Playing Xenoblade, while incredible, has had the added effect of reminding me a lot of Final Fantasy XII. This is no bad thing. I have already reviewed the game on this blog but as with many of my creative endeavors I find that over time I want to add or revise things I once considered ‘complete’.
In regards to FFXII, I may have written a bit more about Lord Rasler Heios Nabradia. He, for lack of a better description, was the character that never was. His duties included marrying our main character and dying…all within the span of the opening cutscene. What I find extremely interesting about him (besides from how ridiculously BAD ASS he looks) is just how damn important he is to the story.
How the hell is this character, who is in so little of this game, as memorable or effective as he is?
Well I’ve come up with a couple reasons that I think are pretty important to discuss that should also help further support why I think this game is incredible.
|Setting a tone|
I don’t know if I can name a game that sets its tone better than Final Fantasy XII. The god damn OPENING CUTSCENE depicts an assumed main character easily struck down in battle. Just before, we saw this same guy marrying our main character. The intro ends with the Empire’s airships advancing over a bloody battlefield where crows are picking away at dead bodies.
I won’t bother to equate Rasler’s death to something like Aerith’s but having this event take place at the beginning of our tale serves to set pieces in motion in a very interesting way. It’s the backdrop for our story, and having something this dramatic depicted before we actually take control changes the atmosphere of the entire experience. Here I’m introduced to a gallant and handsome knight who’s taking freedom upon his back, riding out to meet his would be conquerors. Instead of returning home to present his bride with victory, Lord Rasler is struck down in the chaos by what appears to be a random enemy and the battle is lost.
The implication of this event is that the player really understands the seriousness of the world, or the reality of it. Few other games would take this step to engross the audience. The expectation and understanding from this point on is that no one is safe. Young and strong heroes with everything at stake do not necessarily guarantee victory in this particular universe.
|His relationship with Ashe|
Ashe could be called the main character of Final Fantasy XII. Her motivations and personal plot are as closely related to the main narrative as anyone, and her love for Lord Rasler is an integral part of it. He was her husband and true love, but also heir to the neighboring state of Nabradia. Their coupling was, in addition to it’s sincerity, a political union providing a unified front geographically centered between two aggressive nations.
After Rasler’s death Ashe not only continues to legitimately mourn him but goes as far as to wear her wedding ring up until and throughout the game itself. The ring is of major importance to her, but from a storytelling standpoint it’s critical. In the one scene depicting Ashe reminiscing about her lost love to Balthier she clutches her wedding ring thoughtfully. This subtle moment relays a feeling that Ashe just can’t really let it all go, that her stake in the struggle is much more personal and perhaps vengeful. Without a scene like this and an actual face to her passion you could easily accept that Ashe rebelled for simpler reasons: freedom, justice and the like. Instead the more powerful and overriding emotion is love and the pain of losing Him. Balthier seizes this moment brilliantly and demands that he be allowed to carry the ring, this thing that’s much heavier than its actual weight. In realizing its importance to her and promising to return it when all is said and done he’s doing his best to guarantee that they all succeed…knowing her connection to the physical item (and by association her memory of Lord Rasler) will push her even harder to persevere. This is incredible storytelling, yet some reviewers had the audacity to declare that Final Fantasy XII was somehow lacking in character development.
I suppose the worst of it is that I just really fucking wanted Rasler to be a playable character. Instead, his existence is dangled in front of my face like an unobtainable carrot. There’s even a message in that, I believe. In allowing us to only witness a snippet of this young man’s heroics we are put in a position to appreciate the characters we do have. If Yasumi Matsuno is willing to kill off the coolest looking character before the damn game even starts then I know I’m in for way more than the standard RPG fare. And I do believe the rest of the game followed suit. So here’s a salute to Lord Rasler Heios Nabradia, arguably the most meaningful ‘character that never was’ death in the history of video games.