The Let's Play Archive

Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System

by BrainWeasel

Part 5: Von Muir p.3-12: "The History of Archetypes"

Von Muir p.3-12: "The History of Archetypes"

Before a character in FFXII can use an ability or a piece of equipment, he or she must first train to become proficient with it, represented by the game by purchasing a License with points earned from battle. Characters start out with only a couple of Licenses each, but can purchase adjacent Licenses to slowly expand and cover the entire License Board.

The Zodiac Job System, IZJS's eponymous feature, replaces the huge, all-encompassing Licence Board of the original with twelve smaller specialized Boards, each tied to a more or less traditional Final Fantasy Job. Each main character must select a Job before purchasing any Licenses, and these choices are permanent. Much like the original Final Fantasy, the difficulty of the game is strongly determined by the synergies of the party distribution, and most IZJS players will have finalized their choices before even starting a new game. Watch the video below for an overview of IZJS' twelve available Jobs.

Click for multimedia content

It is possible to assign the same Job to more than one character and have them share Boards, but you'd better have a good reason for doing so. For the most part, there's only one copy of the ultimate weapon for each Job, and all twelve Boards have a number of one-use Licenses blocking off powerful abilities, which puts a handicap on characters that double up. Since I'd like to show off as much of the game as I can, I'll be giving everybody their own Job.

Now, unlike the original Final Fantasy, all six characters have stat growth and innate abilities that are independent of their Job. As such, party synergy means more than just picking six compatible Jobs -- it also means giving those Jobs to the best characters for them. This requires some knowledge of the game mechanics and how they've changed from the original.

Job          | Primary Stat(s)          | Weapon(s)              | Armor
Archer       | Strength, Speed          | Bows                   | Light
Black Mage   | Magick                   | Staves, Bombs          | Mystic
Breaker      | Strength, Vitality       | Axes, Hammers, Bombs   | Heavy, Genji
Hunter       | Strength, Speed          | Knives, Ninja Swords   | Light
Knight       | Strength                 | Swords, Greatswords    | Heavy, Genji
Lancer       | Strength                 | Spears                 | Heavy
Machinist    | None                     | Guns, Measures         | Light
Monk         | Strength                 | Poles, Fists           | Light
Red Mage     | Magick                   | Maces                  | Mystic
Samurai      | Strength, Magick         | Katanas                | Mystic, Genji
Time Mage    | Strength, Magick         | Crossbows              | Heavy
White Mage   | Magick                   | Rods, Greatswords      | Mystic
As you can see in the table above, the twelve Jobs are divided evenly among using Light, Heavy, and Mystic Armor. In general, Heavy Armor adds to a character's Strength when equipped, while Mystic Armor adds to Magick and Light Armor adds to HP. Let's break down how this impacts the choice of character for each Job.

Black Mage, Knight, Lancer, Red Mage and White Mage are easy to assign, as their armor type boosts their primary stat. In fact, every single character can reach the maximum of 99 for their primary stat in these Jobs, through a combination of high level, equipment, and stat-boosting Licenses. This opens some possibilities for making hybrid characters -- for example, a Black Mage with high Strength can contribute in melee to conserve MP. Knight, Lancer, and White Mage in particular can unlock Licenses that make good use of high secondary stats.

Archer, Hunter, and Monk get no bonuses from their equipment, and so these Jobs are best assigned to characters with naturally high stats. High Strength should be the main concern, even for Archer and Hunter, because characters' Speeds only vary by a couple of points, even at the highest levels.

Breaker and Time Mage have one of their primary stats boosted by equipment, so characters with a high value in the other stat will perform best in these Jobs. Time Mages can get away without a lot of Magick, however, because Time Magick does not deal direct damage.

Machinist does not use weapons that depend on the character's stats, so it does not matter who gets put in this Job. The only stat worth considering is HP, and Machinists will already get a lot of that from Light Armor.

Samurai is a special case, as Katanas are the only weapons that depend on multiple armor-boosted stats. Despite Genji equipment, which boosts both Strength and Magick, only one of the six main characters can ever reach the maximum of 99 in both stats simultaneously as a Samurai.

With that under our belts, let's talk about the main characters.

Vaan and Penelo

Vaan's Archetype is the Dreamer, an ordinary man, young at least at heart, and but one gentle push away from abandoning the status quo and going off on a grand adventure. The Dreamer is the bridge between the escapism of the story and the banality of the audience’s daily life, and the motivation that keeps the Dreamer on the quest is the quest itself. The Dreamer is also conveniently ignorant of important information about the setting; this way, the audience learns as the Dreamer does, and it is easier to justify the Dreamer staying with the quest in the face of the fantastical danger ahead.

Examples: Alex Rogan (The Last Starfighter), Carl Fredricksen (Up), Luke Skywalker (Star Wars), Bastian (The NeverEnding Story)

As the marketing department's choice of viewpoint character, Vaan has the best overall stats. He is tied for first place in Strength, second place in HP, Vitality and Speed, third in MP and Magick, and his MP seems to recharge slightly faster than everybody else's, too. Vaan can excel in any job, especially those that use Light Armor, as his natural strengths can compensate for the lack of equipment stat boosts. Vaan can also make certain early sections of the game much easier by choosing certain Jobs with access to offensive magic.

Penelo's Archetype is the Innocent, someone of limited means or agency, often young, subservient and/or female, who joins the quest mostly out of necessity. The job of the Innocent is to suffer, grounding the emotional context of the struggles the heroes face and making the audience take the dangers of the journey, and the consequences of the heroes' actions, seriously. The Innocent may have or obtain great power, but usually has respect for the horrors of war, seeks clever or non-violent solutions to problems, and fights only as necessary to protect themselves and the heroes.

Examples: Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Sancho Panza (Don Quixote)

Penelo is a natural spellcaster, having the largest MP reserves and the second-highest Magick, and will excel in any Mage job. Penelo always starts with Cure and Blindna, and can be a useful source of healing even as a Black Mage. An ambitious player might also choose Penelo as a Knight or Lancer; Heavy Armor and Licenses will compensate for her last-place Strength, and her low HP can actually help her hold the enemy's attention, making her a more effective tank. Penelo suffers an animation penalty with Guns and Crossbows, so Machinist or Time Mage are poor choices.

Together, Vaan and Penelo represent the Everyman, the ordinary citizen of Rabanastre whose destinies are tied up in the events of the story. Every other main character is a military leader, a member of royalty, a soldier of fortune, or someone else with a significant amount of agency, and their actions will dictate the course of history. It is the job of these two to keep the larger-than-life figures honest and grant them perspective.

Writing Assignment 1

Here's where the thread participation starts. Choose a Job for Vaan or Penelo, and, in 100 words or less each, explain why that Job is appropriate for that character. Feel free to make ridiculous, convoluted, or straight-up bullshit arguments (this is an undergraduate course, after all) but please use spoiler tags if your argument references future events. You may submit an essay for both characters if you wish. I'll pick the essays I enjoy the most to determine which Jobs the characters get.

Writing Assignment 1 due!

Wow, I definitely wasn't expecting this. My favorite submissions for both characters are ties, but fortunately all the ties advocate for the same Jobs, so I don't actually have to choose!

For Vaan, I was swayed both by Lotish's transcendent essay in support of Samurai, as well as Kaboom Dragoon, Microcline, Crassus, Phelddagrif, and everyone else who pegged him as a wannabe otaku. Vaan is not the character who can max out both stats as a Samurai, but it's better that he won't end up hyper-competent; not everyone can be Travis Touchdown.

hawk16zz gets points for effort, but is disqualified because that hat is clearly not single-spaced.

Lotish posted:

I say Vaan should pursue the Samurai class. As the dreamer, he looks to the heights of achievement and longs to reach them, and in him is the potential to experience both the magical and the mundane. His place as the everyman will give him the perspective to see the sublime, but he must not blind one eye on the journey for the sake of the other. When he achieves Zen, he will know the truth in all things.

And also Vaan is totally Luke and lightsabers and force powers are totally samurai.

Microcline posted:

Vaan: Samurai

Listen to the way this teenager whines and acts like he knows what's best for the world and tell me he doesn't have a katana (hanzo steel, folded 1000 times by a master swordsmith) hanging on his wall. It also hammers home the fact that he's Luke Skywalker with more shirtlessness and creepy ab texture and less likeability. Samurai is the perfect mix of loser and jedi for Vaan.

As for Penelo, there were lots of good arguments for making her every flavor of mage, and I was tempted to put a finger on the scale because any of those jobs would have let me breeze through the game. But I simply could not ignore Bubbason's psychological analysis or Papal Rain's economic analysis, so Penelo will be a Lancer. She still starts with the Cure spell, so her struggle of the urban proletariat is not as difficult as some, but the game's already established her as the favorite of a wealthy patron, so it's not unreasonable that she'd have the opportunity for some upward mobility. Not too much upward mobility, though, seeing how Lancers don't learn Jump in this game...

Bubbason posted:

Penelo wishes to support and stand by her friends, but isn’t fully aware of the consequences of her idealism. She wants to avoid conflict, but when her allies are barreling towards constant danger, standing back isn’t an option anymore, so she forces herself to be on the frontlines. This cognitive dissonance is symbolized in the form of her weapon. Since part of her doesn’t want to be on the frontlines or fighting at all, a melee weapon with reach represents how she wishes to distance herself from the very situation she wants to be in. Penelo should be a Lancer.

Papal Rain posted:

[...] Penelo is a Lancer.

This party composition reflects the story's initial proletarian concerns, due to its lack of the abilities that are (potentially problematically) labeled "magic". As "magic" is a storytelling element that sometimes distinguishes between the haves and the have-nots, contextualizing from a nonmagical point of reference provides opportunities to subvert or complicate that traditional narrative. Their inability to heal using MP (note: is this true with these classes?) may also support nascent Marxist theory -- that Vaan and Penelo's grubby lives were always essentially bound to financial indebtedness via potion.