Top positive review
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Deep Engrossing Gameplay Makes Up for Forgettable Story
on June 25, 2008
+Deep, strategic combat
+Loads of customization
+Crisp, detailed graphics
+More incentive to obey the law
+It overall greatly improves on its predecessor on the Gameboy Advance
-There are some ridiculous laws
-No control over the camera in battle
-Battles can be unusually sluggish
-Tacked on Stylus Controls
In 1998, Square released a game called Final Fantasy Tactics on the original Playstation. In 2003 we finally saw the follow up, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. While the original game gained a strong cult following, Tactics Advance had a love/hate relationship with many gamers. With that in mind, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is very much in tune with its predecessor on the Gameboy Advance. If you enjoyed Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, you'll more than likely enjoy this one. If Final Fantasy Tactics Advance wasn't your cup of tea, then Tactics Advance A2 doesn't do much to make you like it. It sticks to many of its conventions and in turn, suffers from many of the same problems. It's problems, however, don't have as great an impact, and that overall helps Final Fantasy Tactics A2 be a better game than the Gameboy Advance outing.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 focuses on Luso, a school student who is geared up for summer vacation. Unfortunately, his lazy ways have made the teacher want to straighten him out and instead of beginning his summer vacation right away, Luso is sent to the library to help clean it up. While he's there, he stumbles upon a book where the pages are blank. When he finally writes his name in the book he's transported to the world of Ivalice where he'll meet up with a clan who agrees to help him find a way home. Essentially, your main goal is the same as the first Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, to find a way home. The story isn't all that great. It's fairly forgettable, as a matter of fact. However, where Tactics A2 falls in story, it makes up for in gameplay.
Throughout the game, you'll visit pubs which will display missions for you to undertake. Once you select a mission you'll have to go to the location and carry out the duty. When in battle, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 plays like most other Strategy RPGs. You'll send your warriors into battle, move them a certain number of spaces and execute attacks against the enemy. Battles can, at times, be a little sluggish. Even the simplest battles can last for a half an hour at most, but the amount of strategy needed is pretty deep. As is the game's job system which can really put a spin on how easy or difficult a battle can be.
The job system is easily the best part of the game. You can choose a wide variety of jobs. Warriors, Mages and Summoners alike. The job a character can choose depends on their race. For example, a Viera can't become a Soldier. You'll unlock more jobs based on how many abilities you learn for other jobs. Abilities are learned through a character's equipment. This is both good and bad. It's simple to gain ability points, all you have to do is finish a battle. However, learning abilities is a slow task. While most can be learned in one or two battles, the fact that most battles will take a while to finish makes learning abilities take a little longer. Additionally, once you start needing 300 or 400 Ability Points to learn an ability, it's that much longer. Along those lines, since it goes based on your equipment, it's not always a good idea to go into battle with the best equipment. In terms of strategy, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 emphasizes it more so than most Strategy RPGs out there. A slight hiccup in your jobs or abilities can cost you a battle. The strategy involved in the game is very in-depth.
Another feature that returns from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is the judge system. In every battle there are certain laws you must obey. To compensate, however, the judge also lets you have a privilege that will boost certain stats like strength, agility, etc. Breaking a law doesn't have nearly as harsh of a punishment this time around. If you break the law you lose your privilege and you can't revive any fallen characters. You'll want to follow the law as much as possible. Doing so can net you some bonus items, some of which are rare. The judge system works better in Tactics A2, but it still suffers the same problems. There are simple laws to obey such as not using a specific spell in combat, but there are still some outright ridiculous laws to beware of. In one battle, for example, it was against the law to miss the enemy.
The game also lets you use the stylus if you want. While the stylus controls seem like a perfect fit, they'll often slow you down. It's to the point where the stylus controls feel more tacked on than anything else.
Visually, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is breathtaking. The battlefields are very well designed and colorful. The sprites are detailed as are the characters portraits. The spell animations are also pretty good looking, vibrant and colorful. What's even better is the games overall art design which is nothing short of fantastic. If there was anything to fret over, it would be that the game is isometric 3D and not fully 3D. This means that the camera stays fixed throughout the entire battle. You can't rotate it or anything and that'll become a problem when your characters get bunched up and you can't see them. The top screen is used to display the turn order by showing the sprites. It's detailed but the sprites also looks a little pixelated when they're enlarged on the top screen. Nonetheless, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is an incredible looking game.
In terms of music, most of it you'll have heard before. Much of the music you here in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is remixed from either Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, or Final Fantasy XII. Most of it is good music, although if you didn't really like the soundtrack to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance or Final Fantasy XII, you probably won't find this one to be too memorable either.
In the end Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a better game than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but still doesn't manage to be as memorable as the original Final Fantasy Tactics. While it has a forgettable storyline, it's deep, strategic and engaging gameplay will keep the player immersed for hours to come.