Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Release Date: Out Now
The bell rings for the end of the school term and the children in Luso's class prepare to leave for their summer break. Luso Clemens is just as eager as anyone else to leave the class at the finish of school but his teacher has other ideas. Luso hasn't been a great student, he's been late far too often, and his teacher feels he needs to help out with cleaning the library before he leaves for his summer break. Reluctantly, Luso arrives in the library to find that no one else is there. Looking around he spots a really old book and, being alone, he decides to take a look. Flicking through the pages he notices that a lot of them are blank. In fact the last one with any writing on it has the words "One is fated to fill these barren pages. Know you his name?" Being the rascal he is Luso writes his name in the book. No sooner has he done this he's transported from his own world to the world of Ivalice and as luck would have it, straight onto a battlefield.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is the sequel to the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance that appeared on the Game Boy Advance. If you've played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance you'll find Grimoire of the Rift similar in many respects. If you haven't played a Final Fantasy Tactics game before all you need to know is that the game is a grid-based and turn-based strategy RPG set in the world of Ivalice. Whilst this is a sequel, the story is self-contained and no prior knowledge of the Final Fantasy series is required although there are characters in the game that are taken from other Final Fantasy titles. The game is massive in scope and there are well over 300 quests in the game that tells the tale of Luso Clemens trying to get back home with the assistance of Cid and his clan.
During the course of the game you'll go from quest to quest improving your clan in the process. Not all of the quests in the game are obligatory, in fact most aren't, but some do have time limits on them so you can't simply leave them until you feel like doing them. Your clan has four talents which are negotiation, aptitude, teamwork and adaptability. Some of the missions require that your clan has a certain level for their specific attributes. You can improve your talents by taking Clan Trials. These are challenges which can earn your clan new titles in addition to improving certain talents. At the beginning of your trial you're given the option of which clan title you would prefer and the better the title, the more difficult the challenge. It's also possible to earn a Clan Privilege. These are temporary boosts that your clan has and one can be chosen prior to the beginning of a battle. Whereas you have to pay Gil for a quest, you have to purchase a Clan Trial with Clan Points.
There are a few new features that make Grimoire of the Rift feel a little different from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Grimoire of the Rift includes over 50 jobs which is more than any previous Final Fantasy game has had. When you start a new game you'll notice that you have a choice of either normal or hard difficulty modes. You can take part in auctions with other clans to vie for control of a region and you'll get rewards for returning to a region that you are in control of. You can also put various loot items on the bazaar and the items you place on the bazaar will determine what items will become available for purchase. Obtaining the equipment you want can be a drawn out process however with specific loot items being required.
One of the features in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance that really divided fans of the game was the Judge Law System, a system that lay down certain restrictions for any given battle. The system makes a return in Grimoire of the Rift but it has been refined and isn't so harsh this time around. A character that breaks the law isn't sent to Jail in Grimoire of the Rift. Instead you'll lose your Clan Privilege for that battle and any fallen characters can be revived or potions used. This makes the Judge Law System less of a pain but there are still problems with it. I've had battles in which you can't steal and yet I've been punished for having items stole from my characters. In battles where you can't attack from two squares or more away from your enemy, an attack (from next to the enemy) has knocked the enemy back a square and thus the attack has been deemed illegal. The enemies also seem able to break the laws without punishment which is annoying at times. You can even be punished for missing an attack which is something you have no control over.
The game does have a few areas that could do with improving. You still can't rotate the battle map and whilst this isn't a problem for the most part, there are times when you wish you could rotate it in order to get a clearer view of the action. At times the battlefield can get a little crowded, particularly when you have four or five characters within close proximity to each other. At times like this it would be nice to have an overhead view or be able to change the viewing angle to a certain degree, neither of which is possible in Grimoire of the Rift. You can move your characters around the map with the stylus if you wish but it's an inaccurate way of going about things and most will prefer to stick to the traditional method of control by using the directional pad and buttons.
There can be little doubt that Grimoire of the Rift is one of the finest looking games on the Nintendo DS. The overall presentation of the game is superb. The battles are viewed from an isometric perspective and the 2D character sprites look excellent and the character that accompanies the dialogue is first class. The battle maps are probably the highlight however and the detail on them is very impressive. The effects for the various magical attacks in the game are as good as they can be but I do wish you could turn off the battle animations as they can really slow down the pace of the battle and it's not uncommon for battles to drag out far longer than necessary. Thankfully you can perform a quick-save at any point during a battle so lengthy battles aren't as big a problem as they could have been. Good use has been made of the two screens. The game plays out on the lower screen whilst the top screen displays the relevant information that you need.
Grimoire of the Rift is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the dialogue in the game is in text and you'll be able to follow the game's storyline and general conversations with no trouble whatsoever. During the conversations you'll see character portraits placed alongside the dialogue so you're always aware of who is speaking. All the quest details are given in text too, so you'll always know what to do. The game makes good use of icons to convey information and the game manual gives descriptions for these icons, although most of them are pretty self-explanatory. The game manual has been well written and contains around seventy pages of information that should answer any questions that you might have.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is presently the best strategy RPG on the DS. The huge amount of quests and the length of some of the battles in the game mean you'll be playing for months to come. By all accounts it's a satisfying sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance but there are areas where the game could have been improved and made less frustrating. At times you inadvertently perform an illegal action during a battle and you'll suffer through no fault of your own. Problems aside however, Grimoire of the Rift is an enjoyable strategy RPG and one that I will be playing for months to come. The game sets the benchmark for how good a DS game can look and there's a ton of depth here that fans of the genre will really appreciate.