Final Fantasy XII: A Travelog of Ivalice, by a Raving Madman


New member
Mar 5, 2012
GundamSentinel said:
As a result, I've never had a problem with Vaan, or with nothing related to him ever going anywhere. I knew what he was there for and actually liked it. And I respect Square Enix for trying to build their story that way. It didn't work as well as it might have, but I respect the effort (even it it possibly wasn't intentional). ^^
^Pretty much what you said, Vaan and Penelo are there to be the characters who go 'bwuh?' whenever something strange comes up so other characters can explain it. I will disagree that they don't have arcs though certainly their arcs are relatively small compared to the other characters (Vaan I remember matures noticeably and sets aside his previous desire for revenge, which in turn aids Ashe's char development which is very significant, Penelo I can't quite remember since its been so long).

I think the main character was supposed to be Basch originally but was changed somewhere in development. Personally though Ashe, Basch, and Balthier sort of compete for the role Balthier especially remarking that he's the leading man, and even making some jokes about his supposed position as such.

Personally I really enjoyed FF12 even though I never did beat the final boss (I have seen the end via a remarkably thorough video LP on the LP archive, my own attempts to replay are often halted by the horribly long tutorial). My enjoyment may have been affected somewhat by it being the first FF game I'd played since that meant I went in with no expectations but what I got was a bizarre and intriguing world full of magic and political subterfuge going on in the background.

I will definitely be trying to follow this when I have the time to read more, and good luck getting past some of the more annoying parts of the game!


New member
Jun 9, 2008
Instead of "Imagine Vaan disappeared" consider Vaan may well have been the player character in the MMO theory behind the game. A blank slate we can imprint ourselves onto with a vapid love interest we can also imagine to be someone we know. At that point Balthier kinda becomes the protagonist/mentor as the player can never be the driving force of the story in an MMO, merely a reactionary force. Who knows, maybe the Sun-Cryst and Pharos were an elaborate "faction choice" kinda thing. Side with Ashe/Basch and her need to destroy the Empire and, probably, a bunch more stuff, or side with Reddas/Balthier and their need to make the world safer by simply destroying the super nukes.

Honestly, I'd never heard the MMO theory before you brought it up in your delightful walkthrough, but it does make a whole ass load of sense. Hell, the Undying's never again mentioned King could have been a raid boss.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
.... Well then. It looks like its time for this discussion. Allow me a tangent. Again.

Ever read The Great Gatsby?

The main character and the title character are certainly one and the same: the nouveau riche Jay Gatsby. The story can't occur without him; his actions are the the point, and the themes and the message are centered upon him, and on his actions, his personality, his environments and his obsessions. But the narrative isn't anchored upon him, but upon the character Nick Carraway, a newcomer to the environment.

Nick wasn't necessary for communicating exposition to the audience; each medium has their own ideal method of communicating setting detail and background, and the only medium I can think of for which dialogue is the superior option is radio. Novels may simply narrate, as narration needs no framing, and can deliver the necessary information most efficiently. In film, the rule of course is to show; the efficiency with which information can be relayed immediately in a visual medium is not to be underestimated, and information which cannot be related to the audience this way is often best forgotten unless highly necessary.

Just as cinema may show, rather than tell as textual media do, a game has the prerogative to do what another medium could merely show. There are, naturally, both script and visuals a-plenty that perform these tasks in games, as the medium incorporates both textual and visual media in a way somewhat unique to itself. But a game will always be served best in the relaying of its ideas in a way that incorporate the engagement and actions of the audience.

But when one says that text needs to tell, and visual media need to show, and interactive media need to perform, they do not say so because telling, or showing, or doing are valuable in themselves, but in that they represent the most apt means by which the medium may demonstrate the vision of the creator, and the nature of the world that the creation inhabits.

Nick Carraway's role as the viewpoint character (and it is this role that I often refer to as 'the Nick Carraway,' as shorthand) was not merely to facilitate exposition; otherwise, there would have been no need for a Nick Carraway. This is why movies adaptations of Gatsby often don't know what to do with Nick; they forget his purpose, and, having been left with no use for him, elect to simply dwell on Gatsby, as well they should if they aren't going to bother with the characterization that made Nick useful- for, while this character, or any character, can be a useful means to facilitate the mere revelation of information to the audience, to do so is an unwieldy process that wastes the creator's and audience's time unless the interaction is serving another purpose at the same time, which a mere narrative paragraph or fly-over of the scene could not accomplish.

Yes, when Nick goes somewhere, he sees things the way the audience is meant to, and when he speaks to people, the things he is told are for the audience's instruction. While Nick is not a passive or empty character, the feelings he has and the things he does exist to drive him to these places, and to these people, and facilitate the telling of this story- a story that, again, is not about him, but about Jay Gatsby. Yet each is as essential to the story as the other. The events are driven by Gatsby, without whom the story could not exist. But the events derive their meaning from Nick's perspective on them, without which the story would have no reason to exist.

The reason that the viewpoint character, the story's 'Nick Carraway,' is tailored to the creator's expectations of the audience is not because this allows them to interpose an empty head into the cast, but because the way that this character is constructed and the place they occupy in the world will dictate what their interaction communicates to the audience. Note that this does not mean that the viewpoint character need be at all similar to the audience, only that the expectations are born in mind in this character's construction. The Joads in The Grapes of Wrath likely ill-resembled Steinbeck's intended audience, but he could not have communicated the world he wished to construct had the Joads been wealthy, just as Fitzgerald could not have told his tale of the Jazz Age had Nick Carraway been old-money like Tom, or a kept woman like Daisy, or black and beneath the notice of the cast.

But when the viewpoint character is intended to represent the audience, it does so with special intent: to instruct the audience, or to indict them. To stake claim on the idea that the audience's feelings and will is known to the creator, and to express the creator's opinion on it through the demonstration of this state in a world operating as the creator believes it to. Take Spec-Ops: The Line, for example. The main character sees himself as the main characters of many shooters, especially modern military shooters, see themselves, and the audience, in turn, recognizes this archetype, and their expectations of this role are pre-empted (and abused) by the creators.

Or, for a Final Fantasy example, take Tidus. Tidus, having been transported to Spira, knew nothing of the new world in which we found himself. And while this does indeed receive background and exposition as part of this role, he, like Nick Carraway, is significant not in his reception of this data- as "exposition recipient" is not, and should not be, a role nor character- but in how he reacts to this data. Tidus, as an outsider, does not take the world as it stands for granted. He rejects an institution and a philosophy that he finds repellant, and it is his status as an outsider that facilitates this, and which identifies him as one with the audience.

It was not his ignorance of Spira that was meant to mimic the audience, nor vice versa, nor would this, alone, have made him in any way necessary to the world, nor the demonstration of its nature. It was his belief that a better world than what existed could be created; his unwilligness to trade away innocent lives to the "death spiral;" and his boldness in standing up to the corrupt and powerful institutions of Spira that the audience was meant to identify with. The creator, in interposing these things into the character, communicates to us the idea that these ideas and actions are a verifiable good in the world as presented, and, as we are represented by the character who champions them, should accept them in parallel in ourselves.

Without this character, their unique perspective, and the tension that their existence creates in the setting, the story's nature must become something other than what it is.

Also note that, unlike Nick Carraway, Walker and Tidus aren't merely the viewpoint characters, whose worldviews, beliefs, and feelings inform what we, the audience, are meant to feel and believe, but also the protagonists, whose actions motivate the plot, and without whom the narrative does not merely change its character, but rather ceases to exist.

Vaan fulfills neither of these roles.

At no point does his perspective or personality demonstrate the values or nature of the created world. At no time does his presence, his unique presence, inform the plot or tone of the narrative. There is no statement or idea communicated to the audience by the creators' placement of this person into the situation presented, and at no time would anything demonstrated about the created world's themes or operation be disarrayed by his deletion from it.

There are characters in the plot for whom this cannot be said. Characters who have ideals, who pursue goals, who believe things about power, about rule, about self-determination, and whose ideas motivate them to action, and drive them to greatness or ruin. These characters, we can look to and divine the creators' intentions. Ashe, Reddas, Cid, Vayne, Balthier, Ondore, even Ghis and Bergan: the absence of any of these characters would chip something of value off of the great edifice of what this game is trying to say about the tides of kingdoms and nethicite and Undying, however muddled or inexpert the execution may be at times.

But not Vaan. As in so many of this game's elements, the outline is there, certainly. It is not difficult to see the germ of possibility within the actuality, and this I have already dwelt upon at least once. But in practice, Vaan ends up feeling like cut content- like the fullness of his character never coalesced, and the final product ended up making do with the most skeletal Hero's Journey, coming of age framework, utterly unadorned.

Even the incorrect, though not uncommon, idea that Vaan was somehow necessary for his ignorance, that we needed him present to excuse the delivery of exposition, does not hold up for the character, neither in theory nor in the game's practice. The game itself certainly does not treat Vaan as though this was his role. Although Fran, certainly, acts as a deliverer of narrative detail and exposition to others, the recipient tends to be Ashe, Penelo, or no one in particular. At no time that I recall does Vaan inquire about any of the myriad eccentricities of the settings, for the audience's benefit; not about nethicite, not about any of the various locations, nor the Occuria, nor airships nor chocobos nor cat-men. Many characters exposit about these things, but as stated, it is more often for Ashe, in particular, or for the deliverer themselves.

Yet even then, I stand by the idea that even if this had been true, it still would not serve as any sort of defense for Vaan on the grounds that "narrative recipient" is a role of the audience's, and cannot belong to a character; a character that serves no other role is no character. They cannot add value to the cast, because to think that dialog is the indispensable medium for detail, to the extent that a character must be set aside for this purpose, is ludicrous.

I hope I am not too bold in saying that I know a great deal about Ivalice as it exists in Final Fantasy XII. But I do not know what I do of the setting because I overheard it, as it was expressed among the cast. Nor even in reading any (or all) of the many, many vignettes the game deposits, of all places, in its bestiary, handy though they are for bulk delivery of fine-grain anecdotal detail. I know Ivalice well because I have been there, and it has embossed itself upon me. I've walked its length and breadth. I've seen where and how its people live. I know bad things lurk in sandstorms. I've seen how its kingdoms sit perched so precariously upon the stacked ashes of a thousand forebears. When the characters taught me the most, they did so through what they did, and why, and through what became of them, because these things reveal the soul of the setting in a way that cannot be related otherwise.

If you believe that Vaan, or characters like him, are necessary to a story, that the audience needs them, that the world needs them, or that such a role, when it is attempted, is, in itself, a worthy or tenable endeavor: Disabuse yourself of this notion. You deserve better.

But even this defense of the character is, ultimately, missing the point of why people tended to sour on him. The negative reaction to Vaan is characterized not (merely) by disapproval, but of rejection, and to understand this reaction, one needs to understand what is being rejected.

The audience is conscious of the game's assertion of Vaan- not as a viewpoint character- but as a protagonist. The game constantly furnishes Vaan with the trappings of a hero: everything from how you control him, and only him, in towns; to the fact that only he, with Ashe, can see the Occuria's spectral messenger; to how he has by far the greatest stat total of any character; to how the game bizarrely attempts to link him with Ashe, such as when he is literally shown taking the place of Rasler in Jahara; to how he takes the lead position on the cover of the damn game, reinforces the notion that Vaan is intended as the leading character, whose actions, ideals, and growth should shape and guide the game, without whom the narrative could not exist as it does.

Yet, it is continuously and overtly demonstrated in practice that Vaan has no indispensible actions, no remarkable ideals, and no significant growth or change. And an Ivalice without him is not only easily and commonly imaginable, but commonly desired, as well; it is the gulf between how we are told to think of the character by the game's treatment of him, and what the audience observes of the character in his treatment of the game, that we reject. It is this intolerable dissonance that damned his character.

Vaan isn't even the worst character in the cast. Basch is more disappointing to me, Penelo is even less relevant, and Fran was grossly mishandled. But the ire he draws is proportional to the status the game attempted to elect him to, and, due to this status as quasi-protagonist, it is upon him that the audience, rightly or wrongly, directs their scorn for the game's more general shortcomings, and considering the amount of dissatisfaction the game generated, that is quite a bit of rancor indeed for those narrow shoulders to bear by default.

It's an unfortunate state of affairs. But at least he's not Lightning.

Terragent said:
TheRocketeer said:
Curiously, your minimap disappears in these areas, which is annoying since you have to check your main map to figure out which of the many identical rooms you're in... yet entirely fucking pointless due to being able to do just that.
Actually, that's because of the choice you made with the sealing at the start of the second ascent - the four sealing options are magicks, attacks, items, and minimap (not technicks). I usually seal items, for the record.
You are correct! I have no idea how this sailed over my head. I guess it just goes to show how obvious an option sealing the minimap is, though, since you can still check the main map for where you are...

I tended to rely on items to heal statuses, so I'd rather have that unhampered if the alternative is just having to check the main map every so often... which I was probably going to be doing anyway.

Isalan said:
Instead of "Imagine Vaan disappeared" consider Vaan may well have been the player character in the MMO theory behind the game. A blank slate we can imprint ourselves onto with a vapid love interest we can also imagine to be someone we know. At that point Balthier kinda becomes the protagonist/mentor as the player can never be the driving force of the story in an MMO, merely a reactionary force.
I think the MMO angle was dropped early enough in the game's long, long development cycle that the narrative and cast was relatively unaffected by it, coalescing, as it did, over the course of many, many rewrites. In particular, placing Vaan as the lead apparently happened relatively late in development. It's difficult to say what form he took prior to this change- although until his motion capture actor was cast, he was planned as being "more effeminate." The mind boggles.


New member
Jan 15, 2010
Ha. I usually relied on Esuna to deal with status issues, and since the only status conditions that you can only heal with items (Stop and Doom) weren't present in the Second Ascent, I figured the only real potential loss from item sealing was MP restoration via Ether (because undead are immune to Syphon and Charge is pretty lame).

I believe that Basch was the original protagonist - he certainly fits the Ashley Riot mould better than anyone else in the cast, at least. I suspect his story would have been significantly more relevant if his difference of opinion with Ashe vis-a-vis horrific magickal nuclear genocide had led to open conflict between them - he might have been placed in a situation where he actually had to examine his blind devotion to the Dalmascan royal family (a devotion that's never really examined or explained by the game itself). Pretty much the only consistent characterisation he has in the finished game is (A) complete and utter devotion to Ashe, and (B) an unswervingly righteous moral compass. It seems odd that even with his demotion to a supporting role, the game never bothers to deal with the dilemma of (A) and (B) spending at least half of the playtime in direct conflict with one another. The only time it slips out was the tiny scene before Golmore Jungle where he implicitly tells her to grow the fuck up, swallow her pride, and treat with the empire (naturally, this sails completely over her head). I wouldn't be surprised if some of Vossler's actions in the story were originally intended to belong to a protagonist Basch.

I never played Revenant Wings, but I quite enjoyed Vaan's characterisation in FFTA2, where he spends most of his screen time actually being - well, if not a sky pirate, then at least an unrepentant thief.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
PART 8: Pokemon: Crystal Version
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cryst

Atop the Pharos, Ashe stands in awe of the Sun-Cryst, holding the Treaty-Blade in one hand and the Sword of Kings in the other. Vaan passive-aggressively pushes her to destroy the crystal here and now, but she flatly tells him to shut his pansy ass up. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she raises the Treaty-Blade high into the air, and as it radiates its own light, the seas boil and the sky shakes, the Sun-Cryst exuding incredible mist in concurrence as flaming angelic specters fly around.

This would seem to be a pretty damn clear statement of intent on Ashe's part, so I guess we know what Ivalice is in for... Until Rasler appears one more time before her, and she completely loses her shit at him. Nevermind the fact that she should have figured out by now that this is almost definitely not Rasler, but an illusion meant to twist her emotions. She accuses him of wanteing her to use the nethicite and destroy the Empire, to which she emphatically cries, "I cannot!"

Excuse me?! Look here, there's being torn between two extremes, and then there's just having looney fucking mood swings. Now, standing here with godblade raised before the Sun-Cryst, after climbing a hundred fucking stories, you decide that coming all this way for the stones is utterly repellant to you? Take her! Take her, Rabanastre, you can have your zany she-***** princess who doesn't fucking know up from down! Who continues to drag this lunatic plot out for no good goddamn reason and waste everyone's time! Can anyone else see this?! Am I the one taking crazy pills here?!

From out of the peanut gallery, a voice yells out what the audience is thinking: "OH COME THE FUCK ON! YOU CAN'T JUST BLUEBALL THE WHOLE WORLD LIKE THAT!" It's *epic drumroll here* Judge FUCKING Gabranth!

Know how he got here? Know how the Archadian managed to utterly bypass a gauntlet of trials intended to make sure no one, fucking NO ONE got to the Sun-Cryst other than a single person chosen by THE GODS THEMSELVES once every few thousand years?


A ship! That flies! Holy *unspeakable profanity*, Balthier, DID YOU KNOW THESE EXISTED? Did you know that if, in some heady fantasy we dare entertain only in our most blasphemous reveries, we possessed one of these ourselves, WE COULD HAVE FLOWN OURSELVES RIGHT THE FUCK ON UP!? GUUUAUAUAHGHEUUEHUHAUHAUHAUGUARRGHHRAUHUHGGHGUH!!

Gabranth cannot even fucking believe it. He calls her right the fuck on out, screaming, "It was me! I murdered your lame-ass father! Use the sword and make some new nethicite! Blast the Empire to atoms, I don't even give a fuck!"

Ashe immediately throws away the Sword of Kings, because they aren't even pretending she possesses a scrap of principle or self-control anymore. Gabranth is overjoyed to be motivating the plot in a direction that makes any goddamn sense, and gives a hearty, "Goooood! Good, young Skywalker, let the hate flow through you!"

Gabranth marches right on up, ignoring his brother- whom he swore to destroy- and risks bringing everyone who played this piece of shit to immediate climax by cleaving Vaan right in two... only to be stopped by Reddas, who catches Gabranth's blades in his own.

Reddas looks Gabranth right in the eye, and admits something that absolutely no one saw coming: he was none other than Judge Zecht, the man who unleashed the Midlight Shard on Nabudis so Cid could gauge its capabilities! Gabranth, unfazed, reminds him that not only has he not shut up about that exact event in the two years since it happened, but he, as another Judge Magister, already recognizes him personally, so the effect of this revelation might be a bit dimmed.

Ashe, of course, has just been sitting here drooling rather than carving up the Sun-Cryst like a honey ham. Reddas begs her to fight for something more than revenge, saying the past is something to be overcome and forgotten. Gabranth knocks his old ass to the floor and reminds us that we're listening to the guy who let a single moment in his past shape every decision he's made since, sticking dogmatically to his instincts even when those decisions could reshape the world for good or ill. He once again cries, "If only you kneeew the POWAH of the Daaahk Siiiide!" and goads her to cut more nethicite.

No, I don't know why he's doing this, either. Nethicite being the one thing the Empire has over their enemies, he sure seems eager to plead his worst enemy into taking it all for herself. Come to think of it, the last time we saw Gabranth, wasn't he being sent to find out whether Ashe truly intended to take the nethicite and try to annihilate the Empire? Didn't he get his answer, in the negatory, before we knew he was watching? And then he immediately begins this cheesy schtick... why, exactly?

Ashe looks to Rasler, who is still here, apparently, and who doesn't even know what the fuck. Then she turns to Vaan, who the game seems to be attempting to set up as the opposition to the Rasler phantom/the Occuria's will. Despite saying they shouldn't trust the Occuria, Vaan hasn't really offered much of an opinion on the nethicite one way or another, as far as I can remember. The look on his face seems to scream, "MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY GIRL GODDAMN!" She gives one last look at Rasler, and cuts right through him with the Treaty-Blade, figuring out at LONG FUCKING LAST that it isn't really him.

God help Rabanastre and it's special needs queen. They are all going to fucking die one way or another. They have to. They just have to at this point.

The specter begins speaking with Gerun's voice, imploring her as the chosen one to stop screwing around and take care of the world's whole "Empire led by Machiavelli, Oppenheimer, and Satan" problem with the nethicite. One more slash with their own sword, and the Occuria's illusion is gone for good. And, apart from Venat, that's the last we'll ever see or hear of the Undying.

No, really.

Ashe says to no one in particular that not once in Dalmasca's long history had they ever relied on the Dusk Shard, seeming to take strength in her decision from this fact as she lets the sword fall from her hands. Uh, princess, did Dalmasca even know what the Stone was? You seemed to have no fucking clue what nethicite was, or that the Dusk and Dawn Shards were nethicite, or that they were anything besides shiny regal trinkets, until you were told. Now you're acting like this was some sort of conscientious decision on the royalty's part. Hey, would the Dalmascan royal line- or anyone after Raithwall, really- even know how to use the stones? Do WE, OURSELVES, know how to use the stones? I'm pretty sure we don't! I'm pretty sure we never asked! Could you ask Rasler or Gerun or whoever how to- oooohhh...

Gabranth! Help me out here! Gabranth yells out that the dead demand justice, but Vaan interjects, saying that the dead don't give a damn, and that nothing can bring back his brother or anyone that's passed in this foolish war. Well, Vaan, I'm glad your character development finally kicked in, although I'd have been happier if it had waited another fifteen minutes or so. Ashe concurs, saying that's what's passed is passed, and there's no changing it. To emphasizes her point, she lets the Midlight Shard fall from her hand and roll right over to Gabranth's feet.

OH COME THE FUCK ON! We aren't going to use them ourselves. Fine. I surrender. I get it. But one thing we might consider is NOT GIVING OUR SUPERWEAPONS TO THE ENEMY! Because unlike our party, the Empire is still in the good graces of at least one Occuria! And unlike us, they actually know how to use that thing!

Gabranth, assailed on all sides by all-out retardation, asks the most obvious question yet: how do you intend to fight the Empire? How do you intend to keep your kingdom's honor when that kingdom is going to cease to exist in a matter of days now?

Basch, addressing his evil twin for the first time this entire scene, says that they will. Not how, mind you; they just will. 'Somehow.' Oh Jesus fucking Christ, now we're channeling Final Fantasy X. We are channeling the portion of Final Fantasy X's narrative that made the least amount of sense, of all the things they could have drawn on.

Gabranth laughs his ass off at this last point. Basch, as he gleefully points out, has never succeeded in defending a goddamned bowl of Jello, having at this point lost two (2) kingdoms and being one of the most hated fugitives the second has ever known. Reason having utterly disintegrated at this point, Gabranth resolves to simply beat the stupid out of the party, or- at the very least- beat them to the death.

At this point, I am cheering for Gabranth as hard as I can, but this battle marks the first of a series of endgame fights with Gabranth, and the game never bothers to make it seem like he has the ghost of a chance. We've been slaying Judges left and right already, including one who was both Mako-powered and possessed by the devil. Additionally, we have a Judge in our party who is also a pirate king. So Vader's pretty well fucked, I'd say.

In fact, I barely even had time to react before Gabranth was at half-health and a cutscene began in which he taunted his dear brother. Gabranth assures Basch that no matter what happens, he will never reclaim the honor he lost when Raminas was slain. I'd argue that, with Vayne's plot at Nalbina even now spreading among the public and the proven heir of Raminas alive and well to clear his name from any challenge, Basch is pretty well in the clear. But the game has something up its sleeve later to brazenly out-stupid itself once more, and bearing false shame is Basch's entire character concept, so he merely gives Gabranth an epic, "I am rubber you are glue!" Gabranth retorts with a masterful, "I know you are but what am I!" I really wish I was exaggerating.

The battle resumes, and, hilariously, Gabranth busts out a special attack called Guilt. Near as I can tell, it delays his death by a picosecond while the attack executes. Thoroughly whipped, Gabranth tries to mumble out some pithy taunt... when who should appear on a torrent of pure fucking majesty but Doctor Cidolfo Demen Bunansa! Naturally, he's already picked up the Midlight Shard from the floor while we battled, because sometimes the party's actions really are as bloody fucking stoopid as they seem. He heaps a bit of well-deserved shame on Gabranth as he strolls in, and the Judge Magister doesn't even know what the fuck.

Yes, it seems Gabranth had no idea Cid was going to show up, meaning that we had two separate groups of our worst enemies shortcut their way to the top of the Pharos. Amazingly- and I mean that literally, I can't believe the game itself even remembered this- Doctor Cid reminds Gabranth of what he was supposed to be doing here for Lords Vayne and Larsa, and calls him an utter failure for shitting up the works like he did. Wait, so that whole screed of Gabranth's trying to get us to take the nethicite and run wasn't part of some plan of Vayne's and Cid's? What the crap is even going on anymore?!

Then Cid drops the biggest bomb of all: You're fired. GTFO. With Gabranth thoroughly and officially owned, Cid forgets all about him and puts in his best scenery-chewing dentures. Gabranth isn't taking his resignation lying down, though, and raises his sword to cut Cid down... whereupon Venat appears and flings him into a pillar like a ragdoll. *golf clap!* Now if only he had just thrown him a few feet to the left or right and straight off the Pharos, we could have been spared a bewildering portion of the endgame yet to come.

Balthier tells his father that he is only Venat's tool. But Cid, of course, believes otherwise. The Occuria have, for eons unknowable, treated humans like servants, but Venat appears as a friend and ally, to share power rather than mete it. He even praises Ashe's decision to reject their governance, but Ashe isn't charmed, calling him out on just generally being an asshole.

Cid isn't fazed, however, and drops the other shoe like the stone cold villain he is: we've just completed his own plan for him. He casts all three stones, Dawn, Midlight, and Dusk, into the air, and Venat begins using the Sun-Cryst to supercharge all three of them!

Cid immediately begins rubbing it in like a champion, namedropping something called Bahamut as part of their plan somehow... With the Sun-Cryst offloading more mist than could ever exist anywhere else, it's all the party can do to even stand their ground against its force while the Doctor floats in the air, laughing like a madman and achieving the triune apotheosis of troll, ham, and mad scientist, indulging himself in a bit of poetry to commemorate his victory over the Occuria's careful plans for humanity.

Balthier accuses his father of merely wanting to steal the Occuria's power and become a tyrant-god himself, and Cid is eager to agree, believing there's none better suited to the task. Cid can only feel regret that his son wasn't on the same side to enjoy it.

Having had enough of his audience, Cid sets his hand to wiping out the party himself. I love this fucking character, but I am still super-pissed that no one had to pay the toll to get up here but us, and if there's anything I can do to push the trials of the Pharos on him, I will. And lucky for me, I have just the thing. Hashmal, Bringer of Order!

Once again I sandbag here, content to watch a crab-armed wolf-demon fistfight a mad scientist with a magitech chaingun, because this game occasionally offers in consolation what it lacks in competence, and because Doctor Cid really may be the single best thing about this entire fucking trainwreck.

To prove it, Cid indulges in the ultimate blasphemy: a shard of manufacted nethicite binding an esper of his own: Famfrit, the Darkening Cloud! That's right, it's time for a goddamn Satanic Pokémon battle.

Doctor Cid sends out Famfrit!

Hashmal, I choose you!

Hashmal, use Roxxor! It's not very effective...

Enemy Famfrit uses Waterja! It's not very effective...

Hmm, it seems that these Espers are actually totally shit at fighting each other, and unlike our useless summons, Famfrit's power makes Cid invincible until we take care of it. So what can Famfrit do? Well, he can tank and heal for Fran while she pops off some earth-shattering Firagas and leave Famfrit's shit in ruins.

Hey, you ever wonder why you black out when all your Pokémon faint? It's because the other trainer and his killbeasts beat you the fuck up and rob you. It's time for us to honor tradition all over the good Doctor's skull.

As the good Doctor Cid finds himself too weak to lift his rifles, he collapses and his Esper is ours. Oddly, despite Cid having made a big show of summoning Famfrit from a small red shard of manufacted nethicite, after the battle we see a large, translucent blue crystal with Famfrit's symbol inside it shatter, same as every other Esper.

Balthier steps forward to speak to his father one last time. Venat prepares to intercept him, but Cid gives him permission. The Doctor and the Undying exchange one last friendly farewell, and Balthier- Ffamran, to his father- struggles to find anything to say. Eventually, he settles on, "Was there no other way?"

Cid won't hear any remonstration, but has no strength to protest. He seems to wish his son well, in his own condescending way, as he fades into pyreflies (?) and seems to be absorbed by the Sun-Cryst.

? I'll level with you, I'm not actually sure what the hell just happened, and judging by the look on his face, Balthier doesn't either. Maybe Cid just blacks out and wakes up at the Pokecenter in Archades?

Sensing the audience's bemusement, Fran throws together a distraction by collapsing! It seems the intense mist has her all tuckered out, despite being utterly unaffected while it was so strong no one could move and during the battle she practically soloed. Balthier rushes over to check on her, and she warns that Very Bad Things are happening with the Sun-Cryst and if we were smart we would all GTFO right this moment. She seems to act as though they'd have to leave her there, or as though she were dying; I have no idea what she's on about really, but she can rot for her next comment: "You'd best fly away. That's what you do, right? You're a sky pirate."

No, Fran. No, we take the elevator. That's what Balthier does. That's what we all do, because no one, and I mean fucking NO ONE IN THIS PARTY, is or shall ever be a sky pirate. Can everyone just stop bringing this up?!

Fran's right, though; the Sun-Cryst seems to be putting out greater and greater power, and we're all screwed if it reaches some sort of critical mass while we're all right here at ground zero. Ashe and Vaan seem eager to "stop it" somehow. Hey, if the nethicite shards each have the power to level a large city and the Sun-Cryst is a Volkswagen minibus-sized boulder of pure nethicite, bearing as much mist as it could gather in tens of thousands of years of enrichment, won't this thing leave a crater on the planet the size of France? Work quickly, guys! Or don't, this could be interesting.

Ashe and Vaan attempt to advance on the crystal, Vaan with the Treaty-Blade in hand and Ashe with the Sword of Kings. Now, Ashe I can sort of understand; that blade is meant to destroy nethicite, even if trying to do so now would definitely set off the exact cataclysm they're aiming to prevent. But Vaan? What is he trying to do here? Cut the massive exploding crystal into several smaller exploding crystals of equal total mass, each of which could surely annihilate us on their own, even if the attempt didn't set it off immediately?

Come to think of it, what exactly is the difference between the two swords? They're both just swords capable of cutting nethicite, right? Which must be a unique property, otherwise we could just waltz up with a woodsman's hatchet and cut ourselves as many stones as we wanted. What makes the Sword of Kings a sword that 'destroys' nethicite? Does it de-power it as it cuts, or something? How? Is it enchanted? What is that sword made of, anyway? Could we maybe have studied it? Tried to replicate it somehow? That kind of plan has been working like gangbusters for Archadia. Come to think of it, if we wanted to destroy the Sun-Cryst or render it unusable, couldn't we just use the Treaty-Blade to mince it into thousands of tiny pebbles and throw them all over the edge of the world? I mean, the edge of the world is right there, apparently; Basch could probably manage the throw from right here at the top of the tower...

All these questions and more will go unanswered, since neither of our party members are able to advance another step against the billowing torrent of mist coming from the stone. At this moment, Reddas remembers he's a badass pirate king and takes the reins (of history! (back in the hands of man!)). "It's reacting!" he yells. "I've not seen its like before!"

Reddas, you stupid schmuck, when would you ever have had the chance?

While the party gawps helplessly, he takes the Sword of Kings in hand, and easily runs right up to the Sun-Cryst. Eh, I can accept that; he was like four levels higher than the party average. Then he leaps at it, and hangs in the air right in front of it for a good ten seconds while he yells out some regretful rot about Nabudis. Okay, that strains my credulity, but- OH SHIT! He drives the Sword of Kings straight into the heart of the massive crystal!

And wouldn't you know, this sets off exactly the sort of disaster I reckoned it would, causing an epic explosion and utterly atomizing everyone present.

? I mean, since Reddas was the only one present at the time, I guess just him. Oh, what's that? What about all our party members and Gabranth? Oh, you didn't see them slip out? They slipped out, you see, in the twentieth of a second after Reddas struck the stone but before it exploded in a ball of light so bright it was visible from the other edge of the continent of Kerwon beyond the entire Naldoan Sea. Actually, there's a little cutscene of all the non-human races at various points across Ivalice turning to see the explosion. Nice of the game to acknowledge they exist for a few seconds.

Yes, after the little Small World montage, we cut to the party all aboard the Strahl, gazing up at the annihilated upper reaches of the Pharos, as Vaan utters Reddas' name mournfully. I have no idea what happened to Gabranth; presumably, he was blasted off Team Rocket-style, as he is and shall continue to be ludicrously indestructible. I imagine he spent a few awkward days in the clinic wondering whether to get cracking updating his resume or trust that Venat won't blab about Cid firing him. I've got nothing. I can't even begin coming up with an explanation, and the game never even attempts to. It's just a cackling, bald-faced ass-pull topping off the shit salad that is the entire Pharos portion.

Come to think of it, I'd like to review just exactly what happened on this trip. Settle in.

Before even starting, Reddas has already sent an entire fleet of his lackeys to their deaths investigating the Cataract even though its been know from time immemorial to be utterly impassable and fatally inhospitable to any attempt at crossing by sea or air.

Starting off, we don't actually have a solid reason to come here. We don't have a solid plan of what to do; if we choose not to use the nethicite, we have no reason to disturb the Sun-Cryst whatsoever. Even if we choose to use the nethicite, we still don't actually know how to do so, because we never asked. We have chosen to determine on the way whether we have arrived for no purpose whatsoever, or merely to attempt something we cannot accomplish.

Despite constantly browbeating Ashe to destroy the stone rather than use it, everyone in the party, even Reddas, seems to be perfectly willing to go mournfully along with her if she carves an entire suit of nethicite armor and Iron Mans her way across Ivalice, scorching every man, woman and infant to molecules in the name of her power-lust. (Note to self: Get that game made!)

We park all the way across the island from our destination, fighting mutant plants and giant insects to even reach the entrance, whereupon we fight a zombie dragon for the right of entry into the tower proper.

We then fight our way up one hundred fucking floors worth of elementary-school puzzles, a three-of-four set of guardian deities, giant beast-men, fallen angels, living bombs, dragons, more zombie dragons, evil horses, non-dragon zombies, skeletons, ghosts, giant frogs, pterodactyls, sorcerous megachickens, a blasphemous abomination, and the general creaking and cracking of Reddas' and Basch's hip bones as we ascend more stairs than should rightfully exist.

Upon reaching the top, we watch our party's helmswoman, an actual (sort-of) head of state, careen wildly back and forth across a buffet line of various motivations, before we are preempted by three of our worst enemies, who arrived in two independent groups and by means which we ourselves possess but did not think to use.

The first of these enemies urges us hysterically to pursue the course of action most threatening to him and his allies, to satiate his own inscrutable personal whims. The party, with difficulty, declines, with aid of a tortured skein of pure dis-logic and spite.

Ashe then totally alienates herself and possibly all mortalkind from the Occuria, the Undying, a race of immortal, incalculably-powerful creatures whom we know terrifyingly little about; other than: they once absolutely dominated the entire world without hope of opposition; that they chose to grant humanity near-total freedom only through their sense of relative mercy and goodwill; and that they control an unknown number of dooms-day weapons humanity can scarcely comprehend, which they have been known to grant freely to those willing to carry out their will; and that the carrying out of their will largely results in the utter extinction of those who oppose them or detract materially from their unknowable goals.

Reddas, the man whose entire life since the tragedy at Nabudis has been defined and controlled by that event, and who works violently against those who oppose his new ideals, sermonizes about not letting the past control your actions or lead you to violent reprisal.

Gabranth's attempts to create an enemy that he and his allies could not hope to defeat, and which they otherwise could destroy easily whenever they chose, having been spat on, he attacks a group of seven people whom he was ordered to parley with, and is defeated utterly- though not killed.

The second of our enemies, Cid, explains in plain terms everything wrong with that last paragraph, and for this insult Gabranth attempts to take his life; whereupon he is again routed easily by a literal god, who again does not kill him.

Having cast it away in a symbolic gesture, our party's potential superweapon is recovered by the enemy most singularly knowledgeable and capable of its use, who immediately uses it to accomplish his long-held master plan, which we, through sheer inaction, do nothing to prevent. This plan could not have been accomplished if we had not left the superweapon on the floor, or indeed if we had never shown up at all.

Having already accomplished his objectives, Cid attempts to destroy the party rather than flee, as he easily could. The party obliges his stalling tactic, choosing to ignore completely the Sun-Cryst, which we now fully intend to destroy, and whose destruction at this moment could well halt Cid's plan.

Venat, a being of near-unstoppable power, who only moments ago so proudly swore to work as an equal partner with Cid and the Empire, watches passively as the party slays Cid outright in battle, stepping in to assist only when Cid has already been mortally wounded and shall momentarily expire.

Upon death, Cid dissolves into mist, nothing similar to which ever occurs elsewhere or ever shall occur again. He is then seemingly absorbed into the Sun-Cryst, for reasons unknown and to unknown effect.

Venat, through this, has been using the three nethicite shards to channel the full measure of the Sun-Cryst's power to the Sky Fortress Bahamut, which- spoiler alert- is an actual Imperial Death Star, whose might cannot be opposed by any weapon known to man, other than perhaps deifacted nethicite. The Bahamut is presumably docked at Archades, meaning that while the stones' power can be channeled thousands of miles away, the stones themselves cannot receive this power from from the Sun-Cryst from further than arm's length. Venat, an Undying, is the only creature capable of performing this task, which he is only accomplishing now despite seemingly being able to instantly teleport anywhere in the world without difficulty. This either means that our enemies are thoroughly incompetent, yet still managed to best us soundly, or that they really did need all three lesser stones for their plans to work, in which case we truly did accomplish their task for them: first, by showing up at all, and secondly by delivering the Midlight Shard into their hands because it seemed cute and poetic at the moment.

Despite being used to channel power to the stones- presumably one of its regular purposes- the Sun-Cryst is apparently permanently destabilized. To prevent its imminent detonation, Ashe and Vaan attempt to destroy it in a fashion that will result in exactly this disaster. Note that only Ashe possesses the means to facilitate this.

Venat does nothing to stop us in this attempt, having likely already fled to see it's own plans through to fruition. This is either a grave misstep on Venat's part, or an indication that they have already accomplished everything they need here already, and that we are wasting our time, to our peril, by remaining. I would believe either with eagerness.

They are, however, unable, to do destroy the crystal, as approaching the stone is impossible for anyone except Reddas, who manages it easily for drama's sake. He then destroys the Sun-Cryst in a grand gesture, resulting in his death and the detonation we were attempting to prevent. The rest of the party escapes by -Scene Missing-, which must mean one or more of three possibilities: first, that the party must have either run down ten flights of stairs, taken various elevators and waystones ninety more floors down, and fled across the entire island to the Strahl before flying to a safe distance, all in the time it took for the crystal to explode after being struck; or second, that the moogle mechanics aboard the Strahl had flown the airship to the tower's summit just in time to rescue the party, proving definitively that our entire assault on the tower was, from the very start, a fools errand of literally deific proportions and a staggering waste of everyone's time; and third, that however we escaped the tower, there must have been ample time for Reddas to escape with us, meaning he either perished by means other than the explosion itself, or he deliberately chose to stay and wait as long as it took to accept his death in penance for Nabudis.

In sum: because we showed up at all, and conducted ourselves like fools, the Empire was able to accomplish their overarching scheme. Because we failed to make any meaningful decisions regarding our course of action before they did so, we lack any means to oppose them.

Two of our three nemeses present escape, one of them through mysterious means while off camera. The only villain we manage to defeat accomplished his entire role in the plot beforehand.

In not choosing to destroy the Sun-Cryst immediately, we allowed the Empire to carry out their own plans to completion. Because we did not cut any stones of our own before they did so, we now lack any means to combat the Empire's new and pre-existing weapons, other than wishful thinking and spite. In destroying the Sun-Cryst, we denied ourselves the opportunity to ever do so, even though we apparently could have fled its overcharge catastrophe without difficulty and returned at our leisure to see what remained, if anything, and decide a course of action in cool blood.

And the only black guy in the game dies.




? I swear. I swear, sometimes, once every now and then, I think I might love this game. But much, much more often, I am absolutely certain that I hate this fucking game, and that it hates me right back.

Back in Balfonheim Port, Reddas' special needs freebooter trio mourns his death. I used to think Reddas was pretty cool, but looking back on it now, I can't imagine what I saw in the pathetic, maudlin old son of a *****. The pirates point out that Reddas was looking for a place to die satisfied, and they hope he found it. Personally, I look forward to Other Lando's tortured soul haunting the Cataract in agony till the end of days, which should be any day now, given how current events are going.

The pirates close by saying its up to them to keep Balfonheim running right in Reddas' honor. The sequel, Revenant Wings, shows that they do no such thing, and run away to more or less troll Vaan for sport. So take that Reddas, you dead asshole. Oh, and thanks for the help with the Behemoth King; that thing was kicking my ass so hard it was wearing our party like two pairs of slippers.

Meanwhile, the party rests up in the late Reddas' manse, and... hold the fuck on... quiet a second... do you hear power ballads? No, really, I swear I smell leaded gasoline and small-batch bourbon...!


Vaan asks how he even knew they would be there, which he wisely ignores entirely to give Lady Ashe the ole "how YOU doin'", and to deliver some grave news.

Despite his efforts to calm things down in Rozarria, his nation's generals met with the Resistance leaders in secret and forged a plan. A large contingent of Rozarrian airships rendezvoused with Ondore's forces, posing as Resistance ships but in truth under direct command of Rozarria. With Ordalia's forces now actively mustered- though in secret- this division began exchanging fire with Imperial ships over former Nabradian airspace, prompting both sides to intervene with the full might of their forces.

The war has begun, and it shall be waged over Dalmasca.

Once they are ready, Rozarria is sure to join the war officially and fully. In fact, their plan is to attack only once the Resistance expends itself, sacrificed to wear down the Empire as they can. But Al-Cid is sure this will do nothing to stop the Empire's momentum, and will doom Resistance and Rozarria alike.

Basch disagrees, hastily pointing out that they don't possess the Dusk Shard any longer; the idea that Cid and Venat must have had some purpose in giving it up willingly is utterly lost on him, despite the pair all but explaining as much in plain terms. But Al-Cid already knows about the Bahamut, and is rightly scared entirely shitless of it.

Realizing just what happened at the Pharos, Balthier and Fran reiterate just how drastically we up-fucked everything out there. Yet upon hearing that Vayne himself marshals the Sky Fortress towards Rabanastre, Ashe resolves to stand and fight. I can't imagine both how she intends to do so, or yet still what she otherwise intended to do instead.

The party shares some feel-good sentiments in the face of their certain death and the known world's subjugation, and the Margrace turns to depart, promising to delay the Rozarrian war machine as long as possible.

Why? We failed to prevent the war; what use can there be in holding back our forces and letting the Archadians devour all opposition piecemeal? Wouldn't this be the best-case scenario for the Imperial war pavilion? Wouldn't our best hope be an all-out, all-forces assault to try and overwhelm the Bahamut, killing Vayne and depriving the Empire of its trump card? The only leadership left in Archadia would be Larsa, who would end the campaign immediately, and Judge Magister Zargabaath, who is utterly spineless and would never contradict Lord Larsa, just as he never contradicted Lord Vayne despite knowing how crooked he is.

Before leaving, Al-Cid whips off his glasses and unleashes his full power on Ashe, imploring her to visit Rozarria in better days to come, where he would take her to the magnificent Ambervale, and show her such amazing things... if you know what I mean. Ashe is left in a sort of wide-eyed erotic trance, unable even to speak or bid him farewell as scenes from my unspeakable fanfiction bloomand whirl in her head like a kaleidoscope. In the background, Balthier growls and gesticulates, unable to leash his unparalleled envy. Fran can only stare into the middle distance, plotting desperately how to parlay her dubious claim to viera quasi-royalty into an RSVP+1.

Penelo's reaction is not depicted, presumably to keep this game T-rated.

But happy times are over. It's time to finish this fucking game. And if we've been on a downhill slide of stupidity and insanity since Archades, we're about to hit the sudden stop at the bottom with a bit of force.

To be continued.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
PART 9: And Now for Something Completely Different

Allow me a tangent here. Again. A long one this time. In fact, I'm not really going to talk about Final Fantasy XII at all in this update, so if you aren't down for a hot, nasty diatribe about the minutiae of a careworn Final Fantasy trope, which exists almost entirely to jerk off my encyclopedic knowledge of a series that has never had more than B+ writing, I give you my permission to pretend this never happened, and it won't ruffle me one bit.

Of course, if you've come this far already, I guess there's not really any hope for you anyway, so strap in, nerds.

The Bahamut is this game's Floating City. Don't bother pointing out that it isn't a city; I don't mean it literally. If the themes of the series are a tarot deck, the Floating City is one of the major arcana. Final Fantasy has a long, long tradition of this setpiece, but it has much more behind it than making for interesting imagery. The Floating City is one of the most important thematic hallmarks of the series going back to the very first game.

The Flying Fortress. Pandemonium. The Floating Continent. The Towers of Babel and Zot. Ronka. The Floating Land. Midgar. Sin. Bahamut. Each is unique in its own way, but there's a thick cord of consistency running through it that marks it as a main artery of the themes of each game and the series as a whole. There may be more or fewer than what I listed. IV and X are definitely edge cases. If VIII has one, I couldn't identify it, but VIII was an odd duck anyway, as I'll point out. I don't recall if IX had one, and this theme isn't relevant to that title anyway. XIII was based almost entirely within one, which may or may not fit the rubric, but I won't even bother trying to hide my total disgust for that game and discuss it with a pretense of equanimity. I will attempt to cover this phenomenon, because it is my pet theory and I like it a lot because it is mine.

One: The Floating City is an icon of technology or, worse, magitech.

Throughout the series, especially in the "old series" (which is FFI through FFVII and you are wrong if you disagree), the most important theme may be this: nature is good, and magic is natural. Humanity is extra-natural, and not necessarily good or evil. Technology is unnatural, and ranges from neutral to evil, but rarely, if ever, good. And magitech, which subverts natural magic with unnatural technology, is abominable.

In Final Fantasy, the Floating City is the ultimate expression of human mastery of technology and magitech. We can see that this holds true in I, IV, V, VI, VII, and arguably X. The Flying Fortress of the first game was explicitly high-tech, and home to the Warmech, a nuclear walking battle robot.

In Final Fantasy IV, Zot has no actual location on the map, and is suspected to be flying; it, the Tower of Babil, and the Giant were all constructed with alien supertechnology.

As Final Fantasy V was the first game to really investigate what would become magitek in six, Ronka was a floating mechanical city powered by the Earth Crystal.

The world of Final Fantasy VII seemed to be just barely reaching the Industrial Revolution, with high technology and magitech completely unknown beyond the direct influence of Shinra. While the rest of the world gotten as far as 'trains' in the tech tree, Shinra developed rocket and jet technology, lasers, teledildonics, machine guns, robots, you name it. They were headquartered in Midgar, which is namechecked as a floating city rather often, and runs on the magitech equivalent of nuclear power. Worse, in a series where crystals are the ultimate emblem of natural magic and harmony, mako is used to create materia, artificial magitech crystals.

Final Fantasy X is a bizarre case, which I include only tentatively; the city of Zanarkand was a city of high technology, like Bevelle. But unlike Bevelle, Zanarkand used magic for war instead of technology. The nature of technology ('machina') and magic in the world is a pivotal theme in FFX, but magitech is never really defined in Spira's world, nor is the nature of summoning versus other forms of magic. As such, I'm not sure how to classify Sin in this instance. It seems to have part of a city, likely either Zanarkand or a bizarre homage to it, growing out of its back. Honestly, I would call Sin part aeon, part technological, part biological, and part magical. Whatever it is, it's definitely a perversion of one or all of those things. It is worth pointing out that in X-2, magitech is certainly evil; Bevelle's Vegnagun superweapon draws its power from pyreflies, and- please realize the tremendous pain it causes me to mention this at all- would canonically serve as the forebear to mako in FFVII.

We can find instruction even in the titles which subvert the rule, especially II, III, and VI.

In Final Fantasy II, the Floating City is Pandemonium, which- and please, prepare yourself for the most metal sentence you'll read today- is a superdimensional nightmare castle created when Emperor Mateus of Palamecia was sent to hell and usurped the fucking Devil, taking command of Hell to invade the natural world. While Pandemonium is in no way technological, the important thing here is that it represents a corruption of the natural order, which I think goes without saying in this case.

In Final Fantasy III, the Floating Continent is actually more like a normal country, and the largest departure from the theme. The continent was created totally by accident as a side effect of Xande draining two of the four crystals and demolishing the natural order of the world. In starkest contrast, the Floating Continent is actually a good thing, as it houses much of the remainder of the human race, as the world below is rendered almost entirely uninhabitable. While this means the floating continent was still created in an act of natural corruption, FFIII seemed to have a 'thing' going with subverting the establishment, such as the backstory telling that an overwhelming favoring of Light in the natural order is just as harmful as overwhelming darkness, which required four heroic Warriors of Darkness. This doesn't make much difference in the actual narrative, which is about more Light Warriors, but it is interesting that this game, in particular would do such a thing... Coincidentally, did you know that the world maps of FFIII and Final Fantasy VIII are the same? This leads a lot of people to think that they take place on the same world, the latter many ages after the former. More on that later...

It could be said that the floating cities in II and III were odd ducks because high technology, despite being present- and in this capacity, to boot- in Final Fantasy, it hadn't yet solidified as a series touchstone and would not do so until IV.

In Final Fantasy VI, the floating land is not technological in any way, despite VI focusing heavily on magitech for the first time and much of the early plot revolving around it. However, VI also had a different set of ground rules to work with. As stated, in all other Old Series games, magic is good, technology is bad, and magitech is evil. In Final Fantasy VI, however, technology is bad, magic is even worse, and magitech is fucking horrible, because the world of VI was a terrible place to live. Also, in VI, technology and even magitech, despite being a far greater focus than in its predecessors and part of the game's claim to fame, actually don't matter very much at all to the plot. Magitech is the center of the early plot, but is mainly a red herring; the main contribution of magitech is driving Kefka mad before the events of the game even occur, and serves mainly as a way for the Empire to show how evil they are before they are bumped off halfway through the narrative. Kefka's scheme itself required no magitech, and was actually totally possible as soon as purely-technological airships were devised, or even a lawn chair tied to a hundred balloons. This might be significant, since airships are almost always given a 'pass' on their alignment. The floating land housing the Warring Triad is completely magical, and the 'subversion of nature' is actually tremendously beneficial to the world. So I guess the theme doesn't apply at all to FFVI.

Except Final Fantasy VI is a fakeout! The actual floating land isn't the thematic Floating City. That title belongs to Kefka's Tower. After coming to power, Kefka combines the crashed floating land and the destroyed city of Vector into his tower, destroying the planet for laughs in the process. The Tower is the game's true Floating City, representing the fallen Vector Empire, the unleashed magic of the Triad, and Kefka, the insane magitech sorcerer-god controlling it.

Two: The Floating City brings about its own ruin, and that of it's creators.

This is true in I, II, V, VI, VII, and X. It is true to a degree in IV. It doesn't apply to III, because Final Fantasy III is sort of loony.

We see almost nothing of the civilization which created the Flying Fortress, but the presence of nuclear-equipped autonomous battlemechs might give us a clue to their demise. Or hell, maybe Tiamat ate them all for shitting up the sky.

Pandemonium, like a few other instances, is more thematic. While humanity has the capacity for both good and evil, the villains of many of the games trade away their humanity and therefore pass beyond hope of redemption. Emperor Mateus dies and is reborn as the ruler of Hell, no longer human but a creature of pure evil, with Pandemonium as his throne. Pandemonium does not destroy its creator bodily, but is emblematic of the corruption and loss of the irreplaceable human nature that sealed Mateus' fate as a villain and his destruction at the hands of the Light Warriors.

IV, as is usual, is sort of an edge case. Mainly because the Floating Cities in this case weren't even built by humans, but by Lunarians (by the way, Lunarians are all TOTAAAL DIIIIICKS, but that's a whole 'nother rant). Specifically, Zemus, wishing to invade Earth and wipe out the humans rather than wait in stasis until they could coexist peaceably, led the construction of the Tower of Zot and the Tower of Babil, as well as the Giant of Babil which the latter tower was used to control. This couldn't really ever lead to the end of Lunarian civilization, because this has already happened, which is why they're out planet-shopping on the Red Moon in the first place. But once again, the technology, which is completely out of step with both Earth AND the other Lunarians, who are a more 'robe and crystal' type of mystic alien dudes, represents how Zemus' spirit is completely out of step as well. In the end, Zemus suffers the same fate as Mateus, dying and losing his dual, mortal nature for a supernatural, completely evil existence as Zeromus. In a way, this did, in fact, lead to the end of Lunarian civilization; the activation of the ancient weapons and Zemus' machinations leading to so much trouble on Earth led to the Lunarians sailing the Red Moon away from the Earth and out into the cosmos to find a new planet where they wouldn't be such awful fucking neighbors anymore. Way to dick yourselves out of the community, you Moony assholes! Seriously, fuck Lunarians.

The Ronka destroyed themselves. Period. No two ways about this one. On one hand, their civilization in the floating city was untenable in the first place, since it would have eventually destroyed the Earth Crystal that underpinned it. But whoever it was that brought the city down for a landing must have been the last man alive in their race, because the Ronka had a bad habit of experimenting with super death robots, eventually culminating in the creation of Omega, the series' first true superboss. In a game with a 99-level cap for enemies and characters alike, Omega was Level 119. The only real reference to it left is an ancient scrap of paper reading "OH SHIT OH GOD OMEGA IT'S DESTROYING EVERYTHING OH HOLY CHRIST THIS IS SO RAD AAAAAAHHHH THE FIRE". Ultimately, no one could actually kill the damn thing, managing instead to teleport it to the X-Zone, existence's garbage dump.

In VI, we get a twofer: the Vector Empire destroys itself literally by creating Kefka, who murders Emperor Gestahl and annihilates the city (and everything else), and metaphorically when Kefka trades away his humanity for ultimate nihilist clown power.

In VII, the Shinra destroy themselves pretty handily. Mako, the nuclear magitech that supported their civilization, was an untenable resource that would have run dry and snuffed out the entire Planet anyway, and that was before meddling with ancient John Carpenter homages and cockamamie supersoldier projects. All of these things would come back to haunt them as the Shinra and their city are simultaneously wiped out by radical eco-terrorists, Kaiju monsters, doppelganger plague mutants, vengeful spirits, a doomsday meteor, the pure energy of magic incarnate, as well as just being a shitty place to live in general. I imagine they took a real beating on the stock exchange, too.

In Final Fantasy X, the description fits in multiple ways. The creation of Sin was the last resort of the people of Zanarkand. All of the citizens became fayth, consuming their bodies and imprisoning their spirits for the eternal summoning of Dream Zanarkand. Yunalesca, who devised the Final Summoning, traded away her mortality and humanity to carry on the practice. Her husband, Zaon, was crafted into the first Sin. Yu Yevon, the summoner of Sin itself, was unable to control its blasphemous power, losing his sanity and his human mind and form. If he had any plans to bring the real Zanarkand back after putting Bevelle in its place, they became impossible as the rudderless abomination swam about depopulating the world on instinct. In addition to the original creation, the eternal cycle of Sin's rebirth is an important theme in itself. Summoners and guardians who accept the cycle are doomed to die, the summoner in calling the Final Summon to defeat the old Sin and the guardian in becoming the Final Summon and the new Sin, perpetuating the cycle. However, those who reject the practice and destroy the means by which to accomplish it, despite having no other plan and effectively dooming the world, go on to defeat it permanently because summamsusuas lalalalalalala I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LOGIC!

Three: The Floating City is a destructive force, often weaponized.

We see this in I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, and X.

Final Fantasy III, again, does not really apply; while the Floating Continent was created by actions which indeed resulted in the destruction of the rest of the world, the continent itself is just a big patch of land. It would have been a nice place to live, too, if Xande hadn't gotten a big, scaredy bug up his ass about people meddling with his crystals and shit.

Obviously, this was the case in Final Fantasy. It wasn't called the Flying Fortress because they went around delivering hugs to needy poodles. Again, I think the severe Metal Gear infestation may shed a little light on this one.

In Final Fantasy II, Pandemonium is a transdimensional invasion fortress from Hell. I think we can call this one pretty cut and dry.

In Final Fantasy IV, we have the Tower of Zot, and the Tower and Giant of Babil. Zot is sort of a mystery; it seems to be a base for Golbez, and must have originated from Zemus, who wasn't a very nice person, but nothing is revealed about its nature or purpose. The Tower of Babil, on the other hand, is equipped with a superlaser for all your dwarf-blasting needs and functions as an activation/control device for the Giant of Babil, a mountain-sized killbot created to go forth and fuck mankind up, genociding the planet into Lunarian habitability. Oh come on, I don't believe for a second that Zemus just sort of figured out how to make this shit on the fly, or that he was the only one building this shit out of his whole race. What the fuck was Lunarian civilization like before they moved onto the Red Moon?! I think I have a pretty clear fucking picture of what happened to their original planet! Seriously, FUCK Lunarians. MOONIES!

The Ronka ruins were a destructive force in more ways than one. As the events of the narrative show, using the elemental crystals in magitech devices is a bad idea, and will cause them to crack and shatter before too long. Merely by existing, the Ronka Ruins threatened the Earth Crystal, and through it, the seal on Exdeath, the split worlds, and the Cleft of Dimension. In a more literal sense, the Ronka ruins were covered in a great number of big fuck-off missiles and lasers and flamethrowers and shit. Holy crap, who fights air-to-air with a flamethrower?! Who were the Ronka even fighting; only their civilization had the level of tech to fly! Does it surprise anyone they built hyper death bots and doomed their own race?!

In VI, Kefka's Tower definitely holds to the standard. Affixed to the top of the tower is the Light of Judgment, a doomsday laser that Kefka can fire anywhere in the world whenever he's in a bad mood, or a good mood, or bored. No, it DOESN'T make sense that he can fire it beyond the horizon, unless the overworld really is a recursive 2D plane. (Note, however that this exact phenomenon may be canon in FFVI- true fact!) The Light causes fire, explosions, earthquakes, monster summons, headaches, nausea, and priapism.

In VII, Midgar is home to eight massive mako reactors, each one of which is capable of depleting vast amount of Lifestream to make mako. And no there is NOT a hidden Reactor 0 and if you suggest there is I will tear the face off your head and speak dirty lies through its mouth in a mockery of your sinful existence. Combined, these eight (EIGHT) reactors have rendered the surrounding geography for an immense distance incapable of supporting basic life, making Midgar a literal black spot on the face of the Planet. Late in the game, Scarlet's ultimate homage to penis envy is moved from Junon and rigged up to the reactors to fire mako rays, weaponizing the entire city.

Final Fantasy X has Sin. Take. A wild. Guess.

Conclusion: The Floating City is the symbol of destructive hubris and ambition.

In the eyes of the classic series, these are the hallmarks of mankind's worst potential. In the early series, the planet is the ultimate good. The planet produces life, and symbolizes harmony, with all things in a peaceful, natural order. Magic and the elements are either the cause of this state of affairs, the effect of it, or both in turn.

The Floating City represents mankind's ultimate rejection of all of the above: the rejection of magic and the natural order through technology and magitech; the rejection of peace through weaponry and war; the defilement of nature and life through consumption and corruption of the land; and a rejection of the planet itself by separating bodily from it, and attempting to live away. Yes, the whole floating part isn't just for show after all.

We can, of course, see where the games are going with this. These civilizations are untenable, and always destroy themselves through shortsightedness or black-heartedness. Often, the civilizations are ancient and long forgotten, while people who knew nothing of them persist a thousand years later with nothing to observe of their predecessors but inexplicably-functioning ruins and killbots, because say what you will for Ronka, they make that shit to last.

These civilizations' way of life, it is demonstrated, is our way of life- or it could be, if we let it come to that. The early series uses the Floating City as a satire of the faults of modern life: the destruction of the environment, world wars, atomic weaponry, etc. The Floating City is a cautionary tale, a vision of what we could become if we collectively just stop caring, if we forget our kindness and our willingness to live as one. The series always tried to demonstrate that cooperation with one another to promote simple peace and unity outlives even the grandest of selfish ambitions to power or wealth.

I make it sound dire, but the Floating City is only a small, but visible part of a series enamored of the ideas of environmentalism, justice, and, above all, simple friendship. Everyone who knows the series can rattle off a list of times when characters were saved from despair simply by making a genuine connection with another individual, like Terra, Cloud, Squall, and Yuna. And just as easily to name a character who, in isolation, rejected the world, grew bitter, and sealed their own fate, like Zemus, Kefka, Sephiroth, Seifer, and Seymour.

The Floating City is not just a symbol of society's destructive ambitions and its rejection of the world; it is a symbol of the individual's rejection of society, and the fall from unity, friendship and love into isolation and despair, and from there into selfishness, resentment, and outright evil.

So that's all the tower means, Rocko? Give a hoot, don't pollute? Make love, not war? Well, I guess there's some truth to that. But at the end of the day, almost all themes and morals, extracted from their encompassing context, are just trite and banal. Anyone can walk up to someone else and tell them not to be an asshole, or not to dump their motor oil in the yard holy shit what are you even doing.

But it's not about simply presenting and demonstrating these ideas, and in fact, that alone is always a bad idea; people will always reject too-obvious themes as simple platitudes and diatribes. Themes like this must be woven into the work subtly, so that they shape the world in a light, natural way. They must be part of the environment and kept in their appointed place and proportion, as present and vital as air- and as unobtrusive. When a theme is used amateurishly as a theory to be demonstrated to the audience, it burdens the work that is made to support its weight. But when used properly as an assumption of the world it inhabits, it empowers the work by lifting it up, and the art is free to move about naturally on its surface.

The series has many examples of the former, but I think the Floating City is an example of a success in this regard. They demonstrate a bevy of the underlying assumptions of the settings they inhabit without needing to consciously or laboriously invoke them, and are free to function as the cool sci-fi/fantasy setpieces that they are. This is the optimal state for the Floating City: a trope, a bit of shorthand unique to the series that communicates a well of ideas and beliefs without having to explain any of them, and without forcing the audience to dwell on them if they don't care. Well, Sin might have been a bit heavy-handed, but holy shit was the writing all over the place in that game. And Sin had other things going for it, like being an immortal, invincible doomwhale.

That's not all, either. The very image of the Floating City can be invoked not only in its own context but likely in deference to our larger collective consciousness as well. I deliberately made the reference to tarot earlier; the Tower symbolizes the downfall of ambitions built on false pretenses and the disillusionment of spurious ideals. In Final Fantasy, the Floating City is the Tower, literally and figuratively. And the tower always falls in the end. We do, after all, say that one who is chasing doomed ambitions and groundless dreams is "building castles in the sky." It's just that in the Final Fantasy series, these are always a particular stable of fallacies that oppose the true ideals of the series.

Coincidentally, the arcana of the World represents unified consciousness, real accomplishment and fulfillment, and leads to true understanding. It also represents the cycle of life, often depicting an ouroborous, as it is the last arcana before the deck restarts. I wonder if Hironubu Sakaguchi worships Thoth.

AAAAAAAAaaaaaaand then there's fucking Final Fantasy VIII.

If there's any weight that idea that III and VIII are linked to one another, then perhaps it's significant that III started the rebellion against the usual rigamarole that FFVIII would go on to perfect. Because let me tell you, VIII is bonkers. See, when I say that I-VII are the 'Old Series,' I mean that they, together, comprise a set of overarching themes that are identifiable with regularity in each of the first seven titles, with the consistencies and focus on these themes tending to grow stronger as the series progressed. Things like the characteristics and role of magic and nature, technology and magitech, crystals, elemental fiends, the Floating City, and more, are all present in some form or another and in consistent shape throughout these first seven games.

Final Fantasy VIII does everything backwards. Up is down, black is white, man is slave to dog, and stupid, shitty teenagers actually act like stupid, shitty teenagers instead of like real people. After Final Fantasy VIII, the series never really went back to embrace its prior dogmas, ending the old era. In the previous games, the planet is the ultimate good, and nature and magic, which come from the world, are therefore also good. Humans are part of the planet, yet stand apart from it, and therefore have capacity for good or evil. Technology, which represents the unnatural half of human nature, is therefore often evil, and technology which subverts magic and nature, which are often synonymous with one another, are the ultimate sin. In Final Fantasy VIII, the world and the human race was created by Hyne (which is a FFIII reference, by the way). Hyne created the world and humanity on a lark, and then went to sleep because he was tired from fighting Cthulhu and Galactus and all the other monster-gods around because (say it with me) the universe of VIII is an awful place to live. All magic in the world comes from Hyne. So, if Hyne is good, magic must be good, right? Well, when he woke up, he decided that there were too many people, and began massacring the world's children to depopulate the planet. So we can guess at the nature of the world and magic in VIII. While only sorceresses can use the magic left behind by Hyne, this power is either treated as a curse for good sorceresses to resist, or a tool of domination for evil sorceresses. The plot of VIII is motivated by two of the latter, who more or less destroy the world by flooding it with millions of moon monsters and destroying time itself. But once again, humanity stands apart from nature, and this time technology is seen as a good thing, because when magic is evil and nature is red in tooth and claw, guns become good.

No, literally! Final Fantasy VII, the first game to have guns as a player-usable weapon class, had two characters who used them: Barret, and Vincent. In both cases, it symbolizes corruption. Barret gave in to the Shinra in the past, but turned against them. Because he gave in to the Shinra, he lost his arm, which was replaced with a gun, forever marking his momentary servility to the Shinra. However, he also turned against the Shinra afterward, meaning he is not entirely corrupt, and can also use various melee-type arm weapons, like a spiked ball, an oversized fist, or ATOMIC FUCKING SCISSORS if you have any joy in your heart. Vincent was not only a Shinra employee, but a member of their wetworks crew, the Turks. He was also an irritating cuckold loser who got turned an abominable monster-person. He also seems to not really give a shit about Shinra, saving the world, the rest of the party, or really anything other than serving his own guilt complex regarding his old not-girlfriend. In sum, he is completely corrupt and can use only pistols, rifles, and shotguns.

But in Final Fantasy VIII, the reverse is true, and guns are regular weapons that don't have any affiliation, good or bad, just like swords in previous games. If anything, guns are explicitly good; the character Irvine uses a gun, and he seems to be on the level, I guess. Laguna Loire uses a machine gun, apparently the only member of the Galbadian army to be issued one, and he's the literal Messiah of simple, dumb-headed goodness. But while low-tech melee weapons in general certainly don't seem to be indicative of corruption like technology once was, the sword in particular seems to be indicative of the Sorceress' Knight. Galbadian soldiers are the only entity that uses them as their primary weapon, and they serve possessed Edea, the villain for the portion of the narrative that makes any fucking sense. Sorceress' Knights throughout history are depicted as wielding swords in particular. Gunblades, which are both gun and swords (natch), are used by only two characters: Squall and Seifer. These two characters have a lot in common, and they each are involved in a central theme of the game: togetherness and communion are a force of salvation. Squall's whole character development centers around him realizing that if he wants to be alone for the rest of his life, he will be. He reforms into a more-or-less operable hero when he opens himself up and bags a girlfriend, which also ties into resolving the game's batshit deus ex machina ending. Seifer manages to Yngwie Malmsteen his way out of SeeD, and, believing he has no other alternative, turns to serving Sorceress Edea, alienating himself from everyone else and falling from grace. Notably, Seifer and Squall both become Sorceress' Knights, as well: Seifer apparently to Edea but in actuality to Ultimecia, and Squall to Rinoa. The gunblade's dual nature may well reflect the dual natures of these two characters.

Beyond that quirk of weaponry, the other tables are turned as well. While true magic is evil and technology is good, magitech, represented in VIII by para-magic and Guardian Forces, is actually not worse, but rather better than either. It isn't perfect, as the game demonstrates, but is also the only real tool for fighting back against the terrible natural magic of the sorceresses. In VIII's world, magitech isn't a subversion of beneficent nature by corrupt technology, but an appropriation of indifferent or hostile natural power by human ingenuity. Additionally, Odine, the creator of magitech, originates the (horrendously stupid) plan to defeat Ultimecia, despite the man himself being sort of an amoral nutcase.

So what's the floating city in Final Fantasy VIII? I have no fucking idea. I don't even know what that would mean in the context of this loony world and its bizarro themes. If I had to make a stab in the dark, I'd say Esthar would work. It's the pinnacle of human technology and magitech, but unlike what we see in the rest of the series, it does everything else backwards. Which fits, I guess. It doesn't exactly float, but it's got plenty of skyscrapers, elevated 'floating' highways, and a space program. Rather than symbolizing a fall from grace through corrupt ambition, Esthar starts out under the thumb of the monstrous Sorceress Adel, which the citizens unite to successfully overthrow. Laguna Gump is made president for life, having birthed La Revolucion by accident, and Esthar begins a golden age of glorious technology.

Esthar does cut itself off from the rest of the world, but it does so because of the wars started by Adel and they rightly assume everyone else is probably scared shitless of them and a bit pissed off. The City was weaponized at one time, but they threw their superweapon, the Lunatic Pandora, into the ocean, where it stayed until it was recovered by evil sorceress magic. Notably, the Lunatic Pandora isn't even an artificial weapon; it's a carrying case for a natural crystal pillar that summons moon monsters every now and again, because in VIII, nature sucks, and crystals are evil.

Ultimately, I think the difference between VIII and the preceding games is this: the early series is, like most works of fantasy, elegiac. It envisions a time in ages long past when humans lived simple, carefree lives, living simply in harmony with the land and one another, using every part of the buffalo and all that. Final Fantasy VIII doesn't cotton to this. It knows good and goddamn well that the natural state of the world is everything killing and eating everything else, all the time, where members of any species band together peaceably for the sake of surviving to the next day. This is a world where "nature" means that at any moment, a hundred million ravenous moon monsters could rain down, literally shatter your continent into pieces, and devour your entire civilization. So FUCK YES we need guns, and probably laser cannons and robots and shit while we're at it. Our God was evil, and we literally skinned him alive. Don't fuck with humanity!

Magic is the legacy of the god who created such a shitty world and managed to dick over humanity twice in the process, an unknowable, unpredictable and inhuman force responsible for eons of strife and destruction. Humans are still a dual entity, with one foot in nature and one foot out, but its the ways that we surpass and overcome nature that elevate us above the savagery of the natural world. Technology and magitech are the tools that we use to free ourselves from Hyne's legacy, and build a world of prosperity and plenty. Rather than sequestering humanity away from understanding and unity, human ambition and 'unnatural' achievement are what liberate us to even give those concepts a niche to exist. And there is, in fact, a floating city of sorts, if you count the space station. It's pretty bitchin'. So suck on that, I guess, Midgar, with your shitty rotting pizza city and your loser space program that never went anywhere.

It's worth pointing out that the point on the map occupied by the Floating Continent of Final Fantasy III contains the Floating (as in, on the water) Research Center in FFVIII. The Research Center connects to ancient undersea ruins, too. Shit, I guess the Tower of Owen didn't hold out forever.

So that's 6,000 words about some shit I made up. How does this apply to Final Fantasy XII? Well, like I said, the Bahamut is the Floating City in Final Fantasy XII, and understanding the gravity that symbol carries lends a unique context to all the narrative and thematic threads that attend it. I often say that the standard themes of the old series don't apply to XII, and that's true for a couple of reasons: they haven't really meant much at all since the olden times anyway, and XII is an Ivalice game, and has its own set of themes and expectations to UTTERLY FUCKING FAIL AT UUUUUUURRGH.

But occasionally something like this does come up, and I just thought I'd point it out this time. So, how well does the Sky Fortress Bahamut hold up to the template? Well, I guess we'll just see...

To be continued.

Brian Tams

New member
Sep 3, 2012
TheRocketeer said:
Final Fantasy X is a bizarre case, which I include only tentatively; the city of Zanarkand was a city of high technology, like Bevelle. But unlike Bevelle, Zanarkand used magic for war instead of technology. The nature of technology ('machina') and magic in the world is a pivotal theme in FFX, but magitech is never really defined in Spira's world, nor is the nature of summoning versus other forms of magic. As such, I'm not sure how to classify Sin in this instance. It seems to have part of a city, likely either Zanarkand or a bizarre homage to it, growing out of its back. Honestly, I would call Sin part aeon, part technological, part biological, and part magical. Whatever it is, it's definitely a perversion of one or all of those things. It is worth pointing out that in X-2, magitech is certainly evil; Bevelle's Vegnagun superweapon draws its power from pyreflies, and- please realize the tremendous pain it causes me to mention this at all- would canonically serve as the forebear to mako in FFVII.


In Final Fantasy X, the description fits in multiple ways. The creation of Sin was the last resort of the people of Zanarkand. All of the citizens became fayth, consuming their bodies and imprisoning their spirits for the eternal summoning of Dream Zanarkand. Yunalesca, who devised the Final Summoning, traded away her mortality and humanity to carry on the practice. Her husband, Zaon, was crafted into the first Sin. Yu Yevon, the summoner of Sin itself, was unable to control its blasphemous power, losing his sanity and his human mind and form. If he had any plans to bring the real Zanarkand back after putting Bevelle in its place, they became impossible as the rudderless abomination swam about depopulating the world on instinct. In addition to the original creation, the eternal cycle of Sin's rebirth is an important theme in itself. Summoners and guardians who accept the cycle are doomed to die, the summoner in calling the Final Summon to defeat the old Sin and the guardian in becoming the Final Summon and the new Sin, perpetuating the cycle. However, those who reject the practice and destroy the means by which to accomplish it, despite having no other plan and effectively dooming the world, go on to defeat it permanently because summamsusuas lalalalalalala I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LOGIC!
There are a couple of things that I'd like to point out in regards to Final Fantasy X and magic/tech/magitech.

1. Seymour could act as the bridge between magic and technology within Final Fantasy X. Think about it.
a). He's part Guado, a race that is the guardians of the Farplane, or pyreflie heaven. The Farplane itself is an extraordinarily magical place, and the Guados themselves are shown to be adept at manipulating the pyreflies to fit their own needs (shown by their ability to summon fiends on the spot). Seymour also uses the most powerful (at least, within the lore of the game) aeon, Anima.
b). Seymour also becomes a Maester of the order of Yevon, which operates out of Bevelle. Bevelle, both before and after the war with Zanarkand, is basically the seat of technological power in Spira, even if the majority of Spira's citizens don't even know it.
c). The second, third, and final time you fight Seymour, he wears a series of distinct mechanical, ah, excuse, Machina suits of armor that also employ magic. Whenever you defeat Seymour while he's wearing one of these suits, pyreflies erupt from them, leading me to believe that they are what they draw their power from. Which means that these suits Seymour wears could easily be classified as Magitech.

If we consider those three points, then Seymour can be looked at as the corrupted form of both magic and technology. There's also his motivation to become the next Sin to consider, as well, which is the highest form created by the summoners of Zanarkand.

On the note of aeons...

2. Its reasonable to classify the aeons as products of magic, at least in my opinion. It fits with the narrative of the war that way; the most powerful technological force in Bevelle battling against the most powerful magical force in the summoners of Zanarkand. Not only that, but the forms that the aeons take when on earth are constructed entirely of pyreflies, which I also classify as magic.

3. Now that you've brought the whole "Magic is natural and good, while Technology is evil" thing to my attention, the narrative of the 1st act (which goes from the opening credits to the the conclusion of Operation Mi'ihen) is almost self-aware of the archetypes of the old games. Hell, its borderline parody.
Think about it. Yevonites live a life free of technology, since they believe Sin is their punishment for relying too damn much on technology. They literally believe that Machina is the embodiment of all evil in the land. So they rely instead of magic and a natural way of life. Its would be a very in your face nod to the old seven.

But then, you later find out that Yevon is actually using a shit ton of technology, as it is only pushing the no machina angle as a way to control the Yevonites. Add to this that Yevon is run by a bunch of dicks, and it seems that the writers of Final Fantasy X either intended to challenge the themes of the original games, or wanted to outright reject them. Never really considered that before.

4. I believe FFX approached magic and technology as things rather than corrupting forces. Each arm has both an evil representation and a good representation of each.
Technology has the evil representative in Bevelle, which starts the war with Zanarkand and then later seeks to control the people of Spira with the sham-religion of Yevon. Then you have the good representative of technology in the Al-Bhed, who want to help stop Sin, try to keep Summoners from throwing their life away on the pilgrimage, and are generally not the assholes that Yevon makes them out to be.
And then you have good and evil representations of magic. The evil representation can be both seen in Guadosolam, who start a genocidal war with the al-bhed, and Zanarkand's hubris believing that it will be able to control such a devastating force as Sin. The good representation would be all the high summoners, who sacrificed themselves trying to stop Sin.
See, instead of magic being straight good, or technology being straight evil, FFX opted to throw a little gray into the mix. Magic and technology are just things; its the people who use them that decide whether it will be for good or for evil.

Or at least in my opinion.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
That's the thing about Final Fantasy X, though: aside from Sin rolling in and killing people occasionally, Spira would be a paradise, even without technology. Aside from the teensy amount of technology that Yevon allows, we are never shown a situation where people could really benefit from the technology that they're forbidden.

All Spirans want to do is lay in the sun and play blitzball, and the only thing stopping them from doing this is Sin and fiend attacks. Summoners and guardians can prevent and destroy fiends, respectively, and the only reason they don't do this full-time is because they're all dedicated to stopping Sin directly.

The upshot is that while Bevelle was wrong to violate their own laws, those laws actually seem to have been more or less correct. The ban on technology isn't absolute, and the allowable technologies seem to encompass everything Spirans actually desire. All of Yevon's laws and practices are centered on avoiding and fighting Sin, which is the only problem in the world, anyway. Their system is shown to be flawed, but they only embraced that system because they themselves didn't know any better. The only stringent machina ban specified is on weaponry, and this is shown to be totally justified. Yes, they themselves relied on it, but that doesn't subvert their ban, it just confirms it: machina weaponry is evil... so naturally, the most evil people in Spira rely on it the most.

But machina weaponry is shit. It didn't work for Chappu, it didn't work for Operation Mi'ihen, it couldn't protect Home from random deadbeat monsters, and an entire army of soldiers with rifles, flamethrowers, and robotic armor and artillery support couldn't stop a handful of jerks with melee weapons and magic. The Invincible is used to good effect, but it's an airship, and in Final Fantasy, airships get a free pass.

Furthermore, despite the Al Bhed's reliance on it, machina don't seem to be doing anything of value for them. In the real world, we can tell technology and advancement is good because we can compare North Korea and South Korea. In Spira, the Al Bhed have been free to develop all the machina they want, and they are literally the unhappiest people on the planet. They don't live any better. They aren't healthier or more comfortable. They aren't safer. They have nothing to show for the freedom they had. And they obviously couldn't have been expanding faster than other places or they would have attracted Sin and been annihilated already.

But you're correct in saying that it's not as cut and dry in Spira as "magic good, tech bad." But it also isn't as simple as both magic and technology being both good AND bad. As far as I can tell, they're both evil!

In Spira, magic and technology are both responsible for world-threatening disasters: the ultimate technology was Bevelle's weaponry (along with, in the sequel, Vegnagun), which was used to commit genocide on Zanarkand. The ultimate magic was Sin, which was used to commit genocide on everyone. There is no regular, beneficial use of either magic or technology because, as shown by the game, the world is already a paradise without either of them. Magic and technology's only beneficial uses are to ineffectively combat the much stronger, evil forms of themselves.

But even upon succeeding, they aren't left with anything better to replace them with; the status quo is only improved by bringing it closer to a state of nature. Sit on the beach. Bounce a ball. It really is that simple in Spira.

The world of Spira seems to have the most in common with the world of FFVI. Nature and harmony are still the ideal, but rather than magic representing good as a part of nature, it's divorced from nature, and loses any inherently good nature while remaining dangerously corruptible, like technology. Magic and technology have more capacity to harm than to help, and mankind can't be free from either because the nature of magic and technology provide the strongest tools to the people most eager to abuse them.

But at least in FFVI, the world is shown to be more or less normal, and while there isn't any super tech or miracle magic to give the world a major leg up over our own, they are still necessary to the advancement and sustenance of regular civilization. This makes the struggle ultimately necessary and worthwhile.

Not so in Spira. Mankind is demonstrably better off with nothing more than straw huts and watersports, but can't help destroying it by tampering. The setting is as nihilistic and farcical as Mika and the maesters concluded: the whole world is Eden, every fruit is an apple, and everyone is a serpent.

Say it with me: Spira is a terrible place to live. But at least there are no Lunarians there! *shakes fist* MOONY JERKS!

Brian Tams

New member
Sep 3, 2012
No, you're right. I might've stretched the "But there are examples of good!!!" with my imagination (its been a while since I played FFX, which is amusing because i'm staring at the HD remaster right now which has barely been played).

I've never played IV. Are the Lunarians really so terrible?


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
Brian Tams said:
I've never played IV. Are the Lunarians really so terrible?
Well, yes and no. I'm exaggerating for effect, but not nearly as much as you might think. The Lunarians are a blight on the world.

The Lunarians seem to have two separate and irreconcilable sides to them. On one hand, you have Fusoya and the peaceful, Kryptonian, whirling spires and crystals, robe-wearing Loonies. But then you have Zemus and the genocidal, Sith, robots and lasers, mechanical-dystopia aesthetic type Loonies.

So you have this odd situation when the Lunarians reach Earth on their Moon-mobile, decide that humanity is too primitive and savage to live peacably in understanding with the Lunarians, and decide to just sleep in stasis until we catch up. And the other half of the Lunarians, led by Zemus, decide to use giant robot superweapons to peace-and-understanding our primitive, savage race right out of existence so they can move in immediately.

So, the Lunarians manage to seal away Zemus and resume their waiting game, while leaving all of the Lunarian doomsday weaponry on Earth and doing nothing to clean it up. Eventually, Kluya comes to Earth for kicks and giggles so he can introduce advanced magic and technology to a race that his people believe are completely unready for it, and also to get his extraterrestrial freak on. Kluya teaches magic to humanity, as well as teaching how to make airships, teleporters, and who knows what else. Then, some time after fathering two kids (ages and ages after arriving; Lunarians live practically forever) he gets killed by humans for some non-specified reason. I like to think he was in the middle of teaching some kids how to load and arm an atomic hyper-kablammerator and had no idea why he was attacked.

So, one of his kids, Theodor, gets mind-controlled by Zemus, which is possible because he is half Lunarian: connected enough to the Loonies for Zemus to be able reach into his mind, but not strong enough to resist his control. Theodor takes the alias Golbez, knocks off the king of the most powerful country in the world, and establishes a puppet government so he can restart all the alien doomsday tech and wipe out humanity.

The resulting war results in the destruction of several nations and the end of a lot of ruling dynasties. The game treats Kluya like a saint, but literally everything he did on Earth enabled the entire conflict. After the main party knocks off Zemus, Golbez, free of his control, stays on the Lunarian moon, which decides to leave our primitive, savage race alone and zoom off to another world. I'm guessing they arrived at R5 at taught the Ronka peace, understanding, and how to build robots.

The game hardly even treats the departure of the Lunarians as a bittersweet thing. The tone seems to be, "Yeah! We finally got rid of them! Those guys that caused literally every disaster on Earth for the last two thousand years!" *shakes fist* MOOOOOONIEEEES!


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
PART 10: The Wyrmking Descends

As is the standard of RPG's, the Bahamut is headed straight for Dalmasca, but it will patiently check its speed so that it does not arrive until the party is done chopping up monster parts in a swamp to haggle for new boots. But Ashe & Co, LLC. already stocks the biggest boots in all Ivalice, so it's time to get in the Strahl and go end the game with a hearty bout of impassioned philosophical and ethical debate between heads of state, assuming we have time between the epic cyber-Saiyan showdown.

The people in Rabanastre don't even know what the fuck when the mile-tall Bahamut rolls up over the city, mainly because its power causes it to screw up the weather and it is constantly wreathed in a vortex of clouds almost too thick to see through. Classed as a Heavy Carrier, the ship is the flagship of both the 12th Fleet led by Lord Zargabaath (convenient, considering he's the only named Judge still alive) and the Western Armada led by Lord Vayne.

Inside, we're treated to the sight of Vayne himself standing at the CIC of his shiny new Death Star, flanked by... Larsa?! What the fuck, kid? He seems to be cool as a cucumber riding shotgun with big bro as he tears ass across Galtea set on crushing the Rebel scum. Shit, Cid probably got the idea for the Bahamut from a drawing Larsa made when he was ten.

As the fortress makes ready to fire its main weapon, Vayne muses on the bitter irony of Cid being slain by his own son('s platonic girlfriend's pet demon), noting that there's a lot of that going around lately. Shit, if we'd finished off Gabranth back at the Pharos, maybe we could have given the little Hiddleston incentive enough to shiv Vayne in the neck and call the plot good.

Larsa tries to talk his brother out of firing on the Resistance fleet, revealing that they had already surrendered before this scene kicked off. Unfortunately for our team, they don't make fucks small enough for Vayne to spare and the Resistance chose the wrong damn day to stand in for Yavin IV. Vayne gives the order to fire, and the Sister Ray jutting out of the top levels of the fortress blasts the trireme-like Resistance airships with a direct hit, which explodes on impact with the kind of force that destroyed Ghis' Leviathan and the 8th Fleet over Jagd Yensa, destroying the entire surrendered fleet in a single blast.

Onboard, Larsa's jaw drops as he takes another large step to becoming a man. Vayne isn't just doing this to be a jerk, as he explains: once he demonstrates the Bahamut's force, he reasons that the Resistance will have no choice but to muster all their forces at it, where he will crush them in one go.

I'd say that it might teach them to act like a proper Resistance and stay the hell away from the enemy superweapon, since they already apparently had enough firepower to engage the rest of the Imperial armada without it even before they started getting reinforcements from Rozarria, forcing the Empire to try and trot their ungainly heavy carrier wherever the nimble Resistance is harassing them or concentrate all their ships with the flagship, where their supply lines can be easily cut and their homeland infrastructure bombarded.

But Larsa has more philosophical grounds for dissent, saying that this will just make them hate him even more. I mean, they already hated him enough to go to war with him, but I guess it's the principle of the thing. Vayne knows good and well that just leaving them alone will only lead to more uprisings, as it did after the relatively calm past two years. Yes, it seems Vayne is going with the British "we can beat these entire countries until they give up" route of empire building rather than the Roman "nice country you got there, shame if something were to happen to it" type deal.

Naturally, this is too out-in-the-open for Larsa, who believes that they could better end the conflict with cooperation and diplomacy. Larsa, for the first time, seems upset and angered by his brother's ambition. Yes, this is what it took for Larsa to stop idolizing his elder brother unconditionally: not the murder of his two elder brothers; not the conquest of two nations and the utter annihilation of one of them; not murdering his father to usurp his position; not framing the Senate for the crime to remove any objection to his tyranny; not trafficking with fallen angels to build cursed weaponry of unspeakable power; but a discrepancy on the protocol of subjugating the known world for Archades. This is our inside man. This is the reasonable alternative for the Archadian diadem.

Vayne again gives no fucks, and drops a stone cold shutdown on Larsa: he can't stop him because he's shorter than Vayne. Daaaaaaamn. Having thoroughly pwned his lord brother, Vayne gives a short Gihren Zabi pep-talk to the eight or so lucky imperials who got stuck manning the bridge controls in full plate armor. As we ponder whether or not they sky fortress is air conditioned, the main Resistance fleet, with the Marquis Ondore himself at the head in his flagship, the Garland, has taken the bait and attacked en masse.

What follows is a lovely and awesome cutscene of the Resistance armada and the 12th fleet headed by the Bahamut and Judge Zargabaath's Alexander releasing hundreds of small fighter airships and absolutely blowing the ever-loving shit out of each other. It actually seems like the Resistance might have the upper hand, with the fighters holding their own and dealing heavy damage as they strafe the Imperial capital ships. Ondore gives the command to fire, and the combined Resistance armada unleashes a volley trained on the Alexander, which had positioned itself directly between them and the Bahamut at the Imperial front and center. As the Alexander takes heavy damage and starts listing to port, the Marquis orders another volley as soon as a trajectory on the enemy fortress is clear... Then he quickly Akbars his pants as he realizes the Alexander was only screening the Bahamut while it readied another shot! The fortress fires its main weapon and... misses like a champ! The beam of deific annihilation clips the Garland's starboard hull, impacting a ship far to the rear of the Resistance lines. The ship's telemetry and radio indicates that three capital ships are destroyed immediately, including the carrier Galuf-Bal.

Oh, God DAMMIT Final Fantasy! Stop killing Galuf! For fuck's sake, was once not enough for the Bearded Aeris?! Worry not for Ondore's fleet, though; records show that the carrier was immediately replaced by the Krile-Bal, a carrier with inexplicably identical capabilities, which, among others, repeatedly sortied against the Imperial heavy cruiser Gilgamesh until it turned sides in battle to ram and destroy the dreadnought Necrophobe, destroying them both.

It's worth noting that the battle takes place directly over the city of Rabanastre, and the city is spared from the blast radius only by a shimmering blue barrier that seems to stop the nethicite cannon's blast from reaching it. This must be accomplished by a magical- sorry, magickal- paling, the likes of which we saw at Nalbina waaaaaay back when Rasler bit the dust. Though that raises the question, if the paling is strong enough to hold back even an indirect blast from the supercannon, and is roughly no larger than a belltower and powered by a few old dudes chanting at it, is there a reason every airship in every fleet doesn't have one of its own?

Oh well; I'll easily accept that because, real talk, this scene is pretty freaking radical. It sort of amazes me that this game manages to have scenes of airship fleets in greater number, of greater importance to the narrative, and with infinitely more interesting designs and tactics than the entire Mass Effect series combined.

But this game isn't allowed to do anything interesting without our- and I'm airquoting here as hard as I fucking can- "heroes" sticking their collective dick in it, and Ondore spies the Strahl as it shoots past them, headed straight for the Imperial lines. Ashe calls him up on the radio and tells Ondore that she's headed to the Bahamut, to take on Vayne directly.

Ondore, who is probably pretty pissed at Ashe by this time for doing nothing of value, ever, for the Resistance and gallivanting around the whole world accidentally helping the Empire win, tells her to pull her ***** ass back and, you know, not sacrifice herself in a suicidal charge, so she can sit her sandy ass on the Dalmascan throne on the off-chance they actually survive.

To her credit, Ashe knows that there's not going to be any throne or treaty table to bother with if a miracle doesn't do something about the Bahamut right this second, but Ondore knows that this isn't the same thing as having a sane plan. I feel you, Ondore; even I haven't had a good grip on things since Bur-Omisace, and I'm clearly paying more attention than the party.

But the bridge of the Garland is stunned to hear another voice come over the radio: it's none other than... Lord Larsa? Wait, what? He shakily explains that he's been taken aboard the Strahl, so they should be able to pass enemy lines safely. Ondore can't believe that they managed to take the lad hostage, but is even more surprised when he's told that Larsa intends to help them talk Vayne down, of his own accord! Ondore is stunned, and silently wonders how Ashe manages to keep such huge balls from swinging around everywhere under that trashy miniskirt. He collects himself, and gives the order to cover the Strahl as it makes its way to the Bahamut.

I don't really get why they needed Ondore's permission, anyway; what was he going to do, shoot down the Strahl so the Imperials didn't get her first? Of course, we see on board that, no, Larsa can't actually teleport, and he isn't on board the Strahl; it was just Vaan using the ship's outlandish voice-changer from all the way back in Bhujerba! *clap hands for genuine cleverness* It seems that the crew was just channeling the little lord's spirit to pointlessly troll their own allies. I'm sure somewhere on board the sky fortress, he's glowing with pride but can't put his finger on the reason.

Balthier, of course, can hardly fly the ship straight as he comes immediately and by the bucketload, understandably delirious with pleasure at finally putting to practical use a novelty widget he unwittingly paid 400,000 gil for while trashed for three days on shitty serpentwyne and sick half to death with nanna fever. Congratulations, Balthier; a win's a win. Just one question: when did you ever get the chance to put Larsa's voice on that thing? It's wired to the Strahl, and Larsa's never been onboard. Oh, well.

Unfortunately for us (I get to use that phrase a lot, don't I?), we only bother trolling our own side, who meant us no harm, and not the enemy, who intend to kill us dead an have an overwhelming advantage over us. A TIE ends up on the Strahlennium Falcon's tail, which Balthier bravely does nothing at all to avoid, merely flying straight ahead while making glibly smug comments to himself, just like everyone everywhere knew he would. The tailing fighter manages to miss the half dozen shots he bothers to fire off before running headfirst into another fighter. So, that's it for the resistance we'll get from the hundreds of Imperial fighters and capital ships. But once we get to the freaking SKY FORTRESS, what do we really even plan to do?

Well, Balthier has an ingenious plan. See, though the Sky Fortress Bahamut is heavily shielded and carries a firepower greater than half the Resistance fleet, it's defenses are designed around a direct, large-scale assault. A small fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defense! What good are stunt fighters going to do against that? Well, the Empire doesn't consider a small, 6-man fighter to be any threat, or they'd have a tighter defense. An analysis of the plans provided by Princess Ashe has demonstrated a weakness in the battle station. The approach will not be easy: they're required to skim the surface to a docking area. The docking ramp is only two meters wide. It's a small access ramp leading directly to the main command tower. A precise ingress should start a chain reaction which should hand Vayne's ass right to him! Only a direct assault will cause this brutal ass-kicking. This plan is shielded from any actual intelligence, so may Ajora be with us!

Alright, that was fun, but seriously, for a second: if it's this insanely easy to just dock with the super air fortress, why isn't every Resistance craft making an effort to board the damn thing and overtake it from within? Especially considering the Resistance knows they can't win against it conventionally, and, as we will prove, the interior is so pathetically defended that I'm certain the Empire really did never expect anyone would try this, or take steps to prevent it in any way. Shit, even getting close to the Bahamut should have seen the ship lit up with all the anti-air fire that has ever existed or will exist, and once we dock, we just open up the door and walk right in? And no one's guarding the entrance?

Could we have taken a bomb? Now would be a great time to set a bomb, and then JUST FUCKING LEAVE. We have bombs, right? We have hand grenades, so the principle's in place at least. We have forbidden magics and a menagerie of enslaved demons, we have magic ring-powered fighter jets and radioactive superlasers. I'm pretty sure bombs should be a thing. Nethicite works like a bomb. Not that we have any. Or know how to use it. Just sayin'.

It's literally a fifteen second walk until we get to some sort of central bottomless pit area. Can we throw Vayne down this thing to win? I'd appreciate the game giving up all pretense of subtlety at this point. It would be cute. The party stops to gawp at it and whistle through their teeth at the glowy central structure, because no matter how dire the situation, we must never stop being distracted by shiny things, or the Imperials have won in spirit. Their ogling is interrupted by an explosion, because it seems like Ondore has realized that destroying the Bahamut would be totally justified, no matter how many of his no-good, pain-in-the-neck allies might be aboard at the time.

We are treated to another nice scene of one group of fighters getting chewed to shreds by the AA fire that didn't exist only moments ago, while another manages to land a strafing run with some clever tactics. Judge Zargabaath seems confident that the Imperial fleet can withstand the assault. He'd better fucking be right; if the Bahamut turns out to be a piece of trash and the Rebel Alliance manages to push the Empire's shit right in, the entire plot will have been a waste of the player's time. Marqui Marq seems pretty confident, though; let's see what happens!

Back on board, the party is still dicking around in the core having a little chat. I don't even know what the fuck anymore. Sometime around Archades everyone in the party seems to start paying the narrative exactly the amount of respect it deserves, and here at the end they aren't even managing a decent interest in the world literally exploding around them.

The conversation manages to be hilarious, though, as every single party member manages to shit-talk Ashe directly to her face. I'll do my best to paraphrase it here for your enjoyment.

Fran: The Resistance is blasting this place to shit! We better hurry up and kill Vayne before they win, so it looks like we haven't just been wasting everyone's time.

Vaan: No worries. Let's just gut the fancy bastard, so I can have an "in" with the new queen.

Penelo: Are you sure she can handle the burden of rule? It seems like more work than any of us are really cut out for. Especially Ashe.

Basch: Well, when Princess gets sick of having a real job for the first time in her life I guess she can always pawn that other ring off to get "kidnapped" again with the first sleazy pirate that comes rifling through the good silverware.

Balthier: That's a good idea- the silverware thing- but buddy, I really doubt the tart needs my help to run out on her people and dick around for a few months flip-flopping about every goddamn thing.

Ashe: Hah! You think I could make up my mind long enough to even do that?

Vaan: Get real. You've been coasting off this mob of lowlifes and peasants this whole fucking trip and I wouldn't be surprised if you had us in the palace doing all your queen shit for you while you get fat on cockatrice fritters and clean out all the good booze.

After the whole party lets on that they're sick of Ashe's shit, it's another brief walk to an elevator that will take us up the central shaft. But a familiar face shows up to hitch a ride: it's Gabranth! Basch seems confused and annoyed that his dear sibling is still alive and employed. No, I don't know how he's alive, either. He probably got blown clear to Dorstonis by the Pharos explosion, and had to catch a charter airship here.

Gabranth tries to act tough, but he's barely clinging to life at this point, lacking the strength to even stand straight without being wracked by tremendous pain. Gabranth throws himself a little pity party after nearly getting shitcanned, but Basch has no fucks. Gabranth loses his temper, asking Basch how he can still hold his head up after losing three (3) countries and, presumably, three kings in the process, but to Basch, it's simple. He has someone more important to protect: the Lady Ashe.

Ashe says nothing, but it just now strikes her that she needs to keep this man as far away from her as humanly possible.

Basch tries to cheer him up a little bit by pointing out that he can take pride in being Lord Larsa's bodyguard. Even Gabranth doesn't buy that shit; Gabranth has never lifted a damned finger to serve Larsa.


The one chance he got to actually carry out Larsa's will, he threw sanity to the wind and tried to goad the party into carving a wheelbarrow of fantasy nukes and blasting the Empire to pebbles. Shit, here's the trump card: the only times in the entire game that Larsa has been even remotely in danger was while he was traveling with our party, subsequently being guarded by.... Basch.

Gabranth, I'm calling it: you are the worst nemesis ever. I have a better evil twin in real life! And he's four years older than me, we look nothing alike, and we get along great! Granted, there was that time I assumed his identity so he took the rap for that assassination, but he always headlocked me if I beat him in Goldeneye so we agreed to call it square!

Gabranth, enraged by the knowledge of what a miserable lot of screw-ups his whole family is, attacks the party. Whoooaaa, there, bud, hold on. You're hurt really, really bad, and you lost once already at full strength. Seriously, be real for a moment, are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you? Tea? Coffee? X-Potion? I'll work with you! Help me help you!

Basch holds his brother's face as he uselessly windmills his arms around trying to strike him. Unable to do so, he swears that as long as he can curse Basch's name, he will be invincible. Basch gives him a bonecrushing "I'd like to see you try," rolling his eyes slowly and making an exaggerated jerking-off motion. Gabranth, crushed by Basch's utter indifference to his bitchy temper tantrum, asks wryly if Basch "has had his fill of this." Basch, stunned, can't even believe the question he's just been asked, calling his little brother by his real name, Noah. YES, "little brother." I know they're twins. But I know what I seen.

Gabranth remembers what villain he's supposed to be channeling, starts giving his brother the "There is no good left in me" lines. It doesn't even register on Basch. No one even cares. I can't quite remember what it is, but it feels like there was something important we came here to do. Does anyone remember? Penelo? Ashe? No? Fran? No, I don't want to hear about the history and statistics of the Bahamut.

Oh, shit! The Bahamut! We've got a party to crash! Vaan hurries over and starts the elevator, which I really wish we had done before the touching family reunion. As it stands, Gabranth just sort of stays huddled over in the corner, silently reflecting on his innumerable shortcomings while the party bravely endures the longest, most awkward elevator ride this side of the Shinra Building.

Oddly, we arrive not at the conn tower shown earlier, but in an empty, circular chamber that doesn't appear to serve any particular purpose, yet in the center of which we find Vayne and Larsa calmly talking shop. Frankly, I'm pretty sure Larsa was still secretly pissed at Vayne from earlier and intentionally lured him to the Boss Arena.

Vayne is oblivious to such treachery, though, and warmly welcomes Ashelia & Co., Ltd. I wouldn't be surprised, given how badly Gabranth botched everything else at the Pharos, Vayne has no idea that Ashe and the rest are here to assassinate him. His schedule for the afternoon could very well read, "2:00 PM: Meet with that one princess who I think wanted an oil treaty? Or something? Gabranth said she was legit. What kind of name is B'Nargin? *snicker*"

No such luck, I'm afraid; Vayne asks straight out whether Ashe is here to throw down or just talk things out, and she answers evasively, saying that as long as Dalmasca gets hers, it's all the same to her.

I know this is just more Ashe waffling and refusing to commit to anything, but... this actually is a great time to keep your cards close to the chest. Too bad for her, it seems like Vayne was asking less so he could react accordingly and more so he would know what to carve on her tombstone. He takes a kung fu pose and gives a great big-bro-to-little-bro "watch me beat the sand out of this scrub's bloomers."

But Larsa is in fine form, and out-bastards his brother like a true Solidor, drawing his sword and passive-aggressively wondering about how appealing seven-to-one odds seem in light of all the noogies and titty-twisters he had to endure in the past.

Vayne is an old hand at fratricide, though, a fact that probably makes Gabranth feel even more inferior as his tin-can ass comes lumbering up the stairs. Yes, it seems he's chosen this moment to get serious about defending Lord Larsa, now that he can't walk without aid of a handrail and his armor is audibly sloshing with seventeen pints of his own inexhaustible blood.

Vayne actually puts up a good fight; must be that super-high monk strength and vitality, considering he fights unarmed and unarmored. Vayne actually seems pretty disinterested in everything that's happening. In fact, it occurs to me now that Vayne never rarely to display any emotion whatsoever. For once, I'm willing to overlook the fact that this is probably just his voice actor phoning it in and chalk it up to Vayne just being left dead inside from a life of savage bastardry.

Getting beaten the fuck up by six burly lowlifes (hey, Ashe lived in a sewer for two years, call back when she's a real royal) and his little brother seems to raise a little fire in the acting regent of Archadia, though, and he... collapses flat on his face like a plank of wood.

Huh. You know, I've got to say, this was a totally reasonable thing to expect when assaulting an unarmed, unguarded noble with no demonstrable hand-to-hand fighting experience. Good on you, game.

Larsa chooses this moment to become shocked and concerned with his brother's sudden, unexpected poor health (at least, that's what the Archadian newspapers will read), and he runs to his Lord Brother's side.

Psyche! Larsa takes about a million volts from some unseen source, and falls to the ground beside his brother. This is Vayne's favorite prank; it gets Larsa every single time. As for the rest of the interlopers, Vayne has something very special planned for us...


That's right! Vayne slowly begins to rouse as a swirling nethicite aura surrounds him, and he explodes with a sudden two hundred fifty extra pounds of solid, shirt-shredding muscle. A septet of swords swirl around him from thin air, and he floats just above the ground.

Fran crushes her scouter in her hand, unwilling to believe Vayne could so easily veil such an incredible power level.

The Emperor talks tough about his new power, but facts is facts: the sudden bulksplosion has given Vayne a serious case of the ugly, and- pray gather your strength, dear audience- ruined his hair. Weep, O Archadia! What victory could be worth this cost?!

A righteous vengeance fills the party now; halfheartedly shivving a statesman was one thing, but now we have a worthy cause! We fight now on moral principle!

Amazingly, Gabranth manages to haul his powderized bones up the stairs. I'm honestly not sure what the short exchange between him and Vayne means; Vayne tells Gabranth to guard Larsa well, because he'll sure need it in hell, where they're both going... and then Gabranth raises his sword and says defending Larsa is exactly what he intends to do. Vayne, despite having just threatened Gabranth's life, seems surprised by Gabranth's betrayal, and resolves, as if for the first time, to kill him with the others.

I'll leave that alone, because the idea that Gabranth could... wait a second... Darth Gabranth is fighting with our party now? And Emperor Palpidor is all jacked up on the Dark Side?!

GABRANTH! You useless sheet of shitstickers! I have no idea, not one clue, how you're even alive, much less able swing or even raise a weapon with all your fading strength, but if you can hoist Vayne over your head, tromp yourself down those stairs, and hurl his roided-out ass over the side and down the bottomless pit, I will forgive everything you've down since sabotaging your own character at Ridorana. We'll have a nice lovely funeral pyre made for you at Eruyt village, while all the viera sing while watching flaming debris fall on Rabanastre. I will- Wait...

Vayne can fly now, soooo... Eh, fuck the both of you, then.

Vayne chimes in with some lovely gibberish about freeing the world from Occuria. Oh, screw you, you poser! I admit, I liked the cut of your jib up until now, but this? This crap right here? We've already fought this exact boss battle three times now! And it's never worked out for the enemy! Your stupid fucking "fight the power" schtick has gotten mighty old ever since we figured out "the power" could be handily defeated by just telling them to go fuck a fencepost! Oh, and mighty convenient how your big principled stand happens to involve you taking over the world for yourself in the process. And it's not even your plan, you got it from Cid! And he got it from an Occuria, so I don't even know what the fuck!

Could you please manage an original idea before I pound you so hard I cause an integer overflow? Wait, these swords are called Sephiroth? That's an entirely different main villain! And you're, what, "Vayne Novus" now? You realize that was one of Seymour's forms, right? The one compliment I can even pay you right now is that the boss of Valkyria Chronicles totally stole your schtick, and managed to do it right for a change.

Gabranth, seizing the opportunity to smear his failure all over the screen one last time, tries rushing Vayne Ferrigno and gets the taste slapped out of his mouth so hard a chunk get knocked off his helmet. I guess it's that swagtastic Judge Armor that keeps Gabranth indestructible, because once this happens, he realizes his number's up and squeaks out some rot about still having his pride.

Buuuuullshit, Gabranth. You were squatting in a crumpled heap of you own inferiority not five minutes ago, stewing over what a hopeless failure you are and screaming at your brother to share the secret of living with the crippling shame that eats away at you in the quiet moments.

Vayne, knowing the score, sends Gabranth flying across the room with his furious pimphand. Gabranth shoots a quick, "Oops, I'm boned!" to his brother as Vayne sends his swords to mince the Judge Magister once and for all. Aw, come on, Vayne! You're bad enough at being a villain without helping accomplish goals the audience has been pursuing since the Pharos! Just the audience, mind you, not the characters; near as I can tell, the party has never taken Gabranth seriously as a foe, which I think speaks volumes.

Still, what's done is done, so lets all stuff some popcorn down our throats and watch Vader finally get his comeuppance. The flying vortex of blades comes sailing towards Gabranth... and are absorbed into the manufacted nethicite shard held aloft by Larsa, which breaks into pieces from absorbing more than it could handle.


? You win, Larsa. You win. You are the Troll-Father, our blessed lord Loki, may your name be praised by utter bastards everywhere. It was my favorite early-game accessory, and you stole it right back just I was starting to get a taste for it. If I had had it at any time after that point, I could have used it to defend myself from Mjrn and Tiamat, or from Bergan, who always kicked my ass, or in this very fight, while a swirling tornado of blades fired superlasers at me and my party. But you kept it for yourself, despite never needing it. What's more, that shard is obviously the same shard from earlier in the game, despite manufacted nethicite being so dirt-common truckloads are used in every airship in the Imperial fleet, and Judges can use them as performance enhancers. But no, you didn't use your connections to hook the Resistance or our party up with a suitcase of the stuff. You held on to the one shard, our one shard, so that you could bust it out fifteen seconds after it stopped being of potential use to us. Those would have been excellent trolls, all on their own. And then it shattered. It shattered, its one and only use being to save a man that I would give my right eye to see dead, and who will fucking die anyway in moments. And, having accomplished this purpose, it shatters, in your hand, while you smile beatifically. Poof.

I feel like the bad guy at the end of Kung Fu Hustle. All that I am has been broken, and I just want to prostrate myself at his feet and relearn everything I thought I knew about being an utter asshole to everyone around me, for absolutely no reason.

Vayne, too, is stunned, apparently not having anymore tricks to bust out, and facing the prospect of having to spend a long day at the tailor even if he wins. Vaan, taking advantage, raises Gabranth's sword and charges at Vayne to run him right through. Instead, the razor sharp point of the blade propels Vayne over the balcony and down the stairs without scratching him. Vaan seems as confused as I am about the logistics of this, and throws away Gabranth's Nerf-edged gag sword, jumping over the balcony to pursue and finish the job.

But who should appear in his path but Venat! YES! Sweet merciful Dycedarg, deliver unto us some proper villainy! Venat, being Satan more or less, uses his godlike power to... glare menacingly at Vaan while Vayne staggers out the door to the cannon superstructure. I mean, she doesn't do anything to harm Vaan, or really anybody, and it disappears once Vayne is out the door (though still easily within arrow or gunshot range), but still, it was menacing!

While Penelo checks on Larsa, who seems to have collapsed at the realization that he is the most competent villain the game has left, the dying Gabranth asks Basch if Larsa is "a good master," and Basch replies in the affirmative. To confirm, Gabranth just asked his worst enemy if his boss is an okay guy, because Basch has spent more time with him and knows him better.

Outside, Vayne calls Venat to him and owns up to being a ripe failure of a bad guy, but he does it with class, and wishes Venat well in finding someone better to take his place. Venat disagrees, though, saying that, with the Sun-Cryst destroyed, they'd actually won already, since handing out parts of it is apparently the one trick the Occuria had. So I guess if we had made up our minds and destroyed the Sun-Cryst right off the bat, all of this could have been avoided. ALL OF THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. Venat is honored to have shared Vayne's company, and is happy to fight to the end right along with his human companion.

But hey, about that nethicite thing, anyway... does anyone else remember, at the bottom of the Great Crystal, there was a sphere, apparently of pure nethicite, which dwarfed the Sun-Cryst and seemed to be the origin point or power source for the entire Great Crystal? It's okay; the game doesn't remember either.

Venat declares the age of Stones and the Occuria over and done with. But it isn't so quick to abandon Vayne in his hour of need, and bids him follow it out to the edge of the superstructure. As Vayne walks, the party arrives to see Venat apparently dematerialize, his essence flowing into Vayne. The reaction is slow to take places at first, but great plumes of energy begin firing out of Vayne's body, wrecking parts of the superstructure and even a capital ship in the distance. It isn't long before Vayne is overwhelmed by the power of an Undying coursing through him, and in a fiery veil of its power, sections of the Bahamut are torn off and reassembled around him into a new form. As he flies high over the sky fortress, several pairs of wings and a long tail begin to take shape. Venat's face seems to sit above his own, and he swoops down on the party as the wyrmking incarnate.

Looks like a final boss to me. Let's rock.

To be continued.

Michael Tabbut

New member
May 22, 2013
Glademaster said:
Is it too much to ask to get this in a pdf or something? As this is a bit too much to read on 1 forum.
I'm definitely agree here, what I've read here is absolutely hilarious but dammit if it isn't difficult to read on a forum.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
Glademaster said:
Is it too much to ask to get this in a pdf or something? As this is a bit too much to read on 1 forum.
Michael Tabbut said:
I'm definitely agree here, what I've read here is absolutely hilarious but dammit if it isn't difficult to read on a forum.
I certainly don't mind compiling it into a pdf, but that will be done once the last part is put up here. Which won't be long, so sit tight.


New member
Jun 16, 2014
TheRocketeer said:
Screw all that, get an editor and publisher and just fucking publish this book!
I'll buy 10 copies and give you a virtual cookie.

Awaiting the epic conclusion

(While you're at it, do consider creating a travelog for FFX as well, I'd love to read your thoughts about the Tidus/Yuna HAHAHA scene especially.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
PART 11: A New Hope

You know, I almost want to just thrash this thing and have done with this torture once and for all, but lets make it interesting, why don't we? We've had an excuse to see almost every Esper in the game... Let's bust out the rest, because I intend to dwell on them a bit in the aftermath. And because after this, I am never playing this fucking game again.

Against a god of death, and angel of death: Zalera, the Death Seraph! Okay, that matchup is a bit predictable, isn't it? Zalera went down astonishingly quick, barely clinging to (un)life before I had the chance to bust out its supermove... which did piddly damage.

But hey, let's ramp it up a bit, for an Esper I found in a sewer: Cúchulainn, the Impure! Cúchulainn proves far more survivable, hardly reacting to The Undying's attacks, but doing very little in return; at the same rate that Cúchulainn can throw out his regular Malaise attacks, Fran was throwing out Flares that hit for five times as much damage. When you're being out-fought by Fran, you need to step your game up. Next!

Time for Exodus, the Judge-Sal! Exodus turns out to make a fantastic ally, slamming Comets and Ardor attacks left and right for massive damage. He isn't the most resilient of Espers, but he's quick with the Curajas and I actually managed to run his timer out and use Meteor. I always knew I liked you, you crazy arboreal nightmare.

But you know, Venat, I know of someone else who tried to rebel against the gods, and it didn't work out very well for them. Furthermore, I hear they're dying for a rematch. So, Vaynat, prepare to face Ultima, the High Seraph! Ultima is strong, but... not great at fighting Vayne, actually. Damage seemed pretty light, and it turns out that, yes, The Undying halves holy-elemental damage, which all of the Esper's attacks consist of. Nonetheless, the gray-blue Satan analog riding a helicopter and palling around with a street kid managed to hold out fairly well against the black-and-white Satan analogue riding a junk sculpture of a dragon and palling around with an Emperor.

But all of this showboating is just killing time before the main event. These scrubs all fought the gods before, and lost, so screw 'em! But I've got an ally that makes even the gods fear: Zodiark, Keeper of Precepts! True to his lore, Zodiark manages to be unfairly powerful, and watching him fight The Undying is like setting a luchador loose in a children's hospital. Vayne was on the ropes even before I summoned Zodiark, and I get the feeling I'm not going to get another chance to bust out his supermove, Final Eclipse. My instincts are right: in a blaze of deific, serpentine majesty, the Undying is blasted into scrap metal, unable to withstand a fight full of nothing but my bored dicking around.

The orange glow of nethicite begins to bleed from the amalgamated villains as it seems to lose control. Three lights blast their way out of Vayne's body, spiraling into the sky before departing to the corners of the earth. I can't help but wonder if this is supposed to be the spirits of the Dawn, Dusk, and Midlight shards releasing themselves from the creature. The draconic metal shell falls to pieces, with the metallic face of Venat itself crumbling into nothing. The parts which had merged with Vayne's body melt and boil, and as the entwined beings give one last roar of protest, it is consumed in a vast conflagration.

The mask that had covered the Emperor's visage is flung into the superstructure, its empty eye staring as it disintegrates into the wind. Vayne Carudas Solidor is no more.

Standing on the cannon superstructure under a once-more blue sky, the party collects themselves. Balthier and Fran give each other a well-deserved bro fist. Basch silently dwells on how he never got any kind of character arc, eventually finding peace in the idea that no development at all might be better than the mangling Ashe got. The Princess herself gazes down at her kingdom, stunned with knowledge that it is finally free, and finally hers, and she has absolutely no idea how to run a kingdom oh my god oh my god somebody help me out here.

Within the central shaft, Larsa awkwardly admits to himself that calling somebody with a knowledge of field medicine might have been a better call as the by-now gelatinized body of Gabranth loses its last few gallons of blood. Once the camera cuts away, though, he reflects on how his father, brother, the Senate, and the entire Ministry of Law except the spineless Zargabaath all lie dead, and gives a maniacal grin. All is as planned.

Vaan and Penelo, two poor kids from the desert, can hardly believe they ended up wrapped in the affairs of gods and emperors alike, and came out on the other side unscathed. They stare at the calm, beautiful sky, and... nearly shit themselves as a flaming fighter ship buzzes out of control right above their heads.

OH, FUCK! The battle is still going on! We thought, you know, killing the main dude would wrap it all up! It worked in the movie, dammit! The entire party takes on their strongest ?Well shit? stance before high-tailing it away back to the Strahl.

It would seem our fuckwit pilot left the damn engines running when we parked, and the damned thing is fresh out of fuel. But unfortunately for Rabanastre, so is the Bahamut! It would seem that all of that energy Cid siphoned into the fortress' gas tanks from the Sun-Cryst was used up by The Undying, and raining that energy back onto the fortress as Teraflares and Gigaflare Swords probably didn't do it any favors. The lift and propulsion systems of the massive structure have failed, and it turns out we really aren't playing by Yavin IV's rules anymore: if the the Bahamut falls where it is, Rabanastre will be crushed.

Balthier had been heading to the engine room to fix up the Strahl, but he and Fran head back into the fortress instead, telling Vaan and Penelo, "You can fly the ship, probably, I'unno. Give it your best shot, peace!" As they dart out of the small ship, likely to find an Imperial shuttle to GTFO on instead, Larsa and Basch are having a moment with the dying Gabranth, laid out on a cot in the back. Yes, the Judge Magister is exactly as hard to kill as I have made him out to be, but it would seem his grip on his last hitpoint is fading fast. Gabranth leaves his brother with a mandate: protect Larsa. If, in this time of strife, House Solidor should fall, it would mean civil war for the Empire.

... What. I honestly can't even believe the audacity of Gabranth's last wish here. Gabranth joins up with the Empire that destroyed their homeland and helps them destroy and enslave Basch's new homeland, pinning the assassination of Raminas on him and leaving him to hang in an oubliette cage for two solid years. The Gabranth constantly and unapologetically continues to try and assassinate or imprison Basch and Ashe, to further the aims of the brutal Solidor regime. He has no regrets until he is defeated in combat, whereupon he... charges Basch, of all people, with taking up the work that he should have been doing, to aid a nation that he has every right to hate? Basch has every reason to want Archadia to collapse into pebbles, with the ashes of its people's bones clouding the air for leagues around.

And is Larsa really their only hope? First of all, the entire Imperial system in Archades was brought about through the violent seizure of power by the military; the Senate was a holdover from its previous republican roots. And even the ostensibly-elected Emperor's seat was rigged when the Solidors violently purged all competition generations ago. Larsa Solidor has absolutely no right to the Empire, and anyone that would support him in the aftermath of Vayne's coup and the war in Galtea is a fucking idiot slave who deserves every bad thing that ever happens to them. Send the little lord into exile as a Rozarrian hostage, and let the Valendian kingdoms crumble. Nothing they come up with after the strife passes could be worse than a fascist nethicite-powered dictatorship as led by Loki Fucking Solidor, author of all lies and sire of discord.

Naturally, Basch agrees to Noah's request immediately. I fucking hate you, Basch.

Falling airships crash against the beleaguered paling above Rabanastre as Vaan miraculously gets the Strahl working again. Balthier had indicated it was a mechanical problem that needed direct attention, but apparently he can't fulfill either half of the "sky pirate" title, since jiggling the gearshift seemed to do the trick. Vaan blasts off at once, boldly leaving Balthier and Fran behind. I'm still not sure what their plan for the duo was; maybe they intended to go back for them once they were done trying to stabilize the Bahamut, but if this is so, they certainly never act on it.

The bridge crew of the Garland observes the Strahl departing the fortress, and Ondore realizes at last that the Bahamut has been neutralized. Did no one see a crowd of demons battling a dragon god on the superstructure?! Ondore prepares to concentrate all fire on the Alexander and crush the last of the Imperials' command structure, but before he can command the volley to be fired, Gabranth's voice comes over the radio, ordering all parties to cease fire at once and announcing the signing of a cease-fire with Her Royal Majesty. Aboard the Strahl, we can see that this is actually Basch impersonating his brother over the voice-changer, but whether this is because the Judge Magister has finally passed from the world, or because we aren't willing to risk Gabranth fucking up his last duty in life like he did everything else, is left to our imagination. Basch passes the mic to Larsa, who announces his Lord Brother's honorable death in battle (Did no one see us fighting Vayne on the- ugh, never mind!) and announces the passage of command authority to himself. The Garland's crew asks orders of Ondore, but the Marquis bides his time as the princess comes onto the intercom, wisely announcing herself as "Ashelia Dalmasca" (the canny girl knows well enough not to bring that goofy middle name up) and bidding her assent to the cease fire. She commands that all Resistance ships stand down, and as the two sides slowly halt their cannon fire and retreat to their own lines, she declares the war over.

It's a touching scene, but the danger has yet to pass: no sooner does the fighting stop than the Bahamut comes crashing down onto the paling over Rabanastre; the wall of blue light is clearly being pushed beyond its limit, and will not hold for long. Luckily for all those totally fucked peasants, the show of solidarity between the two sides caused our dear Judge Zargabaath's heart to grow three sizes that day. He opens a line of communication to the Garland and announces his intentions: the Alexander will ram the sky fortress, and push it right off the city's airspace! Ondore actually begs him to refrain, knowing this is a suicide charge in the making. Frankly, I'm pretty certain this would just result in the Bahamut and the Alexander being scattered over the city, but Zargabaath is resolute, ordering everyone to concentrate fire on the Bahamut's remains once it is clear of the city.

On board the failing hulk, Balthier and Fran hear the announcement over the intercom and ruin their drawers. Balthier makes a mad dash to the PA system, begging, "Wait, wait! I got this! Calm your tits! Oh God please don't kill us!" Ashe comes onto the mic and very calmly asks, "Do you actually have any fucking idea what you're doing in there?" This is a fantastic question! The Bahamut is larger than an aircraft carrier and, Marvel universe notwithstanding, aircraft carriers don't also fly. Yet Balthier seems confident he can fix the world's most advanced and secret technology from the kind of damage that it took the entire Resistance fleet and the indiscriminate bombardment of a nuclear dragon cyborg to inflict, all with nothing but a ratcheting wrench.

Incredibly, it seems the massive glossair rings that let the fortress fly are powered by magical D-batteries, a handful of which Balthier frenziedly replaces, praying to Ultima that following whatever basic instruction placards are posted around the machine room proves enough to get the Death Star up and flying again. For all we know he and Fran have been hauling ass around the ship, tearing panels off and swapping fuses, yelling, "It's got to be one of these! Throw me the open-end!"

Balthier offers one last entreaty to the gods of plot and genre, demanding that his role as the leading man should give him enough plot armor to get out alive. Incredibly, his blasphemous incantations are acknowledged, and the glossair rings light up as they come back online! As the Bahamut begins to lift itself from the Rabanstre paling, the exultant Balthier tells Fran to redirect all power to them so they can get the fuck out of this death trap. Unfortunately, Fran has always been the Black Widow of our would-be Avengers, and when you put Black Widow on a failing Helicarrier, it's only a matter of time before she gets trapped under a pipe like the useless fuck she is. Turning to see that this is exactly what has happened, Balthier gives a hilariously cold, "Really *****? There was no better time for this?" Sometimes I think the game should have played up Balthier's capacity to be an utter dick to everyone around him, like Alvin in Tales of Xillia. You can't tell me this game wouldn't have been improved if he had, apropos of nothing at all, turned and shot Penelo right in the back, shrugging his shoulders coyly as the party explodes in shock and outrage.

Ashe demands he haul his ass on out of there, suddenly becoming very concerned with his well-being, or at least of the insanely valuable jewelery he's still carrying around. Balthier scoops up the viera failure like a sack of old laundry, and as he carries her away she chooses this moment to tell him that he's in "more of a supporting role." You know, if I was Balthier, and this chick had the audacity to call me a second banana, with a pun, while I was heaving to haul her ass out of an exploding doom fortress over my shoulder, no one would ever see her again. Accidents happen. There's not a jury in the world that wouldn't believe me. If I get lonely for another viera butt-buddy/sidekick, Ktjn is still hanging around Rabanastre somewhere. Or hell, see if Krjn from the clan needs a hunting buddy. That lady's tough, at least. Or- hey! Best yet! See if Mjrn still has the old wanderlust! That'd make the mahogany shrew spin in her grave.

But Balthier can't bring himself to betray that wookiee life debt, and sticks with his old elfbunnygirl buddy to the bitter end. One last transmission comes from within the Bahamut, a stern warning to Vaan to take care of the Strahl for him. Vaan promises, and the party watches as the glossair rings fail, falling away from the massive structure as it crashes into the barren Westersand.


Looking back on the last year, Penelo, sends a letter to Emperor Larsa. her voiceover of this letter serves as the game's epilogue. Now that she's legal (or close enough, in the original Japanese version), she's been bringing in money by "dancing." Rabanastre has more or less gone back to normal, other than the massive wreck of the Bahamut visible from every part of the city. It seems the sky fortress simply stuck into the ground like a lawn dart, leaning there like a cross between the Shinra No. 27 and a dropped colony from the Gundam universe.

It seem the city likes the wreck right where it is, since one of Ashe's first acts as queen was to surround it with a lake, build a fancy bridge over to it, and cover the thing with vegetation, a fantastic use of resources in the middle of a desert. Even if the Bahamut, by pure chance, struck a natural spring and the oasis formed naturally, there is simply way, waaay too much greenery to have formed naturally in a year, especially on every surface of a barren metal wreck. So yes, it looks like the broad's first act as queen was to dump all the corpses out of it and turn it into a Hanging Gardens for her to gawp at from her balcony, a lush reminder to the world of what happens to people who fuck with Dalmasca.

Ashe herself has been cutting ties with the two street rats leading up to her official coronation, growing quickly accustomed to having all her whims sated immediately and without question. Within another year everyone that knew the truth of the war will be dead and she'll be set up as a Kim Il-Sung-style cult of personality, having single-handedly driven off the cowardly Valendian forces and created the oasis of Rabanastre in a majestic wave of her miniskirt.

Over in Valendia, Basch has taken up Gabranth's armor, his title of Judge Magister, and his fucking identity. The idea is that Basch is, and will always be, too marked by his past to live freely and openly, and that revealing Gabranth's death at the battle of Rabanastre would be too dangerous. I don't even have the strength to itemize how drastically fucking stupid this is, but I hope I simply don't have to at this point. Basch, my most earnest desire is that tragedy stalks you to the end of your days, because you will always blithely accept it, and that's exactly what you deserve. You pathetic ****.

Penelo speculates that Ashe is hiding her wishes to see Basch again, but I know good and well she's playing the long game. Ashe knows all too well what happens when Basch swears to defend something, and with the alleged kingslayer sworn to defend Larsa, Dalmasca needs only wait until they can sort through the cinders of whatever inevitably befalls Archades. With Valendia under her crown, Ashe and Al-Cid Margrace can laze around whichever continent's pleasure domes they feel like that weekend, smashing up all the furniture as they crank out a new Galtean Dynasty.

Zargabaath is probably mad as hell that, as far as he knows, Gabranth is still Judge Magister, and not him. Over thirty years in the Ministry of Law, and some Landis pup manages to not only snipe the top spot out from under him but shit up the works year after year, growing ever more clownish and angry until he comes back from the Dalmascan campaign all stoic and prideful. Thinks he's so cool with his beard and that neat-o scar. Don't worry Zargabaath, I still like you. You should retire and soak up that pension in Bhujerba, drinking up all that famous Madhu wine as an Archadian ambassador to Ondore's realm. Pour one out for Ghis and that magnificent hair.

But the big surprise is that the Strahl has been stolen! Vaan and Penelo had gone in to check on it after servicing, only to find the hangar barren. Left its place is a note, and a small envelope. "Something more valuable: The Cache of Glabados. I await in Bervenia." DUN DUN DUUUUUUNNNN! And on the back, "Give this to our Queen for me, will you?" From out of the envelope slides an elegant ring. It occurs to me upon seeing it that the ring is massive; it looks like the One Ring held in Isildur's palm, taken from Sauron's very finger. Ashe must have the hands of a Dullahan! I do wonder about one small detail: Ashe sets the ring upon the table, rather than putting it back on. Is this supposed to symbolize her moving on from the past? Hmm.

But with the bait laid for Vaan and Penelo, the two are heading out in their own airship to chase after Balthier and Fran. I don't know how they got their own airship. Did they get an equal share of the hundreds of thousands of gil the party had at the conclusion of the game? Does it pay, indeed, to have a friend on the throne? Did they just shank some poor bastard in Nalbina and fly away in a hail of bullets? No matter. With their sights set on the horizon, the two fledgling sky pirates head to parts unknown to kick of the plot of Revenant Wings.

And that, as they say, is that. I have some things left to say about the game, but the narrative is concluded at long last, and the Let's Play portion of our journey is concluded.

I have one more post left to write, and there in I will have a nice sit down, peel off my boots, and pull all of my impressions together- which, after all, was what I had initially set out to do when I first started putting this together nearly a year ago. There will be vitriol, yes. But I do have a lot of positive things to say about the game that didn't come out over the course of the narrative. I do still very much like Final Fantasy XII- or, at least, I like the idea of it very much. I wouldn't have bothered if I didn't.

I couldn't have put this kind of effort out for a game that I thought didn't have great potential to fulfill, like XIII. Nor would I have seen fit to do so for a game that managed to largely fulfill its potential, like- thankfully!- most Final Fantasy games have. It is in this awkward space, in which the reality of the title and the fullness of its possibilities are divorced, yet close enough that the sparks of your imagination may jump freely from one to the next, that Final Fantasy XII sits.

I suppose, as they say, that there are no "other words." My journey through Ivalice in 706 Old Valendian does and must stand for itself. But in my next and final post I will try to distill somewhat my total and final thoughts on an imperfect but remarkable game. Among them: its handling and mishandling of its thematic endeavors; its characters, for good and for ill; its place in an old and storied series; and, indeed, its place in its very setting of Ivalice, and the shocking implications of its presence within it.

To be concluded.

Brian Tams

New member
Sep 3, 2012
You should consider doing another one of these once you conclude. You've got a talent for comedic writing that I would hate to never see again.


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009

Two Masters

Final Fantasy XII holds the distinction of being both a main-line Final Fantasy title and an entrant into what is now called the "Ivalice Alliance," a group of games- not necessarily Final Fantasy games, even- that take place in the Ivalice setting. Prior to Final Fantasy XII, the only games set in Ivalice had been Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the latest of which was stated to not even be Ivalice in truth.

These three games vary greatly from one another in location, gameplay, and setting, yet in all three we see some primary characteristics develop through the constant involvement of key creators, chief among them Yasumi Matsuno, who created the setting. Most importantly, a sort of narrative and thematic framework was established.

The tendency of these Ivalician games is, in itself, not out of line with the expectations of Square's body of work. Many Final Fantasy games can be said to follow a reliable narrative structure of "B, A, D, B, A."

What I mean by that gibberish is that at the beginning of the game, we are introduced, often in medias res, to a "B" plot. The characters' immediate circumstances are affected by these events, and compel them to action for personal reasons. Most often, this is an invasion: Palamecia, Baron, Vector, etc. Or it could be the destruction of the crystals, as in FFV, or Shinra and mako power. The B plot, though, is not and, I believe, should not be "lesser;" often, they are, in themselves, a worthy conflict for a game in their own right.

Yet, early on in attempting to resolve this B plot, an "A" plot of different stakes is discovered. Though I say the B plot need not be lesser, the A plot tends to supplant it as the primary motivation of the narrative, and does indeed tend to provide the greater threat. Jenova and Sephiroth, Kuja, even Chaos from the very first game fill this role.

Often, once both plots have been firmly established, a major event- the Destruction even- occurs. This serves as the nadir of the plot, a great victory for the enemy that lays the cast low, and may greatly change the nature of the conflict. These events tend to come in both macro and micro forms, one of which alters the setting and the nature of the conflict, and the other, which affects the party personally. They may or may not occur together in a single stroke; the razing of Alexandria by Bahamut serves both purposes in IX, as does the ruining of the world by Kefka. Otherwise, they can occur out of sync: FFV had the death of Galuf, followed later by the rejoining of the planets, which served these purposes, and in FFVII with the death of Aeris and the summoning of Meteor.

Rising from this, the party makes their final assault to resolve the A plot, while the B plot either works itself out in the course of events or is dealt with in tandem. Before the Northern Cavern is assaulted, all of Shinra's leadership is dead. Vector is wiped out by the midpoint of the game. Golbez and Edea are remove from play.

And, finally, the A plot is resolved. The villain is slain, the decay of the world is solved, and the world returns to peace.

Ivalician games take this familiar framework and modify it to a somewhat more specialized purpose. While the transition from B plot to A plot serves as a stakes-raising device in both cases, 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 their leader. 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 created by Mewt's wishes.

Ivalice also tends toward a focus on corruption, and the use of power. This was the bread and the butter of Final Fantasy Tactics, and features into the prime motivations in Vagrant Story and Tactics Advance as well. The corrupt seek and abuse power, while the righteous are mistrustful of power and use it only to satisfy appropriate ends. And in the end, the corrupt are lost to the power they sought: the Lucavi steal men's minds and souls, and the Dark cannot be truly controlled by one who desires it, and controls them in turn.

But the Ivalician theme of conspiracy differs most from its contemporaries in how it affects the protagonist and their place in the world. The protagonist begins unenlightened, knowing of the B plot, and breaking into the A plot requires tremendous personal sacrifice. Ramza Beoulve, in cutting the true path through the War of the Lions and the Lucavi revolution, is permanently alienated from society. Ashley Riot becomes traitor to his order and, having been chosen as the worthy successor of the Blood-Sin tattoo, is set apart from humanity forever. Marche becomes the enemy of the world, and is known as an outlaw and a madman to the nation by the end.

Yet righteousness is shown to be, in itself, a kind of reward, and the hero, in prevailing over a world of corruption, is granted a measure of peace by it. Ramza escapes with his sister while Delita, having become king, is betrayed by Ophelia and forced to slay her. Those who sought the Dark all end up dead, and Ashley becomes the Vagrant, full heir to the Blood-Sin tattoo, and able to truly command it while maintaining his purity and sanity. Marche brings his friends through the crucible in Ivalice, and they return to the real world having matured and learned to appreciate their own lives. Ostensibly. FFTA is somewhat problematic.

Yet, there is often very little resolution to the stories; conspiracy and mystery must go hand in hand, and the endings of these stories have to be taken with a measure of faith and hope by the audience.

Ramza Beoulve and his retinue depart into the unknown, foraying into a world that will remember him as a heretic and a traitor for all time. The audience can believe that he and his sister found happiness, but we are shown time and again what becomes of his kind, and in Ivalice, it is not happy. Only that his doom goes unrecorded by history provides a hope that his ending was in any way happy. But we can never know.

We are told at the end of Vagrant Story that Ashley has tasked himself with correcting the Dark's awful effects wherever they have cropped up, and wanders the world as a Vagrant, setting no roots down and living as a pariah. Did he, though cursed, ever manage to improve the world? Did he die terribly in his life of struggle? Who inherited the Dark upon his passing? If it passed to someone unworthy or abusive- those who would seek it most- all of Sydney's efforts and the suffering of Ashley would have been for nothing. But we can never know.

In Tactics Advance, we see that the children have gained a measure of maturity and strength from their tenure in Ivalice. But the reason they needed that strength was that their lives were unhappy, and there is only the smallest promise given that that will change afterward, particularly for Mewt, who comes from a poor family with an alcoholic father, and for Doned, who will be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. The game implies that, regardless of whether their lots in life improve, they will be prepared to deal with it. But we can never know.

Final Fantasy XII attempts to draw upon the full measure of these themes. Its attempts to succeed its predecessors as the custodian of Ivalice in its present is visible in every part of it, and its failures to live up to most of them are the game's largest, yet often least visible problems.

Strangers in a Strange Land

Final Fantasy XII has an incredible cast of characters. Everywhere one goes in the Ivalice of 706 Old Valendian can one encounter characters who have a fascinating reality to them, who are memorable and interesting, who want things and have their own lives. Some of these are nameless peasants you will meet once. Some are prime movers in the plot whom you will rely upon constantly. None of them are in the player's party.

Yes, as it has been pointed out so many times, certainly not first by me, the main party of this game leaves much to be desired. But its primary shortcoming is in how alien they seem in the world. In truth, I think the conflict comes down to this: Ashe, Basch, Balthier, Fran, Vaan, and Penelo are characters from a more traditionally "Final Fantasy" world inhabiting a world that is otherwise thoroughly Ivalician, and the friction between these two inconsistent elements constantly introduces problems that the game does not know how to address and may not even realize exist.

This, ultimately, is the chief problem with the game: the world knows that the main characters of the game are the main characters of the game, and bends over backwards to accommodate them. It is the problem people had with Vaan writ large upon the setting. People point out that Vaan had no real reason to serve as the main character, yet the game seemed to accommodate him in this respect nonetheless. This happens constantly in regards to how the larger setting treats the party and their role in the world. In the three previous Ivalice games, we see that the protagonists play a direct and active role in the primary events of the game, yet Final Fantasy XII seems to set up a very standard narrative separate from and parallel to the main background narrative, which is managed by the adults while we, the kids, dick around.

I can understand why that happened; there is precedent for it. In all three of its predecessors, the A Plot is a mystery to the world at large, and the B plot can stand as its own set of events without them. The populace need not know of the Lucavi Revolution; the War of the Lions works fine on its own. Same as the Müllenkamps' terrorist/cult actions regarding Duke Bardorba and Leá Monde, and with Marche's revolt against King Mewt. But what these games do well is use our vantage point as the protagonist of these stories to demonstrate just how false this appearance is, and how the events in question could never have occurred without the underlying machinations and, indeed, how they could have never turned out correctly without the intervention of the protagonists.

Yet Final Fantasy XII goes out of its way to use this vantage point demonstrating that our actions in the game have only the most tangential and incidental, even accidental relationship with the "other narrative," which is so detached from our actions as to be the background of our quest rather than the environment of it. As pointed out by Venat at the end of the game, the party does not even upset its plans entirely; our greatest effect on the overall plot is the destruction of the 8th Fleet, which we did not even intend to accomplish and which may have occurred had we not even been present- as I'll point out later. Beyond that one glancing, though significant, impact, the war against the Empire proceeds totally indifferent to our actions, managed by Ondore, who is the constant MVP of Team Good.

Ramza, Ashley, and Marche all serve as both hero and participant in equal capacity. What sets these characters apart from everyone else involved is their character- their values and beliefs, which elevate them beyond their dark times. And it is in this fashion that these games, in such a quintessentially Ivalician fashion, demonstrate the worth of these qualities. It was not any special power or place in the world that granted Ramza or Delita the role that they took in the plot. If anything, they fight constantly against their own shortcomings in these regards. It is, uniquely, their desires and character that empower them- and it is through the demonstrated motive power of these things that the worth of these values is emphasized; the idea that in a crisis, a man's heart and morals, over all things, will elevate him to victory or crash him to ruin.

Yet while the rest of the plot beyond our characters is one of intrigue and scheming, ours is a time-worn tale of fate-chosen heroes collecting Items of Power, proving their worth through trials, and fulfilling a predestined role as the slayer of evil. We, oblivious of the struggles of the chattel, carry on our heroic quest, and they, lesser creatures, occupy themselves with their petty war for lack of any ability to do otherwise until we deem it fit for our attention and resolve it effortlessly.

A lot of these things in the game may seem excusable to most observers. "Of course the party succeeds. They must, or there would be no plot." No. This is an extremely lazy way of telling a story, and to use it gracelessly, like a cudgel, is all too common in this game: a given task is either easy or impossible, depending on whether the player characters or the enemy is attempting it.

More importantly, it runs counter to the single most important theme of the game: self-determination. How can we take seriously any promotion of choosing your own fate and refusing to be ruled by circumstance, when the only reason the plot exists is because the characters were fated to win or lose, even when they didn't deserve it?

History's Tangled Skein

Final Fantasy XII, likely through the struggles of its long development and constant rewrites, struggles even to get the basics of its "B A D B A" structure down. I am NOT implying that this structure is somehow important, or even needs to be present at all. It is not, and does not. But it is in half-heartedly attempting to introduce it, and failing to do so, that twists the backbone of the plot into lameness.

The B plot of the game is, as it so often is, the invasion of the Empire. The main characters are their enemy, and coalesce together in the struggle against it. Later, the A plot is introduced: human history, since time immemorial, has been guided by the hands of the Occuria, alien and unknowable beings of inconceivable power, who, from time to time, grant weapons of unopposable might to those who would enforce their will on the world. What's more, one of them has gone rogue and is actively aiding the Empire. This is a great setup. I have no issue with it, and in fact I like it very much. It establishes early on so many of the essential Ivalician themes: power and the responsibility of the mighty, hidden mystic agendas behind a time of mortal turmoil, and the triumph of the protagonist's will, that willingness to determine one's own fate in a world in which they are expected to merely play a part in the games of the mighty.

The "Destruction event" is not even a constant of the structure, but I think Final Fantasy XII has one: the destruction of the 8th Fleet over Jagd Yensa. Yes, this is a disaster for the enemy, and that does make it very different from the standard. But it serves the same role in the overall plot: it acts as a sudden, spectacular catalyst for the events that will bring on the endgame. The destruction of the fleet teaches us the immense power of nethicite, impels Ondore to gather the Resistance at last, and pushes Vayne into seizing power over Archadia. Perfectly well. But our party seemed to have nothing to do with it. What gives the destruction even its weight is both its effects on the world and that it represents a failure on the part of the player characters. It isn't that Kefka seized the warring triad, or that Sephiroth murdered Aeris. It's that you were right there, and you couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. In the skies over Jagd Yensa, the plot suddenly and unexpectedly kicks into high gear, and the player characters can only whistle through their teeth and wonder what the shit just happened.

The resolution of the B plot is 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!" -Queen Ashelia B. Dalmasca, 707 O.V.) Archadia is Larsa's to rule. Again, these are perfectly acceptable outcomes.

No, here is the primary problem with the structure: The A Plot is never resolved. No part of the staggering revelations, which entirely overshadow and underpin all of 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. This is important, because the Occuria, who still desire control of history, who we know nearly nothing of, who overpower all the nations of men, still wait within Giruvegan. And our party, their would-be agents on the earth, defied and insulted them in the boldest manner possible.

This is not only unresolved, but unaddressed. The game completely forgets that the Occuria existed. They are not treated as a looming threat, to be feared, but as totally unworthy of attention and remembrance. This is like defeating Shinra while Sephiroth still sleeps deep under the earth, and just going back to business as usual, as if matters were settled. It leaves an extremely uncomfortable feeling of dissonance and unease for the player, knowing that the Undying are simply looming in their city like Meteor in the sky, and no one pays it any mind when they should be shaking in their boots, glad to have dispensed with the small potatoes when the main threat- in truth, the real threat- has nothing left stopping it from taking the harshest possible measures.

But here's the main problem: the party has no role in wrapping the B Plot up, either. At the end of the day, the entire B Plot is handled by Ondore and the Resistance. 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 is never resolved. The main cast, already sequestered so completely from the narrative, accomplishes absolutely nothing of substance.

In the previous Ivalice games, we are left to hope at an ambiguous resolution because it contributed to the feeling of mystery, and of the mortality of the characters. We have our glimpse, our special and invaluable insight into a fascinating turning point in history, and beyond it lies an enigma. The main characters do not slip away because the narrative doesn't care about them, but because they care about. Theirs was a crucial part to play in the plot, but once it was done, they went on to whatever life was left to them. Their lives are uncertain because our lives are uncertain, and even if we, as they had, strive for our ideals and dreams, our futures are no less perilous. Yet still, we are assured that, regardless of what the outcome was, the endeavor was worthy, and right. And in years to come, our time, like their time, will slowly fade, because we are small, and time never stops.

But 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, larger than life, fairy tale heroes. But once again, the world does not accommodate this, because it is not a fairy tale world, and they do not fit into it... But more on that later.

Of course, the reason that simply blowing off the Occuria seems foolish is because the Occuria are an epic and imminent threat. Right? Well...

The Gods Must be Lazy

The villains of Final Fantasy XII are a constant weak point of a generally weak narrative. And this is a significant problem! A plot needs a good antagonist. If the antagonist is incompetent, the conflict is trivial. If the conflict is trivial, there's no tension. And in a game, the enemy needs to appear a legitimate threat to the main characters, or there is no value in overcoming them. A narrative about a good guy versus a bad guy, minus the bad guy, is a farce. And Final Fantasy XII has no bad guy worth the players' time.

We are told the Empire is unopposable, and our sextet battles them regularly without difficulty. Imperials are some of the least challenging enemies in the game, since they are typically battled in sequences that the party cannot easily escape, and must therefore 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, whom we are told are some of the greatest warriors in the realm. So their leadership is demonstrated to be all talk. At the final battle, it really does appear as though the Resistance Fleet managed to destroy the Bahamut, the ultimate magitech weapon of nethicite abuse, on their own as we assassinated Vayne. Which would make our involvement in the plot farcical. It is not impossible that Vayne and Venat's actions somehow affected the Bahamut adversely, but this is not indicated in any way. As a physical threat, the game undermines our enemy at every opportunity.

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 Daylight 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 even the remotest sense of urgency, and, in fact, wait until the latest, most dangerous time to attempt any part of it. To their credit, they do seize the Midlight Shard before the game even begins. But apparently Vayne knows that the Dusk Shard is held in Rabanastre Palace, and it goes undisturbed for two entire years, gathering dust in a storeroom? Sure, it was hidden away, but the fact remains that Vayne, schemer extraordinaire, and Cid, mad genius, were thwarted because they could not open a closet. 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.

So they wanted the Midlight Shard badly enough to invade Landis and Nabradia for it, then waited two years for the Dusk Shard to literally fall into their laps. What of the Dawn Shard? Did they never seek it? It's possible that they simply didn't know where it was, hidden away in Raithwall's Tomb. Yet, I find this unlikely. Ashe knows, and she was 17 when Dalmasca fell. Has she just known all of the Dalmascan royal secrets since since she was a toddler, or are there others in Dalmasca who would have known? Wouldn't the Empire have interrogated everyone they could have and perused any documents they could find? Ideally yes, but again, easily thwarted by locked storerooms, sooo... 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 ideal place to look.

But while they may not have known themselves, they certainly knew enough to follow us there and ambush us on our way out. Vossler probably told Ghis of our intentions before he even reconnoitered with us in Ogir-Yensa. Why didn't they do it 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. And 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. So if the Empire had the chance, why not get it themselves? Apparently, they expected our party of six people, half of them teenagers, to be able to succeed. So were they, with the might of the Empire, unable? If they couldn't handle the tomb, why should we take them seriously? Either they were too weak or too stupid to succeed in their plans.

But sure, we accomplish their work for them. Then get captured, and 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' own conniving doing himself in and taking out the entire 8th Fleet with him. 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? What does the party matter to this story?

The only thing the party does which matters is to snipe the 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. Yes, the main party really is smarter than every member of the 8th Fleet.

So, the enemy's 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 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. This is interesting, because he directs us to the Occuria only because he knows they will direct us to the Pharos, where he needs us, apparently.

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 floor and Cid picks it up. As usual, the Empire has conceived of the worst plan in the world, and it has worked somehow.

The only way this makes sense is if, once again, they need us to get through the Pharos for them, and this simply cannot be true. If it was true, then it would simply be the problem of the Tomb once again: our six guys are smart and strong enough to do it, but not the entire Empire. But no, they demonstrably do not need us to reach the Sun-Cryst, since they simply meet us at the top. They had to have flown up. There is zero alternative. I cannot believe for a second that Gabranth quietly shadowed us up 100 stories of the Pharos, while Cid quietly shadowed him in the exact same way. Gabranth, at least, must have fled from the peak by airship. There's no other way he could have survived, unkillable though he seems.

Yet, what happens isn't really any better. 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 to let six buff people take on the Pharos and deliver the Dawn Shard for them would only be "necessary" if they needed all three stones for their plan to work. And I don't believe that they would. For one, the Dawn, Dusk, and Midlight Shards don't require each other to work; they aren't a matched set or anything. They're just the three stones that Raithwall chose to cut a thousand years past. If all Cid is doing is using them to siphon power from the Sun-Cryst, why didn't he? He demonstrates that he can travel freely to the Sun-Cryst, so did he ever attempt to use the Dusk and Midlight Shards on their own? Wouldn't that work just as well to siphon energy from the Sun-Cryst, just maybe to a lesser extent or at a slower rate? Did they have no other ideas besides the Bahamut, which may indeed have needed all three to power?

Vayne and Cid are made out to be geniuses, yet they have the worst plan they could come up with, and execute it in the most time-consuming, risky, and dangerous way possible, during which time they pursue no other options, no matter how simple, easy, or obvious. Bowser would tell them they suffer from a crippling lack of imagination. Fuck, Bowser can at least kidnap a Princess correctly.

Yet, here's what pulls the rug right out from under even what little the Empire has: Venat. They have an Occuria on their side. He's the one that taught Cid how to make nethicite, and inspired Vayne to use its power to seize Ivalice. He is literally the driving force behind the enemy, and not only should he know literally everything about the Stones anyone cared to ask him- including where all of them are- but he can warp anywhere in the world and has powers of clairvoyance that enable him to monitor our own party's actions and locations at all times. It is he that tells Vayne and Cid that the party had met with the Occuria at Giruvegan, and it must have been he that could even have known the Ashe would be the Occuria's new choice for Dynast-Queen. Otherwise, even their shockingly terrible plan could not have formed. Additionally, Venat, as an Undying, is so powerful that no foe on earth could hope to stand to its power, and any obstacle Cid and Vayne faced could have simply been blasted into ashes by Venat.

Now, I anticipate the obvious argument against this: Venat, in his own fashion, believes that it is not his place to act in lieu of the humans. Venat believes in the self-determination of mortalkind; it was her reason for betraying the other Occuria, and it might simply be against her principles to take the reins. Teaching Cid and Vayne the truth of the world's nature and granting them the knowledge of nethicite is enough to even the playing field, and anything beyond that would be mankind's burden to shoulder.


(cont'd below)


Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009

Power Underwhelming

As difficult as it is to tell what the game is trying to say sometimes, its stance on Venat is clear: Venat is an evil creature, who is even more manipulative as the other Occuria and far, far more ambitious and dangerous. And whatever its reasons for spiting Gerun and the Occuria may have been, the sanctity of human freedom has nothing to do with it.

If Venat thought the Occuria's system was unjust, and wanted humanity to have the power to determine their own fate free of their meddling, why did he not merely destroy the Sun-Cryst immediately? She seems to indicate to Vayne at the end that this was all it really would have taken. But perhaps it wanted humanity to have some recourse to fight the Occuria, thereby preventing their intercession if they should try to use force later on. Well, then, why not give everyone nethicite? Make it common knowledge. To do so would both eliminate the threat of the Occuria, and level the playing field between nations. To play favorites and keep nethicite a secret, sharing it only with one faction of your choice, is exactly what the Occuria have been doing.

And that's exactly what Venat does: pick a human candidate to accomplish your will, and empower them to do so. The difference is that Venat appears to have done so solely to appease his own whims, rather than in solidarity with the rest of the Occuria. We are told that the Occuria intercede in human affairs to maintain a kind of stability, and Gerun even implies that they have stopped our race from destroying itself, maybe more than once. Yet Venat upsets, rather than enforces that status quo; it is for Venat's desires that Landis and Nabradia were invaded, and installing Vayne as Dynast-King would mean imposing his rule by force on every nation.

That's not so different from what Raithwall had done, of course. But here's the difference: Raithwall, the Occuria's pick to be Dynast-King, was just, benevolent, and wise. The Occuria gave him the tools to establish his own reign, but that reign was his to create and implement- and it was glorious. The greatest golden age in human memory, which we only recently have fallen from, even a millennium later. But Vayne, Venat's choice, is utterly ruthless. He is shown to be remorseful enough for his brutal actions to be tormented by them yet not enough to stop being an ambitious tyrant, and there is no sacrifice that he is not prepared to make in seizing rule of all Ivalice for his own sake.

And while we cannot know what the world was like when the Occuria selected Raithwall, we know what kind of crisis motivated them to seek Ashe as their new champion: a renegade Occuria and a nethicite-powered Empire. But Venat's mandate did not seem to entail anything other than spitting in Gerun's eyes and empowering those who would most eagerly pursue the course he set for them. You see, while Venat claims to oppose the Occuria's occasional tug on the reins of history (back in the hands of man!), I think Venat, like the Satan-analogue that he so clearly represents, is making Vayne a cursed promise, and, in truth, desires nothing more than to rule all humanity as a Tyrant-God himself.

Venat taught Cid how to manufact nethicite, which would cement their conquest of all mortal nations over time. But more importantly, the Empire was eager to learn how to implant nethicite into a living body, thereby radically empowering that person. We see this done only three times: Mjrn, Bergan, and Vayne. And Venat uses the nethicite these people have taken for an altogether more sinister purpose.

Yes, we see that Mjrn, simply by holding manufacted nethicite, became susceptible to a measure of control by Venat, and went berserk. But viera were used as test-subjects specifically because they were more receptive to the effects of nethicite, and the goals of the research was to increase the affinity between humans and nethicite. When we meet Bergan at Bur-Omisace, he has gone totally berserk, and his speech to Ashe is bizarre and fanatical, talking about false faith in gods and taking the reins of history back in hands of man- Cid and Venat's trademark phrase. Cid himself was not implanted with nethicite, but was utterly obsessed with it and relied on it for all his weaponry. When Vayne himself was forced to rely on his nethicite implantation, his demeanor seemed to change at once, immediately declaring his intentions to slay Larsa and Gabranth. And, when even this power proved insufficient, Venat merged with him, creating a new entity that was both and neither.

What did all of these people have in common, besides the nethicite? Ambition. Mjrn was questioning her place among the viera, and wanted to defy their laws and leave the village. However, she was only questioning; she had not yet taken the plunge, and was spared after being rescued by Ashe and Fran. Bergan loved Vayne's ruthlesness, and firmly believed the world should be cleansed in fire and blood by its new Dynast-King. Vayne, of course, wanted power. All power. He wanted to rule the nations of men, and there was no experiment too vile, no cost in life too high, to pay the fee for him. These people claimed they wanted freedom, yes, but what they really wanted was power. And in giving them the power they desired, Venat claimed control of them, both literally and metaphorically. Each time, we see that when someone goes over the edge and gives in to the nethicite, Venat's affectations on their mind and personality takes over, and he lingers in the air behind them as their specter.

This is Venat's real dream. To let man rule the world, yes. And to let the love of power, through nethicite, to rule their hearts. And, through nethicite, to rule man. This, certainly, is one of the game's most complete and triumphant victories: the establishment of Venat as a Satanic figure, ruling through subtlety and lies, through temptation and the perversion of truth. What's more, it is so thoroughly, beautifully Ivalician: those who seek and love power can only be ruled by it, and one who is slave to greed and ambition can never truly be free. I honestly cannot praise this enough. I love this.

It is the game's only thematic success. For even this theme of power as a corrupting influence is mangled by the game. Even nethicite as a corrupting power is not really carried off very well. For we already know who the most powerful people in the entire world are: it's the party!

Yes, the problem with treating the party as fairy tale heroes- as opposed the the standard Ivalician treatment as normal people who overcame circumstance through worth- is that it so often conflicts with every one of the game's themes.

Without doubt, the one that give it the most trouble is freedom and self-determination. The true conflict of the game is that of man versus the Occuria, who seek to control human history. This conflict relies on two assumptions: first, that self-determination is an inherently good thing above all other considerations, and second, that the Occuria are immoral for violating this principle.

However, the game's demonstrations actually tend to run counter to both of these axioms. As stated, how can we have any faith in the game's promotion of the inherent goodness of human free will when the party seems to be doing nothing more than occupying the ludic space created for them by the world? When the fabric of reality bends over backwards to accommodate your presence, when impossible tasks become trivial because we're attempting them, and trivialities are treated as impossible when our enemies could benefit from them?

But that's just speaking from a "meta" standpoint. Even within the context of the game, there seems to be no support for the game's stated principle that self-determination is valuable and right. For one, it can be argued that we accomplished the Occuria's will for them after all. Their mandate was to end the Imperial threat and destroy Venat, and we did that. It was Cid and Zecht that destroyed the Sun-Cryst. And while they seemed to assume that Ashe would become the new Dynast-Queen afterwards, or should want to, the Occuria's main interest is in maintaining a status quo, which we ourselves enforced. Beyond that, the game really goes out of its way to make listening to the Occuria seem like a good idea. With Venat, we can see the game's morals demonstrated in the lives and actions of those who adhere to them. But the Occuria and their Dynasty scheme are made out to be unequivocally good things, despite the exact opposite being the game's intentions.

Of the Occuria, we know shockingly little, and from this little bit, we have to extrapolate certain things. We know of two candidates they have selected to carry out their will: Raithwall, and Ashelia. Raithwall we already know was one of the greatest rulers of all time, who ushered in the Galtean Alliance and cemented prosperity and peace throughout all Ivalice for centuries. We don't know that Ashe could have done so, but let me ask this: if she could not have, why should we support her in her capacity as the main character? She is bound for rule either way, either as Dynast-Queen or as Queen of Dalmasca. If she is unfit for rule, then is it not tragic that she should be put on Rabanastre's throne? If she is fit to rule justly and wisely, then are the Occuria not correct in their identification of Ashe as the worthy successor of their mandate? So let us give the game what I think is the greater benefit of the doubt, and assume that Ashe is fit to be a good and wise ruler. This can only mean that the Occuria were worthy judges of character.

But for what reasons do the Occuria meddle in the affairs of man? If they do so wantonly, for their own benefit, or to the detriment of man, then it's certainly worth opposing them. So what are the circumstances of their interdictions? It is recorded that when Raithwall was a young man, he was a ruler of a small nation in Valendia, and that his time was one of widespread and prolonged warfare. His mission was to unify the land, and he did so. That he did this through conquest can be, I believe, excused: the land was already at war, and his campaigns were demonstrably effective in closing these hostilities immediately, and leaving everyone better off. So we have one situation in which the enforcement of the Occuria's will certainly left the world better off. In our own time, the world is threatened by a nethicite-powered Archadian Empire and the ambitions of a rogue Occuria. Whether the Occuria were justified in interfering in these scenarios is a matter of philosophy, but from these two examples, we can observe what manner of perceived threat the Occuria require before intervening.

And what of the Occuria themselves? What is their conduct? Are they worthy of the mantle of guidance that they have taken on? Well, we could always hold Venat against them. I think it's more than fair to say that Venat's actions prove that corruptibility exists within the Occuria. Yet, if I were an Occuria, and I did not immediately strike you dead for this assertion, I would counter that they themselves thought the exact same way. The very mention of Venat's name makes Gerun wrathful, and summons the attention of other Occuria. They despise all that Occuria represents- his ambitions, his discord, and his wantonness in meting nethicite. Gerun refers to the knowledge of nethicite as a rose- a beautiful metaphor, given that it is appealing, but covered in thorns, to be handled with care. The Occuria say that it is their duty to "save" Ivalice, and, to them, history is synonymous with peace; whenever there is war and discord in the world, they say that history's weave is 'tangled.' Their actions, they say, are to mitigate the effects of the base desires of humanity. We know that in times long forgotten, many, many thousands of years ago, they ruled humanity with a firmer hand, but the nature of this era is a mystery to us, and they themselves, according to the will of "[their] King," abandoned this practice and chose to let humanity live all but free, adopting the system they have been using until now. The largest strike against them, I think, is Rasler. The Occuria were not shy in using Rasler's image to manipulate Ashe's emotions, and this seems to confirm that even their choice of Dynast-Queen they do not treat as an equal, or with absolute trust, but as lesser beings to be directed when necessary, as are all mortals.

I will be perfectly frank: I think the Occuria are worthy of human obeisance. If anyone has an argument to the contrary, I would be very interested to hear it. I don't mean that in a condescending or sarcastic way; I think the Occuria are made out to be nearly infallible, which is why it is so jarring when, after meeting with them at Giruvegan, the party- in the very seat of their power- immediately urges Ashe to defy them. Everyone seems to concur that the Occuria cannot be trusted and should not be obeyed, yet only two people actually speak up in this regard.

The first is Vaan, who asks what right the Occuria have to tell them what to do. This is a fair question. I would ask what right mankind has to tell rats what to do. Do not believe that the difference between the Occuria and Humes is the difference between men of power and privilege and the disenfranchised; it is not, and should not be regarded this way. The gulf between the Undying and men is the gulf between mankind and vermin, and all of their interactions and regards concerning our race should be considered in that light. Yes, it is somewhat humiliating to admit that the Occuria are simply smarter, wiser, and better-natured than mankind is or perhaps ever could be. But humility is an instructive virtue, and Vaan's objection is rooted in a prideful idea: that humanity is and should ever be the ultimate authority on its own affairs. I dare not imply one way or another any opinion of the truth of this in the real world, and neither should you in this particular thread. But in the world of Ivalice, there are, without question, beings Above us, who know better, and do better, and are better, and to think that merely being human is in itself a license to disregard that out of hand, as an inherent principle of immunity from direction as a natural human trait, is foolish, arrogant, and destructive.

Basch, on the other hand, counsels Ashe somewhat differently: "They may be gods, but we are the arbiters of our destiny... The Empire must pay, but destruction?" This is far more reasonable. The Occuria, superior though they may be, are not infallible, and we are not compelled to obey them if a reasonable contradiction may be raised. This is perfectly acceptable. But the party finds nothing wrong with the Occuria's bidding but its severity; they are loath to use nethicite in battle, and they do not wish to wipe out the Empire, as the Occuria bid them. To me, it seems immaterial whether or not we use nethicite to fight the empire; the Stones are granted to their Chosen to ensure their success, and if we can succeed without using it, then its use or disuse is of no consequence. And considering that, at the end of the game, everyone that had a shred of say in Archadia's affairs of state is dead- not uncommonly at our hands- the difference between our accomplishments and the Occuria's will may be so trivial that they may not even care. And if they did want Archadia razed and its people put to the sword, well... If you knew rats lived under your house, and some of them had been getting into your food, you might well decide to just kill all the rats, and few are they who would call you unreasonable. Appeals to humanity's superiority clause aside, the Occuria are never made out to be anything but good and reasonable, and are never treated by the party or the narrative as anything but sinister and vile. Well, before they are forgotten entirely, anyway.

The character arcs of our main party, to the extent that they even exist, seem to run counter to this theme. Vaan's comes closest to matching it, to his credit; he admits to Ashe that he had felt powerless to change his fate before running with the party for a while, and once he awakens to the possibility of choosing his own place in the world, he resolves to do so. This, unfortunately, does not come to very much in the game, yet in Revenant Wings and in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, he's made out to have become a fairly successful adventurer and sky pirate in his own right, so... good on you, Vaan. You won, in time.

Basch is largely tied to Ashe's character, but he does get a few turns in on his own. Unfortunately, he comes down rather strongly on the side against self-determination. Basch lives his whole life in fealty to causes he considers above or beyond himself, regardless of how little sense it makes or how much pain it causes. When he meets Ashe for the first time on the Leviathan, Ashe asks if she would have her live in shame as the subservient puppet of the Empire, and he responds, "If that is your duty, yes." By the time Vossler announces that he fancies this plan, too, it has become abhorrent to him, but it was a good time for Basch to pay lip service to duty and that's the only way he can get it up. At the end of the game of course, he has traded away his very identity to live as "Gabranth" in Larsa's service, for absolutely no good fucking reason other than that it feels dutiful to him. Basch has as much self-determination as the silicon disc he occupies. If only the Occuria had presented themselves as a knightly order, rather than as angels, he would have immediately sworn himself their staunch defender (and gotten Giruvegan invaded and sacked).

Balthier initially tries to master his own destiny, but finds that he cannot escape his past. This is even more damaging to the theme than Basch's arc; rather than simply accepting destiny like Basch, Balthier attempts to defy it and is inextricably drawn back toward it, as if it was simply a tenet of the world's nature. Balthier even says as much to Ashe at the Phon Coast, and accepts that he is simply fated to face off with his father and the Empire. And then there's his running gag: Why does he act the way he does? Why do certain things happen the way they do to him? Because he's the leading man, of course! Yes, the world itself simply has a way people and events are meant to play out, and not only does Balthier believe he know his role, but accepts it, is happy in it, and seems to have faith that it will serve him in turn as long as he's wise to it.

Fran, like Balthier, attempted to defy what seemed to be her destiny, and was laid low. She questioned the rigid, dogmatic society of the viera and sought to learn of and involve herself in the world. It's exactly the kind of thing that the setting should praise. Even if it brought her sadness, the effort itself should be regarded as worthy. But no; she has long since come to regret her decision, it has brought her only sorry and degradation, and when she finds her sister in the same situation, she counsels her to abandon her ambitions and accept the life she was simply born to live. Ghastly.

Penelo has no arc. Moving on.

Aside from free will, the game's largest theme is about power, and at the center of this theme is nethicite, which it regards as evil. But the party's, and indeed, the game's qualms about nethicite are important only because nethicite is, in some unstated fashion, special. The game does not totally denounce the use of force as a means of change. It is, after all, our only tool. Ashelia "Doom Bringer" Dalmasca does not know what a treaty table looks like. But force is, after all, a tool of necessity, and it is purported that there is no threat that could necessitate the use of nethicite's overwhelming power.

There are three possible reasons for this, which I will address and denounce in turn.

The first objection would be that nethicite is simply so powerful that no opposition could warrant its awesome power. To that, I merely point out the Empire, which has nethicite of its own, and a great deal of it. If the party's misgivings about nethicite are that it is too powerful a tool, does that not change when the opponent is using it on us? Is the party's disapproval of such power so great that we need handicap ourselves, just to be on the safe side? I don't know about that. Again, this goes back to one of my sticking points about our party and nethicite: We don't actually know anything about it, because we never asked. We don't know if there is a way to use nethicite without using the thing as a damned nuke crystal. We know that manufacted nethicite has a multitude of uses, and can even be used in a defensive capacity. But we never ask if the Stones can be used in this fashion. They are treated as unconscionable atrocities from the very start.

It could be that, regardless of whether it is possible to use nethicite responsibly, it is the corrupting nature of the power that the party shuns. This, I reject again; if power corrupts, then none in the world are more corrupt than our party, for they are, canonically, the most powerful beings in the entire world. Basch kicks the game off by fighting an airship with nothing but a sword, and winning. It only progresses from there. Our party, with nothing but the power that they, personally, possess, engage and defeat all manner of warriors, monsters, demons, dragons, and, yes, even an Occuria, and one power by the Sun-Cryst's might! "But Rocko," you protest. "They have to be strong enough. They're the heroes." Why, I ask, are they heroes? Here we have another paradox introduced by the game's treatment of the cast as Heroes of Legend and not really as people from the setting. We are shown that the power of nethicite and the Occuria is evil and beyond controlling, and then we defeat it with our bare hands. Either nethicite is not as overpowering as we had estimated, and we were fools to ignore it out of squeamishness, or nethicite is exactly as powerful as it is made out to be and our group of six people, three of them teenagers, are naturally even more powerful than the gods themselves and all of their strongest tools, be they mortal or crystalline. Either we are mighty beyond mortal and immortal estimation and have no choice but to reconcile our view of power as a corrupting force to be used only judiciously with our status as the mightiest beings to ever exist, or all of our enemies, and the Occuria, and the nethicite, were simply trifles, not at all living up to their reputation and unworthy of our attention. Tell me, which of the possible farces would you prefer? Choose whichever failure mode you can most easily cope with or rationalize.

The last objection against nethicite that I can predict is that it is simply that nature of nethicite that makes it repellant to our party. It is true, after all, that nethicite, especially deifacted nethicite, is a tool not quite like anything else, and it is not beyond reason to protest that there are some weapons that are simply, by the very nature of their creation, or function, or effects, or what have you, too terrible to contemplate using. I can think of a few good rebuttals to this, but I only need one.

Did You Not See Our Army Of Motherfucking Demons

Our party, without the merest shred of contemplation, examination, trepidation, or immediate consequence, enslaves and commands a cadre of the most evil and nightmarish creations ever to scar reality with their existence: The Espers, better known to some as the Lucavi.

While they are not called such in this game, 'Lucavi' is a Russian word for the devil, and this is all too accurate a name for the creatures. Each was created for some necessary purpose, and each was somehow corrupted into a twisted perversion of their former selves. In the end, they rose up against the gods who created them to usurp dominance over Creation. If you believe that a man may be judged by their enemies, behold the foes of the Occuria.

Each of the Lucavi are designed or named for demons and fallen angels (Belias, Zalera, Hashmal, Shemhazai, and Adrammelech) or after the final bosses of previous Final Fantasy games (Chaos, Zeromus, Famfrit, Mateus, and Ultima). There are two exceptions. First, there is Cúchulainn, who is named for an Irish folk hero. But 'hero,' as we tend to use it, isn't a precise term for what the mythical Cúchulainn was. He's a bit... odd. Here's a description of some of his powers I ripped straight from Wikipedia:

"The first warp-spasm seized Cúchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from head to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front... On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child... he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn't probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his lungs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram's fleece reached his mouth from his throat... The hair of his head twisted like the tange of a red thornbush stuck in a gap; if a royal apple tree with all its kingly fruit were shaken above him, scarce an apple would reach the ground but each would be spiked on a bristle of his hair as it stood up on his scalp with rage." -The Tain

You're welcome for the most metal thing you'll read all day.

The other exception is Zodiark, which is intended to serve as an outlier. It is demonstrated that the one thing the Occuria fear is anything they believe to be more powerful than themselves, and when they find such a thing they seek to restrain or limit its power. I find it interesting that they do so, rather than destroying them. Such was the case with Zodiark, which so frightened the gods that they restrained its growth and kept it in an infant form, yet it is still unquestionably the most powerful of all the Lucavi by far. Fortunate, then, that it had no part in their revolution, and does not seem to bear any ill will toward the world; Zodiark is neither good nor evil, yet simply is.

Ultima is the leader of the Lucavi, and she herself is, like Venat, and analog to Satan, much resembling a Christian angel and being described as one of the most beautiful, majestic, and powerful of all the gods servants, before leading the insurrection of the Espers against them and, upon their revolution's failure, was cast down forever. Her final attack is the Eschaton, the foretold end of days.

The Lucavi are more than just a background element of Ivalician lore; they are the driving force behind the plot of Final Fantasy Tactics, in which their repulsive nature is demonstrated to its full extent. They drive all Ivalice into war, seeking to use the blood of thousands of innocents as part of the blood-sacrifice to resurrect Ultima, who had been slain in ancient days... Days which, as of 706 Old Valendian, were soon to come! But more on that soon.

Canonically, the party finds, defeats, and enslaves each of the thirteen Espers. It is speculated by some that it is the Esper's power that, whether or not they were employed directly in battle, mystically empowered the party, who, like them, revolted against the gods who sought to rule them.

This is inexcusable. Beyond the pale. There is nothing the game can assert about power, about corruption, about responsibility, that is not immediately countered by the party's seeking out and dominating the most vile and powerful creatures in our world, who, themselves, were and would remain emblematic of the corrupting, damning lure of revenge, of wrath, of destruction, of ambition, of avarice, of- in a word- power, magnificent and terrible.

Everything the game so thoroughly condemns about nethicite is so shockingly hollow, occupying the same space as these beings, which the party commands without reservation. I want you to look at Penelo, at that innocent face, and say to yourself: This girl is the master of Adrammelech, the Wroth, who betrayed his holy masters and lived as a lord of Hell, leading a horde of ravening fiends against his creators. And then I want you to picture her sitting on its shoulders, holding its horns as it hovers in place stirring the air to a tempest and raining lightning upon shrieking civilians as they flee, bellowing blood-curses at a Creation it despises. And, from this diabolic vantage, chastising Ashe thusly: "Nethicite is bad, Ashe. We shouldn't trust those shady Occuria."

In fact, I can't help but believe that it is the party's reliance on these creatures- and, ultimately, their mismanagement of them- that changed the world in ways they really, really should have seen coming. Having thoroughly reviewed the timelines and lore of the three main games in Ivalice, I can come to no other conclusion that the party's outrageous defiance of the Occuria and their absurd negligence regarding the Espers resulted in, without hyperbole, the end of the world as they knew it.

Götterdämmerung: The Twilight of the Gods

Eons ago, when Ultima led her assault against the gods themselves and lost, they were, in punishment, bound into glyphs. Whoever possessed these glyphs would, in turn, become their masters, and great and powerful people in legend, such as Raithwall himself, were said to command them from age to age.

707 Old Valendian. The time, though we are told is much decayed from the height of Raithwall's rule, will be remembered as a golden age. This is the time of magicite as a commodity, of airship fleets arriving and embarking from every city in the world, of great cities that reach to the sky, with people of every race walking the streets in harmony.

The six people who had defied the gods and won, had, in their travels, found and mastered these glyphs and the creatures imprisoned by them. They thought little of this. One of them, however- Famfrit, the Darkening Cloud- had, for a time, been commanded by Cidolfo Bunansa, who seemingly had it contained within a shard of crystal. Given that Doctor Cid was the architect and master of nethicite, it is presumable, and likely, that the creature was contained within nethicite. An alternative was possible. But the principle that an Esper's glyph could be bound within a crystal was proven.

As a byproduct of the destruction of the Sun-Cryst, the sky continent of Lemurés is rediscovered, and with it, Auracite, a type of magicite useful for the binding of spirits, from which the creatures contained within could be commanded. It would be speculated that even the Espers could be commanded in this fashion, but they, as with any creature, could only exist as an echo of their true self and power when called forth in such a form.

Many years pass. The heroes of that era grow old, and die. If they had any understanding of the power that they held in the Espers, or had made any effort to provide for the custody of the Glyphs after they themselves were gone, they are not remembered by history.

After a time, in a kingdom unknown to the heroes of Rabanastre, a young king, seeking to expand his power even further, attempted to summon a demon of incredible power. He succeeded- somewhat. Unable to command the creature, it slew him, and set out at once to destroy the entire world. However the king had attempted to bind them, Ultima, and with her, the Lucavi, were not only present in the world but freed from their glyphs' imprisonment.

The Cataclysm of the demon and its brethren usher in an age of destruction unequaled in history. In time immemorial, the gods themselves fought these creatures, and defended humanity and the young world from their like. This time, no gods appeared to do so. No man was given means to oppose them.

A means to combat them was found in time, however. If one of the demons was defeated, it was possible to seal its spirit away in a shard of Auracite. Twelve warriors set out on this quest, and succeeded in sealing away all of the demons. They were remembered as the Zodiac Braves, and these shards of Auracite, the Zodiac Stones, were kept by the Holy Ydoran Empire as treasured relics.

It was understood, however, that the demons were not destroyed, but contained. One who possessed the stones could, perhaps, summon the creatures once again- yet to do so would require one to merge themselves, body and soul, with the creature; with the ancient glyphs that had bound them in the world gone, this was the Espers', now the Lucavi's, only means of manifesting physically in the world, though the stones themselves could still grant their wielder great power even without this ritual.

It is around this time, only a century or a little more, after the life of Ashelia Dalmasca, that a man named Ajora Glabados would be born. Ajora would found a new sect of the Light of Kiltia religion which, following the death of its Gran Kiltias and the terrible Cataclysm that had followed, was all but dying out.

Though his legend was inflated and falsified by those that would later deify him, Ajora did indeed possess remarkable powers, and had gathered many followers around him in the Holy Ydoran Empire. However, one of these followers, Germonique, discovered that Ajora was also spying on Ydora, and passing along information to all of its enemies, apparently trying to foment some grand conflict for reasons understood only by him. He also discovered that Ajora was gathering the Zodiac Stones, and intended to use them to summon the creatures contained within- which Germonique, misunderstanding, believed were the Zodiac Braves, not the Lucavi.

The Holy Ydoran Empire, finally with the evidence they needed to move against the troublesome would-be prophet, arrested him and had him hanged. However, the prophet's vengeance before dying was terrible, and Mullonde, the seat of Ydoran power and perhaps the last great bastion of Golden Age, pre-Cataclysm technology and culture, was annihilated in a great tidal wave. Though at terrible cost, Ajora- in truth the host of Ultima, the High Seraph- was slain.

Over a millennium later, man is alone in Ivalice. The other races are long since gone, and go unremembered. Humanity itself was said to have nearly been wiped out at one point, but no one can remember quite why. However, researchers of eons past often find great masses of machinery that no one alive has ever seen, all fallen and destroyed as if in a short time, even in one great moment. Even more rarely, the machinery can activate in the presence of a magickal stone, but who would ever have such a thing as magick stone?

Most puzzlingly, there are sometimes uncovered masses of ships in lands where no water is ever known to have occupied. Many have strange protrusions like fins and propellers, but know one knows what these could have been for. In jest, it's said that maybe they flew to where they were. Idle fantasy.

The extraordinarily powerful Church of Glabados is ever-present, and keep a benevolent hand in the affairs of every nation in Ivalice, dedicated to the memory of their founder, the ineffable Saint Ajora. It is in this world that Ramza Beoulve is born.

One hundred years. That was what Dalmasca's stubborn streak bought humanity. This was our victory over the tyranny of the gods. One hundred years.

A Travelog, by a Raving Madman

There is one last thing I would like to test your patience with, and it may indeed surprise you: there is so much to love about Final Fantasy XII.

Yes, I'm surprised by it, too! I try to bear it in mind, but I forget sometimes.

I will maintain once more that I could not have gone through all this effort and thought for a game I dislike. I have been somewhat unkind to it, but I only care in the first place because there is something in this game that seized my imagination and has not yet let go. There are people who can play a game they hate, that gives them nothing but pain, and remark upon it, and say meaningful things about it and entertain people with their lamentations, and I admire these people, but I am not one of them.

The setting is brilliant, and alive. There is remarkable care and thought into making the world and its environments feel equally like a high fantasy we could never know and a living, comprehensible place that we are immediately at home in. This is not something that exists in a single part of the game, but must be distributed throughout it, and it is undoubtedly the work of people who treated this game and its creation with care, and love, and genius. Yes, the creation of the game was not untroubled, nor quick, and the creator of the very setting, Yasumi Matsuno, was tragically removed from the project by untimely illness. But somewhere in the midst of all that, people put their hearts into this game, and it is impossible not to feel it. You can hear it in Lowtown, while people sit and chat near sunshafts breaking in from the noisy streets above, hanging colorful cloths over the bare stone walls and lounging with a small circle of friends on crates that were bound for the city back in the good days. You can feel it at a small shrine, observing an unbroken vigil in silence overlooking a marsh of the miserable undead, lamenting wordlessly their incomprehension, a great palace barely visible through the roiling mist as it protrudes at a grotesque angle from the shattered landscape. You can see it in the eyes of a madman, hanging in the air before a crystal that blazes like the sun, howling exultant laughter and praising a new era at the very edge of the world, gazing out over an endless abyss from a tower dedicated in ages unknowable to the deities he has usurped. There is life here. Put your hand on the screen and you can feel the pulse.

I love the real time gameplay, and, with it, the brilliant open-world environment design that it encouraged and even necessitated. I like the gambit system, both as a concept and in practice, and I think with a little more development it could have served as a fantastic basis for a lot of games, but I know not everyone agrees. I don't attempt to defend it; it worked for me. But the particulars of the system itself are immaterial; the important thing, to me, is that in choosing a system, any system, that allowed them to maintain an open, free-roaming world, one that the player would inhabit in and out of battle, they were immediately locked into making a world that had to work with this system's needs, and this I feel improved the game indispensably. The environments had to be crafted with the expectation that both players and monsters would inhabit them, and need to work within them, and I believe that the designers succeeded in crafting a world that felt like a grand, contiguous world that teemed with life and possibility. There is not "dick around and hunt treasure world," and "fight scary monsters world," partitioned from one another by a big swirly wall. There is just Ivalice wild and free, where beautiful and savage creatures roam across sandy, rolling dunes, and icy rivers flowing through frostbitten crags. There is the palpable feeling that, walls of the world be damned, the setting extends in all directions, on and on. Environment design is not something to take for granted. When you play a game without it, it distresses you, mentally and physically. Whether you know why or not, you can feel it all the same. And when it works, you go to the top of a hill and stare out to the horizon, taking on faith that there is anything and everything lying beyond it, even if you know from experience that there isn't. A well-crafted world like this gives your imagination license to supersede any realities you deem other than preferable. This game does this for me, and I think the decision, made when the game was still just ideas and some sketches and concepts, to make the player's means of interacting with it the way that it is.

The music is some of the very best in the entire series, and I mean that. When the game starts up and "FINAL FANTASY" begins to roar out of the speakers, it shakes my fucking bones, and I am immediately eager to adventure far and wide. When you start the game for the first time, and are greeted by an Opening Theme like this, you have only your rotting, sexless heart to blame if you are not ready to at least give the game a chance. It contributes so indispensably the feeling of the setting, and the game simply could not be the same without it. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, who, together, have created the unique and beautiful music that has so wonderfully characterized the games of the Ivalice setting since Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997. The score of the game is built from high strings, soaring horns, flute, timpani, and harp, and if any complaint can be levelled at the music, it it, perhaps, that they never depart from this instrumentation. But when it works, it works amazingly, and it works nearly all of the goddamn time. In particular, the credits identify the horn player as Osamu Matsumoto, and I can only infer that this man descended onto the Japanese shoreline in a pillar of silvery light, tromboning all onlookers to tears. I have been listening to the soundtrack on loop since I started writing this, and every time The Battle for Freedom comes on, I have to suppress the urge to make war on my neighbors. If you've been following me so far, your time is clearly worthless, and you owe it to yourself to at least give these tunes a chance.

The game is constantly and remarkably beautiful. This was a game created in the closing of a long, long console era and the creators knew exactly what to do with the hardware, technologically speaking. But that's only the foundation, not the edifice. The art in this game was put together masterfully. Everywhere you go, there is vibrant color, and beautiful, intricate environments of every landform and climate, architecture tragically unknown in our own world, and creatures bizarre and beautiful alike. There is more color and variety in the game's sewer level than some games ever manage to possess in sum. The game is so frequently and expertly pleasing that when you go to a place like Old Archades, which is so drab and barren, that you believe it's because the town is simply an awful place to live, and not that the artists couldn't be bothered to put in the hours- which they did, because even these areas are intricately detailed and filled with thoughtful design.

As I mentioned long, long ago, I have a total preferential weakness for the style and delivery of the game's writing. The game strikes an amazing balance, relying on faux-Elizabethan vocabulary and sentence structure while remaining immediately comprehensible, and the intense variety in diction and construction keep the dialogue vibrant and immensely readable. And going hand in hand with that...

The voice acting is some of my favorite in any game I have ever played. Reportedly, for the English translation, they simply hired a bunch of Shakespearean stage actors, and let them go nuts on the script, improvising as much or as little on the prose as they felt appropriate, and in a game that already has the kind of writing that I adore, I cannot help but feel speared by the effect. There is such genuine feeling and nuance, and emotion, that playing this game after playing nearly any other voiced game will leave you feeling richly spoiled. Hilariously, the main cast are the only characters that seem not to have gotten the benefits of these casting and direction decisions, having been made much more "conventional," and the result is that literally everyone in the world is many factors more interesting to listen to than every member of the main cast besides Fran and Balthier. Characters like Ondore, Al-Cid Margrace, Vayne, Doctor Cid, Anastasis, Bergan... Anyone. Nearly everyone! I can't get enough of the voice acting in this game. Comparing it to its predecessor, and its successor, is an act of madness. There is not even any point.

Come to think of it, the cutscenes in this game are absolutely masterful. I know that cutscenes are a part of games that have become sort of maligned. But nearly all games still have them in some form or another, and dammit, if it's in a game, it needs to be good, and the cutscenes in this game were pro-built. Cinematography is cinematography. I looked at a lot of cutscenes checking and rechecking detals for this write-up. A lot. I watched many, many cutscenes. Believe this. And I didn't even get bored! The framing, the script, the pacing, it's all spot-on. And everything I said about the art, music, and voice-acting goes just as strongly for the cutscenes. Games have attempted to be "cinematic" before and long, long since Final Fantasy XII, but it's shocking to see a game that actually has a decent understanding of cinema just working it like it's simply a matter of course, when so, so many others have tried so very hard and... Well... I have a game you can play right now. Here are all the cutscenes from Final Fantasy XII, stitched together. And here are all the cutscenes from Metal Gear Solid 4. Pick a random scene from either and hit play for about fifteen seconds. Plus one point for which scenes are something beautiful, and well-framed, and well-acted, and well-scripted, and well-scored, and well-paced. Minus one point for which scenes are plodding, ugly, stilted, colorless, interminably redundant, tonally-oblivious, narmy vortexes of space-dweller dislogic that leave you screaming at your monitor in grief for your slain time. When you get tired, multiply that score by the length of the game's cutscenes divided by the game's total length. Actually, don't do any of that. You already know good and well what I'm playing at and if you disagree, well, I'd be fascinated to know what it's like going through life being wrong about literally everything. It would be hard to get a driver's license, for one.

But lastly, I think these games have some amazing characters. It would have been great for some of them to end up in our party! But they're in there, and they aren't uncommon. A lot of the better characters seem to be enemies, actually, but that's likely because our dear party tends to piss off so very many people. This, too, is a function of the writing style; any dumb, no-name NPC you run into has some sort of personality crammed into them, and when you throw that much stuff at the wall, you end up with a lot that managed to stick. And, knowing the alternative, I'd say it would have been just great if that's what the main cast had ended up with. Forget about narrative arcs, or thematic relevance. All the characters needed was some memorable personality. Balthier is far and away most people's favorite party member, and it's because the guy actually has some life in him! For what desperately little there is to her character, I ended up always liking Penelo, and I can only conclude that it's for this slab-simple reason: her voice acting is decent, and she has a personality. But even beyond just having memorable people, there are a number of characters who really do have depth and meaning in them. Vayne, Cid, and Venat, of course. But I'll do you one better: you know who the best character in the game is? In fact, you know who the main character of this game is? Halim Fucking Ondore.

Marquis Halim Ondore IV is most everything that the main character of an Ivalician game should be. He's moral and earnest without being naive or foolish. He's cunning, but not conniving. He can play the Great Game as well as his opponents in Archadia and Rozarria despite having a fraction of their power. He's a natural leader of men, uniting the Rebellion into a force that could legitimately oppose the Empire and leading them in battle at the front of the fleet. He's handsome, well-dressed, his voice is outstanding. He is practical without being ruthless, reasonable without being soft. He takes control of one of the largest combined fleets in history without being tempted by its power, which the setting promotes as a near-impossibility. He games the course of nations and history for his nation's benefit, and for the benefit of his friends and allies- not because he, personally, profits from it, but because he desires peace and freedom for these nations. While the Big Six dick around in a swamp collecting rainbow slime and zombie fritters, he's moving the pieces around the board facilitating the entire plot thanklessly behind the scenes. He makes a better opponent and counterpart to Vayne than Ashelia does, when she was designed to fill that role. Put simply, he's a good ruler, and a good warrior, and a good man, in a world where being the last of these is a constant trial and being all three makes you a creature of myth. Ondore MVP 2006.

...I'm sitting here, drumming my fingers, trying to think of anything else to say. But after 75,000 words and 110 pages of Courier New... I think I'm out. Yeah, I know, you're so disappointed.

But frankly, I think I've said all there is for me to say. Anything beyond is for you to find out for yourself, and I think I've put enough out there for you to know pretty definitely if you want to, or not. Though I wouldn't blame you either way.

If I had to describe Final Fantasy XII in two words, I would pick "fascinatingly flawed." 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 entranced by it. So often, I find myself shaking my head at the missed opportunities, left only to wonder what might have been if things had been different, if other decisions had been made or if more or less emphasis had been put in this part or that. Yeah, there are times when I can't stand Final Fantasy XII. But sometimes, in the right light, or from the right angle...

I think I might love this fucking game.

Thank you for reading.