Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics, the tactical RPG spinoff from the '90s, share two things in common. One, they were made by Yasumi Matsuno. Two, they take place in the world of Ivalice.
What many don't realize is that the two games take place in the same universe, separated by over a thousand years worth of time. (Matsuno is known for creating multi-episode epics spanning several games, as seen in his Ogre series, which tell an interconnected story complete with episode numbers.)
What even fewer realize is that the events of Final Fantasy XII may have subtle hints towards many major plot points from Tactics, including a mysterious "cataclysm" that changed the face of Ivalice.
Spoilers follow for Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics.
Despite being made around a decade after Tactics, Final Fantasy XII marks the earliest known point in Ivalician history. It also has the benefit of being a mainline entry in the series, giving extraordinary detail to the overarching history of Ivalice. XII was made to stand on its own in addition to being connected to other games set in this particular world, so it sets out to tell a very complete story — one that is typical of RPGs, starting with a creation myth and ending with a rebellion against the gods.
The gods, in this case, are the Occuria, a race of ethereal, undying, bird-like beings that play a central role in the plot of Final Fantasy XII.
The Occuria are essentially the reigning deities of Ivalice. They created 12 scions of light and dark. While all 24 are named in the texts of Final Fantasy XII, only the scions of dark end up being relevant. These 12 rebelled against the Occuria and were bound to the world below, and would later incite the Thousand Year War, led by the High Seraph Ultima. The Occuria would punish the scions of darkness by sealing them on the earth via glyphs.
Fans of Tactics are likely already seeing a connection. The 12 scions of dark are known as the Lucavi demons during the time of Final Fantasy Tactics, and Ultima herself is the the final villain in that game. Ultima in Tactics is also known for causing a great amount of misery and tragedy in the past. So here, from the very beginning, we have our greatest link: the Espers, or, more accurately, the Demons that rebelled against the gods. Keep Ultima and her lackeys in mind...
The Gods Leave the World
The Occuria lived for some time on the mortal world in the city of Giruvegan. For some reason or another, perhaps because of the Thousand Year War, at some point the Occuria decided to leave the mortal realm, which led the world into chaos. Wanting to keep their influence over creation, the Occuria turned to a race of people called the Garif to receive their blessing.
Long story short, the Garif were not smart enough to comprehend the Occuria's blessing. The stones that the Garif were given that were blessed with the Occuria's power, or "nethicite" as it is known in Ivalice, were largely ignored, and the Garif merely worshipped the Occuria instead. This is covered in a semi-flashback in Final Fantasy XII, where the Garif chief mentions his people not being able to understand the blessing of the gods.
Frustrated, the Occuria left the Garif behind and turned to the Humes, the humans of Ivalice. There was one Hume that had proved himself. He had conquered the Gigas (Majin, or Evil Spirit in Japanese) Belias.
Belias is one of the twelve scions of dark, so of course the Occuria would find favor in him. His name was Raithwall, who would later become the Dynast-King who united Ivalice together.
Players of XII and Tactics will recognize a few key concepts here. Belias is encountered in both games: in XII as the guardian of Raithwall's Tomb, and in Tactics as a major force in the Lucavi demon army attempting to revive Ultima.
Raithwall would receive the Occuria's blessing and go on to lead Ivalice into a new era. He received The Sword of Kings and three pieces of blessed Nethicite: the Dawn, Dusk, and Midlight Shards. They proved that Raithwall had been chosen and accepted by the Occuria.
Old Valendia 706: The Time of 'Final Fantasy XII'
The "Old Valendian Calendar" is used in the world of Ivalice. It is in use during the time of XII, and it is thankfully still in use during Tactics. Using it, we can safely judge what happened when.
During this time, the Archadian Empire to the east was at odds with the Rozarrian Empire to the west. Archadia sent expeditions to the ancient city of Giruvegan, the former home of Ivalice's gods, the Occuria. One particular Occuria, Venat, had come to disagree with his brethren. He believed that the Occuria should not oversee the fate of Ivalice. Eager to hand over the reigns of fate to the mortal races, Venat seized the opportunity, taking advantage of the Archadians venturing to his ancient homeland.
A man named Dr. Cid came into contact with the rogue Occuria Venat during an expedition, and began conspiring with the fallen god to help him free Ivalice from the rest of the Occuria. While none of his colleagues, including his son, Balthier, were aware of it, he began to speak with Venat regularly. Since nobody else was able to see the fallen god, many deemed him insane or unstable.
However, the emperor's son, Vayne Solidor, became aware of Venat's presence, becoming one of Dr. Cid's key conspirators. Vayne and Cid aspired to recover the relics bestowed upon Raithwall, the three light shards.
Outraged, the remaining Occuria declared Venat a heretic, and sought out a succesor to Raithwall's legacy to put Venat down and become a new Dynast-King. They settled on Ashe, a key party member of Final Fantasy XII, the princess of the Kingdom of Dalmasca, and Raithwall's distant descendant. Much of the plot of XII centered around the Occuria attempting to fashion Ashe into Raithwall's successor, with the ultimate goal of defeating the heretic, Venat.
Over the course of her journey, Ashe and her friends unlocked the various "Espers" sealed in glyphs throughout the world. These Espers were the scions of darkness, those who incited the Thousand Year War against the Occuria, freed from their prison by the aspiring Dynast-King (or Queen, more accurately). They are freely usable throughout Final Fantasy XII, and act as summons in the game.
While Venat, Vayne and Dr. Cid's aspirations are foiled by Ashe and her party, Ashe ultimately denies the Occuria's desire to reign over Ivalice. She says no to becoming their new Dynast-King equivalent. During her meeting with the departed gods of Ivalice, Ashe vehemently denies their desires. When Venat and Vayne are defeated at the end of the game, Venat declares that, even in defeat, "[our] goals have been fulfilled."
The Occuria's will is denied, the Espers are free, and fate is in the hands of men for the first time. All is well and good, right?
Old Valendia 800: The Cataclysm
Ninety-four years later, a terrible Cataclysm would rock Ivalice, wiping out the non-Hume races and destroying advanced technology, such as airships. The era of airships and moogles would henceforth be referred to as a "Golden Age" of Ivalice, referenced several times in the sidequests of Final Fantasy Tactics. From an out-of-universe perspective, this "Golden Age" of airships and other races referenced in Tactics would form the creative basis for Final Fantasy XII.
"The winged ones possessed technology allowing them to transmute cloudstone into crystals, like the ones that keep this castle aloft. Unfortunately, both the winged ones and their wounderous knowledge were lost in the Cataclysm."
While the mysterious Cataclysm is never explored in detail, it is assumed to be a worldwide catastrophe that wiped out almost all of the races in Ivalice except for Humes, later referred to as Humans. In the flavor text found in Final Fantasy Tactics, airships, Moogles, Occuria and even "men of iron" similar to Archadian soldiers are mentioned as a part of the lost age:
"They say the ruins of a lost civilization lie buried beneath the streets of Goug, the Clockwork City. Relics from the age of Saint Ajora, when airships numerous beyond counting filled the skies, and men of iron walked city streets. But the art of crafting such things was lost—if it ever truly existed at all."
Another large piece of history concerning the lost age is St. Ajora, the false savior. St. Ajora lived both in a time of airships and men of iron, and also in a time that the residents of Ivalice remember as the beginning of their important history — heavily implying that Ajora lived during or shortly after the Cataclysm.
Ajora prophesied the coming of paradise and was known for possessing miraculous knowledge, such as that of a poisoned well that was infected by the plague; others had no way of knowing it was infected. As players of Tactics know, St. Ajora was no saint at all. Rather, he was possessed by the High Seraph Ultima, the leader of the scions of darkness. When Ajora was ultimately executed by the church, Ultima stayed trapped within his body. Upon his execution, an entire city was wiped out by a tidal wave, causing many to come to believe in his supposed holiness.
It may be conjecture, but there is a definite correlation in the release of the Espers, the Cataclysm, Ajora's posession by Ultima, and his subsequent trajectory towards sainthood. It seems that, not long after the Occuria were denied influence over Ivalice, the scions of darkness took charge. Coincidence? I don't think so, but you're free to draw your own conclusions.
Old Valendia 2000: The Lucavi Plot of 'Final Fantasy Tactics'
As Ultima was trapped in the dead body of St. Ajora, the plot of Final Fantasy Tactics centers around the remaining scions of darkness plotting to revive him so that Ultima may live once again. The Espers, now called Lucavi, want to exert their rule over the world. To reach this end, they plan to take advantage of the strife between men using the zodiac stones (likely a variation of nethicite) to possess a human host.
While their appearance differs due to the possession of a host, these "Lucavi" are very much the same scions of darkness/Espers from XII's backstory. Their rebellion against the gods and creation has borne fruit at this tail end of Ivalice's calendar. While they seemed harmless in the time of Final Fantasy XII, they are no longer so — they are a threat to all mortals, wanting to bring all creation under their control.
While Ultima is ultimately stopped by Ramza and company, one can't help but think: did the events leading to the supposedly happy ending of Final Fantasy XII allow the terrible events of Tactics and its backstory to happen? Just some food for thought.
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