Review by lbabinz
"So close to perfect..."
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (FFTA2) is an interesting and very enjoyable game that contains some unfortunate low points that save it from being very close to the perfect tactical experience. I say interesting because my issues with this game lean towards aspects that are usually quite efficiently done by Square Enix and I am surprised to find this one feature being poorly done in a Square Enix game. The main issue I have with FFTA2 is its story (or lack thereof), which I will get into soon enough, but first let's go through the game in a little more detail.
FFTA2 is a tactical RPG. What does that mean? It means that you spend a good amount of your time micro-managing your troops before sending them out to battle opposing troops on a grid. FFTA2 does this and it does it very, very well. 7 different races, all with their own special job classes and abilities combined with hundreds of weapons and skills, not to mention special characters with their own special abilities and equipment means that you will not lack for originality in your battle party.
As I have said, each race has its own set of jobs (though some do overlap) with their own strengths and abilities. Whatever job you select for each character, you must gradually build up skills in that job that you can use when equipped with a different job. Skills are learned through equipment. By equipping weapons, armor and accessories that contain skills pertinent to your job, your character will gradually learn said skills permanently by fighting battles.
Characters also gain levels like they would in any RPG but the real fun comes from acquiring skills and learning / mastering new jobs. Combined with the addicting "bazaar" system whereby you bring loot garnered from enemies to the shop and, based on what you bring, allow access to progressively newer and stronger equipment, the skill system in FFTA2 is both fun and addicting.
You will certainly not run out of things to do in this game either. Boasting 300 missions, it would take the average player somewhere between 80 and 100 hours to get through everything that FFTA2 has to offer. I myself clocked in around 50 hours with only 170 missions finished. That's a heck of a lot of value. Unfortunately, this brings me to my next point. While fighting missions is fun and exciting to collect new equipment and skills, it brings up FFTA2's number one weakness; its plot.
I can deal with kiddy plots. I don't mind if a story is geared towards children, I am still a child at heart after all. What I can't deal with is a complete lack of anything interesting in a story whatsoever. FFTA2's entire game focuses around a regular school boy falling into an alternate reality (Ivalice) and enjoying his time there doing stuff. I actually mean that, the entire game is about experiencing the world of Ivalice. And, while the world of Ivalice is fun and exciting, this is Final Fantasy Tactics for goodness sakes! The original FFT had one of the deepest political plots of its time, I expect a little more out of a FFT game's story then, "let's go see this mountain for something to do".
As you might imagine, since the story is so bland, so too are the characters. They are varied and have some twists to them but no matter how interesting a character is, if you stick them into this game they instantly turn boring. So, while the focus and intent of this game may not have been its story, had they actually gone ahead and added a great plot, this game would have gone from great to amazing! It feels a little like wasted potential to me.
Graphically, FFTA2 is nothing to write home about. It looks a lot like the first FFTA (for the Gameboy Advance) which is alright I guess. The animation is decent, spell effects are ok and there are different sprites for each and every class / job / weapon / race and they are well done. Considering the amount of content in this game, the graphics are fine if nothing to write home about.
The music for FFTA2 is very well done. Square Enix constantly surprises me with what they can do on the DS. However, if you (like me) have already played through FF XII and Revenant Wings, you may be getting a little sick of the same music. Much of the music in this game seems to have been recycled. So, while the music is excellent, it just feels as though I have heard it all before and am starting to get a little bored with it.
Overall, FFTA2 is a great game. If you need something to keep you enthralled and busy whenever you have a short break, this is the game for you. It's a tough economy out there and you will rarely find better bang for your buck then FFTA2. There is enough depth to keep you going for months and, as long as you are ok with the story taking a back seat, you will enjoy every second of it. Square Enix has almost written the perfect formula for a FFT game, if the next one includes a story to go with it, they will have finally succeeded!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/03/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)
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