Final Fantasy XII's Unfair Astrology

Final Fantasy XII's Unfair Astrology

imageI've got a bone to pick with Square Enix. It's not because I don't like their latest RPG. In fact, I've enjoyed Final Fantasy XII so much, I've spent nearly 80 hours with the game. The problem is, through means both cruel and completely arbitrary, its creators have rendered the game's most powerful weapon forever beyond my reach.

The weapon is the Zodiac Spear, and it's FFXII's damage-dealer of choice. It isn't the only incredible item in the game, and it certainly isn't required to finish the story. In terms of total brute force power, though, it has no statistical equal. It is, simply put, the Ultimate Weapon.
Unbridled item lust is a defining feature of any good RPG experience, and FFXII certainly delivers in this regard. Although it provides a steady stream of new weapons, armor and trinkets, the game's most coveted items become more difficult to acquire as the game progresses. Hidden and terrible creatures must be destroyed, and labyrinthine passages must be explored. Finds like the Zodiac Spear become increasingly rare and desirable.

I've learned to watch FFXII's combat log and crack open its countless treasure chests with the same anticipation that a compulsive gambler might eye a roulette wheel. Though most chests and enemies yield ordinary loot, you never know when that singular item will drop. You can't afford not to fight the enemies you encounter or ignore the treasures you find scattered about.

No amount of ordinary persistence will guarantee players the Zodiac Spear, though, even though it actually has a 100 percent chance of being located in one particular treasure chest. A 100 percent chance, that is, provided that you didn't open one of four other chests encountered much earlier in the game. If you happened to loot a single one these four cursed chests, the spear will never appear.

Here's the real rub, though: The four chests that forever doom you to lesser weaponry are generally placed no differently than any of the game's hundreds of other treasure chests. There's no warning that they shouldn't be opened. There's no hint that they're special, even after they've been cracked. Even worse, most are found in conspicuous locations near the beginning of the game.

The thought that players might actually avoid opening treasures in an RPG is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Anyone with RPG experience knows careful, methodical kleptomania is the path to greatness in such games. In the end, it's almost impossible to imagine any player not tipped off from the outset would have any hope of preserving their sure chance to get the spear.

imageFor those condemned by the very greed FFXII encourages, though, there is a second treasure chest in which the Zodiac Spear can be found. At least in theory. The chest only appears 10 percent of the time. And if it does appear, it only has a 10 percent chance of containing something besides money. And if it does contain something other than money, there's only a 10 percent chance that something will actually be the Zodiac Spear.

So there's a 1-in-1,000 chance of nabbing the spear if you blew it the first time around. As long as your character has a special accessory equipped when the second chest is opened, that is. Otherwise the chances are reduced to 1-in-never. Did I mention that the second chest is in a particularly hard-to-find area of the game? Or that the alcove in which it appears isn't depicted on any in-game map?

The question comes to mind: What were the developers thinking? To create such an item and then ensure it remains out of players' hands for no good reason seems like an act of manipulative arrogance. A cruel joke, perhaps.
Then again, maybe there's more to it than that. FFXII's creators were undoubtedly aware of the dialogue between gamers that evolves following any title's release. And admittedly, as a result of forum posts and articles like this one, players are increasingly likely to begin the game knowing the location of the spear and the chests that would normally prevent its acquisition.

So, in placing the Zodiac Spear within the reach of those with such precious information, Square Enix has bestowed upon the weapon a mythical status that actually extends beyond the game world itself. It's like a perverse sort of Easter egg. Even now, gamers are online trading rumors, information and misinformation about the spear. In a sense, the weapon has become truly legendary - and not just within the fantasy realm where it dwells.

FFXII players that don't turn to strategy guides or seek online guidance after they've begun the game will never know they've missed the Zodiac Spear. Such ignorance is bliss. Trust me, learning that you've lost your only sure chance of obtaining the best weapon in a game into which you've sunk dozens of hours is not a good feeling. And knowing that you've still got a 1-in-1,000 chance of obtaining the spear elsewhere is even worse. It gnaws at you. I've read forum posts by other players who couldn't resist seeking out the second chest, knowing full well it was a fool's errand. Even those few who reported finding the spear tended to lament the hours they spent, desperately reloading the game and retracing their steps until it finally appeared.

I, for one, won't be seeking out the second chest. I've all but resigned myself to the fact fate decided early on that I'd complete the game without it. It wasn't in the stars for me. And that, I suppose, is entirely fitting for a weapon called the Zodiac Spear.

Permalink

I've heard about this, and I never even looked for information about it. I just happened about it one day.

I don't know what to think about it to be truthful. It's a horrible way to hide an item, that's for sure, but it's not Square's first time. Granted, it wasn't an item you couldn't get elsewhere, but in Final Fantasy VI(III), there are a bunch of chests that "upgrade" the more you wait before opening them. Get them late in the game and you get much better items than had you gotten them early on. However, you don't see people complaining about that.

I was rather upset when I heard about it though. When don't you open every chest when you have the chance? I guess it's when you're playing Final Fantasy.

This reminds me of the day of FFIV where you had 1/64 chances to find a monster named the Pink puff which would have a 1/64 chance of droping a Pink Tail. That tail was used to forge new Adamant gear which were the best.

Gotta love those very bad odds ^^

Well, very low-odd drops was quite common back then. FFIV, as you mentioned, in particular had many. While not nearly as bad, I remember Earthbound did the same thing(1/128, I believe). Star Ocean 2 had some items that can be crafted, where the chances of doing so is incredibly low. I believe there was a very rare drop from a relatively rare monster in FFVI. I can't remember too many other examples right now though.

Well, I think we can take this as a lesson in game design...

One that I have always pondered, Should we let the player access the most powerful weapon in the game with a minimum of work? Or, should we force them to squirm knowing any minute that they could squander their chance to get their hands on the Portable Earth Smashing Gun (or whatever you want to call it...)

I'd say make em squirm, It hasn't hurt Diablo 2's popularity any.

generalissimofurioso:
Well, I think we can take this as a lesson in game design...

One that I have always pondered, Should we let the player access the most powerful weapon in the game with a minimum of work? Or, should we force them to squirm knowing any minute that they could squander their chance to get their hands on the Portable Earth Smashing Gun (or whatever you want to call it...)

I don't know that you have to make it accessible with minimum effort, but it shouldn't be impossible. I don't that removing an item from a game completely is a good thing for anyone except the guide-reading audience.

A game can make getting a weapon extremely difficult without making it impossible. As a casual gamer I sometime use a guide to help me through various levels if I get sufficiently frustrated with them. One such instance occurred during Tales of Symphonia. After some skimming I came across information about a set of amazing weapons that can be obtained through various side quests. Once you get the weapons they are still, more or less, useless if you don't follow the quest to the end. What I found by attempting to finish the quest was that it was not possible to do at the stage of the game I was at. I was almost done with it, mind you. I would need to level up another 10 levels at least in order to have a fighting chance. While the game was so soon to end, and I was quick to finish it instead of getting the super weapons, the possibility was always there to activate them. I simply did not have the desire to grind out 10 levels in order to make 2 hours of game play a little easier. For me it wasn't worth it. For another it might be a worthy cause and reason to spend another lifetime in the game. To the casual player the weapons were simply unavailable because of level constraints and the effort necessary to unlock them; to the hardcore gamer they were entirely obtainable, despite the tremendous effort required, without risk of losing them forever.

You don't have to make things impossible by completely removing them from the realm of possibility (yes I realize that makes no sense at all... deal with it :-P ). You can simply make them so hard to obtain that those who do not care to try cannot get them.

Adam is right. The Zodiac Spear is way too hard to get. I have the strategy guide and still opened one of the no no chests by accident. Seriously, not opening chests to anyone who has ever played an RPG is totally against the grain. A warning would have been nice. A simple "Are you sure you would like to open the chest?" or something. Give me a hint that this isn't just the average chest so I can at least have the opportunity to change my mind

*Nice try. No advertising please. -mod

The Zodiac Spear sounds pretty typical of JRPGs in general. Every time I play one of those damned games, I keep a faq/walkthrough open and read in advance exactly what I need to do in every area, because those JRPGs are just riddled with "you have to do this completely inane thing at this certain point of the game" in order to trigger something important, or else you will never ever be able to access that special item, get that special party member, or get the only "good ending" of the game (Suikoden 2 comes to mind). And I remember a friend telling me horror stories about Valkyrie Profile -- how you have to do all kinds of nonsense stuff to prevent f---ing your game over irreparably.

It must be a Japan thing. I don't see that happening too often in modern non-J CRPGs (bioware etc)... you often don't need a walkthrough to get a hype weapon or "the good ending" in those as the paths to get them are more logical / less arbitrary, rewarding you for being crafty or determined instead of having bought their "strategy" guide.

I knew about the weapon's guide-selling properties before I even played the game and have resigned myself to never even bothering with the thing.

I think it's a really cynical thing to do, though. I don't believe for a saecond that they did it to "reward" anybody for not opening chests (I mean seriously - they know perfectly well that people open chests in RPGs); it's a ploy to sell 20 limited-edition strategy guides.

generalissimofurioso:
Should we let the player access the most powerful weapon in the game with a minimum of work? Or, should we force them to squirm knowing any minute that they could squander their chance[?]

There's a happy middle-ground to be had with optional side-quests. I've always felt that awesome equipment shouldn't be tough to achieve, so long as you know where to find it. Put stupid riddles to solve, give me a trading chain, anything rather than a mindless grind to the proper level or something as utterly stupid as "don't open these four chests".

Where does this belief that you're somehow inherently entitled to every last item in an RPG come from? And how did you find out about this Zodiac Spear in the first place?

Also, just for fun you may want to fire up your Way Back Machine and had a peek at Baldur's Gate and the Golden Pantaloons. You want to talk about high-end gear from random and undirected actions, I don't think you'll find a better example.

Really, Malygris? I payed for the game but I'm not 'entitled' to all it has to offer?

Actually, if you agree with Daniel Cook that games are psychological drugs, this can easily be interpreted as a a pusher tactic!

And while we're at it, let's not forget Pokemon. The tag line goes "Gotta Catch 'Em All" and yet they deliberately restrict some pokemon to only special real world 'give-aways'. Or the 'shiny' pokemon that have a 1 in 8192 chance of appearing. It's pure, unadulterated cruelty...

Getting the Excalibur in FF12 is the thing i'm most ashamed of in my gaming career, fuck FFXII Bullshit random treasure chest system

Malygris:
Where does this belief that you're somehow inherently entitled to every last item in an RPG come from? And how did you find out about this Zodiac Spear in the first place?

that's the point of a video game, you EARN stuff. whether you kill a boss for it, steal it from a monster or get it from solving a puzzle in a temple.
The zodiac spear however, can never be found, even if everyone plays for 50 years straight noone will ever figure out that you must not open some treasure chests to make it appear, let alone find out which 4 not to open.

if i see crap like this in FF13 im gonna be seriously pissed

Malygris:

Also, just for fun you may want to fire up your Way Back Machine and had a peek at Baldur's Gate and the Golden Pantaloons. You want to talk about high-end gear from random and undirected actions, I don't think you'll find a better example.

However, the reward item from the Golden Panataloons questline is clearly an easter egg rather than the game's Infinity Plus One Sword, and it's actually acquired by the "normal" process of talking to everyone and hoarding everything in the game just in case it might be useful later, not the counterintuitive process of specifically not opening certain treasure chests, which is absolutely opposed to the instinctive reaction of any adventurer on seeing a treasure chest. (Seriously, seeing a treasure chest and not opening it is, to an RPG player, like jumping off a cliff and not falling).

i think its not about how hard it is to get the zodiac spear. in ff-X you had tho avoid 300 lightnings to get some item so that lulu's ultimate weapon was activated, what is way more difficult than not opening chests. the thing is, in all final fantasy games you had to fight crazy odds and do frustrating idiotic sidequests (i'm full of hate <.<) to get cool stuff... but u could do it at any point of the game. i usually did the Quest Of The Reeaally Cool Stuff just before the final boss or location or whatever. in ff-XII you must either be psychic or know in advance (which are kind of the same.. u know what i mean:P ) to get the effing spear!! its frustrating as hell and it makes you want to destroy the game with your bare hands and the buy another copy to destroy it again. in other games, the missions to get the weapons only made you want to bleed to death for not being able to beat the chocobo race in 00'00'' :D

I actually got the spear twice (once through the 100% chest, 1 through the 0.1% chance(second try as well, luckiest find ever), but frankly I never use them, you get so powerful, and that you should by this point have powerful weapons of every element, it ultimately becomes a redundant weapon, and I think the yagaduada darkblade is a rarer weapon, being a rare drop off a rare creature found in a secret location

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here