In Kaio’s Corner THIS WEDNESDAY, WEDNESDAY, WEDNESDAY ONLY
There’s more than a few things to be said when I am finding low budget Japanese Eroge Games more interesting than blockbuster titles such as Final Fantasy, but it certainly has been the case. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Rance VI ~ The Fall of Zeth and tonight I went to play a couple of hours of Final Fantasy and found to my astonishment that I was having less fun while playing it and feeling a sudden glazing over of the eyes and a desire to be playing Rance. How does this happen, that I’d rather play an H-RPG game in a different language than a state of the art console RPG in one of my native languages. It’s a sad reality that I think I want to rationalize, so inside I’m going to be talking about a number of categories including Visuals, Audio, Characterization and Gameplay (Combat mechanics) to try to get to the bottom of this once and for all. I’m not just going into this cold either as I think I have a pretty good reason what it is I wish I were seeing in Final Fantasy that I am somehow finding in Rance VI. So without further ado, let’s start the comparing.
Event Selection Screen
The Level Goddess Willis. Hope You Have Enough Experience
Well Final Fantasy beats Rance VI in terms of graphics, but honestly, Rance has the advantage in sheer variety. The visual layer of FF XII is obviously 3D for all things including dungeons, towns, and in-game cutscenes (of which there are a lot), whereas Rance VI is a surprising (for an eroge at least) combination of different types of 3D and 2D plains. During base scenarios the graphics take place in the common 2D ADV style with full sized CG sprites and text boxes that scroll and swap out to fit the situation. Battles also take place on a 2D screen remiscent of classic FF battles (your characters are on the left in SD sprite format and enemies are on the right with sprites sized however big they are supposed to be). Where the 3D factor comes in is dungeon and city exploration and the 3D engine is reminscent of the classic Wolfenstein franchise where you don’t see your character, but you have a 360 degree range of rotation in your First Person view. Events are symbolized by different icons that you can walk into to trigger them (although some are triggered by interacting with terrain such as switches on the wall or by walking on certain tiles) such as hearts for Friendship events, Dust Clouds for challenging battles with more than 6 enemies, a matrix for bonus experience, Treasure Chests for treasure, Light Stars for friendly interactions and Dark Stars for boss type enemies. Unfortunately you will never see an NPC in the 3D mode visually represented on screen as far as I know so far and the dungeon and city design can look pretty spare and just plain primitive by comparison to most modern games (it was made in 2004). Then again, I don’t find FFXII’s dungeons that I’ve seen so far to be very interesting. Large maybe, but somewhat uninspired in design aesthetic in that it keeps repeating and just seems extended rather than visually impressive like some of FF X’s locales like Luca. It seems almost at times like they were trying to see how much they could render rather than the content of what they could with each area in the game (take Rabanastre for example).
Your FFXII Screen
I feel FF XII beats out Rance VI on 3D visuals (not 2D visual though obviously), but it shouldn’t even feel like a contest in my opinion. A doujinish PC Game by Alicesoft should not feel like it has more variety in locales and visuals then a mainstream title like Final Fantasy, and likewise, I shouldn’t be saying that FFXII’s dungeon locales are just above the level of Rance VI’s. Arguably the only place FFXII really shines in terms of visuals are the city areas like Rabanastre and Arcadia with there expansive skyline and overwhelming number of onscreen NPC’s (and yet again I can say that I find Rance’s 2D rendered CG Backgrounds of some city areas and locales to be even more intriguing and imaginative than Final Fantasy XII’s even if it’s done with sprites and static backgrounds compared to dynamic 3D textures, which I should not be saying). That and in FMV’s, where Square seems to be putting a lot of there effort lately. Characters gesture and emote very impressively, and some of the FMV cutscenes are visually stunning in the same way I find Macross Frontiers, particularly some of the airship battles and Esper summons. Then again that point where the game is showing off the best of what it has to offer visually is also where I am putting my controller down as I would be in Rance VI, which offers some of it’s best visuals at those times and is what again? A DOUJIN GAME! More on the controller down thing later.
Keeping it short, FFXII’s sountrack as composed by Hitoshi Sakamoto contains only a few soundtracks that in my 30 hours of playing have found at all memorable, and those are Boss Battle and Giza Plains. Other ones either haven’t stood out or have honestly started to give me that droopy eyed feel. It’s nothing against the music, but when this is supposed to be a major fantasy world that’s supposed to be pulling me in, it should not have music that lulls me into a stupor.
By contrast Rance VI’s music is dynamic. All of it is credited to someone named SHADE who shows up in almost ever category in the credits (which may mean that “he” is actually a collective title for all the Alicesoft participants in developing the game much like Hajime Yatate is a credit for Sunrise employees who helped create Gundam along with Yoshiyuki Tomino. Or he really could just be a multi-talent like people claim Jun Maeda is) and combines fast pace guitar rock with the odd synth tune and some rolling beats that really get the blood boiling. There’s something to be said when even the menu music is interesting. Rance’s Theme, Sill’s Them, Ragnarok’s Theme, The Honey Theme are all remixes of the classic Rance tune and appear on the tracks as V. R6. There are of course some great new tunes like the boss music and some of the dungeon music. It’s all really great and I even have the OST of the game because I like it that much. If you have a niconico account and want to hear it you can find it here in Medley form.
So here we have a case where a Doujinish game is beating a mainstream title in terms of Audio for me hands down….and normally I hate Visual Novel/Eroge music. This is another thing that just shouldn’t be happening, and the right audio honestly goes a long way in pulling me into and getting me excited about a game. Rance VI has it in spades whereas Final Fantasy XII is lacking intriguing audio. Heck even the vocals in FF XII sound poorly sampled and as my friend pointed out earlier today, the compressed audio makes it sound like somebody recorded it in their garage with generation old equipment and a 30 dollar or under PC Microphone, to which I added “with the door open”. Seriously, listen to the voices next time you boot up Final Fantasy XII and tell me it sounds like a studio calibre recording, because it sounds almost amateur for a mainstream title. Rance VI doesn’t have any voices so it still loses, but it shouldn’t even be a competition is a theme I’ve been drumming up all this time and by virtue of music alone, Rance still wins out and it’s only going to get more competitive from here on as I’m about to point out.
Rance has it’s fair share of colourful characters and luckily I’ve already done a write up on most of them elsewhere so I’ll just post that here.
Name: Rance Claire
Special Attack: Rance Attack
First Appearance: Rance 1 – Seeking Light
Description: Self Styled as the strongest and greates man in the world, Rance actually is quite adept at swordplay, but can’t seem to control his sex drive. For this reason he often finds himself in trouble and drags all the regulars along with him right into it. Though his slave Sill always follows him willingly. Rance’s achievments include being King of The World, Defeating the Demon Realm many times and Even besting God in a contest of wits. Though he still can’t seem to handle himself around lolis, which are the only thing that make him uneasy and paralyzed with indecision. Rance is a warrior type through and through and a front row character who can sort of tank and can really dish out the damage when it counts. His Rance attack often takes a turn to charge, but deals 3 times as much damage as a normal attack in return. Normally Rance resides within the town of Ice and looks to the local Keth Mercenaries Guild for paying work to get by.
Name: Sill Plain
Occupation: Slave/Magic User
Interests: Serving Rance
Special Attack: F Laser
First Appearance: Rance 1 – Seeking Light
Description: Rance’s faithful companion. She serves Rance in every decision he makes and willfull gives her body to him any time he desires it. For this she regularly receives nothing but abuse, but Rance does in fact care for her deep down and is always there to rescue her when it counts. Sill’s primary function is to act as a healer for Rance and is a back row character. She also specializes at bit in attack magic, but isn’t as adept as Shizuka.
Name: Rick Addison
Occupation: Leazus Red Army Captain
Interests: Serving Justice And Upholding Leazus’ Standard
Special Attack: By The Way
First Appearance: Rance 3 – The Fall of Leazus
Description: Rick is the leader of the Red Army of Leazus and the strongest man in the whole army. In fact he is equal in strength to Rance himself and sees him as a friendly rival, though Rance returns this with bitter rivalry and a hatred of Rick’s strict code of honor and virtue. Rick wields a special sword grafted on the end of a pole which he calls the Byrod and uses it to unleash his special attack By The Way, which is a Z like slash that does piercing damage. He usually wears a mask giving him an imposing stature, but under the mask is actually the face of a young boy, and when not wearing it he becomes horribly embarassed and easily frightened, unable to attack. Rick is a front row character tank type with lots of HP and very strong attack, but is also horribly slow. His By The Way attack takes a turn to charge but ignores enemy defence values when unleashed.
Name: Maria Custard
Occupation: Machinist And Former Witch Of Custom
Interests: Technology And Weaponary
Special Attack: Tulip Bazooka
First Appearance: Rance 2 – Hangyaku no Shoujyotachi
Description: Maria was formerly a Witch Of Custom (a town in the Free Cities Alliance located inside a cave) and an enemy of Rance who specialized in Water Magic. After Rance defeated her and smashed her Magic Ring (taking her virginity in the process) she settled down and started working on machines and technology to better the living standards of the people of Custom. Maria is seemingly always smiling and cheerful and always ready to answer the call of Rance and her allies in Leazus with her trusty Tulip Bazooka at her side. Maria is a back row character that attacks like a front row character. Her HP is low and she’s kind of fragile, but she can do some great area damage with her Tulip Bazooka. She’s also my favourite character in the series.
Name: Masou Shizuka
Occupation: Travelling Mage
Interests: Studying Magic
Special Attack: White Destructive Light Ray
First Appearance: Rance 2 – Hangyaku no Shoujyotachi
Description: Shizuka was and almost still is an enemy of Rance and one of the Four Witches of Custom. Specializing as all magic she served as what essentially amounted to the final boss of Rance 2. Shizuka is a very powerful spellcaster capable of matching rance quite well in combat. Best friends with Maria Custard and absolutely detesting Rance most of the time, Shizuka is actually credited by 2ch as being the first known Tsundere in eroge history. She originally came from Zeth the Magical Kingdom and has a very strained relationship with her stepsister Nagi. Eventually she settled in Custom and continues to research magic, and one point rising to a Class 3 level mage during the Tatamaki City Arc with such power that it ultimately threatened to rip her body apart and she was forced back into Class 2 status. Since then she has calmed down a little and realized her limits, giving Rance a little more credit and at least trying to coexist with him since Maria is friendly with him. Shizuka is technically a backrow mage, but her magic is strong enough that it gives her good defense and she can handle the front row against most middle tier opponents. Shizuka has all the spells that Sill has including F Laser, but no healing abilites. Her White Destructive Light Ray takes a turn to charge, but deals 400% of her regular damage and is an area attack, making Shizuka one of the most devastatingly powerful characters in the series.
Name: Patton Misnorj (Helman)
Occupation: Exiled Prince/Pugilist
Interests: Reclaiming The Throne/Conquest
Special Attack: Boisterous Dance
First Appearance: Rance 3 – The Fall of Leazus
Description: Patton was once the Prince of Helman (A Soviet Union like country to the northwest of Leazus) who lead an attack on Leazus, the sworn enemy of Helman by allying itself with the Demons from Hornet (Demon territory located on the far west of the continent). He and the demons actually managed to seize control of Leazus Castle, killing the King and Queen and imprisoning Lia. After Lia’s maid Maris sent out a call for help to Rance though he answered it (for money only and to save the beautiful women) with Sill and many of their allies and formed a military campaign to drive Patton out of Leazus. After that Patton was exiled from Helman by the ambitious and manipulative Prime Minister Stoessel and his sister younger Sheila was put on the throne instead to act as a figure head for him. Patton later met up with his most loyal general Hubert, a Fighting God from Tatakami City that Hubert found named Freak, and the made scientist Hanti, and travelled the landscapes of Helman as fugitives for a while before becoming indebted to Rance. Now a fairly regular ally of Rance and co. Patton offers his brute strength in return for annual compensation and supplies to be offered by Leazus to the starving and impoverished Helman. Patton is always looking for an opportunity to take back his kingdom and rescue Sheila from a responsibility she is not ready for, and Sheila worries constantly for her long lost brother, occasionally sending out a scout behind Stoessel’s back to look for information on his whereabouts. Patton is a front row tank through and through and fights with his fists alone. His Boisterous Dance ability will cause all enemies to attack him for a turn in return for a punishing all area attack the next.
Name: Lia Parapara Leazus
Occupation: Queen (Formerly Princess) of Leazus
Special Attack: Thunder of Leazus
First Appearance: Rance 1 – Seeking Light
Description: Don’t let the smiling fool you, because unlike Maria, Lia is a total sadist through and through. In the first game she was kidnapping and imprisoning any girl said to be more beautiful than her and had to be taught a lesson by Rance. After losing her virginity to Rance she became even worse, and will stop at nothing to make him her King. Rance sees her as a pesky nuisance most of the time as she’s constantly following him around calling him Darling and trying to seduce him (sometimes he give in though). In Rance 3 she was imprisoned in her own castle by Patton and eventually rescued by Rance where she joined the party briefly. During the Tatakami City Arc Lia began showing intense jealousy towards Sill and when she sent a rescue party for Rance she gave Kanami special orders to assassinate Sill, but Rance was able to rescue her and convince Kanami that their are some orders that she should refuse out of principal. In terms of the personality I described earlier she tends to think like Rance, and believes all living and non-living things are like toys for her to abuse and use in any way possible. Despite this she still seems relatively popular with the people of Leazus, although this is in reality due to her personal ninja Kanami silencing any critics and her maid Maris’ swarthy political ability and advisorship. Lia know a little bit of magic, and is a definite back row character if that. She isn’t very durable, but her Thunder of Leazus attack does fixed damage on any enemy regardless of defense, making her somewhat useful in cracking hard shelled or magically defended foes. She is also another one of my favourites just behind Maria.
Name: Kanami Kentarou
Occupation: Lia’s Assassin
Interests: Serving Lia
Special Attack: Dispatch
First Appearance: Rance 1 – Seeking Light
Description: Kanami hails from the isolated south-eastern island of JAPAN, but lives in Leazus on the patronage of it’s Queen Lia who saved her life when she was little. Indebted to her forever by a code of honor (yes I realize she should be a Bushido Samurai if she’s supposed to serve a lord, but Alicesoft doesn’t care so why should I), Kanami serves Lia unquestioningly in all she does. Acting as the Final Boss of Rance 1, Kanami tries to assassinate Rance, but is ultimately bested by his stronger build and the inability for her to have anywhere to hide. After that she helps in the liberation of Leazus and acts as an ally during the Tatakami City arc where she tries to assassinate Sill on Lia’s request, but is stopped by Rance. After that she doesn’t serve Lia quite so willingly out of duty, but merely as a friend. In Sengoku Rance Kanami returns to Japan for the first time and it’s assumed she is an exiled member of the Iga House. Kanami exists somewhere between the front row, back row and the enemy somewhere east, west, south and north of right over there. Seriously, she likes to disappear from the battleground only to reappear right next to the enemy doing direct damage without threat of counterattack and bouncing back into whatever slot she previously occupied, or possibly not. Kanami’s evasion and speed are unparralled by any of her allies and she seemingly can never be hit. Her special attack dispatch has a 33% chance of killing whatever enemy she uses it on, making her a fairly balances character overall.
Name: Ragnarok Super Gandhi
Occupation: King Of Zeth/Mito Of Justice
Interests: Upholding Justice (To The Point Of Insanity)
Special Attack: Fist Of Justice
First Appearance: Rance VI – Zeth Houkai
Description: Ragnarok is the King of Zeth, but desiring to get to the bottom of the rotness and injustice plaguing the land he disappears one day to take on the title of Mito of Justice with his two trusted spy/warriors Wichita and Kaoru. Travelling the land he dispatches those who would oppress others with his patented fist of justice. When he finds out that the corruption and injustice in Zeth goes all the way up to the very core of his most trusted insiders, the Four Heavenly Kings of Zeth (minus his own daughter Magic The Gandhi who’s a good girl) he joins the resistance to bring down his own countries government. Despite this act he still cares very deeply for Zeth and his daughter and tries to minimize casualties to the point of not agreeing to sortie on certain missions. A powerful ally he proves to Rance though.
Name: Magic The Gandhi
Occupation: Heavenly King Of Zeth
Interests: Studying Magic
Special Attack: Lightning Of Zeth
Description: Magic is the princess of Zeth and one of the four heavenly kings that runs the government’s inner circle of oppressors against those who cannot use magic. Despite her charge she does not take part in the inner workings of the government very much, preferring simply to study magic and contribute to research. As such she’s quick to side with her father when the time comes and reunites with him (after some tough talk) to fight with Rance and the Ice Flame resistance. Magic is an adept mage equal to or possibly even surpassing Shizuka and despite her apparent small frame she can take a hit or two as well.
And those are just among the most long lived of principal characters (Minus Ragnarok). Rance VI introduces even more major characters, and the franchise has a long history of minor recurring characters that I have neglected to mention as to do so could literally fill an article in and of itself and I feel I’ve made my point. Rance VI brings with it a long history of colourful characters, each with their own set of traits, specialities and skills, which is something I feel Final Fantasy XII lacks as I go into the game. Let’s look at some of FFXII’s characters now:
Occupation: Streetrat (Possible Male Stripper)
Interests: Sky Piracy
Special Attack: Pyroclasm
Description: So yeah, as much as most people hate Vaan for his character design, my issue with him is that he’s supposed to be the main character and has little to no impact on the story. He mostly just tags along out of a desire to take part and out of a hatred for the Archadian Empire that killed his brother. Compared to Rance, Vaan is desperatately lacking in charisma or interesting character traits beyond the usual sense of altruism that comes with Robin Hood types. Arguably the only scene of not that I’ve seen with him in it so far in the game is a dream he has of Rechs right after said character bites it in the intro level (which I might add was the most interesting portion of the game for me so far). Unfortunately Rechs hasn’t really come up any more since leaving Dalmasca and well…yeah he’s kind of just there, whereas Rance takes command of the situation or at least has something amusing to add when he’s not in charge.
Occupation: Girl Next Door
Special Attack: Resplendence
Description: The only character in the game that lacks even more characterization then Vaan. The only reason I can think of that she’s around is because Vaan needs a girl next door to look after him. At least with Sill Plain she tags around with Rance because she has to and there’s a neat little backstory with them about how Rance rescued Sill from a much more brutal slavemaster and she is indebted to him for it. Also Sill is more interesting then Penelo as a female lead as she’s kind of like the comic relief in that she’s always clueless about what’s going on, is forced to open possibly trapped treasure chests by Rance and is just so pathetic when it comes to sticking up for herself. Penelo is just there. All I know is that she seems to be into dancing and wheres a nice belly dancing outfit in the sequel, so I guess you could say she’s eye candy.
Name: Basch Fon Rosenburg
Occupation: Main Character Soldier
Skills: Flame Purge
Interests: Defending Dalamasca
Description: Now that’s more like it. Basch as I understand it was originally supposed to be the main character, and he pretty much still it in all but name only, it’s just that now that Vaan was slated in you end up meeting him later on. A significant portion of the events in the series revolve around Basch’s failure to defend his Lord Rassler (one of the most noble characters in the game who without even any real lines or a significant role in the game beyond the intro movie and some scenes with Asce, struck a chord with me that few of the actual playable in the games actually managed to) his subsequent framing as a traitor by his twin brother, and his desire to right the wrongs that were committed in his name, not to clear it, but to see that justice is served, even if it means having to kill his own brother. Had the story focused more on Basch from the beginning I think I would have been a lot more receptive to the evenst of the series up to where I’ve played as his story is far more interesting and something I can get behind then Vaan’s. Maybe it’s just a sign that I’m heading out of the target demographic of the series that I just dont’ give two damn’s about Vaan’s storyline. If there’s a character comparison to someone in Rance then I think he likens most to Rick. A noble soldier who serves his charge above all else and uses his strength for good. Although Rick takes on a slightly more comedic twist then Basch whenever he loses his helmet. In fact I actually like Basch more then Rick and he’s had a permanent place in my party (even though there’s nothing especially unique about him in combat, but more on that later) ever since he joined. More characters like Basch and Square might win me back over yet.
Name: Ashelia B’nargin Dalmasca
Occupation: Exiled Princess
Interests: Seeing Dalmasca Restored
Skills: Maelstrom’s Bolt
Description: Meh. Her best scene in the game so far is arguably where most of my favourite scenes have been, which is the beginning where she is seen morning the death of Lord Rasler. After that she’s basically just your usual princess type character trying to protect her subjects while in actuality being manipulated by a higher power. Ashe has the distinction of having some of the most boring and overly long cutscenes centered around her that are often inaudible due to the games weird audio track and feature bland voice acting on her part (English only, he Japanese voice is great) and as such are just plain confusing and hard to follow. Honestly, I prefer a character like Lia who just chucks all notions of what a princess should be out the window, and is selfish, spoiled, sadistic and mildy psychotic in that she treats the citizenry like her own personal play things. She ranks somewhere in the middle of my PC list.
Name: Balthier AKA Mid
Occupation: Sky Pirate
Skills: Element of Treachery
Description: Now we are talking once again. Balthier is a character just oozing with Charisma of the kind that we just aren’t seeing often enough in Square games these days. He’s witty, comical and has great timing with his comments, but also knows the right things to say when the time is right and always hits it on the money. He also has the most interesting backstory in the game in his role as former judge who grew tired of his father Cid’s obsessions and somewhat questionable ethics. Realizing his dissatisfaction he did the only thing he could and without a hint of angst, packed up and left it all behind to become a sky pirate and live on his own terms. I don’t know, but his storyline is farely inspirational and I liken him to a more cordial and less serious version of Basch who believes in justice and freedom over the more socially restricted caste system of the empire. He gave up a significant amount of power to stick true to his beliefs and to me actions speak louder then pretty words like Vaan’s loudmouth discussions of altruism. I also love how he teases Vaan about thinking he’s so special in his desires and hides the fact that he’s a least several leagues ahead of him in both life experience and making things happen. His Rance counterpart to me is Ragnarok, although Ragnarok wins out over him slightly for giving up more to live free and get to the bottom of the rotteness that is destroying his country from the inside out. Plus Balthier never punched Cid square out using his own fists while screaming hot blooded at the top of his lungs.
Occupation: Bunny Girl
Interests: Being A Bunny Girl
Description: Okay I lied, Fran is tied with Penelo for having the least of anything to do with the plot. Really I can’t see anything reedeming about Fran’s character and she’s arguably just there because I guess they needed one character who wasn’t strictly human in the game. (kind of like Kimahri from FFX who coicidentally enough was also the least interesting character in that game) Perhaps the worst thing about Fran is that she has the voice voice acting in any Final Fantasy game to date, even managing to top Heddy Burress’ confused sounding role as Yuna. All of Fran’s dialogue comes with an annoying slur that reminds me of Shelly Marsh from South Park, only unlike Shelly who has an excuse in the braces she wears, when combined with the games really poorly sampled audio track, I can’t even understand a single god damn word Fran is saying. If it weren’t for the subtitles I would honestly think Fran was speaking an entirely different language altogether. So seriously to heck with Fran. If there’s any Rance comparsion to be made it’s Maria who is also a mechanic with a mystical background, but Maria blows Fran clear out of the water by being happy go lucky and delightful in her personality, while Fran is just annoying and brooding.
So here again, I find the Rance characters charismatic and interesting, while most of the Playable characters in FFXII (with the exception of Balthier and Basch who are awesome) either seem ancilliary to the plot, are just plain boring, or lack the history that the Rance characters have. It’s not entirely FFXII’s fault when it had to build up these characters from scratch that I don’t get the same sense of excitement when Ashe gets a scene that I get when Maria makes her first appearance in a game (which usually results in some random muscle flexing and hooting and hollering on my part that is very shameful indeed and probably not something I should have brought up just now…… >.<; ), but when Alicesoft is doing a better job at getting me into newly introduced characters like Ragnarok or the Revenge-Chan then I think FFXII is still falling short in this department. Honestly too, I just don’t feel the characters have the personality they used to like in FF IX. Everybody’s kind of a different shade on the overwrought emo character (again Balthier excepted) that Square seems to love putting into their games. Oh well….onto Gameplay
Okay really quickly as this is getting a touch long, Final Fantasy XII is designed to mimic an offline experience of an MMORPG and thus features real time battles that occur on the actual map. It’s quite well designed with a wait system for pacing attacks and a Gambit system for setting A.I behaviour so you don’t have to worry about the impossible task of controlling all three characters at once. You can even set yourself to a gambit so you don’t have to play some of the less intense battles which saves a bit of time. Unfortunately other things the game do seem to waste a lot of time as well. In creating an MMORPG atmosphere while keeping it offline, Square Enix unfortunately managed to bring the most dreaded aspect of the MMO to the home console. The Grind.
Yes, some aspects of the gameplay just feel like an honest to god grind with you having to gain licence points to use skills, magic and even weapons, armor and accessories. Since everything but bosses give only one Licence point the grid essentially serves to act as a level lock on when you can equip certain items (much like MMORPG’s have outright level requirement’s for equipping weapons). By the time you have enough licence points and have moved far enough across the grid to unlock a skill, you’re probably going to be at the level it expects you to be at to use it. If this doesn’t work and you do , you just aren’t granted access to the item or skill proper until later (or the game just does the MMO thing where it keeps you permanently broke since now Gil only comes from selling dropped loot and items, which slows your progress down to even greater levels of tedium and grinding. Go out in the wild, kill some enemies, hope to god they drop something you can sell for a decent amount of money, head all the way back to a town, sell the loot, and maybe be able to buy one item. The only thing they could have done to make it more slow and tedious would have been to do the SaGa thing and have breakable weapons.) at which point you will be the level you are expected to be. So if you think the game awards tilted customization then you are mistaken. Sure you can give any character any skill you want, but this honestly annoys me to no end.
Square has been repeating this same bland pattern over and over and over again with each Final Fantasy, slowly making the characters less and less unique skillwise as each game passes (the last time the characters had specific skills was FF IX and before that VI) and now they’ve even removed the one thing that was different about the characters in Limit Breaks/Overdrives. None of the Mist Quickenings have any unique properties beyond damage and level and they all have the same respective output at each tier. The only difference is the animations. So yeah you are basically going through the MMO motions now. You’re assigned 6 character models to build up as you please (very slowly mind you).
Of course I don’t want blank character slates, which thankfully is remedied by a game of Rance VI. Each character has their own specific sets of strengths and weaknesses as well as character specific skills that other lack which you can use to your advantage. This is balanced a bit by an SP system which only allows you to use a certain character X amount of times in battle before they are fatigued and have to return to the base before the next dungeon exploration. As such it’s not a good idea to have a full party at all times as if a character you need runs out of SP then you are either likely to die or will have to leave the dungeon and come back, starting from the entry point again. Despite this it’s nowhere near as tedious as an FF XII session as if you play your cards right and know which party members you have access to then you should be fine. Using the characters that you are givens strengths and minimizing their weaknesses is key.
Levelling is done by visiting the Level Goddess who will grant you a level up if you come with enough experience points (it is possible to delevel to or lose experience through certain events) and characters levels are capped based on how friendly Rance is with them. Finding or seeing certain events will raise their frienship level and once it hits a certain point their level cap will raise. Again, not as tedious as it sounds as events are happening all the time. Some you see at your base map and have to pay orbs to witness. These orbs come in Red, Yellow and Blue colours and different events cost different amounts and combinations. Red orbs are one by scoring 10 bonus points (1 point for winning a battle and X points for touching a bonus point square in the dungeon) Yellow are given for getting 20 bonus point and Blue for 40. All of these need to be done in one sortie so you need to plan and maximize your deployment of characters in battle to score the requisite amount of bonus points as well as know where the bonus point squares are. Of course all the time you are levelling, exploring, completing other quests in a dungeon and just having a good time. At least I am.
Once you come back to base you can spend your orbs to see scenes, which can either open new character paths, get you items, give you money, give stat ups, boost friendship levels, or just about anything. Needless to say the more advance stuff costs blue orbs like learning a skill. Also at the base is the save screen and item shop where the only real things for sale are Weapon, Armor, Key’s and Healing Items for sale. Weapons and Armor come in levels of D to S and for each level you can find chips that will give them slight boosts when attached to them (this is permanent). The D weapons and Armor are your starters (and character specific) and C through A are available from the shops. S Rank Weapons and Armor are quest specific and you’ll need to get them on your own. Keys come in Red, Blue and Green and are used for opening locked doors of respective colours in dungeons. Lastly accessories can be found and equipped which have various effects.
Serious lastly, battles are turn based and sprite based and are fought classic FF style. Speed determines turn and each character does their thing until either the hero or enemy party is left standing. Rance VI also uses FF XII’s system of on the fly character swapping which can be used to pull characters who are out of the battle to safety in real time as well as to bring in new ones who are needed for a fight. As I said keeping party deployment to a minimum when possible is good to save SP for the tougher fights, but when the going get’s tough it might be time to bring in Rance to tank a little and dish out the physical damage. Also of note in battle is the ability to capture girl monsters to gain friendship points for of the characters and see certain scenes. What are Girl Monsters exactly? Well…..
Terror Terror Boss
Girls that are monsters of course. That’s not even close to all of them, just some of my faves. (Actually these pics are from an entirely different Alicesoft game, but it’s hard to get the SD versions of them from Rance VI and honestly I think we all want them in their full sized glory) Such was their popularity with gamers that Alicesoft actually released a game devoted to giving them personalities, character development and voices for the first time in the game Galzoo Island, where many of them are team members that you get by beating them in battle. Actually Alicesoft has their own batch of monsters that make frequent experiences across games ala Dragon Quest, only not quite so generic and boring, but more out there and WTF am I fighting.
So yeah, really all it comes down to for the most part is that Rance VI is fun, simple and challenging, where FF XII is unfortunately quite tedious and just not that interesting in terms of music, character and even location graphics. I’m honestly setting my hopes a bit more on Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 as I loved the first two games and felt they were great time killers where something is always going on and progress is always being made (plus the world of Ivalice there had ten times the personality and doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as FF XII which seems to like indulging more in it’s own storyline for the sake of the creators then actually offering up a geninuinely fun experience in the vein of most of the previous FF games). Until then there is always Rance VI.