Review: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2: Grimoire of the Rift
A long time ago there was a failing group of video game developers that had tried everything they could to get people to take interest in their games like Rad Racer, Aliens, and Mystery Quest. If I asked you who made those games there is a good chance that, like me, you probably would not know who developed them. If I say Final Fantasy I’m pretty sure you would know right away who the developers are. In case you don’t know, here is a hint; it’s Square or the more commonly known name Squaresoft. Well, back in 1987 after several flops Square had one last chance to make a great game or it was time to throw in the towel and Final Fantasy was that chance. It was great; so great in fact that over 17 different Final Fantasy games have hit shelves since 1987. Most of these games were the average role-playing game we have come to know over the years, where there is three to four characters taking on masses of enemies in a turn-based fashion. Final Fantasy Tactics, also known as the War of the Lions, changed things up back on the Sony Playstation with chess like style game play where there are different types of characters that range from soldiers and archers to mages and clerics. FF Tactics was an amazing game with a great story and even some cameos from the FF VII game, so great in fact that two new Tactics games were made for the Nintendo portables a few years down the line. That’s where Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2: Grimoire of the Rift for the Nintendo DS comes in.
FFA2: Grimoire of the Rift is about a boy named Luso Clemens who is about to start his summer vacation, one that will be unlike any other he has had before it. After the bell rings to signal the end of the last day of school Luso is held back by his teacher telling him that even on the last day of school he can’t be on time, so as punishment he has to go to the library and help clean up. While Luso is carrying out his task he finds an old looking book and decides to take a break. After a few minutes with the book, he realizes that most of it is empty and the last few words end in “my name is,” Luso does what we are all taught not to do in school and writes in the book. Immediately after writing his name in the book magical things start to happen and he finds himself sucked into a world unlike any other. To the surprise of everyone, Luso wakes up right in the middle of a battle between a clan and a giant Cockatrice. At this time, the clan leader asks Luso to step aside or grab a sword and start swinging and to his amazement Luso had no idea about battles. After a quick fight and a little talking Luso reveals that he has no idea what a clan is or what magic is. To top it all off Luso knows nothing about the world called Ivalice. So Cid agrees to let Luso join the clan until he can figure out what is really going on and how to get back home. FFTA2 isn’t the most original thought ever, with the way the kid is sucked from his home world and tossed into a new world of magic and adventure, but Square Enix has this way with always being able to put in a certain charm to their stories. FFTA2 is the same way; Luso finds himself in plenty of adventures with the different characters and great battles.
The battle system is some of the best in the Final Fantasy series. First, you have to answer a few different questions, this will set you up with the starting units needed to play the first few battles. The units in FFTA2 are a lot like the normal units in any Final Fantasy game (mages, clerics and soldiers) and are designated to the certain races that live in Ivalice. Humans or “Humes” are the do it all class that can have jobs ranging from the mage, archer, cleric or in-between jobs while races like the Bangaa are mostly just fighters and the Nu’Mou class revolves around the magic jobs. There are more races to choose from including the rarely used Moogle race with lots of different jobs that would take too long to explain. When you have your units all properly set up with the different equipment including weapons, armor, and trinkets it’s time to head to the pub. In the pub you are given a list of different quests usually revolving around going to a certain area and killing a certain monster. Just choose a mission and it’s time to go out questing. Once you get to your destination from the over world map the battle will start and this is where the magic happens. Choose the units for battle, up to 6 most of the time, and start a turn-based battle where the fastest units move first and the slowest units move last. Each unit has a set speed and distance they can travel, which can actually be affected by the equipment that they are using and the abilities that have been learned. A unit will move a set amount of tiles and then have the opportunity to attack with spells, swords or even giant summons. On top of attacking you can also choose to just wait and let that unit’s turn come around sooner, which will sometimes benefit the clan more than attacking.
Like I said before, the game is kind of like chess in the way the units all move and attack in a different manner. This is where the tactics part comes into play. Running up into the middle of the battle isn’t the wisest thing there is to do, but if a unit is lost they can always be used in the next battle. The Tactics Advanced games throw some rules into each battle with the new “Law” system. If you break the law things like phoenix downs and clan perks won’t be able to be used, but it’s nothing too serious. There are about 300 missions in FFTA2 that can be taken up, allowing for hours of game play. If 300 seems like too much, then you have the choice to make a team and send them out on their own missions; other than the main story missions of course. Most of the time the teams that are sent out come back with a mission success, but if you don’t pay attention then they may fail the mission. Some units won’t like each other and that can hinder the mission, for example Nu’Mou and Bangaa don’t get along, it’s kind of like a racial prejudice. If a mission is failed then you always have the choice to actually play the battle or just send out a new team. The combination of units and job classes makes for a more personal experience and I found myself enjoying my units more than in most games. The Moogles were my personal favorite, mostly because of the unique jobs that they have and I really enjoyed how the amount of quests made for a nice long game that never got dull. With so many missions Square Enix had to make some great graphics and fun music to compliment it.
The way all the levels are set up in a grid, you would think that the environments would look a little blocky, but that’s not the case in FFTA2. Ranging from green pastures to lava drenched chasms to snowy mountain caps, your eyes will be pleased the entire time playing FFTA2. The levels remind me of a diorama with some dust clouds and weather effects thrown in. The character and creature models were all pixilated, but they were done well and matched there art work nicely. Each race has at least four different jobs and they look different when changing jobs. Magic is fun to watch as a lighting bolt comes from the sky when using thundaga or the meteor that can be rained down from space. There are summons that come out flashy and Aeons that use both of the screens on the DS. I would have liked to see my characters change there equipment when I changed equipment but it’s still a DS game and the graphics still work together fine. The graphics were definitely some of my favorite from Square Enix and they go nicely with the music in the game.
FFTA2 has a serious undertone just like any Final Fantasy game, but most of the time it’s nice and happy. You can tell, thanks to the music in the game, I spent most of my time feeling like I was just there to serve people and make them happy. This all made me feel pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s time to be serious the music gets all dark and gloomy, making you feel the tension in the air. I liked that too, the way the music was so different depending on what type of mission you were on. The normal every day missions were all accompanied by whistles and drum beats which really make you feel like a soldier in little battalions. From the little thuds and whacks that go along with the swords and staffs to the roars of the Aeons, the battle sounds were very enjoyable the entire time. I just want to put it out there I liked every aspect of the music and sound, even the text scrolling had pleasant little bleeps to go along with it.
I loved FFT and FFTA, so I figured that I would like FFTA2 and I did. The game play was super fun and was held together with a really nice story with a couple of twists and turns. The experience you get out of Tactics games are some of the most unique in gaming and it would be a shame to miss out on all of them. I would recommend that you try at least one of the FFT games and you don’t really have to go in any specific order. But, this is FFTA2 that I’m talking about and it was fantastic. I have played this game before and I know I will play it again and that’s saying a lot because I’m not normally a RPG guy.