Final Fantasy XII began development in the year 2000, after Final Fantasy Xi’s announcement, and would become the game with the longest development time in history when it was finally released in 2006. The development was a tumultuous one as well as an expensive one, costing 35 Million USD to create, an estimated 12 million more than FF10.
The game was to be co-directed with Hiroyuki Ito (of FF6 and FF9 fame) and a man named Yasumi Matsuno, who had previously helmed and penned the very popular game Vagrant Story as well as Final Fantasy Tactics. It was Matsuno who had come up with the story of FF12, and Ito, along with battle designer Hiroshi Tomomatsu, was well underway with the creation of his new FF battle system called the “Active Dimension system”, drawing inspiration from the plays in American football.
It was to be a truly glorious combination of Square’s creative teams.
And Square-Enix spared no expense. The art team was shipped off to Turkey to draw up design ideas for the game, and much of the early development of FF12 was based upon custom-creating the tools used to make the game, drawing upon the same game engine as FF11 to create a type of MMO experience in a single player game.
A couple things about the early iterations of Final Fantasy 12:
There was a planned 2-player mode.
There were plans to allow for recruitments of non-player characters to join in mob hunts.
There was a job system.
Basch was initially meant to be the main character of the story.
But, as I said before, FF12’s development was a troubled one.
Halfway through production, Hironobu Sakaguchi, series creator, quit Square-Enix altogether, taking a huge chunk of the Final Fantasy XII development team with him to his new company, Mistwalker. Devastated by this blow to the project, co-director Yasumi Matsuno refused to come to work for a month after the split.
Rumors are that Matsuno was extremely temperamental after that. And in 2005 Matsuno stepped down from his position, claiming illness as the cause. He has since stated that though he had in-fact been sick, he felt he had disappointed the staff, shareholders, and fans who were looking forward to the game. Matsuno would later follow Sakaguchi to Mistwalker to work on the game Terra Battle.
Series veteran Nobuo Uematsu would also bow out of this Final Fantasy, leaving Square in 2004, Uematsu’s only tracks appearing on FF12 would be Final Fantasy’s main theme and the ending song, fitting called “Kiss me Goodbye”.
Hitoshi Sakimoto was the primary replacement for Uematsu, with a handful of tracks created by Square-Enix composers, Hayato Matsuo and Masaharu Iwata.
To finish up the game, Matsuno was hurriedly replaced by Hiroshi Minagawa to salvage the game. Later, that same person would be one of the staff members sent to save another troubled FF game, FF14.
Within this environment of ever-changing staff members, there were some ever-changing aspects of the game tacked on:
The planned 2-player mode and NPC recruitment were dropped from FF12 due to hardware limitations, and the fact that trying to implement those systems would cause too many delays.
The Job system was dropped as Square-Enix decided that such a complex system would “confuse the players” as well as make the game’s development even longer. This would later be put back in, in a way, with the release of a game called “Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System” in 2007.
And lastly, Basch was deemed as too old and too tough of a character for the target demographic of the game, and in order to make up for this, the characters Vaan and Penelo were created. Vaan starting out as a tough guy and ending up an outgoing, spunky kid.
In 2005 a playable demo of FF12 was released with the game Dragon Quest 8, and in March of 2006 the full game followed in Japan. In october of 2006, North America received the game, and in February of 2007 it was released in Europe and Australia.
Despite all the setbacks, FF12 was a large commercial success, selling over 5 million copies and becoming the 4th biggest Ps2 game of 2006. It was also a mega-hit critically, winning multiple game of the year awards, and recieving top scores by many critics.
Yet, a few years later and FF12 is nearly forgotten. Often seen as a low-point in the series, many fans of the Final Fantasy series see 12 as a disappointment. In one of the reviews for the game, Gamespot criticized it for having the weakest soundtrack in the series, and many a youtube reviewer have expressed disinterest in the weak characters of Vaan and Penelo, saying that they had nothing to contribute to the story. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi said he couldn’t play more than the first 20 minutes, and executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu stated that although he was happy with the perfect famitsu score of 40/40 for the game, he felt that it was far from perfect, and that the storyline did not meet expectations.
The legacy of FF12 is a conflicting one indeed…