Name: Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2: Grimoire of the Rift
Genre: Tactical RPG
Platform: Nintendo DS
Despite a somewhat luke-warm reception, I enjoyed the last Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. Sure, the story was weak and it wasn’t nearly as good as the original, but compared to the other RPGs on the Gameboy Advanced it was a gem. Tactics Advanced 2 had a lot more to compete with, seeing as every developer has decided to make the Nintendo DS their RPG Mecca, so Square-Enix definitely had some work to do.
The plot of Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2: Grimoire of the Rift follows Luso, a boy trapped in the magical world of Ivalice after signing his name into a magical book. The story manages to be both melodramatic and lackluster at the same time, and dips from campy to depressing without warning. The problem is that Luso, who is supposed to be trying to find a way home, is having far too much fin in Ivalice to justify looking for an exit. Sure, his aunt might wonder if he will make it home for dinner, but he is busy saving the world from Illua to worry about such events. Then again, the gameplay more than makes up for any problems with the plot, and Grimoire of the Rift is easily one of the best tactical RPGs in the past ten years. It doesn’t do much to the formula of its predecessor, but it nearly perfects the formula that the original Final Fantasy Tactics started. Drawing inspiration heavily from Dungeons & Dragons, FFTA2 features a grid-based combat system that looks more like a large scale game of chess than a turn-based RPG. Each character moves in rotation walking around the map and attacking enemies, choosing from dozens of different character professions (aka, classes) and equipping different items to learn new abilities. The job and inventory systems work together to create an extremely large amount of customization in each and every character in your clan, and the outcome is nothing short of spectacular.
For the first time in Square’s 20+ years of development it appears as though they have actually listened to fan criticism, and reaped the benefits of such actions. The somewhat irrelevant judges make an appearance in this incarnation of the Tactics Advanced series, but this time they have been changed around to make their place more important. In the last title they would set an arbitrary rule upon the battle, restricting such actions as ranged attacks, healing spells, or other types of attacks. The punishment for breaking the law was to be imprisoned until the end of the battle, creating a strange, unnecessary tactical addition.
Judges were never fully explained or realized until Tactics Advanced 2, where they serve as guardians for the different clans throughout the land. If you follow their rule, you may resurrect fallen allies, gain a bonus for the entire battle, and receive special items after completing the quest. Breaking the laws removes these bonuses, but don’t destroy or sabotage the match. Now, it feels as though the judges work with you, instead of against you, and with that simple change the quality from Tactics Advanced to its sequel is increased by a huge margin. They also expanded on “Clans,” more, allowing for you to take over regions of the world by competing in lottery mini-games and adding an interesting leveling system that takes advantage of Ivalice’s mercenary focus.
High production values take the game to a level of quality usually unreached on the Nintendo DS, and the game’s sound and graphics, while a little bit dated, help the battles from becoming too chaotic and move the game’s story along. It may not top the origian Final Fantasy Tactic’s brilliance, but the stellar combat mixed with the game’s 400+ quests make Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2: Grimoire of the Rift a purchase for any RPG fan.