Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary: The Worst of Final Fantasy - Part 4: FFX, X-2, XII

By Gabriel Jones 25.12.2017 1

By this point, it was clear that Square could do no wrong. Sure, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a bigger disaster than Ishtar, but that's Hollywood for you. Companies lose a hundred million dollars like it slid under their couch cushions. Between new franchises such as Kingdom Hearts, a successful foray into the world of MMOs, and the merger with legendary RPG publisher Enix, the future couldn't be any brighter.

Altogether, the mainline Final Fantasy games of this generation have been quite good. Still, as is my wont, I have to find something negative to say about them. It's the curse of being a critic. Having something positive and meaningful to say about a product takes an almost herculean level of effort. Complaining, on the other hand, is almost as easy as breathing. Just bear in mind that these are legitimate complaints. I'm not the guy who took four points off of his rating of Final Fantasy X just because one of the main characters has a profoundly annoying fake laugh. Oh, and one more thing, expect spoilers.

Final Fantasy X

Unskippable cut-scenes are simply the worst. Almost everything about this classic 2001 RPG is sublime, but you should keep a handheld gaming device nearby when replaying the game. This issue becomes especially aggravating later on, thanks to the infamous encounter with Yunalesca. Pre-empting this difficult battle is a five-minute long scene. When the player loses - and they will - then they're going to have to watch that scene again. What was once contemplative and inspiring becomes mind-numbing. It's also amusingly twisted that despite the PC version having a fast-forward button; it doesn't work on cut-scenes.

Final Fantasy X also has the worst minigames in the franchise. They're so terrible, painful, and just outright hateful that I have to question the developers. Were they angry about something? Why take it out on innocent people? All they want to do is get the ultimate weapons so they can fight the superbosses. That's not too much to ask for, right? Instead, they're subjected to tortuous nonsense.

The butterfly gathering minigame is just awful. Dodge 200 bolts of lightning in a row? Talk about a sick joke. There's nothing fun about chocobos, especially not the birds, balloons, and that infernal "0.0.0" time. Blitzball… has its fans. I'm not one of them, but at least there's a sliver of appeal in building a good team. Everything else is throwaway trash that exists solely to add grey hairs. On the bright side, the minigames are almost entirely optional, so feel free to ignore them.

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Final Fantasy X-2

A follow-up to Final Fantasy X that features, among other things, a pop concert and "magical girl" transformations should have been a complete and utter disaster. Instead, the final result is nothing short of miraculous. The story is surprisingly poignant, as it focuses on life after what was supposed to be the end of the world. The wildly entertaining battle system is also a high point. Really, this game is just so fun and endearing that it's hard not to get caught up in its charm.

However, if you're the kind of person who has to 100% complete every game, this one is guaranteed to drive you insane. There are hundreds of "gotcha" moments specifically designed to ruin an otherwise perfect playthrough. For example, cut-scenes can be skipped, but since they count towards the completion percentage, skipping them is a horrible idea. That means listening to Maechen drone on and on for an eternity, visiting the hot springs dozens of times to view the most insignificant moments, and then replaying the entire game for all of one missed scene. Don't forget, there are minigames and side-quests that must be done in a specific manner, or else you lose out on points.

Final Fantasy X-2 has a New Game+ mode, but it doesn't keep track of everything the player has already done. There isn't a checklist, so if you're missing something, then tough luck. In my last playthrough, I followed a 100% completion guide to the letter, and I'm still missing half a percentage point. This pursuit of perfection has drained my soul of all life. Now, all I can hear is Tidus laughing at me.

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Final Fantasy XII

What's the worst aspect of this otherwise excellent RPG? It lacks a decent storyline. It's ambitious and superbly presented, but ultimately disappointing. This is where it gets complicated. Final Fantasy XII is a tale of two stories. One of them is an interesting but ultimately unfulfilling yarn about politics and intrigue. The other is more or less a retelling of the Star Wars trilogy, except it's missing the critical components that made those movies work.

A common theme throughout Yasumi Matsuno's work is "power corrupts." Idealistic and virtuous men inevitably lose their way, simply because the seduction of power is just too great. Once you've gotten revenge against those that have wronged you, what's next? This fascinating and thrilling narrative has been used to great effect in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together. However, plot devices such as the Zodiac stones feel a little cheap, especially when most of the time they're merely used to turn someone into a giant monster. Ultimate power at the cost of humanity is too on the nose.

The bulk of Final Fantasy XII is spent hunting for nethicite. It's useful for making loud explosions, but it's not nearly as compelling as manipulating and backstabbing others in order to maintain control. Furthermore, none of the protagonists are adept in political theatre. They do quite a lot of sight-seeing, and amass a fine collection of ancient relics, but they're very much out of place in a realm steeped in corruption. They always find themselves on the wrong end of deceit.

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The parallels between this RPG and the ground-breaking science fiction movies are very apparent. Vaan is designed in the spirit of Luke Skywalker, Balthier might as well be Han Solo, and in the end, the heroes blow up the Bahamut, a Sky Fortress capable of destroying worlds, not unlike the Death Star. There's even a Balthier-seeking bounty hunter by the name of Ba'Gamnan. He doesn't get eaten by a Sarlacc, but he does drown in quicksand, and that's close enough. This is a perfect recipe for high adventure, and yet the final product comes up short.

Star Wars benefits from its simplicity. It's a traditional tale with clearly defined heroes and villains. Conversely, Final Fantasy XII is convoluted. If a character commits an evil act, it's likely because they were being manipulated by someone or something. The protagonists act mostly on the whims of the enemy, as if they're all just pawns on a chessboard, rather than an opposing force. It's the same issue as in the "other storyline." Much of the adventure is spent miles deep in underground ruins, far away from where any of the real action is taking place. The heroes essentially traded their agency for swords and baubles.

Still, while the storyline falls flat, Dr. Cid hamming it up is probably one of the most memorable moments in the franchise. Now, there's a guy who enjoys his work.

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I gotta say between the Chocobo racing and Blitzball I never put in a tremendous amount of extra time with X. Even the goals for the monster arena were ridiculous. We found ways to make the cutscenes more interesting by making up call backs, but yea, not being able to skip them was a drag.

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