Final Fantasy XII (ファイナルファンタジーXII Fainaru Fantajī Tuerubu?) is a console role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2. Released in 2006, it is the twelfth title in the Final Fantasy series. The game introduced several innovations to the series: battles occur without a transition to a separate screen; a customizable "gambit" system automatically controls the actions of characters; and a "license" system determines which abilities and equipment are used by characters. Final Fantasy XII also includes elements from previous games in the series such as summoned monsters, Chocobos, and Moogles.
The game takes place in the fictional land of Ivalice, where the empires of Archadia and Rozarria are waging an endless war. Dalmasca, a small kingdom, is caught between the warring nations. When Dalmasca is annexed by Archadia, its princess, Ashe, creates a resistance movement. During the struggle, she meets Vaan, a young adventurer who dreams of commanding an airship. They are quickly joined by a band of allies; together, they rally against the tyranny of the Archadian Empire.
Final Fantasy XII received near-universally high review scores, and earned numerous "Game of the Year" awards in various categories from noted video game publications. Selling more than two million copies in Japan, it became the fourth best-selling PlayStation 2 game of 2006 worldwide. As of March 2007, over 5.2 million copies of the game have been shipped worldwide. A sequel, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, was released for the Nintendo DS in 2007.
Throughout the game, the player directly controls the on-screen character from a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies. Unlike previous games in the series, the player can also control the camera with the right analog stick, allowing for a 360° view of the surroundings. While in towns and cities, the player may only see from the perspective of Vaan, but any character may be controlled in the field. The world of Final Fantasy XII is rendered to scale relative to the characters in it; instead of a caricature of the character roaming around miniature terrain, as found in the earlier Final Fantasy games, every area is represented proportionally. The player navigates the overworld by foot, by Chocobo, or by airship. Players may save their game to a memory card using save crystals or gate crystals, and may use the latter to teleport between gate crystals. An in-game bestiary provides incidental information about the world of Final Fantasy XII.
Final Fantasy XII restructures the system of earning gil, the currency of the Final Fantasy games; instead of gil, most enemies drop "loot" which can be sold at shops. This ties into a new battle mechanic which rewards the player with improved loot for slaying a particular type of enemy multiple times in a row. Selling different types of loot also unlocks a bazaar option in shops, which provides items at a lower cost, or items exclusive to the bazaar.
Unlike the previous single player Final Fantasy games which used a turn-based system, battles in Final Fantasy XII occur in the open field; however, menus are still used to issue commands to the characters. Battles unfold in real time, using a new system called "Active Dimension Battle" (ADB), which allows the player to battle in the overworld instead of in a separate battle screen. The player may issue commands to any of the three characters in the battle party at will; however, guest characters are controlled by the game's artificial intelligence. Battle commands include Attack, Magicks & Technicks, Mist, Gambits, and Items. Using these abilities, the player must destroy enemies before being defeated.
"Random encounters" have been eliminated in Final Fantasy XII; the transition to a separate battle screen like in other Final Fantasy titles is absent; instead, enemies are visible in the overworld before an engagement and the player may choose to fight or avoid them in open combat. A battle begins when the party comes within range of an aggressive enemy (or vice versa), if the party attacks a non-aggressive enemy, or if a story event initiates a confrontation. When a character or enemy begins to perform an action, target lines connect characters to other party members or enemies; different colors represent the type of action. The player may switch any active character with an inactive character at any time, unless the active character is targeted by an attack or ability. Characters who are knocked out may also be substituted. The absence of a transition to a battle screen means the traditional victory scene is also eliminated, though a successful "boss" battle does present the player with a "Congratulations" screen featuring the participating characters' victory poses and a variation on the well-known battle victory music theme used in most previous games in the series.
Another new feature in Final Fantasy XII is the "gambit" system, which allows the player to program each character to perform certain commands in battle in response to specified conditions. Using gambits, the player may set reactions to different stimuli for each character. Each gambit consists of three parts: a target, an action, and a priority. The target specifies which ally or foe to act on and the condition for applying the action. For example, the target "Ally: HP < 70%" causes the character to target any ally whose hit points have fallen below 70%. The action is the command to be performed on the target. The priority determines which gambit to perform when multiple gambits are triggered. These heuristics guide the characters when acting autonomously, though player-directed commands are always given top priority. In Final Fantasy XII, a mysterious phenomenon known as "Mist" is the key energy which allows the player to cast summoning magic and perform "Quickenings". After defeating one in combat, the player will be able to summon an "Esper" to the battlefield. Similar to Final Fantasy X, the summoned creatures become active participants in battle, as opposed to the cinematic attacks seen in previous games in the series. Unlike Final Fantasy X, however, Espers follow hidden gambits, rather than the player's direct command. The summoner remains an active member in the fight, able to attack and cast support magic, instead of leaving the party or standing idle while the summoned creature fights. An Esper will leave the battle if either the summoner or itself is knocked out, its time limit expires, or it executes its special attack. Some Espers have origins in Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and others are derived from the final bosses of previous Final Fantasy games such as Chaos, the final boss of the first Final Fantasy, and Zeromus, the final boss of Final Fantasy IV. Final Fantasy XII introduces "Quickenings", a new Limit Break system unique compared to those in previous games in the series. Characters learn Quickenings by progressing to specific panels on the License Board. Each character can learn three Quickenings, which are unique to that character. Characters may string together Quickenings into large combo attacks, called Mist Chains, via timed button presses. If a Mist Chain reaches a certain length, a final strike will be initiated at the end of the Quickening cycle, called a Concurrence.
As in many role-playing games, characters "level up" each time they earn a set number of experience points from defeating enemies; each level gained increases the character's statistics and consequently, improves performance in battle. Statistics include hit points, the amount of damage a character can receive; strength, the power of the character's physical attacks; and magic, the potency of the character's magical spells.
In addition to leveling up, players may improve their characters via the License Board. The License Board is an array of panels that contain "licenses"—permits which allow a character to perform certain actions. The board is split into two parts; the upper part contains Magick, Technick, Accessory, and Augment (stat increases and other permanent buffs) licenses, and the bottom part is filled mostly with Weapon and Armor licenses. To use a Magick, Technick, or piece of equipment, the character must obtain its corresponding license by spending the required amount of LP (License Points) to permit its use. LP are earned in battle along with the experience points. Like the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, all characters may obtain all licenses on the board; however, each Quickening and Esper license may only be activated by a single character.
Final Fantasy XII is set within the land of Ivalice during an age when "magic was commonplace" and "airships plied the skies, crowding out the heavens". At this time, magicite, a magic-rich mineral, is commonly used in magic spells and in powering airships—a popular form of transportation in Ivalice. Ivalice is divided into three continents: Ordalia, Valendia, and Kerwon. Ordalia is located in the western part of Ivalice. The Rozarrian Empire makes its home in the vast inland plains of this continent as the eastern portion of it is largely desert or "jagd"—lawless regions so rich in Mist (the ethereal manifestation of magicite) that airships cannot function. Valendia is the home of Imperial Archadia, where vast and lush plains dot the landscape. Central to the story is Dalmasca, a small kingdom between the two continents and empires. Located in the middle of the Galtean Peninsula of Ordalia, Dalmasca is surrounded by an expanse of desert. The temperate climate of Dalmasca differs from the cold environs of Kerwon and the lush plains of Valendia and Ordalia. During this time, Ivalice is beset by the pending war between the forces of Rozarria and Archadia. Caught between the two powerful Empires, Dalmasca and a number of smaller nations have already been subjugated by Archadia two years before the game begins.
The six main playable characters in Final Fantasy XII are Vaan, an energetic orphan of Rabanastre who dreams of becoming a sky pirate; Ashe, a determined princess of Dalmasca who lost her father and husband in the Archadian invasion; Basch, a disgraced knight of Dalmasca charged with treason for slaying the king; Balthier, a gentlemanly sky pirate who pilots his airship, the Strahl; Fran, Balthier's partner and a Viera exile whose knowledge extends to legends and myths; and Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend who accompanies him on journeys to "keep an eye on him".
The Archadian Empire is ruled by House Solidor, headed by Emperor Gramis. The family also consists of two siblings, Vayne and Larsa, the former a military genius and the latter a charismatic seeker of peace. Judge Magisters, upholders of Archadian law, protect House Solidor and execute every command issued by the ruling family. The technological marvels of airships and synthetic nethicite—a form of magicite that absorbs Mist—are thanks to Doctor Cid, a prominent researcher from Archadia. The Resistance against Archadia includes Dalmascan knight Vossler, an ally of Basch; Marquis Halim Ondore IV, the game's narrator and ruler of the skycity Bhujerba; Reddas, a sky pirate based in the port at Balfonheim; and the Rozarrian Empire, of which Al-Cid Margrace is a prince of the ruling family. The mythos of Final Fantasy XII revolves around a character known as Dynast-King Raithwall, a man who once united Ivalice to create the Galtean Alliance in ages past.
Final Fantasy XII begins in Dalmasca's capital city of Rabanastre, where the happiness from the union of Princess Ashe of Dalmasca and Prince Rasler of Nabradia is interrupted by the Archadian Empire's invasion of Nabradia. In the subsequent war, Nabradia and Dalmasca are subjugated by Archadia; Prince Rasler is killed, and the Dalmascan king Raminas, after signing a treaty of surrender, is apparently assassinated by the Dalmascan captain Basch. Reks, a young knight under Basch's command, bears witness to the assassination, but later dies of his injuries. Marquis Ondore announces that Basch has been executed and Princess Ashe has committed suicide.
Two years later, Vaan, the younger brother of Reks, is living a life of a street urchin in Rabanastre. Despite his friend Penelo's objections, he infiltrates the Rabanastre palace during a dinner celebrating the appointment of Vayne Solidor as consul. During the infiltration, Vaan encounters Balthier and Fran, a pair of sky pirates who are after the magicite that Vaan took from the royal treasury. Their escape attempt fails when a battle breaks out between Imperial troops and Dalmascan Resistance forces, and they end up in the sewers where they stumble upon the Resistance leader, Amalia. Vaan, Balthier, and Fran are captured by the Archadians and detained at the Nalbina Dungeons. In Nalbina, the three encounter Basch, imprisoned but alive, and they escape with him; Basch pleads that his twin brother, Gabranth, had posed as him on the night of the treaty and was the true assassin. While skeptical at first, Vaan eventually believes him. With the help of Balthier and Fran, the party then travels to Bhujerba, where Penelo is kidnapped by Ba'Gamnan, a bounty hunter trying to catch Balthier. While rescuing Penelo, the party meets Lamont, a curious boy who is Vayne's younger brother, Larsa, in disguise. Basch is also able to confront the Marquis, who captures the party and detains them onboard the Archadian airship Leviathan, headed by Judge Ghis.
On the Leviathan, the party is reunited with Amalia, who is revealed to be Princess Ashe. Ghis takes Vaan's magicite, a royal Dalmascan artifact, and sends it to Archadia. The company escapes from the airship after defeating Ghis and returns to Bhujerba; however, lacking the magicite, Ashe has no proof of her identity and Ondore suggests that Ashe remain hidden in Bhujerba. Instead, Ashe escapes and attempts to collect the treasures of Dynast-King Raithwall, which would prove her royal blood. The party acquires the Dawn Shard, a piece of "deifacted Nethicite", from Raithwall's Tomb, but Ghis seizes it. The small piece of magicite destroys the Leviathan, Ghis, and his fleet, while Ashe and her party barely escape. The company later encounters Larsa, who seeks a peace treaty between Dalmasca and the empire; Ashe initially objects, but Larsa convinces her to pursue a treaty in order to protect Dalmasca. She goes to Mt. Bur-Omisace to seek Gran Kiltias Anastasis' approval of her as queen of Dalmasca.
The party learns in Mt. Bur-Omisace that many other influential people also hope to avert war. Larsa, who had been investigating Vayne's connection to the manufacted Nethicite, had made contact with Al-Cid Margrace, a member of the Rozarrian Empire ruling family, to convince the two Empires to cease their war. They plan to announce Ashe's status as Dalmascan Queen and to persuade the Archadian emperor Gramis not to go to war, but the plan is thwarted when the Emperor is killed, supposedly by Archadian Senate Chairman Gregoroth. With Anastasis' aid, Ashe retrieves the Sword of Kings, which can destroy Nethicite. While she obtains the sword, Anastasis is killed by Judge Bergan and Larsa is brought back to Archadia. After defeating Judge Bergan, Ashe's party travels to Archades and the Draklor Laboratory, Doctor Cid's base of operations. Cid escapes and leaves clues that lead them to Giruvegan, the supposed location of the Sun-cryst, the source of all deifacted Nethicite. While the whole party is able to enter Giruvegan, only Ashe encounters the makers of the Sun-cryst, the immortal Occuria, who pull the strings of history; they give her the Treaty Blade to cut pieces of her own.
In a cutscene, it is revealed that Doctor Cid's Nethicite research was augmented by knowledge from the Occurian heretic, Venat, who had allied with Cid and Vayne in order to put the "reins of History back in the hands of Man". Vayne aims to become the new Dynast-King by using manufacted Nethicite to conquer all of Ivalice. Cid, revealed to be Balthier's father, was obsessed with researching the Nethicite's power after his own visit to Giruvegan and initial encounter with Venat. Their expansion campaign—which led to the Dalmasca's occupation and the destruction of the city of Nabudis—was made to obtain and study deifacted Nethicite.
Ashe is faced with the choice to heed the Occuria and take pieces of the Sun-cryst for her revenge or to destroy it and end the Occurian control over history. Still undecided, Ashe and the party travel to the Pharos at Ridorana Cataract, where the Sun-cryst is located, accompanied by the pirate Reddas. At the top of the tower they face Gabranth, who admits to killing King Raminas in an attempt to force Ashe to give in to her hate. After they overpower him, Cid arrives and fights the party; they defeat him, but before he dies he uses Nethicite shards to harness the full power of the Sun-cryst. Reddas sacrifices himself to destroy it.
Ashe learns from Al-Cid that a war between Archadia and the Resistance group led by Marquis Ondore is about to take place in Rabanastre. The Sky Fortress Bahamut, an enormous, Nethicite-fueled airship armed with incredibly powerful weapons, had absorbed the incredible amount of Mist released by the destruction of the Sun-cryst and now hovers above Rabanastre. Infiltrating the sky fortress with the aid of the Resistance, Basch confronts Gabranth, who is impressed by Basch's loyalty. The party encounters Vayne and Larsa in the midst of an argument over Vayne's plot for power, to which Larsa objects strongly; Larsa and Gabranth ally with the party to destroy Vayne and Venat. After Vayne's defeat, Ashe announces the end of the war, and Larsa takes over the Imperial Army. The party escapes Bahamut, now out of fuel after the final battle, with Gabranth's body and Larsa. Balthier and Fran remain onboard the Bahamut, steering it away from Rabanastre to prevent a collision, though contact with them is lost.
In the following year, Ashe becomes Queen of Dalmasca, and Basch replaces Gabranth as Judge Magister, serving as guardian to Larsa, now Emperor of Archadia. Vaan acquires his own airship, which he operates with Penelo. Balthier and Fran escape from Bahamut and survive to recover the Strahl and go to Bervenia. The game ends with Vaan and Penelo setting out to visit them, embarking on another adventure.
Development for Final Fantasy XII began in 2001 and was carried out by Square Enix's Product Development Division 4. Final Fantasy Tactics director Yasumi Matsuno, originally announced as producer and co-director (with Hiroyuki Ito), was forced to bow out of both roles midway through development due to health concerns. Hiroshi Minagawa took his place as co-director while Akitoshi Kawazu, of SaGa series fame, became the executive producer. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was disappointed by Matsuno's departure and declined to play the game beyond its introduction.
The desire to move away from random encounters was present since the beginning of development. This desire fueled the development of the Active Dimension Battle system so players could seamlessly move from battle to exploration. The gambit system was conceived early on as a way to facilitate this change. Battle system designer Hiroshi Tomomatsu states that it gradually moved away from a complex and rigid formula to the more flexible form seen in the final version of the game. Ito drew inspiration for gambits from plays in American football where each team member has a specific job to do based on the conditions and desired outcome. As for the license system, he explained that needing "licenses" to perform certain actions was a natural extension of the rigid structured society of Archadia, as epitomized by its Judges.
At the early stages of development, Minagawa revealed that numerous ideas and features were planned for the game, but were dropped from the final stages due to certain constraints and hardware limitations. Some of these included the ability for a second player to join in the gameplay, enabling a two-player mode. Another idea that was given a considerable amount of thought was the ability to recruit non-player characters to join in the mob hunts. Due to the technical limitations of the console and multiple number of characters joining the fray, the development phase took longer than expected, causing delays.
Design inspiration came from a mix of medieval Mediterranean countries as demonstrated by the architectural styles found throughout Ivalice along with many of the races populating the region. The art team visited Turkey, which influenced the game's Mediterranean-style setting. The developers also used styles and deco from other sources including areas in India and New York City. Of note is the use of Sanskrit in the city of Bhujerba. Phrases such as "svagatam" (welcome) and titles like "parijanah" (guide) are lifted directly from Sanskrit. Hideo Minaba, developer and co-art director with Isamu Kamikokuryō, mentions that the team tried to bring out Arabic culture in the design of the game. War is a prominent theme of the game and the developers confirmed that the cutscene battles are influenced by Ancient Rome. When asked to comment on the fan observation of a Star Wars influence, Minaba replied that although he was a fan of the Star Wars series, it was not necessarily an influence to the game's designs.
Basch was initially meant to be the main character of the story, but the focus was eventually shifted to Vaan and Penelo when the two characters were created later in development. The development team explained that their previous game, Vagrant Story, which featured a "strong man in his prime" as the protagonist had been unsuccessful and unpopular; the change regarding Final Fantasy XII from a "big and tough" protagonist to a more effeminate one was thus decided after targeting demographics were considered. With the casting of dorama actor Kouhei Takeda for the voice acting and motion capture, Vaan became less feminine and more "active, upbeat bright and positive". Comments were made about the similarity between main character designer and background design supervisor Akihiko Yoshida's creations and those of Tetsuya Nomura, another Square Enix character designer. Yoshida feels this connection is sparked by the style of color used by both artists, which involves a color consistency between the characters and the environments. The designers stated that non-human characters and races feature a prominent role in the game, which was influenced by an interest in history among the developers.
During the English localization process, Alexander O. Smith, who had previously worked on Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy X, acted as producer and translator. While still preserving the meaning behind the Japanese script written by Daisuke Watanabe and Miwa Shoda, Smith made the decision to use different dialects of English to reproduce the regional differences in pronunciation found in the Japanese version. He also tried to distance the game from the "flat reads" found in other dubbed work by casting voice actors who had experience in theatre work. In terms of general changes, the localization team introduced widescreen 16:9 ratio support and reinserted scenes that were left out of the original Japanese version for political reasons and to preserve an "All Ages" CERO rating.
On November 15, 2005, a playable demo of the game was shipped with the North American release of Dragon Quest VIII. To commemorate the release of Final Fantasy XII, playable demos of the English version were available at DigitalLife's Gaming Pavilion in New York on October 11, 2006, a day dubbed "Final Fantasy XII Gamer's Day". Additionally, Square Enix gave fans the chance to cosplay as characters from Final Fantasy XII. Each person was asked to show Square Enix three photos of his or her costume for a chance to win a trip to New York and participate in the Final Fantasy XII Gamer's Day event.
As of July 30, 2008, Final Fantasy XII holds the Guinness World Record for longest development period in a video game production. The record states it took a total of five years, spanning from 2001 until its release in 2006. At a Final Fantasy XII "postmortem" at MIT in March 2009, Hiroshi Minagawa mentioned that a large portion of the development time of Final Fantasy XII was devoted to the creation of custom tools used for the development of the game.
Hitoshi Sakimoto composed most of the game's soundtrack; Masaharu Iwata and Hayato Matsuo created two and seven tracks respectively, while Nobuo Uematsu, following his departure from Square Enix in 2004, only contributed the theme song. Sakimoto experienced difficulty following in Uematsu's footsteps, but he decided to create a unique soundtrack in his own way. "Kiss Me Good-Bye", the theme song for Final Fantasy XII, was performed in both English and Japanese by Angela Aki. Uematsu noted Aki's style of playing the keyboard while singing reminded him of his childhood idol, Elton John, which was one of the reasons he chose her. The English version of the song was featured in both the Japanese and North American versions of the game. In addition to the theme song, violinist Taro Hakase co-composed, arranged, and performed the game's main instrumental theme, Symphonic Poem "Hope" along with Yuji Toriyama.
Two promotional soundtracks were released before the original soundtrack, Symphonic Poem "Hope" and The Best of the Final Fantasy XII Soundtrack, on March 1 and March 15, 2006, respectively. The former contains all the music used in the game's trailer performed by Taro Hakase, including Symphonic Poem "Hope". The original soundtrack itself was released in Japan on May 31, 2006. It consists of 4 CDs with 100 tracks, and includes promotional tracks not in the final version of the game. The CD single for "Kiss Me Good-Bye" was released on the March 15, 2006. A limited edition was also released, featuring a DVD containing the music video for "Kiss Me Good-Bye". Tofu Records has released an abridged version of the original soundtrack, which contains 31 songs, including "Kiss Me Good-Bye".
Versions and merchandise
On March 16, 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan released a special Final Fantasy XII package, which contained a PlayStation 2 game system, the Final Fantasy XII game, a standard DualShock controller, and a vertical console stand. The Japanese third-party manufacturer Hori also released Final Fantasy XII memory cards on the day of the game's release; stickers of Final Fantasy XII characters are included. Game peripheral maker Logicool (Logitech's Japanese branch) released a special edition Final Fantasy XII controller alongside the title on March 16. Suntory produced "Final Fantasy XII Potion"—a drink containing such ingredients as royal jelly, chamomile, sage, thyme, and marjoram. The drinks became commercially available in Japan on March 7, 2006. Suntory also released a Final Fantasy XII Premium Box, which came with a Final Fantasy XII collector's card. The Potion was a limited edition product and is no longer available.
Studio BentStuff published three Ultimania books: Final Fantasy XII Battle Ultimania and the Final Fantasy XII Scenario Ultimania on June 16, 2006, and Final Fantasy XII Ultimania Ω on November 24, 2006. The Battle Ultimania provides a description and analysis of the new battle system and its components, and developer interviews. The Scenario Ultimania describes the main scenarios in the game, profiles on the characters and areas in Ivalice, developer interviews, and details on each location. The last guide, the Ultimania Ω, includes voice actor interviews, the complete story of Final Fantasy XII including additional character profiles, a collection of artworks and illustrations, the complete play guide, and a novella written by Benny Matsuyama, author of Hoshi wo Meguru Otome from the Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Ω Guide. Another Ultimania edition, the Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System Ultimania, was released on September 6, 2007, as a guide book for the international version of the game.
For the North American release, a "Collector's Edition" was available through GameStop and EB Games. This edition includes the original game packaged in a metallic case along with a special bonus disc, which contains Final Fantasy XII developer interviews, an art gallery, U.S. and Japanese trailers, and a featurette entitled "History of Final Fantasy", which gives a brief overview of most released and upcoming Final Fantasy games. On January 26, 2007, Square Enix Product Blog revealed full-color Gabranth, Ashe, Balthier, and Vaan figures.
An international version of the game called Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System was released in Japan on August 9, 2007 as part of both Final Fantasy 20th anniversary and Ivalice Alliance. The game includes twelve License Boards available (instead of the original one), each corresponding to a different Zodiac sign and job. The battle system as a whole has been tweaked; guest characters and summons are controllable by the player, and holding the L1 button doubles the game's running speed. Additionally, the game features the English voices and the widescreen 16:9 ratio support of the North American version, along with a bonus disc based on the one initially released with the North American version. There is also a "New Game+" option, "New Game- (minus)" (where characters do not gain experience), and a "Trial Mode" which allows the player to hunt monsters in 100 different maps to gain items and money.
A sequel to Final Fantasy XII was released for the Nintendo DS in 2007, entitled Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. It takes place one year after the events of Final Fantasy XII, following the adventures of Vaan. This game became one of four titles in the Ivalice Alliance, along with the international version of Final Fantasy XII. Fortress, a spin-off action game initially developed by GRIN, is currently in development by an undisclosed studio.