Review by ShapeQuest
"A great game to play while waiting for the next game"
If Square relabeled this as FFTA, you'd hardly know the difference. Yes, there are some improvements. Yes, it's a new story with a new character. And yes, because it's on the DS, there are graphical and musical improvements. But the story lacks substance and the graphics are pretty much borrowed from its predecessor.
The battle system is much the same. You can place up to six characters on a giant grid and spar against enemies. My first complaint? They majorly nerfed the classes. Now, I'm all for a little balance. But I think they went too extreme in this casethe Nu Mou race isn't even very useful until much later in the game when you get the item that halves the amount of MP needed. Why? Because at the start of each battle, every character begins with ZERO MP. They gain TEN MP per turn. The Nu Mou are the slowest race. See where I'm going with this? Also, certain powerful attacks have been given a percentage decrease chance of being successful.
And don't be fooled when they remind us that the game comes with brand new job classes. You'll never touch about 30% of them. Why would you ever make your Bangaa a Bishop?? Why would you ever use a Scholar, which is like an Illusionist except his attack hits BOTH your enemies and your own characters?? Or the Tinker class, which has abilities that hurt 50% of the time? Chances are you'll stick with the same classes you chose in the previous game. There are also a lot of duplicate classes too (white mage, black mage, illusionist, thief, archer, hunter, time mage). Because of the MP issues in this game, you'll be even more reluctant to use classes that rely on magic.
There's also something unbalanced about the amount of money you earn. I never had to stop and think about saving my gil at all. Always had plenty of it. Maybe it'd be harder to buy things if you only go through the story's missions, but then, few people do that.
The plot is pretty much the same as FFTA. A young boy finds a magic book and is taken to a new world. There are a few custom characters that join your cause as usual, and, also as usual, they can't go on dispatch missions. I never expected an award-winning story, but it would nice to mix it up a little more. Basically Luso must sign up for different missions under the pretext that he will only be able to go back home once he's taken in the sights and filled in his journal. Kind of a flimsy reason for the missions.
Let's talk about the Judges and laws. I think Square must've taken a lesson from their previous mistakes. The laws are still there, but the punishment for breaking it simply means your character will not be able to act if killed, you'll lose your clan privilege (more on that later), and you won't receive the bonus items after battle. There is only ONE law per battle and you can't wander around the map to see if it changes. Unfortunately, there's not much incentive to obey the lawthe bonus materials are almost always pitiful items, such as antidotes.
Clan privileges are the best incentive to stay on the right side of the law. It's a lasting effect throughout the battle, such as a certain stat being raised, etc. You gain access to more privileges by undertaking clan trials. These are different from missions in that you can choose the level of difficulty (the more difficult, the higher the reward). It also can raise and/or lower your clan's stats, something you need. Sometimes these clan privileges can be very helpful during battle.
Oh yeah, and auctions/controlling certain areas on behalf of your clan are back. I still have yet to see a real use for these things. Sometimes you'll come across a character that gives you an OKAY item for controlling that land. Sometimes you avoid fights (but you can usually avoid them anyway by taking an alternative route). On the other hand, winning the auction itself can net you some helpful items (such as Ribbon). But overall, I just skipped the auctions.
During a battle, one of your characters might encounter a chance to use an Opportunity Command. These are randomly given and vary in what they do. Sometimes it enables your character to attack twice, and sometimes you can cast a free Hastega on a select group of people. It's a pretty nice game element they added.
Within the shop there is a Bazaar option (similar to FFXII). You can gather loot and forge new weapons, armor, or accessories. This is mainly how the characters learn new abilities and gain access to new weapons. This is a nice little feature, although some of the loot materials are hard to come by and you can't tell how to make what unless you already have the three materials needed.
The graphics have some good and some bad. Yes, many things are recycled (as expected!) from FFTA. Even the pub is exactly the same. But the spells have some upgraded special effects. They're very crisp, and the animation smoothly runs across the screen. There are NO FMV sequences howeverif Revenant Wings did it, why can't we have a nice Tactics Advance movie sequence for once? Oh well. The maps themselves are very nice to look at. They have diagonal squares that make the map look a little less cube-ish. Great graphics for what the DS has to offer.
The music is great. No complaints there (although usually I set the sound on silent for one reason or another). Here we can clearly see the difference between the DS and the GBA. And the battle actions do have great sound effects as well.
The replay value is way up there because most likely you won't finish all the missions on your first play through. You can spend as much or as little time gathering loot as you want. There are lots of side missions you can have fun with. You can also spend time collecting the items that enable your character to summon Scions, which make appearances in this game. Although for some of the Scions you may need a guide to figure out how to obtain them.
Other miscellaneous things include the fact that different stuff might happen, depending on the month. There's a luck stick event where you can get some items. Unlike the last game, you can't move your locations to wherever you want. Random encounters don't happen unless you basically choose to walk right in front of them.
So there you have it. FFTA2 is a great game to play while on a trip or something to do while waiting for the next console role playing game. The plot isn't the most stellar and some of the classes are a bit pointless, but Square wised up enough to some of their mistakes in the first game. A lot of the missions present an adequate challenge. There's even a hard mode you can play on. If you've never tried a strategy RPG before, this game is a nice introduction into the genre.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/09, Updated 07/15/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (US, 06/24/08)
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