Review by Cillranchello
"Addictive, but not because of the story line."
Ah, Final Fantasy, heralded time and time again by us nerds for years running. The community went absolutely crazy over the original Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSX, and we were all overjoyed at the GBA version, Final Fantasy Advance. Now comes Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift.
As you may of figured through the title, this game is as addictive as any other Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, certain critical parts of the game(ahem, the story) tend to fall short of the legacy that SquareEnix has provided us. While the game is certainly worth the buy, those looking for a deep, compelling plot providing deep and well-written characters might want to steer elsewhere.
If you've played FFT or FFTA, then you have a strong handle on FFA2's gameplay mechanics. A noteworthy improvement from FFTA is the Law System.
In FFTA's law system, breaking a law was a severe consequence. Loss of items, imprisoned party members, and a series of other penalties that could take a smooth-running mission, and turn it into failure right before your eyes.
FFTA2's law system is a vast improvement. Instead of breaking the law, and getting ultimately closer to defeat, you now lose some bonuses. These bonuses come in the form of additional loot(the primary means of gaining new items) and your privilege. Privileges are additional, static buffs to your party. These can range from being able to move extra tiles, or empowering certain races to improve their attack, defence, ect. The only real great penalty from breaking the law is being unable to raise your party members from the death. Fortunately, this death lasts only as long as the battle in question, your party members will never permanently die for infracting the law.
The largest flaw in FFA2 is the loot and bazaar system. By completing missions and defeating enemies, you collect their "loot." That is, items that you can't use anywhere except for the Bazaar. The bazaar, while a unique idea, will drive you mad. You'll spend hours trying to collect new items in order for your clan members to gain new abilities, jobs, and et cetra. This creates the problem of scouring the map for quests and random battles, in hopes you'll get the items necessary to create the gear you need. This can halt your advancement, purely because your gear isn't good enough.
FFA2 uses the GBA version graphics concerning character models and environmental textures, which aren't displeasing to the eye in any fashion. A noticable upgrade are spell effects, which are a definite improvement from FFTA, and that the Viera artwork isn't absolutely hideous anymore. Those who remember the FFTA graphics for Viera will remember that some of the best jobs were passed over, if only to not look at the hideous face art.
Not much can be said concerning the graphics. The environment is well drawn, and the various job models are designed well. The only true complain is storyline NPCs, such as Luso(the main character) and Cid are plain looking, and do not change textures based on their role. Otherwise the game takes strong advantage of the DS's graphical capability.
Final Fantasy has always made it a point to draw the player deep into the game via it's storyline. It's what gives games like FFVII and FFIII their fame. You don't want to stop playing, because you don't know what's coming next. The series has always capitalized on having a great, well-developed storyline and cast with great gameplay.
FFTA2's story must of been written on a bad day.
Enter Luso, protagonist and troublemaker in modern day Where-ever land. Our good Luso, deciding that writing his name in a school book is a grand idea, suddenly gets whisked away to the land of Ivalice, where he's given a magical book, presumably the titular "Grimoire of the Rift." After being inducted into a Clan by a man that looks curiously like a wood-nymph, he soon finds out that inorder to return to the real world, he has to take quests and complete missions to fill the book.
Sounds like the beginnings of a great and wonderful adventure, filled with character development and plot twists, right? Right?
What could possibly be a great set-up for a wonderful game is ultimately marred by poor storytelling and characters so shallow they might as well be concave. The few points where character depth can be achieved are breezed over in Luso's great quest to keep filling in the book. As a protagonist, Luso is as thick as steel plating, and possesses roughly the same intelligence as steel plating. One noteworthy factor is that the a few of the quests in the game are morally ambiguous, gotta love the Japanese.
The music is nothing noteworthy, roughly more of the same from the GBA version. However, special notice should be given to the appropriateness of the music. The field music is roaming and adventurous, the battle music is driving and mildly intense, and major plot elements(few and far between they may be) and heralded by appropriately mysterious and even suspicious songs. All in all, it's no Nobuo Uematsu, but it could be much, much worse.
With the exception of the storyline, the game is well developed, and will provide hours of enjoyment even after you've beaten it silly. Gamers of all RPG callings will find it worth the pricetag($39.99) and will play it again and again, taking different routes and using different characters and jobs. As aforementioned, if you're looking for a deep and moving plot, find another RPG, but one could do much worse.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/18/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)
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