Characters of Final Fantasy XII

Promotional image of the six playable characters, including one guest character. Top from left: Larsa, Ashe, Basch, Balthier and Fran. Bottom from left: Vaan and Penelo.

Final Fantasy XII, a role-playing video game released by Square Enix in 2006, revolves around the attempt to liberate the kingdom of Dalmasca from the Archadian Empire. The story is told through the eyes of Vaan, an orphan who wishes to be a sky pirate, and the cadre of other characters he encounters throughout the adventure. The visuals of the characters were designed by Akihiko Yoshida, while their stories were created by Yasumi Matsuno. The characters were designed to look and behave unlike any that had existed in the Final Fantasy series. Their stories were written to create a script where neither side was truly right or wrong, but instead just had different opinions and interpretations of the events occurring in the game.

There are a total of six main playable characters in Final Fantasy XII; Vaan, an energetic orphan of Rabanastre who dreams of becoming a sky pirate; Ashe, a determined princess of Dalmasca who lost her husband in the Archadian invasion; Basch, a disgraced knight of Dalmasca charged with treason for slaying the king; Balthier, a gentlemanly sky pirate who pilots his airship, the Strahl; Fran, Balthier's partner and a viera exile whose knowledge extends to legends and myths; and Penelo, Vaan's childhood friend who accompanies him in journeys to keep an eye over him.[1] There is also a number of "Guest" characters, who temporarily join the main party at various points in the plotline, such as Larsa, the young prince of Archadia, Vossler, a member of the resistance against the Archadian Empire, and Reddas, a disillusioned former Magistrate of Archadia. Other major characters who influence the plot of the game but are not playable characters include Vayne, the eldest prince of Archadia and main antagonist of the story, Gabranth, the twin brother of Basch, and Cid, a brilliant scientist and father to Balthier.

The characters in the game have been the basis of several pieces of merchandise produced by Square Enix, such as statues, action figures, and jewelry. They have been subject to mixed reviews; some reviews have applauded the characters' dialogue and relationships to each other, while others dismissed the story and characters as uninteresting. Critiques of the voice acting for the characters has also been mixed, with different reviews either praising or criticizing both the acting and the technical quality of the recordings.

Cast creation and influences

Final Fantasy XII's characters were designed by Akihiko Yoshida. It was his first involvement in a main-series Final Fantasy game, though he worked as the character designer for Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, both of which were set in the same game world as XII, Ivalice. Comments have been made about the similarity between Yoshida's creations and those of Tetsuya Nomura, the character designer for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, and XIII. Yoshida feels this connection is sparked by the style of color used by both artists, which involves a color consistency between the characters and the environments.[2] In an interview included in a bonus disc of the collector's edition of the game, he states that he created the design of the characters after reading all of the design documents on their history and beliefs. He tried to create designs and clothing that did not exist anywhere in real life and had never been seen before, designing for example the armor for the Judges on a combination of historical armor, mountain bike gear, and futuristic ideas.[3]

The story of the characters was created by scenario writer Daisuke Watanabe. In the bonus disc interview, he states that he endeavored to create characters that were neither fully good nor evil, adding flaws such as selfishness to the heroes and virtues such as kindness to the villains, in an attempt to make them more realistic. He also said he tried to create a scenario in which neither side was truly right or wrong, but instead just had different interpretations of the events in the game.[3] He tried to convey the emotions of the characters through their lines, the acting of the voice actors, and in the facial expressions of the in-game models. Alexander O. Smith, the English translator for the game, included accents to the characters for the English version of the game to add a layer of depth to the game by having characters from different areas of Ivalice sound different. He based these accents off the extensive notes made by game designer Yasumi Matsuno on the backgrounds of the characters. Smith chose voice actors for the project who had stage and film acting experience, in an attempt to avoid the common problem of "flat" reading he felt was prevalent in video game voice acting.[3]

The designers have stated that non-human characters and races feature a prominent role in the game,[4] which was influenced by an interest in history among the developers.[2] Comparing the non-human races in Final Fantasy IX with those of XII, the developers have stated that the former were modeled after humans, while the latter were fundamentally different in terms of biological characteristics.[5] These non-human races include Bangaa, Viera, Seeq, and Moogles. In the game, humans are referred to as Humes. Some of the races in the game that first appeared in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, such as Bangaa, were originally designed for Final Fantasy XII.[5]

Basch was initially meant to be the main character of the story, but the focus was eventually shifted to Vaan and Penelo when the two characters were created later in development.[6] The development team explained that their previous game, Vagrant Story, which featured a "strong man in his prime" as the protagonist had been unsuccessful and unpopular; the change regarding Final Fantasy XII from a "big and tough" protagonist to a more effeminate one was thus decided after targeting demographics were considered.[6] The game's art director Hideo Minaba has said that Vaan is not comparable to any previous protagonist of the series, which he explained as partially a result of the game using a different character designer than previous ones.[2] The geography of Ivalice, particularly Dalmasca, had an influence in the character's initial designs. When asked about the characters' revealing clothing, Yoshida commented that "Dalmasca is supposed to have a hot climate", and that the idea of the characters revealing skin was his.[5]