The creators faced a curious problem with Final Fantasy XII. You have a party member who owns an airship, yet you must walk everywhere; after all, journey is really half the fun, or 90% of the fun as in Final Fantasy XII. So they make it so you can't actually use the airship until end-game. But the way they do it is just so blatantly transparent. They didn't even attempt to make it look like something else than what it is: an excuse for you not to use your airship. Things like this should be submerged into the narrative, not float on top like bubbles of disgusting grease. Even if you know that the real reason you can't use the Strahl is because most of the gameplay is always "on the way there", but come on, this is the best you guys come up with?
In our series, it would have been so much better if...
After the party is back from Barheim Passage we find out that the darlingest Penelo has been kidnapped and taken to the Lhusu Mines. Vaan, desperate to save his friend, begs Balthier's aid promising him the Dusk Shard for his efforts. Basch ever-so-conveniently also needs to go to Bhujerba, so the gang is back together. Once we leave Bhujerba though, we run into a problem.
The Resistance doesn't help Ashe to fight the Empire, because she has no proof of her lineage. In order to prove her status as royalty, Ashe wants to go to the Tomb of Raithwall to retrieve the Dawn Shard. The sandsea the party must cross is bigger than the entire of Dalmasca (it isn't just a quirk of the map not being to scale, that's what they actually say in the game) - you guys have any idea how far that is?? So. We're going to go on your airship, right, Balthier? NO.
No. We can't go to Tomb of Raithwall with the Strahl, because the sandsea is a "jagd". Well, what the hell is a jagd? It's an area with abnormal amounts of mist which would interfere with the airship's skystone. So we can't fly there. Very well. Sounds plausible enough. So we hike past the entire sandsea to the tomb, but then, something even more curious happens: The Empire is on our heels. They arrive on...wait wait...on an entire fleet of airships. Wait...what?
The in-game explanation is that the Empire has managed to manufacture nethicite that can work as skystones even on the jagd. Alright... That works I suppose. After being caught by the Empire it, of course, doesn't take long for our heroes to escape, and the entire 8th Archadian fleet blows up, all but our tiny little Atomos personnel carrier ship where our heroes are. Afterward, we retrieve the Dawn Shard, and after having seen its amazing powers, it's too lucrative of an idea not to use it to fight the Empire. The stone is oddly cold and dim, however, and we haven't got the slightest idea how to use it. So off we are to Jahara, maybe the Garif there know how to use it.
So...now we'll fly, right?
No, you see, the Strahl was so damaged in the explosion that we can fly it no longer.
Excuse me, what? It was nowhere near the explosion! We left it hovering just above Dalmasca Estersand! How could it have damaged so badly? Well. Apparently it was close enough. Which really leads me wondering how on earth did we ever survive that explosion? On a pathetic little Atomos thingy of all things. In fact, whatever happened to the Atomos afterward, anyway? Can't we use that to fly to Jahara? AND the Atomos can fly on jagd, so maybe that's useful. Hey, we might even try to repair the Strahl and then use the Atomos's skystone in it! It might work!
No. No no no. All terrible plans. The only smart course of action is to, in fact, walk to Jahara, all the way.
But, wouldn't it be smarter to fix the Strahl and then fly it? I mean, it can't be that badly damaged since it really was nowhere near--
NO. The moogles fix it. We walk.
And off we are to Jahara.
Later we want to go Archades to enter the Draklor Laboratories and destroy the Empire's nethicite. That's a sound plan. Well it's been ages since the Leviathan blew up, so surely the moogles have had plenty of time to fix it by now? And Archades is not on the jagd so...
NO. No that would be a terrible idea, because if we fly there, they are sure to catch us! No no. We better go on foot.
Off we go!
No, but wait! How are they sure to catch us? They don't even know we have a sword that can cut through nethicite! Plus, the Strahl is an Archadian model airship. So...like...there on the border, they see an Archadian airship approaching and are like, well obviously that is Princess Ashe coming to destroy our nethicite. Only... no wait no they wouldn't. Strict border patrol still doesn't rule out the possibility of flying somewhere closer to the border and walking from there, and really, if they are watching the border so closely, shouldn't they also look for travellers on foot? Besides, after Strahl finally becomes available, we can fly to Archades whenever. What, they stopped looking for us or what?
This sort of corner-cutting is all over the place, and really, I'm fine with it, if there is no better way to handle it. In Final Fantasy VIII Rinoa, against all the odds, manages to infiltrate the presidential palace all by herself in order to give the Odine Bangle to Edea. This can be considered odd, because Squall and Irvine were already stationed outside the gate when this happens, among the crowd. The plan always was that after the float leaves the palace, the gates are open and you can sneak past. A pretty stupid plan still, but that was the plan. Rinoa, somehow, manages to go past the gate while it is closed with plenty of people standing outside the gate, with no one noticing, and gets past the palace security (is there any?? how crappy is the security here exactly!) to Edea's room unnoticed. Quite a feat.
In Final Fantasy X you just literally appear on Bikanel Desert. How does this work? One moment, you are there under the ice in Macalania Temple, and then you meet Sin and... and...and you....just...well the next you know you are on Bikanel Desert! Guess Sin just flew you there or something? What about the Sin toxin? You're not supposed to touch it right. Maybe you just floated there, like, in a sea current, but then how come you appear in the middle of the desert and not on the coast... well there is the oasis that curiously enough has stuff floating in it sometimes too so.
But I don't think the "can't use Strahl" is such a moment! They could have incorporated it into the storyline, and done so easily!
What if, when escaping Bhujerba, we crash the Strahl? They love making those big-boom FMV things, so here would have been the perfect cue. Everybody always survives a crash in every game, so it's not a problem. The Strahl could have a mechanism where the whole cockpit shoots out at the press of a button and a parachute opens up! Plus, they wouldn't have needed to invent anything new into the storyline to use it. Archadian fleet was stationed in Bhujerba when this happens, and, we have an enemy of Ba'Gamnan who wants us dead, who is also around.
After finding that he can't either catch or defeat us in Lhusu Mines, depending on if the player battles him and wins or runs away, Ba'Gamnan could come up with another plan to destroy Balthier. What if he, like, plants a bomb in the Strahl? Ha, that'd show us! It'd lock the controls and go off after we've flown well clear of the island. All they would need to do is trail us on their airship (I assume Ba'Gamnan has an airship, though hey, maybe he doesn't, but hey, it wouldn't have been too much of a stretch to add one if he hasn't got one already) and watch us explode. Ka-BOOM. (Except, like in good RPG story manner, we'd obviously actually survive.)
OR he could have trailed us with his airship and shot at us, or the Empire could have, or even the Marquis, if he really thought we're actually kidnapping Ashe. Balthier's wanted by the Empire too, right, they must know he escaped with Captain Basch, they might know what the Strahl looks like. They might've wanted to shoot it down.
CRASH. Oopsie-daisy, now it really is broken, and we can't fly it. Problem solved? Maybe fixing the broken Strahl is no easy feat, in fact, maybe it costs quite a lot of money, maybe it would be in Balthier's best interests to tag along to Tomb of Raithwall when Ashe promises him the king's treasure (more than enough to fix your broken airship?). Later, when it turns out that the king's treasure was an Esper, Balthier takes Ashe's ring, because he thinks she's still indebted to him. Then later, either the moogles manage to fix Strahl, or Reddas could give us an airship (he's a sky pirate right), or an extra segment to the game could be added where we go and steal an airship from the Empire (that could've been cool), or, as Reddas joins as as guest, we could even go on HIS airship and he promises to give it to Vaan in a case "something unexpected" happens, and after Reddas is thus sacrificed at the Pharos, we get to keep the ship.
I can't understand why they didn't use something like that to explain it, and rather just say that "well we just can't" and be done with it. They think it's something that nobody cares about, and maybe they are right, maybe nobody else does care (hi, if someone's reading this, hi!). But it's never good if something is too obviously an excuse for something. Of course, even if the Strahl did crash, we'd still know...deep down...but it's an easier case of suspended disbelief. It's odd because on many fronts Final Fantasy XII is extremely polished, it has a lot of detail, and the story is actually quite detailed and complicated if you get into it, but then it has these "tagged on" cutting corners moments, like they got lazy at some point, or ran out of time. A case of, it doesn't matter just say whatever. But it's these little things that the gamer experience is built on. It breaks the immersion when you see something that is just an excuse.
I long for a smooth story where no sharp corners stick out, no clumsy niggling little wrinkles, it would be seamless like freshly ironed linen. Ahhh. But...until that day!
- So, is she armed? How fast is she? Could she take the Ifrit?
- I suppose I could tell you, but… Wouldn’t you rather see for yourself?
FFXII could have worked perfectly fine without the Strahl at all, we could have got a sky-ferry or whatever they are wherever we needed to go and walked everywhere else. The only reason the Strahl even features in the story is because Balthier is a sky pirate and it's no good having one without an airship, albeit a completely redundant one. Hamfruitcake 09 00:41, September 17, 2010 (UTC)
Alright I got a comment, kickass, hi-five. ;) Yeah, Strahl is an "accessory" to Balthier.Keltainentoukokuu 01:30, September 18, 2010 (UTC)Keltainentoukokuu
Ultimately true. The Strahl's Excuses are silly and really frustrating, and they should have something other than "damaged", the nerve of the Moogle! FF is full of unexplained events but this one is really annoying. Maybe Because of that they gave us the Revenant Wings, a game which you can't abandon your ship. A.X.A 16:03, September 25, 2010 (UTC)
Juu, samaa mieltä, nyt kun aattelen ajatuksella, tästä Strahl touhusta. Ihme häslinkiä... Valitettavasti näin. Ja tuo Hamfruitcake, sitä ei kieliasusta päätellen kannata ottaa täysin vakavasti. Jos eivät olisi parempaa keksineet S-Ellä, olisivat edes sanoneet että se Strahl vioittui koska siihen osui räjähdyksestä singonnut kappale jotain toista alusta. I am a student from Finland, and i'm in my early twenties. I like metal music and some dance songs and Final Fantasies are my favorite games, and i don't know what else to tell about myself. 21.08 27.09.2010 GMT+2
I just happened upon this....it's so true! MY favorite in XII is that when you finally CAN use the airship, you actually go to the woman at the counters and she's all like, "Ah, yes, you have the Strahl docked here..." Right, the ship you, in the empire, are supposed to be looking for...that's us! But, it is probably a good thing they wouldn't let us drive the Strahl, because my brother is very, very, VERY bad at controlling airships in Final Fantasy games...I guess I can't go to work because it's 'Jagd' on the way...all well... TheMoonclaw 05:02, August 19, 2011 (UTC)
Ugh, the Strahl. It also ticked me off that we can't fly airships into Arcadia, until we break into a lab there AND ARE PUT ON HIGH-SECURIY ALERT OR SOMETHIN'. At least we would be if the Arcadians were smart. The excuses to keep us walking are just laaaaame.