Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age – What Would Happen if Penelo and Vaan Weren’t In It?
I’ve recently Final Fantasy XII: Zodiac Age. It’s the remastered version of the 11 year old game Final Fantasy XII. The game in based on the international version that was released outside of the US.
There were some big changes made in the international version such as with the Zodiac system, which forced players to pick one and then eventually a secondary class for characters to level up in.
There were also some remaster abilities added such as a fast forward feature which made grinding in combat a lot quicker. Beyond that though the story itself has stayed the same. Going back to it was an interesting experience for me because to put it lightly, my initial reaction to it eleven years ago was “meh.”
I was in the midst of playing games like Xenosaga 3, Tales of the Abyss, and Kingdom Hearts 2. Back then, it was all about story and XII features a far more mature, political, and subtle storytelling approach then the others I mentioned, meaning the cut scenes were much shorter.
I thought that many of the characters were very underdeveloped and even wondered if they even had a significant role in the game, but playing it now, I know that I was wrong. In particular, I was very wrong about Penelo and Vaan.
Penelo and Vaan are the two characters you meet after the stirring introductory cut scenes which set up the grand tale. They’re both orphans, and end of being our eyes into the commonfolk who have been arguably the most ignored sufferers of the war.
They both lost their parents early on and make a living helping a local man who runs a Sundries shop, running errands and acting as a makeshift family.
Throughout the story, we get snippets of the two of the talking about how things look from their perspective, but many argue that their roles in the game are small and if anything unnecessary.
Some have even wondered what the game would have been like without them.
For me, I’d say that FFXII still would have been a successful tale but it would have lacked a common entry point. Penelo and Vaan are our entry point.
The other characters who are instrumental in bringing the end to the war, are also larger than live. It would be hard to have followed many of them during their previous events. Ashe was in hiding, Basch was imprisoned and tortured and hanging onto life, and Fran and Balthier were busying being sky pirates and dealing with their own dramas from living that life.
That means much of Ashe and Basch’s down time was kept in a hushed, depressive state of mind, presumably with a lot of dwelling. Fran and Balthier are linked to the story, but their presence with the story is more of happenstance then an actual purpose.
It also could have made the story of saving the world come off as ingenuine given their circumstance.
It can be argued that the importance of Vaan comes from the extend of Ashe as he’s instrumental in helping her choosing to not solve her problems with more power.
He’s the only one who can also see the ghost of her beloved who died in the opening cut scenes. While he doesn’t become her bestie or her romance, it’s hard to ignore that the two had a connection.
Vaan’s brother’s death and her beloved’s death acted as that connecting factor.
I’m sure that if Square Enix wanted to, they could make one exempt of Penelo and Vaan. Penelo by the same extension, acts as the commoner’s point of view for the opposing kingdom, who had at one point held her captive.
The outcomes of the story could be the same without if the storytellers pluck the right strings and rewrite the tale here and there…but we’d lose the commoner’s point of view which is ends up being that one that many of us can relate to on a personal level in the first place.