August 07, 2008

GUEST BLOG: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

I have a guest blog entry to give to you fine people. I got this in my inbox today and he's a good friend of Sin's and mine. So without further ado... here is Orca Joe:

I suppose an introduction is in order, yes? I'm Orca Joe, the Heavyweight Champion of the Arctic Ocean. I'm the final chapter in the epic trilogy that is Captend Exicus, and the final boss of two.shot by proxy. That's right, gents, if two.shot is Final Fantasy, I guess that means I'm Chaos. Unless, of course, you'd prefer a Star Wars analogy, which would make me Darth Vader. And that makes perfect sense, because MX says my IRL voice sounds like James Earl Jones (I was too flattered to disagree).

Anyway, MX, Sin and I are good pals and I love both of them in an entirely heterosexual way, so I'll probably be sending them stuff to post every now and then. I can almost hear Sin's melodic Scottish baritone echoing in my head now, saying "ach, get yaer oon fookin' blog." Well, maybe I will in the future, but for now, I'll be cashing in on MX and Sin's collective popularity--er, I mean, chilling with my pals MX and Sin. Depending on my free time and motivation, I may or may not be guest-starring here more than a few times, so let's compare this blog to Saturday Night Live and hope I turn out to be Steve Martin--or, at the very least, someone besides Britney Spears.


But enough about me... On to the catalyst behind this submission. Much like the guys that run this joint, I'm a huge video game nerd, so the following is a review I felt compelled to write up after playing an excellent new release for the Nintendo DS: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

[MX: For more about FF Tactics A2, hit the jump.]

- MX

This game is a spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance, another excellent RPG for the Game Boy Advance, and a game I both own and thoroughly enjoy. So rest assured, it means plenty when I say that A2 blows its predecessor out of the water on virtually every level.

For the most part, the gameplay and concept are identical to that of FFT:A--you, the player, control a young boy who has been mysteriously whisked away to a fantasy world of swords and sorcery, and must find a way to return home. Along the way, you'll command a group of mercenaries with dozens of unique types and classes (referred to as "jobs" in the FF universe, whose specialties include things like long-distance combat and support magic), battling monsters and other nasty sorts in tactical turn-based combat on an isometric-grid map--hence the "tactics" part. It's significantly different from most RPGs carrying the Final Fantasy banner, but the formula works, and it's damn good, addictive fun. A2 has left this formula mostly intact, but makes several improvements to other key aspects of the game.

THE LAW SYSTEM: One of the more controversial concepts in FFT:A was the system of laws and judges--during a battle, certain actions (randomly selected, ranging from using items to attacking with a certain weapon) are forbidden, with violators being slapped with a number of unpleasant penalties, even being red-carded off the battlefield if they keep it up. Characters that follow the rules are rewarded with judge points, used for big combo attacks and other ridiculously deadly special moves. As the game progresses, items called "law cards" are introduced, allowing the player to strategically add or remove certain laws to a battle at will. It's certainly an interesting twist, but for the most part, FFT:A's law system just gets needlessly complex and annoying, not to mention the fact that it just doesn't really make sense (why the hell am I only allowed to use a sword some of the time? why would that even be illegal in the first place? why is there a random armored dude standing off to the side and adding rules to this fight to the death?).

A2 revamps the law system, doing away with judge points and law cards entirely. Granted, laws still exist, and they still don't make much sense (though, to be fair, they try to make it sound more logical, they really do), but the system is far simpler; as long as you follow the law, you get a nice little bonus for your team during battle, as well as extra goodies when you win. Break it, and not only will you lose the bonus, but you'll be unable to revive party members that have been KOed for the remainder of the fight. It's the only aspect of the game I'm really iffy on, especially since laws no longer seem to apply to the other team, but I appreciate the fact that they've simplified things.

MISSIONS: FFT's core gameplay stems from taking on odd jobs and quests from various clients at pubs, and a large portion of the missions offered in FFT:A were "dispatch" missions, meaning that you'd have to send out a single clan member, wait a few in-game days, and cross your fingers--if the character you sent was qualified to do the job, the mission ends in success. That's all there is to it when it comes to non-combat-oriented missions, leaving you, the player, with little to do in these cases.

In A2, the "dispatch" concept is entirely optional--some of the missions do require you to send someone out to do the work, but one way or another, you'll still have the ability to actively take part in SOMETHING along the way. Mission objectives have also been expanded way, way beyond the simple "Kill all the monsters!" goal that was the focus of virtually every quest in the original game, giving A2 plenty of variety to keep things interesting.

ABILITIES/JOBS/EQUIPMENT: Though there are a few notable new additions, the jobs available in A2 will look very familiar to fans of FFT:A, as will the types of equipment and the abilities they offer (for folks that don't know, different weapons and armor give characters access to new abilities, which they can memorize permanently, given enough time). As for equipment, A2 borrows a concept from Final Fantasy XII; enemies drop various types of "loot" upon being defeated, which can then be combined and traded in using the "Bazaar" option at a shop, making rare weapons, armor and whatnot available for purchase. This is probably my favorite addition to the game, bar none--whereas I felt compelled to keep characters in a single job for a long time in FFT:A, so I could get them to learn lots of job-specific abilities, the rarity of quality weapons in A2 more-or-less forces the player to use lots of job changes (well, you don't HAVE to, but if you're not trying to learn new abilities, you're wasting the precious ability points you're earning after each mission), leading to a deep level of multi-classing and character customization I somehow missed out on in the original game. Development is much, much easier in A2, as well, since nowadays, every member of your clan receives ability points after a mission (whereas before, only the characters that actively participated in the mission earned them). You've got tons of possible combinations at your fingertips with the job system... Try switching your black mage to an archer for a while, and you'll have a long-range bad-ass capable of blasting enemies with arrows and fireballs alike. Or try changing your white mage to a soldier, creating a tough, durable, combat-savvy character who can also heal fellow party members. It's lots of fun, and if you're anything like me, you'll spend plenty of time playing around with various combinations, looking for the best ones.

Speaking of the characters, I'll note that the art style has been updated somewhat, as well... I didn't particularly dislike the graphics in FFT:A, though a common (and humorously accurate) complaint was that most of the characters looked way too girly, especially the humans (only one of whom was actually supposed to be female). Rest assured, there's far less gender confusion in A2, though the graphics still retain their cutesy charm, which I find rather appealing.

All in all, there's a shitload of praise I could shower on this game, but you'd be best off just playing it yourself and seeing its quality first-hand. I give Final Fantasy Tactics A2 my highest recommendation as a hardcore video game nerd, especially to fellow RPG fans. If you liked FFT:A, you'll love A2. If you don't have a Nintendo DS, well, why the hell not? Go get one, it's killer.

Anyway, that about wraps it up. Feel free to drop me a line at, either via e-mail or MSN messenger. Hopefully, you'll see my name pop up around here not too far in the future, but until then, I'm out. Peace.

-Orca Joe
[View more of "GUEST BLOG: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift."]

No comments:

Post a Comment