given power by the GODS THEMSELVES."
Grandma: "She's still a stupid bitch."
We also had an interesting conversation about the political implications of the game.
Grandma: "So do you think that... Nethecite is like... the nuclear bomb?"
Me: "Well that would mean that Oppenheimer is god."
Grandma: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Well, the Gods gave them Nethecite to ...you know, never use."
Grandma: "Okay, MANUFACTURED Nethecite is like the nuclear bomb then."
Me: "That makes more sense, but that would mean that Oppenheimer is Doctor Cid."
Grandma: "Did Oppenheimer have a ridiculously stupid laugh?"
Me: "I don't think so."
Grandma: "Okay, well if manufactured nethecite is the nuclear bomb, then... Nabudis is like Chernobyl, and if Dalmasca wants it to protect itself from Arcadia... then... Dalmasca is like... CUBA?!"
Me: "No, no... that wouldn't make any sense."
Grandma: "I don't know how I feel about fighting on the side of Fidel Castro. That guy is kind of an asshole."
Me: "Arcadia can't represent the United States, because we didn't have anything to do with Chernobyl. So Dalmasca isn't Cuba."
Grandma: "So who tried to get a hold of nuclear weapons to fight the Soviet Union?"
Grandma: "Woah, woah.. hold the fuck on. That would mean Vaan is ...OSAMA BIN LADEN?!"
Grandma: "I'm not a fucking terrorist."
Me: "I don't think Vaan-"
Grandma: "What if Dalmasca is like... Kashmir, and Arcadia is Pakistan, and Rozzaria is India."
Me: "That would make sense, ...I guess."
Grandma: "That one dude acts all sexy and shit. Maybe that's an ...homage or whatever to Bollywood."
Me: "Yeah, but Rozzaria wants Dalmascan independence and autonomy. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir for themselves."
Grandma: "Well, what then? North Korea? IRAN?!"
Me: "Nah, North Korea is way to isolated and crazy to be Dalmasca. Iran, maybe; Rabanastre is surrounded by desert- but then again, no- because nobody in Dalmasca is an anti-semitic douchebag."
Grandma: ".....maybe we're really overthinking this."
Grandma: "I just want to know where I can find a fucking Ribbon. These 'disease traps' are a pain in my ASS."
Crazy, misattributed political associations aside, Final Fantasy XII is a fantastic game, worthy of a space in any RPG fan's collection. It's not as crazy as FF X-2 and not as annoying as FFX, so the only comparisons left are to VII and VIII, and even then- it holds its own. At 240+ hours and a full Pirate's Den, Grandma is more than satisfied.
Grandma says: "let's just hope they don't fuck up Final Fantasy XIII."