Review: Tales of Graces f

It has been nearly four years since the North American release of Tales of Vesperia, the last mothership Tales game to be brought outside of the Japanese market. Between then and now, Japanese gamers have had the opportunity to enjoy three more mothership Tales games: Tales of Hearts, Tales of Graces, and Tales of Xillia. English-speaking fans could do nothing but look on in despair as their opportunity to enjoy one of their favorite video game franchises was constantly denied.

But then, the seemingly impossible happened. After years of patiently waiting in agony, one of the most loyal fan bases in all of gaming was finally rewarded. Over two years after its original Japanese release, Tales of Graces was set to be brought over to the starving English speaking fans. Now, about three weeks after Namco Bandai has shown us its good graces, we must answer one question: Are we satisfied?

Gameplay:

When compared to most major JRPG franchises, the Tales series has one of the most unique battle systems around. Other than  the transition from 2D to 3D in Tales of the Abyss, the battle system hasn’t really been able to evolve. Tales of Vesperia perfected what Tales of the Abyss  created, but it was essentially more of the same with minor tweaks that only slightly improved upon small things.

However, Tales of Graces f finally manages to take the iconic Tales battle system to a whole new level. Coming from someone who thinks Tales of Vesperia is one of the greatest games of all time, I can safely say that Tales of Graces f completely blows it away in terms of gameplay. Instead of running on the TP system that all previous Tales games used, Graces uses a new system called the “Chain Capacity” system, or CC for short. This system was used in the Japanese-only remake of Tales of Destiny, but this is the first time we have been able to see the new system in action.

While there is nothing wrong with the TP system, it doesn’t offer anywhere near the amount of possibilities that the CC system does. If you ran out of TP, you would have to recover it by using an item in order to continue using special attacks. Also, pretty much any fight could be won by strategically spamming artes while recovering your TP with items from time to time.

The CC system, on the other hand, requires a ton of skill and dedication to master. Like TP, CC is what allows you to use your artes. However, CC does not need to be recovered with items. Instead, it is recovered (and increased) by how well you are playing. Each weapon grants a character a minimum number of CC points at the beginning of the fight, and will always quickly regenerate when your character is not attacking or dodging. While battling an enemy, you can increase your CC points through filling the Critical Gauge. The Critical Gauge is filled by pulling off long combos, effectively dodging and guarding against enemies, and exploiting enemy weaknesses. This adds a ton of strategic elements that previous Tales games just couldn’t offer, but still keeps the core gameplay mechanics of the series intact. It also allows for a much faster-paced and action packed experience as opposed to most other JRPGs out there. This may very well be the deepest and most rewarding JRPG battle system that I have ever seen.

The new Chain Capacity system in action

But what really makes Tales of Graces f stand out to me is the “playability” of each and every controllable character. In previous Tales games, most playable characters were only effective at one, maybe two things. Most characters were assigned one specific role, and trying to use that character as something else was often a bad idea. For example, in Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Symphonia respectively, Yuri and Lloyd are your main attackers, Estelle and Raine are your healers, and Rita and Genis are your spell casters. Other characters were combinations of each different role, but simply weren’t as effective as the characters who were dedicated to one in particular. Characters like Raven and Zelos can be both attackers and healers, but aren’t great at being either one. They were frustrating to control because they weren’t great at anything specifically, which made Yuri and Lloyd that much better. While these characters can be great in the hands of a good player, they just aren’t as “controllable” as Yuri and Lloyd, which makes playing as them pretty much pointless.

On the other hand, every character in Tales of Graces f has the potential to be great when controlled by the player. This is because the complexity of the CC system doesn’t allow for just one effective role to be good enough. For example, Cheria is your best healer, but her good spells require a lot of CC to use. Therefore, she needs to get her hands dirty by physically attacking enemies in order to increase her CC, which allows her to use her spells more often. While her attacks aren’t as strong as Asbel or Sophie’s, Cheria has the ability to maintain her combos while dodging enemy attacks, allowing her to keep a safe distance while continuously dealing damage and raising the Critical Gauge. Also, incorporating spells into her combos drastically reduces the amount of time needed to cast them, which adds a whole new layer of strategy to controlling her. She is also given a few extremely powerful offensive spells that she can use when the rest of the party doesn’t need to be healed, making her one of the most versatile characters in the game. If Cheria is busy increasing her CC or casting offensive spells, Sophie or Hubert can temporarily take over her healing duties.  Each and every character is versatile in this way, which makes controlling each of them an absolute blast. Each character can be controlled in a way that fits everyone’s play style, which makes Tales of Graces f the best in the series in terms of gameplay.

GAMEPLAY SCORE: 10/10

Story/Characters:

The Tales series has always had some of the best casts of characters in the video game industry. The lighthearted tone of each game allows for some hilarious character interaction that other games just can’t offer. Yet, the personalities of each character are often very cliche and archetypal, which is rather unfortunate.

For the most part, Tales of Graces f is more of the same when it comes to characters. While I do like every character in the game, I can only say that I love two or three of them. What made Tales of Vesperia so great was its unique and interesting characters. Yuri Lowell was much more of an anti-hero than the typical Tales protagonist, which made him a very entertaining character to watch. Tales of Graces f’s protagonist, Asbel Lhant, is just your idealized hero who’s hell-bent on protecting everyone around him. Asbel is by no means a bad character, but he does fall short when compared to the other protagonists in the Tales series. He lacks the unique factor that Yuri has, and just doesn’t receive the kind of development that Reid, Senel, Lloyd, or Luke do.

Tales of Graces f’s supporting cast is hit and miss for the most part.  Sophie is basically Meredy from Tales of Eternia without the weird language, but is also somewhat funny due to her ignorance and robot-like nature. Richard is one of Asbel’s friends, and eventually becomes the game’s main antagonist. Richard redeems himself in the future arc, but is a rather boring character for the most part. Cheria Barnes plays the role of Asbel’s love interest, and isn’t much more than the typical JRPG female. However, her girlish nature often makes her the butt of the joke, which makes her rather funny as well. Malik Caesar is the wise old man of the group, and is often the one who gives the other characters the advice they need to grow and develop. I didn’t like Malik at first, but the way he acts in the future arc makes him perhaps the funniest character in the game. That is… except for Pascal, who is one of the characters I really did love in this game. Pascal functions as the primary comic relief character, but is taken to the highest extremes possible. She’s one of those characters who is so ridiculous that you just can’t help but love her.

Character interaction in the game’s skits is outstanding, and allows for some hilarious things to happen

That leaves Hubert Oswell, who is probably my favorite character in the game. Hubert is the younger brother of Asbel, but was given away by his parents at the age of 10 in order to avoid a power struggle with Asbel for the position of lord of Lhant. Hubert starts off as a shy and timid little kid, but eventually turns into a very arrogant and serious man due to the horrible decision his parents made. When Hubert and Asbel are reunited seven years later, Hubert has become much stronger, which sparks a rivalry between the two brothers. While Hubert is cold at first, him and Asbel eventually regain their brotherly bond. Hubert is one of the only characters who actually develops as the story goes on, making him one of my favorite characters in the game.

I don’t care what anyone says, I love me some Hubert :D

As for the overall story… I can’t really say that I liked it. Then again, with the exception of Tales of the Abyss, none of the stories from the Tales series have been able to hook me in as well as other games have. The Tales series prides itself more on the strength of its characters than the overall storyline, so I can give it a little bit of a pass.

The story revolves around Sophie, the mysterious amnesiac who Asbel and his friends met at the beginning of the game as young children. Most of the game is spent trying to learn more about Sophie’s past, while also trying to find out why Asbel’s old friend Richard has turned into a complete Dick (Get it? Because Dick is a nickname for Richard? HURR). This makes for a pretty typical JRPG storyline, but suffers even worse from some serious pacing issues. It takes a good 30 hours to find out who exactly the villain is, and another 20 hours until Asbel and company actually find a satisfying way to stop him. Without revealing too much, the way the story comes to a conclusion is just… well it’s straight up silly and irrational.

But wait! Then there’s the future arc! The future arc is an additional 10 hour epilogue that occurs six month after the ending of the main game. While the future arc does wonders for character development and interaction, the story is equally silly and cliched. But this time… nothing really happens. It just felt like they created a new villain just for the sake of explaining a poorly executed ending.

Basically, Tales of Graces f is your basic “friendship” JRPG that you’ve already experienced a dozen times, but even more ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, the characters still make this a pretty entertaining game, but the story leaves a lot to be desired. That being said, the main draw for the Tales series, for me at least, is its casts of colorful characters. While the characters may not be as good as those in Vesperia or Abyss, they are still relatively solid.

CHARACTERS: 8/10
STORY: 6.5/10

Graphics:

The phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” perfect summarizes the graphics in Tales of Graces f. The first thing that we should consider is that this game is basically an enhanced HD port of what was originally a Wii game. With that in mind, I really enjoyed Tales of Graces f’s colorful visuals, even if there were some hiccups along the way. In my eyes, the use of color is absolutely beautiful, especially in battle. The HD graphics allow for a lot of detail, especially when characters are using their bigger and more powerful attacks in battle. As long as you don’t expect to be blown away like you would if you were playing something like Final Fantasy or Uncharted, you should be able to appreciate this game’s graphics.

Cheria’s Mysitc Arte “Garden of Innocence” displays the game’s beautiful use of color

GRAPHICS SCORE: 9/10

Sound:

Now… this is where I’m really conflicted. The Tales series has always had some of the best soundtracks in the industry. In fact, Tales of Symphonia is widely considered by fans of the genre to be one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time. The music in Tales of Graces f is just kind of… boring. Where the hell are my epic tracks like Beat the Angel and Fury Sparks? Where is the awesome world map theme like the one from Tales of the Abyss? Why do all of the tracks used in each town sound the exact same? The soundtrack for Graces just feels empty when compared to those of its predecessors.

There are a few tracks that I like… but not many. The track that plays in Lhant, the game’s first town, is pretty nice. The game’s main theme is catchy, but still pales in comparison to “Ring a Bell” and “Karma.” However, the ending credits orchestrated remix of the main theme is actually pretty amazing. I’ve come to expect more from the Tales series when it comes to music, so I have to say that I was significantly disappointed by this game’s music. I can’t really say that it’s bad, but it could be SO much better.

As for voice acting… I am once again conflicted. The game has 7 major characters of which only two or three stand out as being particularly mentionable. Bryce Papenbrook is the perfect example of an average voice acting performance in his role as the lead character, Asbel Lhant. David Earnest has a few notable moments as Richard, but is pretty bad for the most part. The quality of Cassandra Morris’ performance as Sophie is hard to judge given the stoic nature of Sophie’s character. Steve Staley and Jamieson Pierce’s performances as Hubert and Malik respectively are very solid, but are nothing spectacular. Laura Bailey turns in yet another excellent performance as Cheria Barnes, but even she has a few hiccups, most notably in her character’s in-battle quotes. But Kate Higgins as Pascal is the one who really steals the show. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to live up to such a fun and quirky character like Pascal without making some mistakes, but Higgins does an absolutely spectacular job. I would put her performance as Pascal right up with Kirk Thornton’s performance as Jade Curitss and Troy Baker’s performance as Yuri Lowell as the three best examples of outstanding voice acting in the Tales series. But, I still can’t help but feel that there was such a huge waste of potential when it comes to this game’s voice acting, which is really unfortunate.

MUSIC: 6/10
VOICE ACTING: 8.5/10

FINAL BREAKDOWN

PROS:

  • Easily the best battle system in the Tales series, which is saying A LOT
  • One of the most complex and deep battle systems in the history of JRPGs
  • Every single character is an absolute blast to control, which is something previous entries in the series lacked
  • Every character is genuinely likeable, with a few of them (most notably Hubert and Pascal) being exceptional
  • Beautiful, albeit a bit outdated, graphics
  • Excellent character interaction and dialog
  • Solid voice acting performances. Kate Higgins’ performance as Pascal is particularly great

CONS:

  • The story suffers from some very serious pacing issues, and is rather dull and predictable overall
  • Some characters are a bit boring due to how cliched they can be at times
  • The soundtrack is boring, dull, and repetitive

FINAL SCORE (not an average): 9/10

Tales of Graces f is one example of a game’s gameplay being SO GOOD that it completely overshadows everything else. Even though I said some pretty harsh things, and this game does have its fair share of flaws when you try to examine it as an overall experience, the gameplay alone makes this game outstanding. This is the one game in the Tales series that I am most likely to replay just for the sake of playing a fun and enjoyable game. While I vastly prefer Vesperia and Abyss as overall packages of entertainment, I would have to say that Tales of Graces f is a much more “fun” game. Thank you, Namco Bandai, for finally letting us loyal fans play this gem. So, how ’bout dat Tales of Xillia next?

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #2

#2 – Zack Fair

When I try to think of an example of the perfect hero, Zack Fair immediately comes to mind. Zack is one of the most powerful characters in the Final Fantasy series, and also has an equally strong personality. Unlike Cloud, Zack is energetic and caring; two things that every hero should be. His likeable personality and his great strength easily makes him my favorite character in the FFVII series.

Zack is basically a combination of Cloud from FFVII and Tidus from FFX, but without each character’s bad qualities. He isn’t the strongest person at the beginning of Crisis Core, but he can still hold his own in a fight. We connect with Zack because he is already someone we look up to at the beginning of the game, but we also experience his growth along with him. He transforms from an above average soldier into one of the greatest, and we are there along side him for the ride. He is also easygoing, despite the terrible and dangerous situations he is often placed in. He remains cheery by constantly cracking small jokes to the other characters around him. All of this makes Zack one of the most inspirational characters I have ever seen.

What makes Zack’s story in Crisis Core so poignant is the fact that we already know what is going to happen to him. If you’ve already played Final Fantasy VII, you already know that Zack is killed by an army of Shinra troops. We form a strong connection with Zack, knowing full well that it is going to come to a heartbreaking end. Zack’s death scene at the end of Crisis Core is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever experienced in all of my years of playing video games. Even though I knew it was going to happen, it still managed to take me by surprise. The music, the presentation, the voice acting, everything is executed to perfection. This is probably the most moving moment in the entire Final Fantasy series, and that is saying a lot.

My honor.. My dreams.. They’re yours now. You’ll be.. My living legacy.

Manly tears? Hell no, I am bawling like a friggin’ baby ;_;

Every time I watch Zack’s death scene, I can’t help but think that he deserves the number one spot. To be honest, I can’t give a solid reason why he doesn’t. He represents everything I like in a video game protagonist, and has no notable flaws that I can think of. His personality is devoid of typical Final Fantasy cliches, and he still manages to hold a level of “bad ass-ness” that exceeds Cloud and Squall’s. Zack Fair is the person we should all strive to be: strong in both body and mind. Zack is a hero in every sense of the word, and is fully deserving of the #2 spot on this list.

And with that, all that remains is #1…

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #3

#3 – Auron

Three straight Final Fantasy X characters? What is this madness? Its almost like FFX is my favorite Final Fantasy game or something…

Yes yes, I know. Putting Auron this high on my list is contradicting a lot of the things that I have been saying in these entries so far. Auron certainly isn’t a very deep or well developed character, and he does have his fair share of Final Fantasy cliches attached to him. That being said, for this one character only… I don’t care.

It’s true that Auron isn’t much more than the strong, silent warrior who’s physical strength outclasses everyone around him. He’s a self-loathing man who blames himself for pretty much everything that happens to those around him, even though it is never really his fault. However, Auron’s level of badassery is so high that I don’t even care that he’s a bundle of cliches.

The extremes that Auron’s character is taken to is what makes his rather typical personality entertaining. Just look at the guy: he rocks the shades better than anyone else, has a scar over one of his eyes, and manages to wield a 800 pound sword with one hand! He get’s stronger by drinking out of his jug of manliness, and then uses it to spit at anyone who dares face him. Not to mention, this dude is still kicking everyone’s ass, despite the fact that he is dead!  This dude makes Cloud and Squall look like friggin’ muppets. I don’t care what anyone says, Auron is the most bad ass character in the history of Final Fantasy.

Bow down, Zanarkand! Bow down to your master of manliness!

Auron also functions as the wise old man of the party, often giving the rest of the cast the advice they need to grow as characters. Without Auron, the FFX party would be running around like headless chickens. He is given the best dialog in the entire game; dialog that perfectly embodies his strong, yet wise nature.

“Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose! Die and be free of pain or live and fight your sorrow! Now is the time to shape your stories! Your fate is in your hands!”

Once again, I have to apologize for constantly preaching about how much I don’t like the typical bad ass characters. I know that Auron’s spot on this list is rather contradictory, but I can’t help it. Even though he’s from a fairly recent Final Fantasy game, I have a strange nostalgic attachment towards him. Maybe it’s becuase FFX was my first PS2 game, and the PS2 managed to become my favorite console ever (and yes, I promise that Auron is the last FFX character on the list). Auron takes the most overused Final Fantasy trope, and blows it so out of proportion that I can’t help but love him for it.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #4

WARNING!!! WARNING!!! CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ALERT! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! WARNING!!! WARNING!!!

#4 – Tidus

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

YES!!! I am going there! And you can’t stop me!

My fourth favorite Final Fantasy character is, in fact, one of the most hated characters in the history of video games. Hell, maybe even the history of entertainment. Surely, I must be trolling. How can Tidus be higher than Kefka? Squall? CLOUD?!

I’ll admit, Tidus is everything that his haters say he is. He’s a whiny, obnoxious little brat with daddy issues. So, how can he be this high on the list? The answer is simple, my irate friends. Tidus is this high on my list because of these things! Tidus is burdened by all of these things, and eventually pushes through them to become one of the most well developed Final Fantasy characters of all time.

At the beginning of Final Fantasy X, Tidus was completely unlikeable. He let his own personal problems effect him and the people around him way too much. Unfortunately for him, he holds on to these traits for a good 85% of the game, and still never gets over them completely. But when he finally does make progress as a character, it makes for some of the most emotional and powerful moments in the entire Final Fantasy series.

Even though Tidus is annoying, and is comprised of traits not befitting of a hero, he is one of the most human characters I have ever seen. I never felt a very strong connection to characters like Cloud, Squall, and Lightning, because they were nothing more than  idealized “bad asses” who’s sole purposes were to look cool. I could never identify with these people, because they were completely unlikeable and unrealistic. While they do develop in their own way, they don’t receive anywhere near the amount that Tidus does. It’s Tidus’ whiny persona that allows him to transform into a very realistic and memorable character.

Aside from his crybaby nature, Tidus is very kind and compassionate. He does everything in his power to protect those around them, despite the fact that he isn’t very strong. He knows that he’s weak and useless, but he doesn’t let it bother him (for the most part). He functions as a different type of hero; a hero who’s own humanity and feelings give him strength. What he lacks in physical strength, he makes up with compassion.

The ending of Final Fantasy X shows just how far Tidus has come as a character. He knows that defeating Sin will end his existence, and prevent him from living a happy life with Yuna and his new friends. However, he doesn’t waver one bit, and is completely willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good. The final scene is absolutely heart breaking: Tidus is shown hugging Yuna after she has told him she loves him for the first time. Even though this is the last time he will ever see the woman he loves, he, for the first time in the game, does not cry.

Tidus may not be crying, but I sure as hell am ;_;

The transformation that Tidus undergoes in Final Fantasy X is beautiful. He changes from a completely unlikeable and selfish crybaby into one of the most well rounded characters I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.

The fact that Tidus is almost universally hated by the Final Fantasy fan base really bothers me. The only reasons they cite for him being a bad character is “lol laughing scene,” and “lol he cries a lot.” So what? Almost every Final Fantasy protagonist is highly flawed. The fact that Tidus is even more flawed than the rest is what makes him unique and memorable. Just because he doesn’t have the 24 foot sword and the angsty personality doesn’t make him a bad character. Because he was able to change from such an unlikeable wuss into such a well rounded character is why he deserves this spot on the list.

Now, we are finally down to the three best Final Fantasy characters of all time. With all three main protagonists from the three most popular games already listed, who can possibly be left? Sephiroth? Lightning? Frocobo? The shoopuff guy? I guess we’ll see ;-)

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #5

#5 – Jecht

Image

Look at that guy. Look at him. That dude OOZES manliness.

Writing about why Jecht is a good character is a bit difficult due to the fact that most of his development happens off screen. He isn’t a playable character, and he’s only third on the list of FFX’s villains at best. That being said, the stories we hear about Jecht, paired with the small amount of screen time he is given tells us the story of a very realistic, albeit somewhat despicable, character.

What makes Jecht so memorable to me is that he is highly flawed, just like any real person would be. However, his flaws are different than those of most other Final Fantasy characters. Instead of being an endlessly depressed man with a dark past, Jecht’s flaws are more comparable to those that a real person might have. His status as a star athlete gives him a larger-than-life ego, which then results in him becoming a careless alcoholic who neglects his own son. In a series full of characters with somewhat silly motivations, the realism behind Jecht’s character is what makes him memorable.

When Jecht is transported to Spira one day while training at sea, he loses his fame and is forced to become just a normal guy. However, his ego and love for alcohol is still there, which results in him getting thrown into prison. Humbled by his experiences in Spira, Jecht teams up with Braska and Auron in a journey to defeat Sin and restore peace to the world for a short period of time. As his journey goes on, Jecht begins to see just how bad of a person he was back when he was in Zanarkand. He finally realizes that his son Tidus is justified in hating him, and hopes to find a way to redeem himself. He takes one last shot at redemption by sacrificing himself in order to become the fayth for the Final Aeon needed to defeat Sin, which results in Jecht becoming the very essence that allows Sin to live.

In an attempt to atone for his sins as a horrible father, Jecht uses his power as Sin to bring Tidus to Spira to embark on the same journey that he did a few years ago. When father and son are finally reunited, Jecht acts like the asshole he used to be on purpose in order to motivate Tidus to kill him along with Sin. Knowing how his son truly feels about him, Jecht walks away, leaving the most memorable image in the entire game:

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But Tidus never sees the sadness on Jecht’s face. Jecht then turns around to face his son, and reverts to his asshole persona to once again motivate his son to kill him.

Jecht went from a complete asshole to perhaps the most likeable character in the game. He sacrifices himself twice in order to save the world, and jeopardizes his relationship with his own son in order to do so. Jecht deserves the #6 spot on my list because of his realistic flaws, solid development, and honorable sacrifices. Also… manliness. Lots of it.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #6

#6 – Noel Kreiss

When compared to other male characters in the Final Fantasy series, Noel stands out as being unique and surprisingly realistic. Even though he comes from a horrible future in which he is the last human in existence, he still acts in a very respectable and honorable manner. Instead of being the typical “angsty” Final Fantasy character, Noel actually has a very admirable and unique personality.

Noel has the perfect combination of “level-headed” and “bad ass” qualities. Instead of using his tragic past (future?) as a reason to mope, he remains cheerful for the most part. He actually uses his knowledge of the future as a tool that allows him to effectively deliberate over his own actions. He remains cheerful, despite the threat looming over his head. Yet, he is also a skilled hunter capable of taking out anything thrown at him. He only fights if he has to, but he has the strength necessary to win in any situation.

Noel also has his flaws, which contribute to the realism surrounding his character. Even though he is smart and level-headed, there are some times when he can be somewhat cocky and overconfident. He has his share of “eye roll” moments when he talks trash to some of the monsters you are fighting. Even though it’s cheesy, it can be charming at the same time. His cheesy taunting is completely justified because he can actually “walk the walk,” which  makes him funny and entertaining at the same time.

Noel is also a very compassionate character. His desire to protect Yeul, and later, Serah, is what motivates him. Even though he does not know Serah very well, he is willing to do anything to protect her. Due to the nature of the future he grows up in, Noel knows the value of human life. He refuses to kill Caius, even after all of the horrible things he does to Noel and Serah. His high regard for human life makes Noel one of the most human characters in the Final Fantasy series.

Noel’s compassionate personality holds him back from killing Caius

Most people are unwilling to put anyone from the Final Fantasy XIII series on their lists because of the nonsensical story they are acting in. Even though silly and poorly explained things are happening to them, I still find their personalities endearing enough to care about. Noel is pretty much just a regular guy thrown into a very, VERY bad situation. He acts as a normal person would, which is why he deserves a spot on this list.

Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters – #7

#7 – Balthier Bunansa

First of all, I should say that I really did not like Final Fantasy XII. It is by far my least favorite Final Fantasy game, and is probably the most disappointing and underwhelming game I have ever played in my entire life. That being said, the general lack of anything interesting happening in the game’s story allowed for one character to shine through the darkness: Balthier Bunansa.

Similar to the rest of FFXII’s cast, Balthier is by no means a deep or complex character. He receives little to no actual character development, which is disappointing considering his likeable personality. He’s a cocky jerk with a huge ego, and he is given the best dialog in a game where plot and character interaction is almost nonexistent. Despite his cocky attitude, he’s still a good man, and is the true hero of Final Fantasy XII.

Balthier is on this list because I like characters who get things done. Pretty much every character in Final Fantasy XII just sits there with their thumbs up their ass the entire time. That is, until Balthier says or does something that motivates them to take action. He serves as a mentor-like figure to Vaan, a loyal and close friend to Fran, and a motivator for Ashe. Even though Vaan and Ashe are the two main protagonists, Balthier is constantly referring to himself as “the leading man.” He’s the only character in the game who has the capacity to think and act for himself.

“I just risked my life to save all of your asses, and I have to carry this bitch out of here by myself. Shouldn’t, I dunno, the main protagonist be doing this stuff?

Unfortunately, there really isn’t much else to say about Balthier. Even though he lacks much needed development, his likeable personality and willingness to actually do things that other characters aren’t is enough for me. Thank you Balthier, for being the only bright spot in a rather bad game.