How Final Fantasy XII is Basically Star Wars
Okay, not exactly. If it was Star Wars it would have the Force, and there’s really nothing in FFXII that correlates to the whole light and dark thing the Force has going on. But there are certainly heavy Star Wars influences in FFXII, starting with the very opening cutscene — come on, you can’t tell me you didn’t see that battle and didn’t immediately think Star Wars. The Archadian Empire is also pretty much a dead ringer for the evil empire in Star Wars, complete with armored soldiers. Also, you know, half the game takes place in a desert. You get the idea here.
Personally, though, I think where the game sees the most influence from Star Wars are in its characters. It’s not difficult at all to assign each of the main characters to the main cast of Star Wars, as I will demonstrate below. Quick note: sticking purely to the original trilogy for this, for what I hope are obvious reasons.
Ashe = Princess Leia
Let’s start with the easiest one of all. A princess leading a rebel faction against an all-powerful empire? Huh, where have I heard that one before. More to the point, while Ashe starts the game off (after the timeskip) free, it’s not long before she’s captured and locked up on one of the Archadian ships. How does Episode IV start? By Leia getting captured. And while the Leviathan is no Death Star and their breakout of Ashe goes a lot different than the one for Leia, I do have to point out that Vossler did put on a suit of Imperial armor to get inside.
Leia is, I think, softer than Ashe — not because she’s had less to lose, of course, the whole “wow the Death Star just blew up my entire planet” thing is kind of a big deal, but she also doesn’t ever think of using the Death Star for herself. (At least not that I remember from the movies, please correct me if I'm wrong.) Ashe’s story is based around revenge for her country, but it’s also a very personal revenge for her father and husband. Leia, on the other hand, never knew her father (since he was too busy being Darth Vader), and her motivations are far more noble. Still, the analogy is still pretty solid.
Balthier = Han Solo
This one is just obvious. A dashing rogue with a quick wit on the wrong side of the law who casts himself as the leading man of the piece? Han might not actually say it the way Balthier does, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I’m pretty sure this one explains itself.
One thing of difference between them is that the Lando character in FFXII is Ondore, who betrays them but only as a gambit to help get Ashe out of prison. It’s pretty different from being betrayed by a friend, but it it is still a betrayal (and, you know, Ondore is the guy in charge of the city in the sky...) Balthier does get his noble sacrifice moment at the ending, but it’s not really the same as the carbonite situation. Of course, either way, the hero never dies.
Fran = Chewbacca
I know what you’re thinking: you can’t tell me the bunny girl is Chewbacca! But yeah, no, sorry, she’s Chewie. Fran is the mysterious, exotic partner to Balthier’s Han; she’s just a bunny girl instead of a Wookiee. She has more of a personality than Chewie (because idk she can speak), and she does get a backstory, but past that, she doesn’t get a whole lot of time in the spotlight because Balthier’s busy stealing it. Instead, Fran is mostly there for exposition and to serve as Balthier’s partner; like Chewie, we never see her outside of the context of her partner. (A disservice to her, certainly.)
Vaan = C-3PO
Now, you may be thinking “wait, why isn’t Vaan Luke?” He isn’t for a very simple reason: he would have to have more importance to the plot to be Luke, and he simply doesn’t. Vaan is a POV character; he’s meant to introduce you to the world of FFXII and provide another viewpoint, but he doesn’t actually drive the plot forward in any meaningful way past the first few hours. That’s why he’s C-3PO: he’s there for color commentary. He’s there for exposition and humor. He’s not there to actually do anything.
Seriously, look back at the plot of FFXII with the idea that Vaan is C-3PO and not Luke and it may make a lot more sense to you.
(I realize that C-3PO actually does things in the films, and of course Vaan does do some things in the game, but the point I’m getting at here is that neither of them are what the plot focus on. They focus on Leia, Han, and Luke — and here, Ashe, Balthier, and Basch. More on Basch below.)
Penelo = R2-D2
I do feel a little bad giving Penelo the R2-D2 slot, but it’s also completely true. Penelo barely speaks after she’s kidnapped, and when she does, what she says is almost always pure exposition. She does get the occasional character moment, but it doesn’t keep her from being an incredibly flat character. She gets the least character development in the entire game.
So, yeah, she’s the robot who can only beep. Sorry, Penelo.
Basch = Luke Skywalker?
Here is where the analogy runs into some issues.
Luke is the obvious character slot left open, only it doesn’t quite fit because like I mentioned above, there’s nothing like the Force in FFXII. Yes, there’s the Mist, but the light and dark thing is what makes the Force what it is; the Mist really isn’t the same thing. Without the Force, a lot of Luke’s character development in the original trilogy evaporates. There’s also really no one else in the “knight” role in the original trilogy — Obi-Wan doesn’t fit, he’s the old mentor trope, which also doesn’t work. Basch is kind of a mish-mash between the two roles.
However, I did leave Basch as Luke for one reason, and it’s this:
Gabranth = Darth Vader
This actually works, and it’s kind of brilliant. Here you get the twist — “Basch, you are my brother” — only obviously Basch already knows it, it’s just everyone else who didn’t. (It also comes way earlier, but whatever.) More importantly Gabranth gets the same eventual redemption that Darth Vader does, complete with turning against his masters and dying in the end. Of course, Luke doesn’t become the next Darth Vader the way Basch dons Gabranth’s mask, but that’s why I’m glad this analogy isn’t perfect.
It’s not a perfect analogy, largely because FFXII is not actually meant as a rehash of Star Wars. Even without that, though, it’s damn close in parts. In a 2003 interview with IGN, the development team did state that Star Wars wasn’t necessarily an influence — at least not for the art style and environments. However, I think it’s obvious that something of Star Wars certainly made it in the game!
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, though. The fact is that many of the best stories are told again and again. Star Wars itself isn’t a particularly original story; the tale of rebellion and someone finding mysterious powers to fight back aren’t at all new, Star Wars just did it space fantasy style in a way that resonated with a lot of people. Final Fantasy XII was certainly compelling with those same building blocks told in a very different setting. It’s all a matter of how you tell it.