Review by SilentExtra

"Ignore the plot and you'll have a greatly improved sequel."

After its release on the Gameboy Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was generally regarded as a disappointment compared to the original Final Fantasy Tactics, but was still an enjoyable game none-the-less. FFTA's major downfalls were its gameplay and story. While Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 actually has a worse main story, rest assured, it improves on most of the gameplay elements players found lacking in FFTA.

Gameplay: Nothing else describes better than “Greatly Improved” 9.5/10
Final Fantasy Tactics games fall into the strategy role-playing game, or srpg, category. Players take command a number of on-screen characters and use them to defeat the enemy or clear certain objectives. If you've played any of its previous incarnations or even the any of the Tactics Ogre games you'll be familiar with this game. While FFTA's gameplay was respectable, FFTA2 overhauls most of the minor elements that many fans were annoyed with.

One of the highlights of FFT was its class change system which allows players to change the jobs of there warriors to gain new abilities and to alter the direction of their statistics growths. Players can mix and match certain abilities to make their characters stronger or more versatile and they could start all over again with different combinations. One of the things FFTA did correctly was introduce five races, each with unique and overlapping jobs. This forced players to not only mix and match abilities but, also consider what certain races could bring to the table. FFTA2 expanded the number of classes of each race and introduced 2 new races adding to the number of possible combinations, a simple yet great improvement that really makes this game shine.

In FFTA, missions constitute the bread and butter of the game. Players can sign up for certain missions at any pub and then arrive at certain places to complete them or they can wander the map to encounter other clans to battle. The number of missions remains the same as FFTA, a whopping 300, but FFTA2 keeps the game interesting by giving different objectives. Instead of having players “Defeat all enemies” for 300 missions, the game throws players into situations where they must protect a certain NPC or even collect items for him at the same time under a certain time limit. It's certainly less monotonous than killing thing all the time.

Most of the time, accepting a mission means that a battle will take place. Though most of the mechanics of these battles remains the same as in FFTA, a new mp system was added to restrict the use of mp, which was a smart move as most people could spam Ultima at the beginning of battle in FFTA. Laws, which were an unfortunate part of FFTA, return in FFTA2 but are much more tolerable. In FFTA, laws restricted your abilities in battle and the penalties for breaking them were needlessly severe and downright annoying. Using the wrong command, even accidentally, could land your units in jail and permanently reduce its stats. In FFTA2, however, laws tie into the new clan privilege system and can even be deemed optional. The only penalty for breaking a law is the loss of the clan privilege.

One thing this game doesn't improve on is the difficulty. Despite the inclusion of a hard mode, enemies are easily outsmarted and are generally underwhelming.

Story: Did I not tell you to ignore the main plot?… you'll be sorry 6/10

While I do not agree with most gamers that the plot of FFTA was horrible, I do agree that the plot of FFTA2 is an obvious step down. The story revolves around a twelve year old prankster who gets sucked into Ivalice via Grimoire. The rest of the story is uninteresting and dully executed, riddled with many 2-dimensional characters. Plain and simple, the main plotline bland and mind-numbing so pay no mind to it, however I will not that the sub plots are interesting enough to keep most people interested.

Graphics: Cute sprites, grand effects 8.5/10

The games graphics style is faithful to that of FFTA. Those who have played FFTA will instantly recognize the sprites used in FFTA2. In fact most of them are the very same sprites used in FFTA with better frame rate. Maps are also just as detailed, lively and 2D as they were in FFTA (some complain about characters being hidden by terrain but I've rarely encountered that problem). With the exception of multi-square enemy bosses, the art style remains the same, but it continues to work well on the DS.

On the other hand, spell and skill effects are portrayed in crisp, high quality 3D and 2D graphics and do not look the least bit out of place.

Sound and Music: DS speakers do music little justice 9/10

FFTA2's soundtrack uses a few remixed tracks from FFTA and several new ones as well. The music is very well orchestrated (by orchestra or mixing board, I don't know but it definitely sound nice) and there is decent variety to the number of battle themes and random ditties. Sound effects have greatly improved as well. Blades sound distinctly like blades, blunt weapons like blunt weapons, etc.

Replay Value: There's a lot to do and do all over again 9/10

There are 300 missions and many of them are repeatable. There's also the option of choosing different job paths for your characters and new characters can be easily recruited and trained to your liking.

Overall: 8/10 (not an average)

FFTA2 is one of the better srpgs on the DS and a must have for fans of the series since it improves on many of the issues of its predecessor.

Pros:
New races and more classes increase customization of your clan.
Music is enjoyable and graphics follow a certain style with clean spell effects.
300 missions make for a lengthy game.
There are two difficulty modes: normal mode for DS casuals and Hard mode for challenge seekers/hardcore gamers.
More varied missions with interesting subplots.
Laws are optional most of the time.

Cons:
Some laws are ridiculous.
Enemy AI and strategy leaves much to be desired.
The main plot is horrible.

Rent or Buy: Buy it, you won't be able to finish it by renting


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/08

Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)


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