"Fans of the genre should definitely give this game a try as it features hundreds of hours of content and should keep them busy for a very long time."
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was one of the most heralded RPGs on the Game Boy Advance. It took key elements from the original Final Fantasy Tactics, toned down the difficulty and added a frustrating law system. For Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, the DS sequel, Square-Enix has fixed some of that title's issues.
The story is similar to the original Tactics Advance and revolves around a plucky youth named Luso who stumbles across a mysterious book with mostly blank pages. Upon writing up a scenario, Luso is sucked into the book and appears in the land of Ivalice. There he befriends a group of mercenaries after they fend off a giant bird monster that attacks him. The groupís leader, Cid, initiates Luso into the group. Known as a clan, they help other people by accepting various missions. The hope is that some of these missions may help Luso find a way back to his own world. The story isnít as dramatic as its predecessor, which is disappointing considering how epic the storylines are in the rest of the series.
While you may be underwhelmed by the lacking story, the game makes up for it by the sheer amount of content included. There are 400 missions of various levels of importance and difficulty. Some help you progress the story, while many optional ones can strengthen your clan. Additionally, groups of beasts or even rival clans sometimes appear on your map. If you approach them, youíll engage in combat. Unlike Tactics Advance, you gain control of an area by winning annual auctions in the major cities. Interested clans will participate in a bidding mini-game that spans several rounds. Clans that feel cheated out of auctions can seek to settle the score on the map.
Clan Trials are another new feature in A2. Players can choose to undertake a special battle that can increase the clanís attributes upon victory. Examples of these attributes include teamwork, negotiations, and adaptability. Additionally, these trials grant the clan new combat privileges (e.g. increased attack power, increased agility). As in the previous installment, omnipresent judges bestow laws for the battle that may forbid the use of items, fire magic, certain weapons and so forth. Rule breakers lose their combat privileges as well as the ability to revive fallen party members for the duration of the battle. This was a welcomed improvement from the previous game since rule-breaking characters were sent to jail for a period of time or until you bail them out. Unfortunately, this game retains the safeguard of keeping your characters alive if they fall in battle, which veterans of the original Tactics may look down upon.
The actual battles come in the form of a typical tactical-RPG like the other games in the series. Players control up to six characters from their clan. Turns include a movement phase and a standard action option (e.g. attack, magic, item). One improvement here is that your position in relation to your target doesnít affect accuracy like it did in the previous game. Instead, it determines the amount of damage you deal. Winning battles earns ability points for the combatants, which help them to master abilities from equipped weapons like in the previous game. However, there are now class-specific weapons to guide playersí weapon purchases. When players defeat enemies, theyíll might also pick up what appear to be mundane items, known as loot. This loot can be combined to create new weapons and armor that werenít previously available in stores. If a player feels that a certain character has learned enough abilities for his or her class, jobs can be switched any time outside of battle and the affected character will retain some abilities from the previous class. The gameplay overall is an improvement over the previous game, but it would have been nice if it featured the same difficulty level as the original Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 features colorful creatures and environments much like those in the prior title. While everything is sprite-based, that approach works well with this style of game. Magic attack animations are nicely done, considering the hardware on which it runs. Essentially, the graphics are using the same engine as before and you'll either like that or you won't. Similarly, the sound is more of the same stuff you encountered in the last game. Music includes tracks from FFTA, Final Fantasy XII and a small handful of original compositions. As a fan of both the graphics and audio in the previous game, Iím not particularly disappointed in the recycled content.
All in all, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a great tactical-RPG on its own. It improves some of the issues from the previous title, but still doesnít have that mature feel of the original game. Fans of the genre should definitely give this game a try as it features hundreds of hours of content and should keep them busy for a very long time.
Freelance review by Matt Olsen (October 28, 2008)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!