Saturday, April 11, 2009

Not a AAA look: Final Fantasy Tactics A2 review

For awhile Final Fantasy Tactics was the game of choice for Strategy RPG fans. However when the much anticipated sequel(?) Advance hit on the Game Boy Advance a little title called Disgaea came out around the same time. Fans quickly tired of Advance's childish story and frustrating game design issues like the whole Judge system that punishes players for "breaking the law" during battle, and tying lots of great items to a poorly constructed map where adding locations in the right order required an FAQ to figure out. Disgaea on the other hand kept it simple but provided gamers with wacky storylines, tons of classes/abilities to master, and a lot of depth to uncover and numbers to raise. 

Several years later after a remake of the original Tactics and countless S-RPGs by the Disgaea developers Nippon Ichi, as well as a number of one-offs from a 1,001 other teams we have Final Fantasy Tactics A2. Like the previous game a young man finds himself tossed into the world of Ivalice(which as you know was the location for the original FFTA, as well as FFXII and a handful of spinoffs) and quickly joins up with a clan. While seeking a way home the young man also seeks adventure, meeting a myriad of heroes and villains along the way. The storyline has your typical fare of twists and turns but it's nothing terribly good(and in some cases it's terribly terrible).

Most of your progress in A2 is spent taking on quests from a pub. Jobs are posted constantly and there's almost always one available that furthers the story. By completing these the game progresses and you earn necessary things like money, ability points for learning abilities and thus mastering jobs, and item components(the game uses a quasi-crafting system where necessary components are required in order to make all of the weapons/armor). 

Like the other games A2 features a map. As one wanders around they're likely to stumble over enemy encounters and potential recruits. However most of the time you'll be looking for quests at the pub which will determine where you're supposed to go to complete it. A2 also features a calendar. Depending on the day and month new jobs and occurences are made available. This is an interesting feature though it's not a stretch to say that at times you'll find yourself wandering back and forth trying to move days along(the game also provides locations where the play can "rest" and pass a much greater number of days at a time). 

For Tactics fans the battles are pretty much the same. They take on an Isometric view and outside of any exceptions it's 6 party members vs X number of foes. Turns are decided by the speed of the characters and constantly changes depending on what commands they use(characters that don't take an action are more likely to have another turn before characters that do for example) and whether if they've been hasted/slowed or whatever else. In each turn the character can move as far as they're allowed(depending on job and other factors) take one action(whether this is fighting, casting spells, or any other ability) and then wait. When a character waits they pick a direction to face. Getting attacked from the sides and back causes significant more damage than from the front, so obviously the importance of facing the right way should never be overlooked.

For players sick of fighting quite a few of the optional missions one can undertake in this game can be handled with the dispatch command. The original Tactics had a similar feature where you could send your non-story related party members out to do quests and gain ability points and items(not to mention a few secrets). In A2 it works pretty much the same way though this time party members that take on the quest can also gain experience levels and unfortunately they don't give a detailed report of what went on in the mission(so if you don't actively partake in the missions you won't be able to see how they went aside from hearing that it was successful). 

The back of A2's case boasts about having over 56 playable jobs. They aren't kidding either as there really are a ton of jobs spread among multiple races. While it is unfortunate that a number of them share the same abilities at the same time they have their own minor differences that makes each battle interesting. Furthermore like previous titles one can take mastered abilities from other jobs to use with their current job in order to cover more situations(even basic stuff like giving a fighter the ability to cast healing spells can make a huge difference).

The controversial Judge system is back in A2 but thankfully the punishments for breaking the law are a lot less severe. While in the previous game one could potentially lose characters or pay heavy tolls all that is lost in A2 is their benefit(an ability given to them at the beginning of each battle like regen or ATK power up), the ability to raise characters from the dead during battle, and bonus items at the end of the fight. It's also nice that before each battle and after the Judge points out what the player can't do the player has the chance to change their party(even their job/abilities/equipment) before they send them out to battle. This game shows exceptional foresight for everything that the player may stumble upon. 

It is unfortunate to note however that for anyone interested in this game I highly recommend that above all you play the game on the Hard difficulty setting. Normal is simply too easy after a certain point and I'm really finding it difficult to continue with the game. Granted it is normal for many SRPGs to become very easy when the player has gathered enough equipment/jobs/exp but A2 is simply too easy overall on normal. It would have been great if an option to change the difficulty at any time was included(especially for a game that could potentially take over a hundred hours to find everything) but as it stands go with Hard or you will regret it like I did.

All in all A2 is a more than worthy sequel and improves on every aspect of the first Tactics Advance. I definitely recommend checking out if SRPGs are your thing. Just don't be like me and start the game on normal.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this game, and I actully like it better than the Original Tactics game. The story could have been better but the gameplay was an actually a major step up from the GBA one. I really hope there will be an A3 ga,e in the near future.