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Aug 9, 2008

Review: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rifts

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rifts
Square Enix
Available now for the Nintendo DS

In Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift you start your adventure in the present day, much like the previous FF Tactics game, but this time the main characters aren’t creating a make believe world to adventure in. No, you see school's out and a mischievous Luso Clemens is facing detention to make up for his bad behaviour that day. Alone in the library, he stumbles upon an ancient book with magical powers that summons him to the mystical land of Ivalice. Warped into the middle of a battlefield, Luso joins Cid and his clan to set off on an adventurous journey looking for a way home. Is it me or does this game sound like it needs a luck dragon and a child-like Empress?

Now in the past, (I loved The Never-ending Story, by the way), this storyline premise has made for a riveting adventure, but when Square Enix put this idea into pixelated reality, somehow it just didn't capture my attention. Maybe it's because I've heard it before or maybe it's because the characters had no depth, no back story and I could care less if this little punk ever gets back home. Characters like Yuna and Cloud move you, but Luso and the gang’s personalities were flat and down right boring.

FFTA2 is a tactics game, much like previous instalments in the Final Fantasy Tactics series, which means players control a team of adventures through a turn-based battle system on a chess board like environment. While I've had problems with some tactics games in the past like Heroes of Mana, the smaller battle fields and turn-based system in this game allow me to see all my characters at once and control them one at a time, which made battles much easier.

The Battle system has been tweaked to include stat bonuses and laws from a Judge that watches over Cid's clan during battle. The job system is still available to help characters learn new skills and spells. The game can be played with the control pad or with the stylus, while I experimented with both - eating while playing this game will require the use of the stylus - I found the control pad the quickest way to hand out commends to your team.

During Luso's Qwest to find his way home, Cid and the gang can take on side quests to earn loot and experience. Most quests are pretty easy to finish as long as you read your objects; try and finish it just by clearing the board and you could fail the quest.

While I didn't find the storyline to keep me dazzle throughout the game, I did somehow find the game play to be very addictive. I found myself racing to finish a quest or convert my loot in order to see what item or quest would pop up next, before I finally had to shut down my DS and go back to work or head off to bed.

Visually the game is glowing with colourful environments and gorgeous characters, but do we ever expect anything less from Square Enix. Their developers could make a plate of cheese look stunning on the Nintendo DS. Each character was given a unique look that changes with every new job they take on and I especially loved how cute the moogle looks in all his little outfits.

The original music for the game is composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, but several pieces were taken from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII for the soundtrack. I actually found the bulk of the game's soundtrack to be very soothing and almost spiritual like. Between the music and encompassing game play, I actually found this game to be a great way to reduce stress; perfect for bringing to work to play on breaks.

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rifts has certainly been updated enough to hold this reviewer’s attention for several hours at a time. I think old FF Tactics fans will like this new version and I think it will attract a new legion of Square Enix RPG fans, if they’re willing to put down Final Fantasy XII for a bit.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Buy it!

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