Well, it’s done.  I stayed up until 1:00 this morning and finally put Final Fantasy XII to rest.  Total gamplay hours: 72:32.

On the whole, I enjoyed this installment in my favorite video game series.  At first, I HATED the battle system, but as I progressed in the game, it became pretty interesting and became a formidable weapon in my hands as I cut through the pathetically weak enemies which I encountered.

The plot was not as good as some, and at times I felt as if I had missed gigantic sequences of storyline as characters, events and other random factoids were presented as if already well-established.  One interesting aspect of the storyline is that it was not as single-protagonist-focused as other FF games.  Although the player begins with Vaan, the story quickly transforms into an epic about another character (the Lady Ashe), while still drawing into the narrative the lives of several others.  Although the storyline felt rushed at many times, it was engaging and satisfying on the whole.

Typically, I finish most FF games in about 30-35 hours.  The reason for the over two-fold increase on this installment is multifaceted.  First, with most games, finishing the game is my only goal.  Sidequests be damned, I ignore all superfluous elements and charge straight ahead, undeterred in my goal of winning.  With FFXII, I took a slower, more thorough approach.  Instead of scraping through the game with as little experience/skills/weapons as possible, I made a determined effort to do some serious leveling.  Secondly, part of the classic side-quest inclusions of FF fare was a quest to kill strange and exotic boss monsters.  Not only was this simply fun and sadistically satisfying, but it also aided in my committment to leveling.

Needless to say, by the time I reached the end of my game, I had a hoss of a battle team.  From the beginning of the final level to the ending sequence, I faced about 8-10 seriously mean bosses.  Normally, the end of FF games give me trouble.  Because I have scraped by so skimpily, my characters are normally fairly weak and it takes me several tries (and some back-peddling to gain additional experience) to defeat the final nemesis.  However, because my group was so powerful, I made short work of every one of the final handful of bosses, not failing on a single one.  Even the final boss and his inevitable 3 forms (seriously, can Square Enix not make a super-bad ending boss with only 1 form???) was no problem.  In fact, the 4 hours it took me to get through the ending was filled only about 10% by actual fighting, while the remaining 90% was movie sequences and story building (which should have probably happened much sooner than the ending…).

Now that I am done, I have two more Square Enix games in the pipeline: Valkyrie Profile 2 and Dirge of Cerebeus.  I plan on taking a break for a while, however.  I have several books that have been neglected.