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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Genre: Strategy RPG
Players: 1
Rated: E10 (Everyone 10 and up)
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Christian H.

If youíve played a Final Fantasy Tactics game before, you should know what to expect from the latest entry in the franchise-- Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. If this whole strategy RPG (SRPG) thing is all new to you, then it essentially works like this. Itís an elaborate game of chess, in this case using Final Fantasy terms, mechanics, and characters. Youíll assemble a party of warriors, and customize them through job selection, such as Black Mage, White Mage, Fighter, Archer, Thief, etc. Youíll move your tiny warriors around a grid-like stage, fighting monsters and other tiny warriors in turn-based battles.

The first Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GameBoy Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (along with Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for the DS) represent a bizarre discontinuity in the series of Ivalice Alliance Final Fantasy games. They take place in the same world as the original Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation and Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 (as well as Vagrant Story, also for the original Playstation), but itís seen through a completely different lens. Donít expect the political soap-opera of those games; FFTA2 is very much in the same vein as its predecessor. Luso, a young school lad, is suffering through cleaning up the school library during a detention session when he stumbles upon a mysterious book. The first page of the book prompts the boy to write his name in its pages; he does so and is transported to the magical land of Ivalice. He appears before a giant monster being hunted by a clan (a group of warriors paid to hunt monsters), and after helping them in their fight, joins their ranks hoping they can help him find a way home. The story itself is completely forgettable and merely serves to keep the characters moving along and accepting missions. It certainly doesnít seem to have anything to do with the more serious Ivalice Alliance games, in terms of both continuity and theme. There are no nations fighting for autonomy, no expansionist empires, no fascist usurpers; just a bunch of fun-loving adventurers and the monsters and bad guys they fight against.

The arbitrary battle laws from FFTA make their return. However, the punishment for breaking them has been severely lightened since their first appearance. Your characters are no longer imprisoned for breaking laws. Instead, your party is only prevented from reviving defeated party members with Life spells or Phoenix Downs, and you lose the effects of the privilege that you chose for that battle (either a minor boost to one of your stats, or an increase in money, experience, or ability points earned). Many of the laws provide a genuine challenge. They force you to rethink your tactics and not rest on one or two strategies throughout the entire game. These kinds of genuine challenge laws would be ones such as: donít use fire attacks, donít use magic, only use magic, etc.--laws that force you to carefully consider your party composition while at the same time encouraging you to gain experience with other jobs. Then there are the other laws. These are the completely absurd laws that you have no control over. These would be laws such as, donít miss, or donít get a critical hit. Any RPG player knows that these are chance occurrences based on invisible dice rolls that the game generates behind the scenes. The idea that you could be punished for random happenings that are entirely out of your hands is ridiculous and frustrating, especially when the same laws never apply to your opponents.

Fortunately, Square-Enixís experience with the genre shows. The actual gameplay itself is deep and robust; itís complex without becoming unapproachable. Simple at first, the complexity of the gameplay expands exponentially with an elaborate selection of both classic and new Final Fantasy character jobs/classes and races. Skills associated with certain jobs are attached to different weapons, and as characters gain Ability Points from completing missions, they gain experience in the equipped skill until it is learned. Like previous games, multi-classing jobs is possible by equipping a secondary job skill-set, letting you use the skills that youíve already learned from another job. This allows you to customize units you suit a variety of situations and uses. Experimenting with class combinations is one of the most fun and most rewarding aspects of the game. Unfortunately, the small scale of battles cuts down a bit of the tactical potential in a game like this. It works to your advantage to consider movement, attack your enemies from the back, and exploit their weaknesses. However, the small size of the stages makes tactics like flanking or ambushing irrelevant; youíre always just a turn or two of movement away from your opponent, and ranged attackers can hit you from almost anywhere.

Unfortunately, for a DS game, touch controls seem to be implemented just for the sake of it. They are inaccurate and never easier than just using the d-pad and face-buttons. Touch screen controls should never be forced into a game, but I canít help but feel that the cumbersome menus could have been streamlined well with good use of the touch screen. Menu navigation is a bit messier than it should be, poorly utilizing the dual-screens, and making a chore out of searching long, long lists for your various items and equipment.

For fans of the genre, FFTA2 is well worth the money spent. Itís a shame that the story canít stand with the more mature Ivalice games. One wonders if weíll ever see a true successor to the original Final Fantasy Tactics in terms of plot and character development. Nevertheless, with over 400 quests, a plethora of character classes, both old and new, and a huge party to recruit and customize, FFTA2 should keep you busy for the summer, if not longer.


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