Review by pandarfort
"Same old FFTA, new skin.... but not necessarily a better one"
I'd like to start off this review by saying that overall, I enjoyed this game very much. Unlike many reviewers, my 10 point rating is actually based around 5/10 being average. A 7/10 means that it's a game that I enjoyed and would definitely recommend, albeit a game with some flaws.
Ever since I played the first FFTA for the original GBA, I've been hooked. I loved the game, despite all it's flaws and childish storyline. It was interesting and actually required a level of strategy. It was such an addicting experience, customizing your characters and teaching them new abilities with different weapons, finding the right abilities to complement your characters, etc. etc.
When I heard there was a new FFTA game coming out for the DS, I was thrilled. I trusted Square Enix to correct the problems of the old game (namely, being unable to complete all the quests, the painful judge system) to reveal a new, shining deity among SRPGs. Well, simply put, they didn't. In fact, for every step that FFTA2 makes forwards, it takes one step right back, sometimes even two. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great game. It's sapped countless hours of my free time and provided the same kind of fun as the first FFTA.
I'll start with the good things. Firstly, there have been a number of changes to game. The graphics are quite nice, especially for many of the spells and especially the scions. The environments and characters look detailed and well designed. The soundtrack is quite nice, although it does get repetitive and is sometimes inappropriate. The other sounds are decent, for the most part. There's no other word to describe them other than "adequate." I did, however get a chuckle out of hearing Luso groan as if suffering from monstrous constipation from using Aurablast.
There are 2 new races with a rather frugal selection of jobs. Gria, female flying humanoid creatures, sport some rather dull jobs which have human, viera, or bangaa equivalents. Seeq, strong piglike creatures, are somewhat similar to bangaa, although with some interesting jobs and abilities. Some of the old jobs from FFTA have been yanked, but there are a few new jobs available now (some of which are very cool).
I'm sure you'll all be pleased to hear that the old law system has been reimagined. There was no bigger pain than to have to follow the stringent laws of the judge for fear of some severe consequence should you step out of line. Instead, the new law system grants you a small bonus at the beginning of the match and a small reward at the end if you behave under the judge's law. However, the penalty system is much different. Instead of getting shipped off to prison and penalized heavily, the new law system is more of an optional thing. It isn't the end of the world if you break a law. You merely lose the bonus you receive at the beginning of the game and the extra loot at the end. Oh, and you can no longer revive fallen comrades. However, I've found that most of the time, I can ignore the laws and get through the mission just fine. This is crucial, because some of the new laws are absolutely ridiculous. There are some old laws from the first game, like no fire or ice abilities, but then there are those that prohibit you from getting mugged. What the hell? If an enemy thief comes up and steals some gil from me, something over which I have no control, then I get penalized for it? Doesn't seem fair to me.
The addition of new, huge, boss monsters was pretty exciting to me. I was pleasantly surprised, when at the beginning of the game, I found myself matched up against a gargantuan chicken. The new bosses down really move, but they're a pretty cool way to spice boss battles up a bit.
The whole clan wars thing from FFTA has been replaced with auctions. Instead of fighting with clans to win over territories, clans come together in a series of auctions to see who becomes region master. Meaning no more annoying pointless detours to avoid a clan in your way from Point A to Point B, and no having to break the flow of action by having to save an area under attack. Overall, I liked the new auction system.
Before I move on to the cons, I'd like to thank Square Enix for the addition of a hard mode. too often in the first FFTA did I find myself growing bored of combat because all of my characters could easily KO an enemy in a single hit. No longer. In hard mode, I had to do a couple missions over and over again to finally beat them. There were some that were so hard I had to just fail them and retry at a later time when I was at a higher lever. In hard mode, the missions actually are a lot more tricky, which is good for players like me, who like a good challenge.
Now, on to the cons, of which there is certainly no shortage.
Square Enix has seen fit to "grace" FFTA2 with a loot system. After missions, you get random items sort of like mission items from the first FFTA. However, these random items don't help you in battle, they're used to trade for weapons, which will then become unlocked for purchase in the store. While this seems like a good idea, and I admit I had fun matching up loot to see what items I could get, it became very frustrating, as I tried desperately to match up the appropriate loot for an item that would teach my character a certain move or allow me to progress to a job. It took me an incredibly long time to finally get the loot necessary for a new knife so that my thief could learn another skill to progress to becoming a ninja.
Also, the new races aren't really that special. Sure, Gria can fly and Seeq Rangers can set traps, but they really aren't that useful, in the end. Also, some of the new jobs (cough Chocobo Knight) are incredibly gimmicky and serve no real purpose.
Additionally, MP now starts at zero when each battle begins. This is incredibly annoying, because you'll have a powerful magic user capable of a max MP of 380, but you'll have to wait 4 turns to use a powerful magic spell. This makes magic combat very slow and frustrating, as you'll have to either settle for showering enemies with a slew of weak spells or sitting out of combat for several turns while you charge up a powerful spell. There are abilities like Blood Price and law bonuses like MP Channeling and MP Effeciency to help out, but quite honestly, it doesn't help much. It's still annoying as hell to have to have your magic user, which is naturally slower than everyone else to sit out for a few rounds while they collect their magic juices.
I've saved the worst problem for last. All of the previous problems would be happily and easily forgiven by me if it were for the absolutely godawful storyline. Instead of the amazing game FFTA2 could have been, the horribly asinine and childish plot of this game bumped it down to mere "fun" status. While the first FFTA had a childish storyline as well, at least it presented some sort of interesting dilemma. Should Marche destroy the dream world of all his friends in order to go back home, or should he stay and become a part of the escapist fantasy? Well, in FFTA2, our hero, Luso, a happy go lucky idiotic child with ADD decides to scribble in some magic book after being held after school just before summer vacation. Lo and behold, the book turns out to be magic, and Luso is quickly transported to the land of Jylland, where is thrust into battle with an oversized avian. I won't ruin what pitiful amount of plot there is, but I will say that it merely involves Luso running around naively like the idiot that he is and engaging in a bunch of random and mostly unrelated activities. The major characters are shallow and static, never changing throughout the game, although some of the side quests characters have surprising depth.
With the exception of the unforgivably bad story, FFTA2 really is a fun game. I've lost many hours of free time to this addicting game and despite it's flaws, would recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre of games. In many ways, this game is much more of a mere expansion to the first FFTA, but there are just enough differences to warrant the 2 at the end of it's title. 7/10
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/13/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)
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