Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift - Staff Review  

More Tactics Than Needed
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
20-40 Hours
+ Lots of class options
+ Easy to use interface
+ Gria are cool
- Reused music
- Unchanged classes
- 99% misses way too often
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is a tactical RPG for the Nintendo DS developed by Square Enix. In a pattern much akin to six degrees of separation, this latest title is a distant relation to Yasumi Matsuno's Tactics Ogre, first for the Super Famicom in Japan and then remade for the PlayStation. As Matsuno's initial turn-based tactical RPG, full of political and social intrigue, Tactics Ogre reshaped the tactical mold into something that was to be used over and over again. Upon Matsuno leaving Quest and joining Square Enix, Tactics Ogre next begat Final Fantasy Tactics, another classic tactical RPG with a heavy focus on story and solid gameplay. Years down the road from the release of Final Fantasy Tactics, Square Enix began work on a new game in the series for the Game Boy Advance. The result of that effort was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which ended up as a very gameplay-heavy tactical RPG with a story about a child in an imaginary world. This highly contorted series pedigree has now brought forth an almost carbon copy of the GBA game with Final Fantasy Tactics A2.

   Much like Tactics Advance, Tactics A2 focuses on a youth trapped in a fantasy world. This time players take on the role of Luso, a young boy who has stumbled from the real world of school and study into an imaginary world of swords and sorcery. Upon arriving in this new world, Luso meets up with clan master Cid and light-handed Adelle, and they team up to discover how to send Luso back home. Luso, however, is in no hurry to go anywhere, so he is more than eager to engage any and all quest givers in his half-hearted attempt to return to his own world. The manner in which story is handled from there is divided up into two areas: the main story, and the side story explored via quests. In the main story, Luso, Cid, and Adelle are just not developed at all. Cid and Adelle have a lot of potential, but even side quests don't really evolve them. With very little character development for the main story characters, the side stories are often much more interesting. That's not saying much, as even those are not extremely engaging.

Bomb Is it THE bomb or A bomb?

   As a tactical RPG and a game without much of a story, the main focus of Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is in the gameplay. With seven races and over fifty classes, that should be more than enough to keep most tactical RPGamers happy. The addition of two new races, the Seeq (first seen in Final Fantasy XII) and the flying female Gria, is a welcome change, but sadly, the original races and classes have changed little. With such a huge selection, it is easy for players to dive in head first and either love the options or become overwhelmed in a world of micromanaging skills and equipment. One of the problem areas is in terms of originality. For any who played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, expect more of the same races and jobs with only a handful of additions, for better or worse. For those not familiar with the GBA title, expect traditional tactical RPG gameplay with an easy to use interface.

   Sadly, the entire game feels like a copy and paste from its GBA predecessor. There are lots of optional missions, hunts for items, and tons of missed attacks with 99% estimated success. One exception to the duplication is when it comes to learning new skills. In the former game, players learned skills through equipment and could buy new weapons and armor while progressing through the story. In Tactics A2, players have to unlock new weapons and armor by finding items that then must be sold in the correct combination in the bazaar. This is frustrating, as it adds an extra layer to the already heavily micromanaged game.

   One major change that has occurred is with the law system. In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, players were given laws that had to be followed in combat. If the laws were broken, characters would be penalized or even jailed for a set amount of time. Some laws were more difficult to follow than others, but with some minor maneuvering the rougher laws could be avoided in favor of more manageable ones. Laws are still around in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, but this time they are less punishing. Breaking a law in FFTA2 meets with the loss of the selected stat bonus chosen at the start of the battle and negates items won after combat. Those that felt hindered by laws during FFTA no longer have any worries.

Dress Fight Option D: Play something else

   The presentation of Tactics A2 is a mixed bag as well. Visually, its sprite-based graphics are decent, and spell and summon animations are impressive. A lack of cinematic cutscenes does little to hurt the overall experience, but doesn't help break free from the mediocre feel it has. Another disappointing aspect is the laziness of the soundtrack. While FFTA2 does feature some new music from Hitoshi Sakimoto's Basiscape music studio, an overwhelming amount of the game's soundtrack is reused from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII, marking Square Enix's second reuse of FFXII music. While none of the tracks are grating to listen to, it just adds to the overall lackadaisical feel.

   To progress through the game's main storyline, it will take most around thirty hours on normal difficulty. The normal mode is a cakewalk for most of the game, but some bosses have had their difficulty ramped up just slightly from Tactics A2's predecessor. Hard mode is a good bit more difficult, especially to start with, but mostly just requires a longer playtime to complete.

   Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a lazy follow-up to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and a distant cry from Matsuno's original creation. Those turned off by the youthful, light-hearted story of Tactics Advance need not expect anything different here. Fans of FFTA will find more of the same in this DS title, though sadly, much of it feels exactly the same. Overall, this is a lazy attempt at continuing the world of Ivalice by adding character cameos and references to other titles. While Final Fantasy Tactics A2 offers solid gameplay and lots of job classes, it does little to improve on, or even change from, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

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