|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Ivalice has to be one of the most compelling locations for a video game series ever. Sure, you may love Mana, Gaia, or even the vast universe of Kingdom Hearts, but it seems that of all the worlds created by Square-Enix, Ivalice has become the most expansive. It has been the setting for Final Fanasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, and has inspired its own spinoff series: the Ivalice Alliance. Now this magical realm is the setting for the follow-up to the acclaimed Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and it does nothing but improve upon this emerging series' demonstrated quality.
The game starts off with the main character opening up a magical book. This book transports him right into the middle of a battle in Ivalice. Tactics fans may remember Ivalice as being war-torn or suffering extreme political unrest in Final Fantasy XII, but Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift's storyline is much less intricate and very low-key. Instead of focusing on complex allegiances, the game tells a very simple story about the main character trying to get back to his home universe. The story is told through a vast amount of quests and many times takes a backseat to the action in this title, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although your heart may not exactly bleed for the characters in the story, you will log several hours and get to know them all very well.
One of the best features of Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift's is the sheer amount of quests you can go on. The structure of the game is very much like the original Final Fantasy Tactics and has a far-reaching over world with pubs, shops, and battlefields being the only accessible areas. Final Fantasy fans may be somewhat disappointed that there is no exploration value in this title, but the fact that this game focuses exclusively on the tactics with no deviation is actually a good thing. It proves that this title knows its audience and gives tactics fans exactly what they want with nothing extraneous included.
So now let's talk about tactics. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift's tactics very closely resemble those of the first Final Fantasy Tactics Advance in that they are very intricate but much simpler and easier to manage than the original. There are several pros and cons to this, depending on your tactical aptitude. If you're like me and get a certain thrill out of meticulously customizing and updating party stats and rosters like in Final Fantasy Tactics, then you might be a little disappointed with the tactics here. The job system is still firmly in place, but abilities are automatically upgraded and equipped, and you won't have job points to spread out. This really reduces the difficulty level, but is probably more practical and conducive to non-hardcore tacticians.
However, fans of the original Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (and fans of tactical RPGs in general) will probably be very delighted with the clan judicial system, which remains intact from the original. The judicial system works by having a clan judge preside over battles. The judge will set certain rules for battles that will limit the type of action you can take. Rules will often prohibit the use of a certain weapon, spell, or item, and can completely change your pre-existing tactics. But don't worry, if you follow the rules, your team does get a benefit in the form of temporary stat upgrades. These upgrades come into effect immediately and go away when the battle has completed or if you break the rules. If you do decide to break the rules, the punishment is much harsher than just losing your temporary stat upgrade. Characters who fall during battle will be immediately put in prison and will be unable to be revived. While this doesn't sound too bad, trust me, it affects the gameplay pretty quickly. Because characters are automatically adopted into clans as soon as they become a part of your party there is really no way to opt out of the judicial system, but it does make for some interesting gameplay dynamics and makes this title really stand out among other tactical RPGs.