Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, the long-awaited follow-up to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, is nearly everything we hoped it would be. Everything we loved from Tactics Advance is intact, with lots of little improvements sprinkled throughout. The grid-based battles are as addicting as ever, with an even wider range of jobs, races and abilities to sink hours into exploring. Like its predecessor, A2 presents a kinder, gentler tactical RPG (it's much easier than the original FF Tactics on PS1 or any of the Advance Wars titles, for example), so if you like your tactical action rough and punishing, we still recommend giving Tactics A2 a try, but skip straight to hard mode.
If you played FF Tactics Advance then you know the drill - A2 plays identically. You lead a clan of characters, waging turn-based battles across various isometric grid landscapes. Battles are usually limited to six-on-six, but you'll want to fill out your clan with a broad range of skillsets. Thanks to a robust job system with lots of distinct occupations, a large part of A2's fun comes from constantly tweaking your clan to be as well-rounded as possible. As you level up your characters, you'll steadily unlock new abilities that get more and more badass, which does a lot to keep the game fresh. The new jobs don't disappoint either (Chocobo Knight!) but it'll take you awhile to unlock most of them.
If Final Fantasy Tactics Advance held your hand compared to the original Tactics on PS1, Tactics A2 holds your hand even tighter and never lets go. Not only are there still no permanent KOs thanks to the law system (judges protect law-abiding clans from death), but this time there aren't even any real punishments for breaking laws during battle. At least in Tactics Advance, if one of your clan members broke too many laws his ass was thrown in jail, but in A2 the worst that can happen is getting your "privileges" taken away (you start each battle with a privilege of your choice, such as increased power, speed, regeneration, etc). We're not saying it has to be punishing, but at times A2 feels a bit like a coddling, pushover parent.
As for the story, it's pretty much nonexistent. You play as Luso, a kid who (again) gets sucked into a book to the magical land of Ivalice, where he decides to just hang out for awhile until he figures out how to get back. Joined by newfound friend Cid and a plucky thief named Adelle, Luso travels around looking for adventure and running into familiar faces (Vaan and Penelo from FFXII make guest appearances). Yes, it's disappointing and vapid, but it's at least kept to a bare minimum, and story portions never overstay their welcome with long chunks of boring dialogue.
But forget the story, because the battles are still the main attraction here. With a whopping 400 quests total, it's amazing that the gameplay never gets stale during the 100+ hours it's going to take you to complete A2. It's difficult to say if it's the best tactical RPG to date on the DS (both Advance Wars, Dual Strike and Days of Ruin are strong contenders), but it's a definite improvement over what was an already great game on GBA.
Jun 20, 2008