Review by Magus_Stragus

"What it lacks in story, it compensates in everything else"

Final Fantasy. An endless saga that is always bringing us new and (generally) great games. Great games like Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. However, this is not a flawless gem. Still, it has more than enough to keep you tied to your DS for a while (well, what Final Fantasy game does not do this?)

FFTA2 brings some concepts from the previous FFTA, such as laws and judges, as well as part of the race and job sets. But unlike most would think, tons of new things await the player. You start as a young boy that accidentally is transported to Ivalice, through the magic of an old book. Luso, the young boy, finds himself in the middle of a confrontation between a group of warriors and a giant chicken. You don't have to wait long to start noticing the new things, as the oversize of some bosses, the law system, the new races, the new jobs, and all the other new things waiting for you.

Story: 5/10
Frankly, the story is not that good. In my opinion, it's the only bad aspect the game has. The story is almost non-existent, apart from a few quests that remind Luso his goal. But well, you must be asking, "if the game has no story at all, why did you give it a 5 out of 10?” One of the things I don't like about Final Fantasy Tactics (the original one for the PS) was its complex plot. It had so many names, so many locations, a complex political and military plot. After a while, I just played the game just for the sake of finishing it, not for the story, and just because I didn't get what was happening. From that point of view, FFTA2's plot is better. It is simpler, easier to understand. You are a young boy in a strange world that is looking for a way to return home. You must face dangers and problems in your search, but nothing more complicated than that. I'm going to tell you the truth (at expense of my own safety in the FFT board): between FFT and FFTA2, I choose the later, plot-wise talking. FFTA2 may not have a deep plot, it may be linear and kind of useless, but at least, you are going to understand what it is about. However, you still have 300 missions, albeit most of them aren't plot-related. Any roads, with that amount of missions, soon you'll forget about the lack of story.

Gameplay: 10/10
Greatly improved since FFTA, the gameplay is just perfect. You now have more jobs/classes (75 in total) and two new races at your disposal. The new races, the Gria (finally! A natural flying unit!) and the Seeq (even stronger than Bangaas O_o), are a nice addition to the game. Although more jobs for them would have been perfect. The classes are also more balanced that in FFTA. Now, you have other options for your hume rather that paladin/fighter. Any roads, the over-world gameplay has completely changed. Now, you don't build your own Ivalice. Instead, by completing plot quests (missions that make you advance in the story) you open new locations. You don't meet now with moving enemies. The random battles are now stationary, giving you the option of fighting against them or not. Also, you don't fight anymore for territory. Now, you go to "auctions", and bet clan points (points you collect after completing missions) and try to win the area. The law system has changed as well. Now, there's only a forbidden action (or well, a law that prohibits something), and a privilege (like extra power, agility, automatic regen, etc). As long as you uphold the law, you get the benefits of the privilege. But should you break the law, not only you lost your clan privilege, but you can't also revive your fallen members (only for that mission, of course). This also means that the jail and JPs are gone. The Totemas are also gone. Instead, there are Scions that can be summoned only if you have an accessory equipped. These accessories can be gotten trough special missions during the game. The way dispatch missions work has also changed. Now, some missions will give you the chance to dispatch a team that will take the mission in your place. You can even dispatch several teams for the same mission (of course, only if the mission allows it). Each unit has an additional stat, called MVP, which increases if the unit does a lot of things in the missions. The MVP affects the rate of completing dispatch missions. So, don't overuse the main characters if you want to have some chances while dispatching your members! All of the above changes, and some others I may have forgotten, just improved the game. All of them are for better, specially the new law system. Ah, one more thing! The battles are now faster, as your characters don't get experience every time they perform an action, rather than at the end of the fight.

Music & Sounds: 7/10
The music is... well, I won't lie: it's nothing out of this world. It is good, it gives a good feeling, but it isn't a Castlevania's masterpiece. It can get really annoying from time to time (specially the pub song), but other than that is good. You probably won't get the soundtrack of the game, but at least, you won't be turning off the music. And the sounds, well, they do their job. Nothing more, nothing less. Now, let's talk about graphics.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics don't define a game, though they help most of the time. This game uses FFTA graphics, but better. Now with full animations, both on missions and over-world, this game has given a great step from FFTA. The only downside I found was that some animations are the same for different attacks, with some colour changed, but that's all. However, they're still awesome. Spells look great and so Scions and summons. My favourite animation is the one used for Earth Render and other earth-based attacks. It gives the feeling the character is actually shaking the earth! The menus are good designed, and the developers gave a very good use to the upper screen. In battles, you can see the order of units, the buffs and debuffs, and some other data, such as level, class, and immunities. In the unit screen, you can see the stats of the selected unit in the upper screen. Very handy.

Replay: 10/10
This is a game that you can play hundreds of times, and you'll never get too bored of it, unlike other games that you don't want to see ever again after the first playthrough. Thanks to the diverse set of races and jobs, you will be replaying this gem trying new combinations and new ways to excel in this game, and if you like challenges, you'll find tons of them in this game. And, as this game lack story, you won't get bored of reading the same things all over again. FFTA2 is truly one of those games that you will never ever get bored of playing it.

Miscellaneous: 7/10
The lack of Wi-Fi connection is really a downside, cutting down part of its potential. However, you can still enjoy the game without it. Especially if you don't like to get your ass kicked by 7-year-old-japanese-boys-with-no-social-life-and-elitist-characters. The art is gorgeous (particularly Vieras...), even better than FFTA's art. Only two slots to save is a downside, even more if you share your game with someone else. The option of different languages is great, allowing those who don't speak English understand why the story isn't appealing. ^_- Ah, I forgot to mention: the bazaar system. In FFTA2, instead of buying new items on the store as the story advances, you rather have to make possible the existence of the items in the store trough the bazaar. In the bazaar you exchange loot (random useless items that you get as a reward after killing enemies and completing missions) for new weapons, armours, and other equipments. Since you don't get always the same loot, there can be playtroughs when you are stuck with crappy weapons or without new abilities for your units, as there can be playtroughs when you can get really strong weapons since early on. I really liked the bazaar system, as it gives a small randomization in each game, bolstering even more the replay factor of the game. There's also a hard mode, where the enemy units have several bonus to their stats. So, if you ever think that the game is too easy, you can always play it on hard.

Overall: 8/10
A great game. There are better ones out in the market, but this is still a great game you won't regret buying. The story may not be the best (it surely isn't!), but FFTA2 will still give you a lot of hours of fun. If you still aren't sure about buying it, rent it. After some hours you'll be heading directly towards the game store!
Here's a comparison list for faster check up:

Good things:
-New jobs: the Gria (flying units with with balanced stats) and the Seeq (kind of agile and very strong pig-like units)
-New classes, and elimination of some old ones that were kind of useless (morpher, I'm looking at you)
-Classes more balanced: unlike FFTA where there were obviously superior classes, now in FFTA2 all classes are more balanced, allowing you to create more diverse and yet strong teams
-Long game: With 300 quests to complete, you'll pass a few weeks stuck with this game before you can finish it at 100%
-Better animations: graphically, the game is great, mixing sprites with animations to give a good feeling of attacks.
-Excellent use of both screens: in the lower screen you see the action, while in the upper you get to see useful information, such as battle order, stats, and more.
-Hard mode: FFTA2 has a hard mode, where enemies get bonus to their stats. Good for players that seek a good challenge.
-Excellent replay factor: You can replay this game as many times as you want, you'll never get too much bored of it!
-New law system: Forget about the law cards! Now you have a reason other than not going to jail to follow the law.

Bad things:
-Lack of story
-Lack of Wi-Fi
-Only two save slots
-Grias and Seeqs could have gotten more jobs

Without the slightest doubt, the best SRPG for the DS, and one of the best this system has to give. The story can be disappointing, but what it lacks in story, it compensates in everything else!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/04/08

Game Release: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (EU, 06/27/08)

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