IGN Review of Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
Final Fantasy Tactics was the ultimate turn-based strategy game when it was released on the original PlayStation back in 1998. Fans had to wait over five years for its follow-up, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the GBA. While it still offered a deep strategy game, its premise and presentation was considerably less mature than the original. Instead of a complicated epic of friends that become enemies, a war torn kingdom, and class conflict, we played as a young boy who is magically transported from the real world to that of Final Fantasy by a mysterious book. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is appropriately titled as it is similar in design and premise to the Game Boy Advance game: we once again play as a young boy transported to Ivalice by a magic book. I am happy to report, though, that the game is just as deep as ever. It's also one of the best looking DS games around.
If you haven't played the other Tactics games, they differ from other Final Fantasy titles in that there is no direct exploration of the game world. Players move directly from location to location on the overworld map and jump straight into battles or events. Combat is turn-based and plays similarly to games like Disgaea or the Ogre Battle series. Our hero, Luso, has a clan of characters at his disposal and there is a job system for assigning different skills. From warriors to archers to magicians to thieves, players can customize their clan to their liking. The game can be played with the stylus, but I didn't find using it to be any better than button control.
To progress through the game, you accept quests from the local pub. There are main quests that move the story along, and tons of sub-quests for improving your clan and earning loot.
Speaking of loot, players can connect their DS systems locally with other tacticians to exchange raffle tickets. Then you can take your tickets to a place called the aerodome in your game to exchange them for rare items.
The judge system from Tactics Advance has been carried over here. Each battle is overseen by a judge who sets rules for combat. He might outlaw the use of fire attacks or ranged weapons. Breaking the law won't get you thrown in jail, but you'll lose the ability to revive fallen comrades and any bonus awarded you at the beginning of battle will be rescinded.
Considering the many game mechanics gives you an idea of just how deep an experience is on offer: you can recruit new clan members, you can assign everyone a job, everyone's equipped items grant them special abilities, you earn materials in battle that can be traded at the bazaar in exchange for more powerful items, you can take on clan quests to specifically improve your group's abilities, an "opportunity turn" unlocks rare attacks… The list goes on and on.
The overall production values on display here are top notch. Excellent translation, engaging characters, memorable tunes, and a dazzling art style come together to make a great package.
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