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Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (Nintendo DS) Review

It has been ten years since Square Enix, or more accurately, Square, released the original Final Fantasy Tactics for the PlayStation back in 1998. The game's radical departure from the trademark role-playing gameplay mechanics of the core Final Fantasy series was extremely well received, but the world wouldn't see another instalment in the series for five years. When Final Fantasy Tactics Advance finally launched in 2003 it borrowed a number of features from its predecessor, but it didn't serve as a direct sequel per se. It has, however, now spawned a sequel of its own in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

Grimoire of the Rift is built on an isometric, grid-based interpretation of Ivalice (the home of Final Fantasy XII and its spin-offs). Unlike other Final Fantasy titles, it does not feature an explorable overworld, but rather a map system which allows players to freely move between areas at will. Each area features a number of battle locations and, more often than not, a town. The latter isn't explorable either, so the game forces player to choose between visiting the Pub (used to undertake new quests), the Shop (used to buy and sell items/loot), or, eventually, the Auction House (used to claim control over areas in order to receive bonuses when attempting quests based therein) before they enter. It can all feel a little restrictive at times, particularly given that all Pubs and Shops look much the same, but it's ultimately a functional way to lay out necessary destinations without resorting to unnecessary real-time movement sections.

Also unlike its titular peers is A2's negligible reliance on story development. As the game begins players are treated to a brief introductory cut-scene which explains that the game's main protagonist, Luso Clemens, is a young boy who lived in the 'real world' before being transported to Ivalice by way of a musty old book. Upon arriving in Ivalice, Luso runs into Cid, the leader of Clan Gully. The two become acquainted and Luso eventually decides to join the clan so that he can increase the likelihood of uncovering what happened to him. From here on in the game does provide occasional plot-advancing quests, but they are vastly outnumbered by side-quests (which make up the bulk of the game), and carry little weight given Luso's lack of motivation to return home. A reluctance which is ultimately understandable given his sudden acquirement of sword-fighting skills and fantasy garb. After all, who would want to return to a mundane life of school and homework after that?

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Despite being the leader of Clan Gully, Cid is actually a non-playable Guest character who doesn't appear in most battles. This leaves Luso, and by extension the player, in charger of the Clan, the quests it undertakes, and the members it lets in. Clan Gully consists of six members at the game's outset, but it is possible to employ up to twenty four over the course of the game. Each clan member belongs to a certain race (be it Hume, Viera, Moogle, etc.) which dictates the jobs (of which there are more than fifty to chose from!) they can dedicate themselves too. Once a character has chosen a job they can then equip certain weapons associated with it. In turn, weapons will often provide the character in question with an ability to use on the battlefield. Each successful quest earns the clan Ability Points, which eventually allow characters to use the aforementioned abilities even when the relevant weapon is not equipped. It's a relatively simple system, but it offers an almost unthinkable amount of combinations and strategic options that should keep players experimenting well into the latter stages of the game.

Of course, all the customisation options under the sun aren't going to be of much use without a solid battle system, and, thankfully, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 definitely delivers in that department. Battles begin with the placement of a set number of clan members and the introduction of a Law for that battle. Laws are handed down by Judges (a staple of Ivalice-centric titles) and must be obeyed in order to receive special bonuses such as: attribute modifiers for that battle, the ability to resurrect fallen allies, and the right to receive bonus loot upon a quest's completion. Failure to comply with a rule (examples include: 'don't use attacks that target multiple opponents', and 'don't use abilities that restore MP', etc.) instantly nullifies these bonuses, and occasionally causes the quest to be failed altogether. It's an interesting system that can help to add another layer of strategy to certain battles, but it's not without its irritations. Most notably the inclusion of arbitrary rules that are almost entirely out of the player's hands, for example 'don't miss with an attack'.

Strategic options within battles come in a number of different forms. Beyond picking clan members with appropriate jobs (it's possible, if slightly cumbersome, to save before starting a quest, check out the opponents you'll be facing, and then restart said quest with more suitable characters) it's a good idea to be aware of each and every character's position. Doing so allows friendly characters (particularly weaker, support characters like White Mages) to stay out of harms way, and is useful for making decisions about long-range attacks (magic attacks, for example), which can damage multiple opponents who are in close proximity to one another. It's also important to be aware of which direction characters are facing, because attacks from behind do more damage than attacks from the side, which in turn to more damage than head-on attacks. The battles themselves, while enjoyable, can be extremely long-winded and not particularly rewarding at times. A large majority of quests are likely to require 20-40 minutes to complete, which, when you consider that there are somewhere in the region of 400 quests in total, is no mean feat.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

It's not going to revolutionise the turn-based strategy genre, but A2 offers an extremely solid battle engine with enough tactical depth to keep players interested throughout its four hundred or so quests.

Graphics

Simply stunning. Square Enix is no slouch when it comes to visuals, but Grimoire of the Rift really kicks things up a notch. The fixed isometric viewpoint may have it's downsides, but it certainly does allow for some gorgeous 2D graphics.

Sound

Hitoshi Sakimoto delivers once again with an excellent soundtrack that mixes new compositions with a few older ones from other Ivalice titles. Sound effects are impressive as well, with some truly meaty battle sounds spread throughout the course of the game.

Value

It's simply not possible to argue with this game's length when you factor in the hundreds of side-quests and extensive customisation options. Oh, and there's also a Hard Mode included if you're feeling particularly brave.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

While not without its flaws, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is a truly excellent turn-based strategy title. It may not have the involving plot of the original Final Fantasy Tactics, and it does occasionally suffer from overly-long quests that don't really compensate the player for their time investment, but its outstanding production values, deep battle system, and extensive customisation options are more than enough to provide hours and hours of entertainment if you're so inclined.

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11.07.2008

7

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Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Strategy

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (13 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Looking good, kind of dissapointed wifi wasn't included for item swapping or even swapping clan members.

XBL Gamertag: James2t3
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

This has totally tanked in the UK after just two weeks on sale...yet another Square Enix game flops here, following the likes of Chocobo Tales, Heroes of Mana, FFCC: RoF, FFXII: RW, DQM: Joker and DQS on Wii.

It seems that whilst many thought Nintendo shafted S-E here when publishing early the GBA FF ports and KH: CoM, plus Children of Mana DS, it would appear self-publishing has been a disaster so far Smilie

I actually fell more in love with FFTA2 than the GBA iteration. But hopefully the team will expand and do either another DS game or a Wii version...

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

It's shame SE do not advertise the ware's as well as they do in Japan, this simply would not be happening otherwise..

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Considering FFT on PSP did much better here as well it kind of smarts a bit...Why push the PSP remake of a PSone game (I know it never hit Europe), yet not push the sequel to a GBA game that DID sell well in the UK/Europe? Makes no sense... Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Great review Karn. I should be picking this up next week. Can't wait. Smilie

Enjoyed the review, Karn. I\'m hoping that this is a grower because after a few hours, I\'m not really sure about this game. I\'m not stupid (honest) but there is so much to learn that frankly, I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to explore its depths. With so much going on at work, I\'ve \'moth-balled\' it for the moment and will probably resurrect it some time in the future. Smilie

( Edited 14.07.2008 22:49 by Anordara )

Old Man / Font of all useless knowledge

I had a fair ammount of trouble getting into this game, although it seems that that has been the case allot lately. Been pretty busy. None the less, I think the review is fairly solid.

I'd be giving it a 7.5/10 deducting a few marks for repetitive gameplay (something I'm not to good at compared to say high school)

"Study this revelation, you nest of adders!"

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