Friday, April 25, 2014

Final Fantasy: Ivalice

Ivalice was first mentioned as the setting of Final Fantasy: Tactics.

To talk of this, though, we have to go further back.  Back to a series of video games called Ogre Battle.  Ogre Battle was a sort of real time strategy, turned based RPG hybrid that took place in a magical realm.  The story dipped into ambition and strategy between armies, but was not very detailed.  With Ogre Battle's success, the director became a household name in Japan.  With this new hit on their hands, they asked the director to make another game.  The director was Yasumi Matsuno, and events of the world would change the game, and his legacy.

In the early 1990's, the Yugoslav Wars were highly televised and covered around the world.  Matsuno would see what the war, and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, would do to a modern society.  He became determined that his next game would explore the horrors of war, and force people to think of how horrible it was.  He then created Tactics Ogre, a game very strongly respected, even today.  Through the use of telling a smaller personal story, like that on a stage, Matsuno was able to get the epic story of war to the audience in a digestible way.  Studio pressure and being unhappy with his company, Matsuno left Quest, but was soon hired by Squaresoft to produce the first "modern" spinoff of Final Fantasy; Final Fantasy Tactics.  Ivalice was the world he created for the game.  In it, he mixed his political story with the fantastic elements of Final Fantasy.  Summons became religion, Chocobos became warhorses, and the Final Fantasy job system got one of its best incarnations.

When discussing Final Fantasy, there is a line in the sand with some people.  That line is "no spinoffs", that way you do not have to discuss the re-titled gameboy games(which aren't Final Fantasy, but are Secret of Mana and SaGa games), and Mystic Quest.  This also meant that many put Final Fantasy Tactics into that.  This stopped because Final Fantasy 12 was developed in the world of Ivalice, making the world "Canon".  This does interesting things because now the Metal Gear Solid/Metroidvania game known as Vagrant Story is technically part of a canon Final Fantasy world.

Many people debate if the world is in fact the same world or a different version each time with just a sprinkle of allusions to the other titles.  Others point to a timeline that can make sense of how some things exist in one world but not in the other.  I personally subscribe to the timeline that goes like this:  Final Fantasy 12, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story.  In Final Fantasy Tactics you find ruins while exploring that have broken airships, and they talk about moogles being extinct but once existing.  This firmly puts it ahead of Final Fantasy 12.  In Vagrant Story the religion of Final Fantasy 12 is talked about as an old "pagan" religion, and that the new religion took place after an old one was found to be heretical.  This religion, I believe, is the one from Final Fantasy Tactics.  Also, the grandson of the historian that wrote Final Fantasy Tactic's account of historical events is the one that wrote the "truth" of Vagrant Story.  By Vagrant Story, magic is a rare thing, only practiced by those that know the secrets, in Final Fantasy 12 and Tactics it is common place.  To me this timeline makes the most sense.  I also have suspicion that Lea Monde from Vagrant Story is a settlement built on top of the Ancient City of Giruvegan in Final Fantasy 12.  Both cities seem to be entire cities that are actually magical sigils, arranged in circles, and tied to a power source in the center.  Matsuno has said he never intended to make Vagrant Story part of Ivalice, but this was obviously an intention that was thrown away before the game actually began, so to me it is absolutely the same world.

Not all games set in Ivalice have been made by Matsuno, since Squaresoft owns the rights.  A strange happening is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which technically happens in the real world instead of Ivalice.  Its world is a "made up" world that takes place in a magical book, so is not actually this Ivalice.   Tactics Advance A2 does though, as does Revenant Wings and Crystal Defenders.  So while Matsuno has had a strong hand in controlling how this world developed, he hasn't had complete control.

The world of Ivalice has had many critically acclaimed games to take place in it.  When Famtisu "Perfect 40's" were more rare than snow in hell, there were 2 games that earned it in this world, "Final Fantasy 12" and "Vagrant Story" were among the first 8 to get the score and Matsuno the only person to direct two "Perfect 40's".  Sadly the games were never financial hits compared to the JRPG's of the late 90's.  With the entire Ivalice Alliance set up taking place in a waning era of Squaresoft, we are likely to not see much else happen there.  This may have been a contributing factor to Matsuno deciding to leave Squaresoft after Final Fantasy 12 was taken out of his hands and tinkered with heavily before release.

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