The Let's Play Archive

Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System

by BrainWeasel

Part 1: Syllabus

HIS 299L - Historical Revisionism and the Monomyth - Syllabus

Narrative bias is a common but subtle source of historical inaccuracies in both written and oral tradition. Historical accounts acquire narrative bias when their stories conform, through accident or design, to compelling mythic tradition and are retold without critical examination, or when stories are modified in retelling to better conform to this tradition. This type of bias can be difficult to detect, as, unlike other types of bias, it is typically evidenced by primary sources that agree too closely. This course will provide an understanding of the construction of mythic stories, teach techniques to use that understanding to identify possible narrative bias, and apply those techniques to primary sources from a specific historical event.

Course Description

Final Fantasy XII was released in 2006 for the Playstation 2, the last main line Final Fantasy game produced for that console. In contrast to the strict linear structure of Final Fantasy X and the experimental mission-based approach of Final Fantasy X-2, XII opted for a more traditional, organic structure, separating plot events and boss fights with long explorations through vast wilderness and ornate dungeons. XII is set in the developer-beloved setting of Ivalice, and the game features thorough world-building and attention to detail in its level design, architecture, politics, mythology, and flavor text. However, public opinion was split on its combat system, featuring real-time combat heavily inspired by Square-Enix's MMO offering, and a programmatic auto-battle system that raised the question of whether the player could truly be said to be playing the game.

Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System was released in 2007 with a number of changes, large and small. Half of these changes addressed common complaints by the player base, fixing many small annoyances and generally making the game more enjoyable to play. The other changes addressed the developers' complaints that players weren't playing the game properly, introducing a version of the traditional Job System that limited the growth of each character and rebalanced abilities, enemies, stats and equipment to compensate. The result is a substantially different gameplay experience, arguably better and arguably worse.

Course Objectives

One thing common to both versions of the game is the plot, which often gets dismissed as derivative, particularly of Star Wars and/or Lord of the Rings. However, to stop the analysis there is unfortunately diminutive. It's more illuminating to examine the plot through the lens of the Hero's Journey.

The Hero's Journey, also known as the Monomyth, is a piece of literary theory proposed by Joseph Campbell, assembled from themes common to mythic stories across many human cultures. Later scholars have adapted, simplified, or modernized his theory, but the central pattern remains the same; a hero goes on a quest, faces great trials beyond those of mundane life, gains power or enlightenment, and returns home changed. Not all stories must or should contain all of the classical stages of the Hero's Journey, or keep them in the same order, but this basic structure has inspired many works of literature and media. J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by these commonalities from his studies of literature and mythology, while George Lucas deliberately used Campbell's model to plot out the story of Star Wars. It may not be an original story structure any more, but it's a classic for a reason.

Final Fantasy XII, more than most in the series, is carefully crafted to be a Hero's Journey. Features like the vast, explorable wildernesses, the freely-rotating camera, and the auto-battle system are designed to let the player focus on that journey, making it easy to keep playing and immerse oneself in the world. These effects don't come across well in screenshots, and even videos aren't nearly as compelling as playing the game would be. In this LP, I'll be aiming for a hybrid approach, using mostly videos but editing them like I would a screenshot LP to cut out repetition and unengaging sections.

Required Texts

For those who are only interested in certain aspects of the game, I'll be dividing the updates into the following categories.

Ondore, H. and Grey Lion Press. "The Annotated Memoirs of Marquis Ondore", 2nd ed.
Accepted as an accurate history of events for many years, Ondore's memoirs are reprinted in full in this volume, with modern annotations.

Ondore updates will contain primarily story, and often be all cutscenes.

Durai, A. J. "Don't Listen To Ondore's Lies: Buried Truths of Old Ivalice".
One of Durai's later works, this publication suggests serious inconsistencies between the official record of the invasion of Dalmasca and archeological evidence.

Durai updates will contain plot-advancing gameplay, including bosses.

Clemens, R. "God Is On Our Side: The Zodiac Brave Delusion"
Deconstructs 200 years of history and stories of heroism tied to the Glabadosian legends of the Zodiac Braves.

Clemens updates will contain exploration and sidequests that do not directly advance the plot.

Optional Texts

Von Muir, G. C. "Fundamentals of Mythic Storytelling"
Famed poet Gilbert Von Muir demonstrates the process of creating an epic story with roots in fact by fictionalizing his own life into "The Saga of Edward."

Von Muir updates will keep track of character development through the License Boards.

Recitation Worksheets
While attendance will not be taken at the recitation sessions, the notes given by the TA will help prepare you for upcoming assignments and suggest independent learning opportunities.

Recitation updates will discuss game mechanics, sequence breaking, powergaming, or superweapons.

Nohte Cliffs Publishing Guides, History Series: The Dalmascan Occupation
Students are encouraged not to rely exclusively on these incomplete summaries for studying, but they may be useful to refresh key concepts in advance of exams.

Nohte Cliffs updates will be occasional plot summaries, glossaries, or other random information.

Click these helpful labels in a video to skip to the end of the current block of cutscenes. If a video starts with a cutscene and does not show this label, the video is all cutscenes.

Watch for this icon in the subtitles for information about changes between vanilla FFXII and the IZJS release!