Review - Final Fantasy Tactics 2 (DS)
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is the 2008 sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance which was made available on Nintendos Gameboy advanced. FF tactics is a turn based strategy spinoff of the increasingly popular final fantasy series on home console. As such it does both a tremendous amount to differentiate itself from its older sibling while still retaining the aesthetic charm and setting that they share. So while many may be drawn to the common traits these series share the tactics series is one which will suit particular tastes due to its heavy focus on battlefield tactics, strategy and unit micromanagement while almost entirely abandoning the story driven nucleus that has been so central to traditional final fantasy releases. For those willing to try something new, and those who enjoy a more cerebral gaming experience, there is a tremendous amount of content and gameplay to experience in Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
Originally made available for the playstation home console the tactics series has been a difficult beast to manage in the past due to its incredibly deep gameplay and all the information that accompanies it. Not only is the amount of information available astounding but the sheer amount of time necessary to derive enjoyment from the title has been a significant disadvantage for the series. Navigating multiple menus, character configurations and battlefield situations were incredibly demanding in the series previous entries. Luckily, this is where the Nindtendo DS shines; thanks to its dual screen layout the player can view an unprecedented amount of information, making the game as a whole far easier to manage and easier to enjoy. Thanks to the ability to physically close the ds, essentially pausing the game while saving energy, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is also easier to pick up and jump back. Such are the advantages gained by using the DS as the platform for this current release. While these features in and of themselves arent huge game changers they certainly do take the edge off and are worth checking out by fans who may have been turned off by the series past entries. Luckily enough the series has evolved along with the hardware it chooses to use as a platform from which to launch its awesomesauce.
While the choice of the DS as a platform has brought some much needed improvements to the approachability and management aspects of the game there hasnt been significant changes to the tried and true turn based formula of the past. Battlefield tactics and unit management still comprise the core of the gameplay experience and will absorb the majority of your time. Each character has a job that ascribes them certain abilities which they earn by using particular weapons. Over time each character masters these skills and can continue to learn skills in the same job category or within another to further customize their abilities. So while I may enjoy having a multitude of artillery class characters who bombard the battlefield with magical abilities I also enjoy being able to shoot things with arrows. And who DOESNT enjoy shooting things with arrows, amirite? Once you understand the configurations of your characters, which can be as many as 24 for the entire clan, you get to test them against CPU controlled characters with abilities all their own on a battlefield with its own advantages and disadvantages. Flank maneuvers, elevation and obstacles add an extra layer of tactical depth not to be ignored; lest ye be smote by the wrath of the tactical god(s). Once you experience victory on the battlefield your selection of units will earn experience and level up, as with more traditional RPGs, while leaving those units not selected back in the stable waiting for their turn to play in the big game. So not only does the player have all the aforementioned responsibilities but they have to organize 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes even 4th strings of characters to rotate in and out of battle. Suffice it to say one must be able to manage a significant amount of information to be successful; and in my estimation this is a great thing as it adds far more satisfaction to successful ventures.
To sweeten the deal the team behind Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift has created a bright and colorful presentation and artstyle that makes its more serious gameplay elements easier to digest. The game consists of multiple species, including human, affectionately called humes, large lizard types and bunny eared amazon women named Vieras. Each are suited to specific roles in combat which are apparent by their artistic design. The large bangaa are presented and illustrated in a manner befitting melee warriors of multiple variations while the viera, with their elfish appearance, prefer distanced combat with a tinge of magik. All the designs are creative while still retaining certain common characteristics that impart personality and traits relevant to the games strategic setting. Speaking of settings the game environments are suitably colorful while possessing a level of detail that makes the slightly more simplified character sprites pop and stand out. Its a solid combination of art styles that gels such that a player can more easily accept some of the games more serious gameplay traits.
While terms like tactics, strategy and information are all very complex and difficult to comprehend in todays topsy turvy mindless entertainment world this entry to the tactics series make them more palatable while not diminishing their importance. So its no surprise that there arent very many games like Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, so for what it does and who it appeals to Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift does a great job at creating a compelling and deep gameplay experience with plenty of artistic charm and grace. If youve enjoyed past tactics titles, or similar game series such as advance wars, then you are well advised to pick this title up. But even if you arent familiar with handheld strategy titles and are simply looking to try a game that tests your intellectual meddle in a rewarding way then picking up Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift certainly isnt going to hurt.