|Embark on a journey through the vibrant world of Ivalice this summer with FINAL FANTASY TACTICS A2: Grimoire of the Rift. As the third entry in the Ivalice Alliance series, this follow-up to the 2003 Game Boy Advance release brings the popular tactical franchise to the Nintendo DS for the first time. FINAL FANTASY TACTICS A2: Grimoire of the Rift will introduce newcomers to an engaging turn-based, grid-oriented battle system as they make new discoveries alongside the hero in this lighthearted adventure. Long-time fans will enjoy exciting new content and enhancements, including polished game mechanics, intuitive stylus control, and new jobs and classes.
"FINAL FANTASY TACTICS A2: Grimoire of the Rift makes the tactical RPG genre accessible to fans who may be unfamiliar with the grid-based battle system," said Director Yuichi Murasawa. "While maintaining the classic functionality of the much-loved gameplay, this newest release boasts upgrades that enable a more engrossing and fulfilling tactical RPG experience."
School is out for the summer, but mischievous Luso Clemens must first face detention to make up for his misbehavior. Alone in the library, he stumbles upon an ancient book with magical powers that summons him to the mystical land of Ivalice. Warped into the middle of a battlefield, Luso joins Cid and his clan to set off on an adventurous journey looking for a way home.
|GameSpot Score 7.0 good
Grimoire of the Rift returns you to Ivalice for a gratifying but tired tactical strategy romp.
Grimoire weaves the tale of Luso Clemens, a young boy who opens an ancient text that magically transports him to the world of Ivalice, where he immediately joins a clan that is determined to help him find a way home. The generic plot is advanced by completing quests, of which there are a formidable 400, ranging from simple fetch quests to missions that unlock classes or advance the story. All quests are picked up at the local pub for a small finder's fee and most culminate in a battle, and there are no random battles to beef up your team's experience coffer, although there is the occasional mugging or treasure opportunity presented on the world map.
A2's gameplay is strongly reminiscent of its forbearer's, with the added bonus of new skills and jobs.
Battles in Grimoire use a colorful 2D map with varied terrain that affects your unit's grid-based movement area. The game retains the franchise's turn-based battle system and displays the turn order and character-status effects on the top screen while target information is aligned at the bottom. You win the battle by completing the quest's objective, which is usually to eliminate a target. Although the 2D map understandably limits you from spinning the battlefield for closer inspection, this restriction gets frustrating because characters who are bunched up together often block other tiles from view, which makes it likelier that you'll select the wrong tile if you're using the cumbersome stylus controls. It's just easier to navigate through menus or traverse the battlefield via standard directional buttons. The lack of a zoom option is another irritation.
To put a spin on the standard battling, Square Enix once again included judges, those imposing figures from Tactics Advance who pulled you from battle and threw you in jail each time you broke a law, or battle rule. Grimoire's judges are less harsh and now reward you for following the law with a clan privilege, like a slight stat increase, that lasts the rest of the battle. Many of these rules are simple and ban the use of a specific ability, but some, like rules against distance attacks, can cost you a quest when you absolutely must follow the law to complete it. For example, accidentally knocking back an opponent while operating under a "no distance attacking" rule qualifies as breaking the law because somehow this maneuver counts as a distance attack, yet you have no control over this action. However, in most cases breaking the law results in imprisonment for your fallen allies, preventing you from raising them, and also costs you any bonus goods you might receive for completing the quest while following the law.
Team members who participate in battles are awarded experience points, but even benched members gain ability points needed to master abilities that are imbued in equipment. This feature keeps the game playable because you're no longer forced to constantly cycle through team members to teach everyone basic skills for starting-level classes--a tedious process. Grimoire features an impressive 56 jobs with numerous abilities available for each, although jobs are still restricted by race. For example, only humes can become soldiers, and only viera can assume the elementalist class. Regrettably, there is some job redundancy despite the race limitation.
Teaching your units skills, which is ordinarily a slow but rewarding process, hinges upon your ability to exchange miscellaneous loot collected from battles for better gear at a bazaar. Mastering new skills therefore depends on you scoring the appropriate gear for the classes that you want to play, and considering that the quality of your gear depends on the quality of your randomly distributed loot, just obtaining the right equipment is an arduous process. The system forces you to play classes that you have the equipment for rather than the classes that you want to play, which can make Grimoire a laborious adventure if you catch yourself drudging through trivial, time-costly quests for nothing but cheap loot and ability points.
Another carryover from Tactics Advance is the clan system, which has you managing your clan mates, their classes/abilities, and the acquisition of new clan members. The system is supported by real-time auction houses that let you control areas of the world map; seizing and holding areas awards you certain boons such as items and quest-price reductions, as does raising your clan's skills (negotiation, teamwork, and so on) via clan trials to access new quests.
Claim the world map section by section to increase your clan's fame and score prizes.
One of Grimoire's setbacks is the amount of time that it takes to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, with most quests lasting 45 minutes to an hour, although there is a handy quicksave feature. Grimoire also sports a steep learning curve for both its combat and micromanagement elements, and is a bit slow to pick up because you spend the first 10 to 20 hours mastering basic abilities, unlocking classes, and gathering equipment to play the jobs that you want. This constant push for quests significantly cheapens plot progression because you're focused on satisfying various objectives instead of shipping Luso home.
Presentation is similar to that in previous games, down to the detailed 2D sprites and Middle English dialogue as seen in War of the Lions. The musical score perfectly captures the feel of the Ivalice Alliance universe, which isn't surprising considering that composer Hitoshi Sakimoto also worked on other games in the series and recycled several themes from previous Ivalice games.
Square Enix included a few pleasant surprises to round out the Ivalice Alliance experience. These include three unlockable characters from Final Fantasy XII, a bonus clan privilege that you're awarded for loading Grimoire with Tactics Advance inserted, the ability to trade items with other players, and even a hard difficulty setting for the really daring--though you can easily spend more than 75 hours completing all 400 quests in normal mode.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift offers a surprising amount of depth, as highlighted by its impressive number of quests and skills, real-time area auctions, clan management, and unlockables, but many a Tactics fan might be put off by its cheapened quest-based plot progression and battle rules. Nevertheless, those enamored with Tactics Advance will likely enjoy it.
|The 1UP Network features reviews from our panel of experts, including our editors at Electronic Gaming Monthly. We rate games on a scale of A+ through F. Anything we score in the A+ through A- range is considered excellent, B+ through B- is good, C+ through C- is average, D+ through D- is bad, and F is terrible. Here are our FF Tactics Advance 2 Nintendo DS reviews from editors and members.
Reviews: FF Tactics Advance 2
While great for newcomers, this DS strategy game has too much in common with previous Final Fantasy Tactics to make it a treat for followers of the series.
By James Mielke 07/01/2008
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It's been years since onetime Final Fantasy Tactics series director Yasumi Matsuno (Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII) helmed the original Tactics, blending chesslike game mechanics with Final Fantasy fan service -- and his absence shows. In the 10 years since Tactics' U.S. debut, the series has transformed from overly complex political soap opera to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance's clash of two teenagers' angst-ridden inner psyches to -- with Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift -- one kid's afterschool-punishment blues. While turn-based strategy fans grow older, the series' plotlines grow younger, and although the game mechanics haven't exactly been dumbed down, they haven't advanced much, either.
Click the image above to check out all Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift screens.
Tiny armies filled with tiny warriors still do battle on tiny dioramas that, ironically (in the five years since the last iteration on Game Boy Advance), haven't advanced much at all. Yes, the visuals, resolution, and character details fare better here in the prefixed Tactics Ogre-esque camera angles than in the recent remake of the original, partly 3D Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions for PSP, but you'd still expect better than the last-gen handheld graphics FFTA2 offers. Still, while the storyline and visual advancement might be uninspired at best, the only reason FFTA2 gets away with this sort of lethargy is its deep-as-hell battle engine, which offers players an exceptionally immersive and pliable tactical experience via an ever-expanding tech tree of classic and not-so-classic Final Fantasy job classes. Job abilities open up through weapon use, and these abilities in turn make characters more effective at different jobs. The more jobs a character masters, the more advanced job types become available. This system is time-consuming, but it allows endless flexibility in forming one's dream team.
The Law system introduced in the previous FFTA, however, limits things. In each battle, a randomized "Law" is introduced, disallowing the use of certain types of attacks and magic and penalizing any party member who inadvertently uses the banned skill. While this may make things more "interesting," forcing players to carefully select party members for a mission (if, for example, lightning magic is barred, it may benefit you to add Archers to your party and let Black Mages warm the bench for a round), it prevents the no-holds-barred, stress-free, pure tactical showdowns of games like Tactics Ogre. The Law system was a novel -- if annoying -- gimmick in the previous game, but it simply wears out its welcome here.
Click the image above to check out all Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift screens.
Another disappointment: Despite the addition of a second screen to the proceedings, the opportunity to really open up functions like item and armor management is squandered; everything is still buried in clumsy menus. FFTA2 makes too few enhancements to the battle system as well, sanding down the previous iterations' time-tested combat mechanics so that the battles -- which make up the majority of the game -- are not so much polished as they are just dull. While the long-standing depth of the series' item mechanics and job classes remains (and with it a technically massive amount of playability), the game's pacing is so glacial that superior, faster-moving handheld strategy games like Advance Wars: Days of Ruin make this Tactics seem like a lazy third helping of an all-too-familiar taste. One feature of note for longtime series fans, though, is an unlockable Clan skill called Libra that's accessed by placing a copy of the original FFTA in the Nintendo DS' cartridge slot upon starting a new game. What's offered here in FFTA2 is by no means a poor excuse for a game. Anyone buying this for strategic role-playing will most definitely get their money's worth -- new players in particular. But based on the series' past legacy of excellence, it's just a shame that Grimoire of the Rift feels more like an expansion pack than a bona fide sequel. With games like the aforementioned Advance Wars offering faster, more attractive tactical handheld fun on the DS, this latest Tactics is a distant second-best in the DS strategy catalog...and more importantly, a notable disappointment compared to its predecessors.