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Final Fantasy from the beginning (Currently @ FFXII)

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I enter a large chamber that looks like a void, like everything is floating in space. In the middle is a gigantic crystal the size of a building with another light bridge connected to it. It's protected by a boss, a wyrm called Tyrant. After beating Tyrant, a Waystone takes me inside the Great Crystal.


Suddenly, the map no longer works. The inside of this crystal is a confusing series of platforms connected by light bridges, and every area looks the same so it's hard to know which way to go to find the switches needed to lower the forcefields blocking the route. I find my way through more by luck than judgement and a Waystone teleports me back outside the crystal into a new section of the void room.


Further along is another boss fight. I can tell right away that this one is tougher and probably an Esper. Shemhazai has some strong magical attacks, including Flare, but I withstand it and just keep attacking, using a Hastega Mote to speed up and whittle down his health. After winning, I unlock Hemhazai the Whisperer on a license board of my choice.


Unlocking Espers seems to be the only way to access certain isolated squares on the license boards, by bridging gaps over to them. I hope there are more Espers still to find, even if they're optional.


I activate another stone and suddenly Ashe is in a spectral room talking to a council of interdimensional beings like at the end of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They are called the Occuria, and they have chosen Ashe like they chose Raithwall before her. He used the sword to cut pieces of nethicite from something called the Sun-cryst, and now the Occuria want Ashe to do the same with a new sword, the Treaty-Blade. An Occuria heretic called Venat is the one who has been giving Doctor Cid instructions on manufacturing artificial nethicite, so the other Occuria want to stop him and destroy the Empire, which Ashe is not sure she wants to do.


Cid is not here and never was. It seems he lured us here because he wanted Ashe to meet the Occuria and get the nethicite pieces, possibly out of scientific curiosity.
Meanwhile, Vayne, Cid and Larsa are in the Capitol having a chat. Vayne instructs Judge Gabranth (who, if memory serves, is Basch's twin brother, right?) to find Lady Ashe and find out what her intentions are with the stones. Larsa is convinced she does not want war.


The Occuria don't bother to tell me exactly where the Sun-cryst is, so I have to investigate myself, but first I need to leave the area and after trying to find my way through all the light bridges again, I realise I can just teleport from the Esper room.


I give the Treaty-Blade to Balthier, which is a decent upgrade to the previous sword, and head towards Balfonheim to speak to the pirate Reddas about where to go next.


Current playtime: 49 hours

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Balfonheim is a very long way from Giruvegan, pretty much the other side of the world map. Only a fool would make the journey on foot - or somebody who wants their B-team to gain experience points. (Guilty!)


When I eventually get back to Balfonheim Port, I stock up on supplies and some new weapons (expensive!) and then head to Reddas' mansion. We fill him in on what we learned about the Sun-cryst and he thinks we need to go to the Lighthouse on the Naldoan Sea to find it, as he's got some ships there that are having engine trouble. I need to go to the Ridorana Cataract (jeez, who comes up with these names?!) which is in the Jagd Naldoa. Jagd are areas where magicite (such as Skystones) don't work, but Reddas has swiped a special jagd-resistant Skystone from the Empire and gives it to us to use in Balthier's airship, the Strahl. To seal the deal, Reddas then joins the party as a guest character!


Reddas has limited White magicks, but one of them is Holy, which no-one else has yet. His default gambits are configured in a stupid way so I change them around to something sensible. I can leave at any time by going to the Aerodrome, but I'm feeling bold and think I might use this opportunity to try my luck at hunting some more marks.


Trying to access a hidden area of Barheim Passage to find a Rank V mark leads me to a side quest in North/South Bank Village, reuniting a Cactoid family and collecting ingredients for medicine. This gets me the key to another entrance to Barheim Passage, although after going inside, I see I could have reached this entrance from the other entrance anyway, so what was the point of the key? Regardless, I find a new route to a previously unexplored area and then randomly kill the mark I was looking for without even realising, a Rank V Bloodwing (large bat). Huh, that was easy.


Further into the passage, I encounter an unexpected Esper boss fight, Zalera. It throws lots of status effects at me but with four characters all hitting him, and making use of Mist attacks, Zalera is defeated and I gain another summon. I'm glad I had a fourth character in the party; Reddas will prove useful for this sort of thing.


Zalera the Death Seraph is a sort of grim reaper with a woman attached to him? Come to think of it, all of the Espers I've seen so far have had the same duality, graftings of two entities. Belias is a fusion of man and beast, Mateus has a woman attached to him as a shield (WTF?) and the back end of Shemhazai is a mechanical horse. And they're all vaguely related to the underworld in some way. Weird.


Anyway, there's yet another exit in Barheim Passage and this comes out to Garamsythe Waterway, though goodness knows how I didn't find that entrance before. Everything is connected to everything else. There's a puzzle in the Waterway that I previously skipped, involving closing sluice gates to drain water levels, and it really shows up the limitations of the level design; having these sewers broken up into separately loaded portions makes trying to navigate terribly confusing.


Solving the water puzzle gets me to an area where I fight yet another boss, and would you believe it, it's another Esper! This one is called Cuchulainn, a kind of fat armoured troll with a crucifix sticking through its head. This is a VERY tough battle as it throws all sorts of status effects at me, drains my HP rapidly, immobilises everyone at once, slows, poisons, saps and generally causes a nuisance. It takes both of my teams to beat it, and that's with Reddas's help!


Nevertheless, Cuchulainn the Impure is now mine. I exit the sewers and return to the Estersands to report on the death of the Bloodwing, completing that hunt. I am going to go through my list of marks and try to finish as many as I can while Reddas is with me.


However, that's all for the moment and my subsequent updates will probably be sporadic as I'm on holiday next week, but I'll keep a log of any interesting activities if I get a chance to play much more.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I haven't done much these past couple of weeks; mostly hunting for marks while I can still take advantage of Reddas being in the team. Some of these hunts include another temporary guest character (eg. the person who posted the bill) so you occasionally have five characters attacking together, which is helpful.

I defeat the following marks:
- Vyraal (Rank V)
- Piscodaemon (Rank V)
- Lindwyrm (Rank V)
- Overlord (Rank VI)
- Deathgaze (Rank VII)

Deathgaze takes place on the deck of an airship. While searching for this one, I do a sidequest to find six sisters and give them each a letter to stop a man from bothering them. This takes me back and forth aboard passenger airship routes, which I hadn't bothered to use until now. It's generally much easier to just teleport around using the orange save crystals.

I then go on to defeat a Wild Malboro (Rank VI), which is a proper full size Malboro with horrible breath, and a Catoblepas (Rank VI). While in the Zertinan Caverns for this last one, I find and defeat another esper, Adrammelech the Wroth, adding a further summon to my roster.

Three more marks, Roblon, Goliath and Deathscythe (or their petitioners) are located somewhere called Nabudis, which I don't think I've been to yet, so they may have to wait. There's also one in a hidden section of the mines but the petitioner won't let me take on the hunt without a key I don't have yet, and I think I need to do a later hunt before I can get it (Antlion?).

Fafnir (Rank VII) is in the Paramina Rift, but like some marks, he only appears during cetain weather conditions, in this case a blizzard. I should point out that it is only now, 60 hours into the game, that I realise I can view the exact location of any mark directly by pressing a button in my Clan Primer, and that I don't have to look at the board in a pub. Whoops!

I don't know that I'll get much more done for the next few weeks; I've got two big projects on the go that take priority over Final Fantasy unfortunately! But I will chip away at this and have some better updates soon.

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Continuing in the Paramina Rift, I find that Fafnir (Rank VII) is waaaay too tough for me to defeat at the moment, so he will have to wait.

I head through the Salikawood towards one of the exits I haven't explored yet, coming out into the Necrohol of Nabudis. Two years prior, Nabudis was destroyed by the Midlight Shard, a piece of nethicite that has left behind nothing but monsters and Mist amongst the ruined palace walls. Basch advises against passing through here but I'm at a pretty high level so I think I'll be fine. I take it this area isn't story-critical right now, but it's available so I'm checking it out.

There are three more marks in this general area: Roblon, Goliath and Deathscythe. However, I kill Deathscythe (Rank VI) with my B-team, without realising it's a mark! I just thought it was a slightly tougher monster or rare game or something. Further along, I kill Goliath (Rank VI) without too much trouble.

The Necrohol is a repetitive labyrinth of wonky corriors, empty rooms and stairways, with many explosive traps on the ground. It's not a particularly nice place, but the enemies are manageable, if tougher than I'm used to. Here and there are locked doors that need special keys or emblems to open, so maybe I can come back to these. (I later learn there are disciples out there looking for keys, so I might bump into them.)

Coming out of the Necrohol, I enter the Nabreus Deadlands, a foggy swamp full of lillypads. Roblon (Rank VI) is here somewhere but seems to be in a part of the map I can't reach yet. The main exit in the south takes me back to the Salikawood, so I've done a full circle. No story content was there and I'm pretty much done hunting, so it's time to move on.

I fly the Strahl to the Ridorana Cataract, a tower on the edge of a waterfall. Balthier offers some cryptic words to Vaan, about how to pilot the ship if he has to heroically sacrifice himself, but surely that's not going to happen... right? :unsure: Ashe still hasn't decided what she's going to do with the McGuffin we're looking for.

I had almost forgotten what I'm doing here. Looking for a big chunk of nethicite or something? The story lacks urgency or any dramatic rises and falls, the pacing is glacial and I can't determine how close to the end I am. Vaan is at level 60 and three of my characters have no available licenses left to unlock, so there can't be much more! I'm enjoying it well enough, but it's the antithesis of excitement.

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I think you’re off to find some big crystal thing and use that new sword the ghost things gave you to cut a piece off or something.


I’ll be honest, since I stopped sniffing glue the plots in ff games have stopped making sense. 

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Guarding the tower, the Pharos, is a decaying undead dragon boss called Hydro. Beating this unlocks the tower entrance, outside of which is a cryptic message left behind by King Raithwall.


The tower has multiple levels inside. The 'First Ascent' requires I collect black orbs from defeated monsters and use them to power up devices around the edge of the tower. This releases the seal on a door, through which I am teleported to a strange sand dune and have to fight a rocky turtle boss called Pandaemonium. Not a particularly tough fight aside from when it shields itself from all attacks.


Once it's beaten, I'm whisked away from the dune and back to the room of the tower, like a switched off holodeck, and can take a waystone teleporter up to the next level. In this area, I have to release magic flames from inside statue head monsters so that they turn into bridges (sure, that makes perfect sense!).


For the second guardian, I'm whisked away to a marshy area and have to fight a flying fish called Slyt. Again, not a difficult fight for me, but I take this opportunity to use a few of my new summons and watch their incredible attack animations. After the fight, the marsh disappears and I'm back in the room of the tower, ready to proceed upwards.


For the next challenge, I have to ascend four identical floors and at this point I begin to suspect the level designers took an early lunch after hitting Ctrl+V a few times. There are four magical doors to get to the top, each opened by an altar that suppresses an ability like magic, items or weapons. The least egregious only disables the corner map, so I choose that one.


After beating a third boss, a tiger beastman thing called Fenrir, I find myself at an impass on the 66th floor. I can once again choose a magic altar to disable an ability, but there doesn't seem to be a further way up. Missing the fact that I need to just activate the same altar again, I waste time going back down four floors (which is easier said than done - many of the exits are invisible and everything is really dark), finding nothing of use and having to ascend back to 66F again, finally pressing the right switch to activate the main lift.


The lift floats within an upward flowing waterfall in the centre of the tower and takes me to the 67th floor, then a waystone teleports me to 80F... to start the 'Third Ascent' - good grief! Thankfully, the Third Ascent is simpler and shorter - I must simply teleport via different coloured sigils in the correct order. Another lift then takes me to floor 90. I think this is the top!


The boss of the tower is another Esper, Hashmal, a beast-faced man with flowing white hair and massive arms that looks like a couple of angry fish have grabbed onto him. This battle doesn't take long, although I should say that I'm running the game at double speed most of the time, so all battles are over quickly! I give the Esper Hashmal to Basch, who doesn't yet have one, which also unlocks a couple of useful white magicks from his license board.


At the very top of the tower, we finally reach the Sun-cryst, a large glowing stone. Ashe wrestles with her conscience over whether to destroy the Sun-cryst or to cut a piece off to use as a weapon against the Empire. The ghost of Rasler appears to edge her towards revenge until she realises this 'ghost' is merely a projection of the Occuria who employed her services, and she at last refuses to be their puppet of vengeance.


Judge Gabranth arrives (like, how, we're 90 floors up?) and taunts us, seemingly wanting Ashe to use the stone. Then Reddas reveals that he used to be a Judge himself, Judge Zecht, responsible for the destruction of Nabudis two years earlier under Cid's orders. We defeat Gabranth but before we can destroy the Sun-cryst, Doctor Cid himself turns up, powered by the Venat, dismisses Gabranth and attacks us. He summons an esper, Famfrit, a mechanical/armoured warrior carrying a massive jug. For the first time in ages, I have to actually change some Gambits around as I can't attack Cid directly and have to defeat Famfrit first.


Defeated, Venat leaves Cid's body and Cid dies, fades to Mist and blows away. The Sun-cryst, perhaps in an effort to protect itself, gives off a powerful wind of Mist energy, which prevents Ashe from reaching it and hurts Fran. Seizing the opportunity, Reddas grabs Ashe's sword and launches himself towards the Sun-cryst, destroying it and sacrificing himself in the process. A blinding light is visible from all over Ivalice.


Back at Balfonheim port, Al-Cid of Rozarria (the suave Italian-sounding gentleman, and nothing to do with Doctor Cid) is waiting for us in the mansion. He has been unable to stop some of the Rozarrian forces from attacking the Imperial fleet under the guise of the Resistance and all-out war is close at hand. Meanwhile, Lord Vayne has awakened Bahamut, which is heading towards Rabanastre, but it's not clear whether Bahamut is an airship or a creature.


Before heading to Rabanastre, I collect a couple of bounties and defeat Roblon (Rank VI) in a hidden section of the Nabudis Deadlands. Even with Reddas gone, this isn't a difficult hunt, though the ever-spawning skeleton warriors surrounding Roblon are annoying.


Current playtime: 67 hours

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Apparently, 'Bahamut' is a flying fortress, the final area in the game and the point of no return. So I have to decide now whether to push to the end and wrap things up, or hang around and complete some end-game content, side quests, remaining hunts, etc. (with the help of a guide).

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I bought FFXIII myself literally a few days back so I’m interested to start that at some point soon as well. I’ve got Shadow Hearts 2 on the go currently though. 

It was only 3 or so years back I went through XII so I remember quite a bit of this thread, although it feels like bits of the game are laboriously long winded and bland such as that place you got to recently with the lift. I did loads in FFXII and was fuming when I hadn’t realised that the game didn’t return me back to finish things off post-game. I’d done all but I think one mark or something of the 50 is it? That bit with the lift I’m sure there’s lower floors which extends it if it’s the place I was thinking about which I think it is. 

My play time was def In the region of 140 by the time I’d finished and I used 4x speed a lot. I’m not sure if that partly due to wandering around trying to do side bits before finishing though.

I did like the FF XII but it was just long boring at times for me. I never got into the story either and prefer turn based combat than what went on here. I did like though how the gambit system sometimes needed to be overridden and controlled manually for some bosses which did bring back a sense of control and strategy. 

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14 hours ago, Ninja Doctor said:

Once you’re done with this, if you’re interested I have the hard back players guide (300 pages) for FFXIII. 

Very kind of you, but I'll probably use online guides if/when I get to that point.




Good grief! All this time I had not been going into the Clan Hall in Rabanastre. I went there once or twice near the start of the game but I completely missed the little moogle, Montblanc, sitting on the banister on the second floor! He's the one you need to speak to to view elite bills and go on secret hunts, get rewarded for reaching new hunter ranks, defeating bosses and collecting espers. I basically get 60 hours of backpay all at once, and loads of new leads! Amongst the new hunts are a Cluckatrice (Rank I), Antlion (Rank V) and The Seer (Rank VI). The latter is Monblanc's own bill. For now, I travel around the world to meet some new petitioners.

Most of these marks are easily beaten but they might have some specific requirements to find them. A Rank V flan type monster called Orthros, for instance, only appears in the Garamsythe Waterway if your active party consists of women. Others might have to wait for the weather to change or to clear the area of monsters first. One particular tough nut to crack is Diabolos (Rank VII), who appears in the newly accessible Area 11 of the Lhusu Mines. However, after two failed attempts to beat this one, I conclude that I am in desperate need of some Ribbons if I am to handle the barrage of status effects I'm being hit with. So I think the next task is to find one or more Ribbon accessories, and maybe find a good place to level-grind a bit too.

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There are a few ways to acquire a Ribbon, none of them fast or easy. One way is to join the hunt club at Phon Coast and collect trophies from killing rare game, but I can see this taking a long time to get sufficient trophies to earn a Ribbon.


Alternatively, I could go back to the Pharos tower and explore the optional subterra levels (I should probably do this anyway), or try to spawn a level 99 Red Chocobo (1/256 chance of appearing), or collect 10 Espers to gain access to a new part of the Henne Mines, or exploit the Zodiac Age's new Trial Mode to steal a Ribbon and carry it over to the main game.


Or perhaps all of the above! :wacko:

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I seek out some optional Espers. Exodus, located on the Mosphoran Highwaste after activating some floating platforms, is fairly strong. He also has a dampening field that disables the use of items during the fight, but otherwise he isn't much of a problem.

Zeromus, on the other hand, is a VERY challenging fight. Hidden in the Stilshrine of Miriam, he disables all magic during the fight, forcing me to rely on items, severely depleting my stocks. He also uses powerful gravity-based attacks for massive damage, hits me with slow, stop and other status effects, AND has an infinitely respawning army of the undead to assist him, which clogs up my turns. I only just about make it through on my third attempt at this fight. Phew!

Gathering ten Espers unlocks Site 2 of the Henne Mines. This is a very challenging location, especially deeper inside where you'll fight Hecteyes and Glaring Eyes, and I abandon it for now. I will need to come back when I'm a higher level and have some more Serums to get rid of disease. The strongest Esper, Zodiark, is also in here but I am definitely not prepared for that!

Despite its array of improvements, The Zodiac Age version of FFXII does have some less convenient aspects. Certain weapons, spells and items are harder to come by than they were in the original. Cleanse, a white magic that cures disease, is no longer available in shops, but now only appears in a treasure chest in a certain location with a low percentage chance of appearing. There are lots of things like this, where you have to be in a certain place to find something that has a probability of not being there right away. This includes some of the rare game monsters, which I would never be able to find without the help of a guide. I will pursue this, however, as I think it's the best way to get the first Ribbon. It has taken me back to some interesting places so far, like the Great Crystal beyond Giruvegan, which is a mapless location and virtually impossible to navigate without... yes, a guide. Square really wanted to sell strategy books.

When I'm about half-way through the rare game hunt, I decide to have another bash at Fafnir (Rank VII) in the Paramina Rift, and finally defeat him - even without Reddas! Vaan is now level 79, with the others not far behind, as I approach the 80 hour mark.

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It takes a while, and I am entirely dependent on a guide, but completing the rare game hunt nets me my first Ribbon accessory. :)


However, I then discover a much quicker way of getting a Ribbon. There is a 'Trial Mode' option in the main menu, which is basically a gauntlet run of enemies, bosses and even Espers fought throughout the game. Progress through this mode is carried over into the main game, and one of the enemies, the Esper Hashmal at the mid-way point (stage 49) has a chance of carrying a Ribbon. Using Thief Cuffs, there's a 6% chance of stealing one. If you fail to steal one, you can quit back to the menu and, because this version has an auto-save, restart stage 49 and keep trying again and again. The entire process only takes half an hour and is repeatable, so I do it twice and end up with Ribbons for all three of my party.


Ribbon, as you may know from previous games, is an accessory that prevents virtually all negative status effects. In the Zodiac Age, this has the added benefit of granting Regen and Libra while equipped, which is incredibly generous! Now fully immune from annoying status attacks, I decide to do some other side quests.


I complete the 'three medallions' side quest to access the sealed doors in the Necrohol of Nabudis, and defeat the three bosses there, including the optional Esper Chaos. Chaos disables physical attacks during the fight, requiring a bit of creativity. I use Telekineses and Gil Toss; the latter actually wipes me out of cash, which I don't realise until I visit a shop later - whoops!


Moving back to the hunts, I beat Diabolos (Rank VII) in Lhusu Mines, which is much easier now! I defeat Trickster (Rank V), a large glowing white Chocobo. I then defeat Carrot (Rank VII), who is actually a massive Malboro, and Pylraster (Rank VII), a large and very strong dinosaur waiting outside the Pharos at Ridorana.


The next mark I defeat is Behemoth King (Rank VII), who appears near Giruvegan. This is a very sturdy foe with high defence and an alternating physical/magical immunity, and takes around 45 minutes to wear down, even at double speed!


One of Monblanc's bills is for the Ancient Man of Mystery (Rank VII), who turns out to be the six-armed swordsman Gilgamesh, and his dog Enkidu. Unlike other marks, this foe is a unique character model, presented as an actual boss fight and even has voiced dialogue! The music is a remix of the Battle on the Big Bridge theme from FFV, which is one of the best pieces from that game and, frankly, outshines most of the music in this one too!


Gilgamesh carries swords from previous FF games, including Tidus's blue sword, Squall's gunblade and Cloud's Buster Sword, although it is suggested these are all replicas (dispite Gilgamesh's boasts). He is fought twice and escapes alive both times, but the latter (harder) battle is enough to declare him vanquished.


(There is a funny visual gag after you leave the cave where he drops his sword, which is honestly one of the best bits of low-key visual humour I've seen in this franchise, never mind in this rather po-faced entry.)


My next goal is to locate four missing Technicks that will be very useful in the upcoming boss fights: Shear, Addle, Wither and Expose. These Technicks can reduce physical or magical strength and resistance, which would have made the Behemoth King battle a fair bit quicker! Two of these are easy to find, but Addle is hidden in the Henne Mines. This is another of those "how the hell would anyone know this" situations; in one of the toughest areas in the whole game, in the middle of a huge section that can't be easily refreshed, difficult to see and filled with monsters, there is a 10% chance of an item box with Addle appearing. Only by 'zoning' back and forth is it likely to appear and there's no indication it will show up until it does. While here, I also collect a fourth Ribbon from another rare box and then leave the final part of the Henne Mines for a later expedition.


A Belito (Rank V) is supposed to be causing trouble in an isolated section of the Nam-Yensa Sandsea, amongst the big mining platforms, but this turns out to be a ruse by the clan to capture the 'hunter stalker' that has been attacking clan members recently. A bangaa named Ba'Gamnan has been looking for Balthier for revenge, so we fight him instead and that's that 'hunt' done. The 'Belito' never existed.


My two remaining marks are both in the Subterra levels of the Pharos at Ridorana, as is the last Technick I need... so I can't put off going there anymore. The lift down from the main level takes me to another very similar-looking circular room, but this one is filled with infinitely spawning monsters. This might actually be a decent place to level-grind. To continue, I need to search dark rooms in the four corners of each floor to find more of those black orbs dropped by defeated monsters.


I have passed the 92 hour mark, and still have a lot of tasks to tick off, but I can feel the end within reach.

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While exploring the pitch black rooms of the three Pharos Subterra levels, I randomly stumble across and defeat Ixion (Rank VI), a large horse, and find my fifth Ribbon accessory in a box. I also track down Phoenix (a mini-boss / Elite Mark), who I need to defeat before I can descend to the secret fourth level of the Subterra, simply called 'Unknown'. Once again, I wouldn't know any of this without the help of the Internet.


A Rank VI mark called the Shadowseer is the only thing down here, but it summons previous Elite Marks to fight you, which I have to defeat again before I can damage the Shadowseer itself. While not especially strong, it saps my MP, and I don't currently have a good way to speedily replenish this, so I rely on regular Ethers.


With the Shadowseer beaten, that's all I need in the Subterra. I return to Montblanc in the Clan Hall to clear down my hunt list. I've completed 44 hunts, which means there is one more to go, but to access this I first need to pay a visit to the Sochen Cave Palace and unlock one of those sealed doors. (Again, thanks Internet!)


The beast I'm after is the Hell Wyrm, the largest and most powerful of all the dragon type enemies in the game. In fact, he has so much HP that his life bar is split into sub bars, and depleting each one only knocks off one small section of the multi-bar underneath it. Hell Wyrm is enormous, with elaborate colourful rings covering its head, wings and tail, although I can pretty much only see its legs when I'm standing next to it. I use my new Technicks to get its defence and strength down a little, and play out the battle at 2x and even 4x speed, but it's still a lengthy encounter. Not entirely an automated process, but nevertheless, I don't suffer any setbacks and the Hell Wyrm is defeated.


Upon returning to the Clan Hall, Montblanc congratulates me and offers me a contract for the final mark, Yiazmat (Rank VIII). Although I could have a decent stab at this right now, I think I will hold fire until I've done a couple more things. First thing's first, I want to purchase some Hi-Ethers from the invisible seller in Nabudis (yes, there is an invisible merchant, because this game hates you and SquareEnix really wanted your money). After that, I go back into the Great Crystal (again, using an online map) and locate the remaining treasures there, including the white magick spell Hastega (Haste-All) and the Excalibur sword, which is guarded by the penultimate Esper, Ultima.


Ultima is a very tricky adversary. Like previous Espers, she disables certain commands during the battle, but this time they are all used on rotation. Sometimes you can't attack, sometimes you can't use magick, or items, or Technicks. Sometimes your HP is drained, sometimes your MP, and every so often she will cast a powerful Holy spell that also hits you with Reverse, which means as you try to heal your HP you actually damage yourself. This fight requires regular fiddling with my Gambits, and two failed attempts, but I am eventually victorious and can add the Esper Ultima to my collection.


Venturing back to Rabanastre, I do a small side quest and defeat a minor optional boss, the Earth Tyrant, in the sandstormy section of the Westersand. This is a very easy fight as I could have done it at around level 30.


There's not much more I need to do. I'm missing some White Magicks - Faith, Bravery and Holy - the first two being found in the Necrohol of Nabudis, and Holy from the Pharos Ascent. Just simple treasure pots that I somehow didn't see the first time.


At this point, I make a stupendous discovery - you can set status buffs as Gambits and it only uses them when needed! 😮 I had assumed that setting Protect or Haste or whatever, to be used on an Ally without condition, would make them cast it over and over again. But no! The condition of using buffs only when the target is unbuffed is inherent to the Gambit! How have I gone 100 hours and not realised this? I set up Hastega, Bubble, Protectga and Shellga as permanent Gambits, and although I will need to keep an eye on my MP reserves, I no longer have to keep checking my buffs are active.


Vaan has reached level 90 and I'm feeling brave, so I'm going back into the darkest depths of the Henne Mines to fight the final Esper. At this point, I have done almost everything I wanted to do in the game. There are some little side quests like a fishing game, street races and other minor things that I don't care about, but my key objectives before wrapping up are:


- Defeating and acquiring the final Esper, Zodiark
- Defeating the final mark, Yiazmat (Rank VIII) and finishing the hunts
- Defeating the optional superboss, Omega Mark XII


Sounds doable? :unsure:

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5 hours ago, Ninja Doctor said:

Lol! You’ve made hard work of it without knowing the buff gambit trick. I think it also works for healing gambits so you’d only cast Esuna if someone was debuffed. 

Shit, you're right! :o

Smart Gambits! :doh:

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6 hours ago, Ninja Doctor said:

Start again from t beginning!




Zodiark is not the large imposing creature I imagined he would be. He's quite small and looks like a weird fish suspended in an ornate frame. The fight begins very positively; although he unleashes a powerful 'Darkja' attack (that has a random chance of KO-ing), my Ribbons protect me from all his status attacks and my weapons do some good damage, hacking away at his life bar at a rapid pace. In under a minute, he's down to 20% health and that's when the tricks begin.

He makes himself immune to all physical attacks and casts Reflect on himself to protect against spells. If you try to Dispel his Reflect, he counters with Darkja again and re-Reflects. The trick is to cast Reflect on one of my own characters, then bounce strong black magicks off of them and onto Zodiark... preferably without accidentally healing him, all while he's flinging powerful spells at me. On two attempts, I get him down to a sliver of health before he wipes me out, but the third attempt, with Fran joining in with a final Holy spell, is successful. Zodiark, the thirteenth and final Esper, is defeated.

To defeat Yiazmat, the final mark, I need a license to use a weapon called the Yagyu Darkblade. While not essential, it's stronger than Vaan's current blade and its dark element will do extra damage to Yiazmat. The problem is, the license to use it is locked behind a dead square on the board. Fortunately, this version of FFXII lets you reset the license board of any character, and even change jobs if you like. It's a slow and tedious process to reactivate all the licenses one by one, but after ten minutes I've successfully gone through Vaan's license board and slightly changed which squares I activate for quickenings, granting access to the Yagyu Darkblade license. Will it make any difference? Let's find out.

Yiazmat can be found in the colloseum in Ridorana, an appropriate location for a big fight. So much for Hell Wyrm being the mightiest of dragons, Yiazmat looks almost identical and his multi-part life bar takes even longer to chip away at. His HP is in the region of fifty million, I think. Unlike fighting Espers, this isn't a battle of strategy, it's more one of perseverance and consistency. I use Wither and Addle at first, rendering Yiazmat's normal attacks redundant (aside from their rare ability to instantly KO every so often) and his defence reduced enough to not make this battle take several days.

It's quite bizarre to watch, but having all my characters' Gambits perfectly set up and the game speed set to 4x, I almost don't have to do anything. Occasionally, I'll need to select a new party leader while Vaan is knocked out for half a second, and I try to make sure I keep my party close together so that area buffs hit us all, but otherwise I just sit back and watch... and watch... and watch... as Yiazmat's enormous HP bar is gradually scratched away. He goes into turbo-bastard mode when he's almost dead, but I don't change my tactics. After an hour, Yiazmat is defeated!


I'm feeling pretty geed up now, like I could take on anything. Once I collect my final bounty, and Montblanc and his family give me their heartfelt thanks, I head straight to the Great Crystal through Giruvegan. I equip Embroidered Tippets (doubles EXP) and run around a few of the upper screens of the Great Crystal, fighting Forbiddens and Evil Spirits. These respawn very frequently and in high numbers, so I can run around and gain lots of EXP almost without doing anything. I will level grind like this for a while until I think I'm ready for the last challenge...

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Once I get Vaan up to level 99, with Fran and Balthier not far behind, I decide to seek out the last optional boss, Omega Mark XII. Like Gilgamesh, this appears to be another throwback to Final Fantasy V, a quadrupedal robot from another dimension. Approaching the area where it resides, my swagger and confidence are immediately dashed. Omega hits HARD. It only does one thing, and that's to fire a laser at one target for around 7000HP damage. But it does it again, and again, and again, and again, relentlessly, never stopping, never deviating, never tiring. Even fully bubbled and shielded, I do not last long in its presence.


According to The Internet, there are two ways to beat this thing. One is to brute force it, go at it with a squad of characters who can hit Omega with Wither technicks to gets its physical strength to bearable levels as fast as possible, and take it from there. The other way feels a little bit like cheating, but it's a valid method. Casting Reverse on all your characters will make Omega's only move heal you instead of damage you. Reverse doesn't last long, so you need to keep at least a couple of characters with Reverse set as a Gambit, and turn off your healing Gambits. Then just to get as many attacks in as possible whenever you can. This technique is fairly quick, as Omega's HP is nowhere near as high as some of the other bosses I've fought. However, Omega still gets a few too many successful hits in at the end and my main party is wiped out when he has a tiny sliver of HP left. So, bringing in my much lower level reserve team of Basch, Penelo and Ashe, I immediately unleash all my Mist Quickenings, chain as many together as possible, and cross my fingers that it's enough to scratch away that last bit of Omega's health bar...


Success, it's enough! And with that, Omega Mark XII is defeated and I've beaten the game's strongest enemy. I don't have anything else I want to do, so I leave the Great Crystal, return to Rabanastre, pick up some final supplies, save the game and prepare to take the Strahl to Bahamut for the story wrap-up. I don't anticipate any difficulty from here on, so I might keep the B-team in play, just for a slight challenge.

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Bahamut is no moon airship, it's a Sky Fortress, a huge flying tower with Lord Vayne and young Larsa at its head. Depsite Larsa's pleas for mercy, Vayne fires the Bahamut's powerful Nethicite weapons at the Resistance fleet over Rabanastre, severely damaging it. An impressive cinematic sky battle plays out over the city, which makes for an exciting change of pace after hours of side quests.

Balthier pilots the Strahl into the fortress and we make our way through the corridors. There is no map of this location, but it's not very large, and the corridors connect to a central elevator that will take us up to the command centre. There are no more save crystals in this part of the game, you can only press on to the end.

Our first opponent is Basch's brother, the disgraced Judge Gabranth. After beating him (which is not hard) he vows to reclaim his honour by protecting Lord Larsa. At the top of the elevator, we encounter Lord Vayne himself, our second opponent, while Larsa turns on him and joins as an ally. This fight is also over quickly, but then Vayne calls upon the power of Venat, the creature that left Cid when he died, which turns him into a muscled wrestler surrounded by flying swords, Vayne Novus. This is a slightly more interesting battle, as I run around trying to hit all of the possessed magical swords, and ends with Gabranth jumping in to save the day, while Larsa uses his nethicite stone to stop Vayne's powers.

This is not the end, however, because Vayne stumbles outside where Venat bestows yet more power into him, allowing him to float in the air and build a clockwork winged suit of armour out of bits of metal pulled from the hull of the Bahamut. This final fight, against 'The Undying' on the roof of the fortress, would probably be a tough one if I hadn't been and done all the side quests for the last 20 hours! As it stands, it's not difficult, and all I need to watch for is its occasional immunity to attacks. There's also no life bar so you can't tell how much life The Undying has left, but it doesn't take long to defeat. Vayne's armour is pulled apart and explodes, leaving Vayne dead on the floor.

While Basch, Larsa and Ashe convince the Imperial and Resistance fleets to stop the fighting, Balthier and Fran dash back inside the Bahamut engine room to repair it before it falls onto the city of Rabanastre, and manage to pilot it away so it crashes safely into open ground. Their fate is left ambiguous as Vaan and Penelo pilot the Strahl away. The closing scenes of the game are an epilogue, one year later, narrated by Penelo. Lady Ashe is due to be crowned queen shortly, peace has returned to the Kingdom, Basch is now Larsa's protector after Gabranth died, and Balthier is obviously still alive and 'steals' his ship back from Vaan. A much-needed happy ending, I think.

Approximate playtime: 106 hours




Overall opinion:


Final Fantasy XII obviously ditched a lot of the baggage from the series, though not without consequences. Eschewing random enemy encounters and making the field screen where battles play out, had a negative impact on the level design, I feel. Areas had to be designed to support combat, so you get wide corridors, pointlessly large empty rooms, much repetition and little navigational intricacy. It wasn't the first game to do this, however, as FFXI kicked things off on that front; but while FFXII definitely takes a lot of inspiration from its MMORPG predecessor, it improves every aspect that made FFXI tedious, laborious and dull, giving the gameplay and story a kick up the arse.


FFXII's characters are fun, interesting, memorable and well-voiced. The Olde English dialogue is distinctive and fresh, and the whole presentation is classy and cool. It tells a slightly more grounded and mature story than Final Fantasies past, which I can appreciate. On the other hand, its actual plotting is decidedly flat and lacks urgency. I think, if nothing else, I just wanted a bit of melodrama. Just a little bit, for some characters to let loose and not be wound up tight. It's fine in moderation but the storyline ended up boring me. It takes several leaves out of Star Wars' book, but doesn't replicate the dazzling pace of its naratives. I could watch Fran and Balthier chatting about anything all day, however.

Anyway, The Zodiac Age is a really nice remaster and the definitive way to play FFXII. Even on the Switch, it looks good, it's presented well and it's got quality of life improvements that almost certainly made the difference between sticking with this game and giving up again. There's an auto-save every time you move areas, a constant on-screen map option, and a speed boost mode, which makes the Gambit system even more entertaining. For the majority of the game, I kept it at 2x speed, and whenever I put it back to normal it felt like the characters were moving through treacle!


The Gambit system is really fun to play with and satisfying to configure into a foolproof battle plan. It's like a very basic programming language, and although I often wished it offered more in-depth control, it proved good enough for 90% of the game. The only trouble with a system like this is that it moves much of the strategy out of the battle, so that by the half-way point, the game seemed more and more to play itself and I felt detached from the action, often struggling to stay awake as my characters ran around bashing enemies, curing ailments and managing their HP and MP automatically. If the solution to repetitive grinding in RPGs is to make the game largely play itself, perhaps there are more fundamental problems with the genre, but that's a bigger argument for another time!


Final Fantasy XII won me over in the end, and it only took fifteen years and a slew of improvements to do it.

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