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

Detention Antics
by Paul Koehler

60-80 Hours
+ Large amount of missions.
+ Great character management.
+ Law System is much more lenient.
- Recycled plot elements, music, sound.
- Overall story is weak.
- Some parts of the game have unbalanced difficulty.
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   Tactical RPGs have always been a niche-within-a-niche genre, and within it there have been games ranging from masterpiece to garbage quality. One of the better games in this spectrum was part of the famous Final Fantasy series, and it was so well-liked that it became the genesis of the Ivalice universe, not to mention a subseries based in it. One of the latest games set in Ivalice is Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift for the Nintendo DS, which is a solid offering. Despite an inane story and recycled graphics and sound, there are plenty of missions and a solid interface to work with, not to mention improving on the flaws of its Game Boy Advance predecessor.

   One of the biggest flaws in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was the Law System in its battles. Characters that broke laws in battle such as using certain abilities or healing were taken out of the battle field and imprisoned, which made battles extremely difficult and time-consuming depending on the law. While the law system is still in place in FFTA2, the penalties have been reduced considerably. A party that breaks a law loses a performance bonus and is unable to revive KOed members, but the reward for not breaking laws is a set of items depending on the encounter.

   This works well because it gives more time to not only concentrate on battles but also develop the characters as well. Like previous titles, the game works on a job system where characters can select a variety of jobs to learn skills. These skills are learned via items, of which there are many. However, managing the characters and their abilities is made easier thanks to an easy-to-navigate menu system. Some jobs are also restricted to certain races, which require players to have a large party in order to deal with various missions as they come up.

Caption Who said attacking behind the back was a bad thing?

   Missions are one thing that this game doesn't lack, as there are plenty to undertake in the game. Aside from the main story there are over 300 missions that range from simple delivery chores to secret boss fights; the latter of which often provide valuable items or other rewards. These missions can be obtained by going into a town's pub, where for a small fee the mission can be selected. The party also has an opportunity to participate in clan trials, which if passed will provide the clan with performance bonuses (e.g. Strength +2) that can be used in battle. Auctions are also held for control of various areas within the game map. These are held at regular intervals and prizes for winning include items as well as the ability to recruit random characters in those areas.

   Despite all of these gameplay elements, what is lacking is an original story. Basically, the main character is a schoolboy who misbehaves and is sent to detention. As he is in the school library he comes across a magical book, and after writing his name in it he is transported to Ivalice, where he meets Cid and the main story begins. "Schoolboy gets lost in fantasy world" was also the general idea behind FFTA, and while the specifics are slightly different in this game the general idea remains the same.

   As part of the Ivalice Alliance subseries of Square Enix games, many familiar characters and plot elements are around. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it, but for those who are curious, the timeline of this game is set shortly after Final Fantasy XII. Crossover elements can be spotted throughout the game, but familiarity with this is by no means needed in order to play. It is unfortunate that the story couldn't have been built up even more with the amount of history that is in the Ivalice universe, but that's basically what is given.

Caption Job management

   Also recycled from previous titles are graphics and sound. The latter is especially obvious as tracks from both FFXII and FFTA are in the game's soundtrack. The graphics have been slightly updated for the DS console, although there is no ability to rotate the camera on the battlefield. Both of these elements don't detract from gameplay, but at the same time it is far from the best of the DS's capabilities. It should be mentioned that the top of the screen is used to display information both in and outside of battle, which is a nice addition.

   Completing the main story shouldn't be too difficult; the game is long and there are plenty of chances to build up the party to prime levels. What can be annoying is keeping certain characters powerful enough for battle. Characters who are not in battle don't earn experience points, but they do earn ability points. Unfortunately, certain NPCs are also ineligible for "away missions" and as such lose the ability to quickly earn experience, which hurts in later story missions. This element throws off the difficulty level of the game a little bit, but it's nothing that most TRPG veterans can't handle.

   With all of this Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is still a good addition to any TRPG fan's library, and especially for DS owners. It's a pity that the story and graphic/visual elements don't match up to the actual game mechanics itself. Normally this would sink a game's credibility, but for a TRPG function rules over form. Not only that, but the game improves over the flaws of its predecessor in good ways. As far as TRPGs go, this is a solid one. Not the best by any means, but it is definitely worth the playing time.

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