Final Fantasy XII, a tragedy of RPGs. So much potential, but the corporate suits at Square Enix had other plans. Creative differences and all that.
"What is this!? Where is the androgynous male lead? Where is the love story!? Quick, get someone in here who can shoe horn these things in to save our brand image! The 14 year old girls will be in an uproar."
Nothing proves Squares incompetence better than the 20 hour mark of Final Fantasy XII where all the political intrigue and subtle nuances of character development are tossed and what proceeds from there is the worst rush job in RPG history. It's depressing to think what might have been had Square had the balls to let Matsuno do what he wants.
Could you believe members of the FFXII staff were actually resistant to the removal of random battles? God, I'd fire those people on the spot.
Of course, that's all speculation. Maybe Matsuno just got tired of making the game, and just mailed in the last 40 hours with long endless treks across empty wastelands in pursuit of the wholly unsatisfying conclusion to a story that promised so much more. (Looking at FFT and Vagrant Story, it's hard to believe that to be the case, however.) But what else can you do, not like a major corporation in Japan is ready to spill the beans on how ball-less they are. (I'd kill for a documentary about the inner workings and drama of Japanese game design. Gosh that sounded nerdy.)
Final Fantasy XII isn't perfect, but I'm not looking to quantify it's worth anyway. I got tired of figuring out the best FF sometime around the 10th grade. But it was in many ways the best step forward Final Fantasy had seen in a long time. You can't deny that, based solely on the fact that removing random battles should have happened 6 years before FFXII was even released! If they had built upon Matsuno's work, we'd be looking at a completely different company right now.
I don't even know why I'm writing this. Japan hardly matters anymore when it comes to the video game industry. Not that America is doing much better. MW3 anyone? Or how about a regurgitation of Oblivion with slight improvements in the form of Skyrim!
So, whatever, I'm enjoying FFXII. The characters are human and believable (mostly) and even for this jaded 27 year old gamer, most of the lines don't make me cringe -- some of them are actually quite good. Even the combat system is fun. Yes, you can automate it so you never have to touch a button, but there's something satisfying about watching your pre-programmed fighters clear up mobs so seamlessly. And it's not like there aren't fights that require you to pay attention and micro-manage, provided you haven't spent 10 hours grinding up your characters on Mark quests, but that can be forgiven.
But this isn't a review, per se. I just want to say that it hurts to see a game with so much potential...um, well suck isn't the right word, but just to see it fall short. Imagine if Sakaguchi had been let go half way through FFVI. Yeah, that's about right.