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Final Fantasy TacticsA2: Grimoire Of The Rift Review

Can Square steal Advance Wars' strategy crown?

As the fourth Final Fantasy title to appear on a Nintendo system in nearly as many months, and with more on the horizon, nobody can accuse Square-Enix of dragging its feet when it comes to its best-loved franchise. Especially when they're all so varied, polished and enjoyable. Indeed, Square's strike rate has been pretty impressive of late and, happily, this trend continues with Grimoire Of The Rift.

The Final Fantasy faithful should know just what to expect here. Gorgeous visuals, deep strategy, dizzying menu screens, sky high production values and, yes, an absurdly long title. For the uninitiated though, this is the sequel to the GBA classic, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. In a similar vein to the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem series, it sees you managing a 'clan' of fighters as they skirmish their way through the world of Ivalice, a location that should be familiar with anybody who played through last year's excellent FFXII: Revenant Wings.

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Out Of This World

You play as a mischievous young lad who gets sucked into the Final Fantasy universe while leafing through an old book (the grimoire of the title) in his school library while on detention. He lands smack in the middle of a scrap between a small band of fighters and a flock of giant murderous roosters. Naturally, you get called on to fight and, following victory, the warriors welcome you into their clan.

As it turns out, the only way to return home

is to fill in the empty pages of your journal with tales of derring-do. So, once you've named your clan it's off to the local pub in search of quests. Missions are posted on notice-boards in any of Ivalice's numerous drinking holes. Some quests advance the main thread of the story, some branch off into side missions, while others unlock items, abilities and new clan members. They all vary in difficulty and range from comically mundane (picking mushrooms while warding off malevolent fairies) to brutally frantic (going toe-to-toe with giant sand centipedes and their toothy minions).

Once you've chosen your quest and located the battle ground on the huge Ivalice map, you set about picking a team of fighters (usually a squad of six) from your clan, adjusting their equipment, assigning 'jobs' and deciding on their starting position. Fights take place on an isometric grid, with clan members moving a set number of places during their turn. All fighters have different abilities, depending on which job has been selected. Mages, for instance, can linger at the back and unleash magic attacks on enemies from a safe distance; thieves can steal foes' items, gunners can use firearms and fencers wade in wielding a razor sharp blade. Typically, your clan will level up as they fight, allowing you to take on tougher quests and unlock more of the map.

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At first you'll be completely bewildered by the vast number of menus to navigate and customisation options to master. You'll have to figure out which races (there are seven: Hume, Moogle, Vierea, Nu Mou, Bangaa, Seeq and Gria) are best suited to which jobs and which weapons work with those jobs. There are special abilities too, as well as a huge number of items to utilise, all with different properties. You'll be making regular trips to the shop to pick up new kit, touting gear in the bazaar and scouring the battlefield for further goodies. Keeping track of what everything does and how it's best put to use is a massive headache.

Then on top of that, you have the option to dispatch clan members on their own unseen quests, you'll be vying with competing clans for control of territory in annual land auctions, embarking on clan trials to top up your 'clan talents' and running errands for all manner of side characters; all on top of forging ahead with the central mission. Oh, and don't forget that everything is time sensitive and you're expected to get to grips with the Ivalician calendar as well. Confused? Yes, so were we at first. There is very little signposting, other than brief 'rumours' posted on the pubs' noticeboards, and the tutorial levels are inadequate at best. You'll feel hopelessly adrift to begin with.

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16 comments so far...
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  1. XINVADER Thursday 26th Jun 2008 at 13:13

    I'll tell you one thing, I'm definately getting this game. It looks like pretty much the same deal as the first Tactics Advance game, but is that really a bad thing? I enjoyed the first one with all of it's downfalls and I have no doubt that this sequal will follow suit.

  2. Anonymous Thursday 26th Jun 2008 at 13:40

    Sounds great - I'm a big fan of both Advance Wars and Fire Emblem... but I always thought there was something missing - murderous roosters. Yup - looks ace.

  3. drshrunk Thursday 26th Jun 2008 at 15:50

    This + SSBB = most awesome gaming weekend ever! :D
    Loved the first one to bits and this one looks even better! Hooray!

  4. veela_magnet Thursday 26th Jun 2008 at 20:27

    quick question -- although it doesn't seem like it from the review, do I need to have played the original FF Tactics to appreciate the story in this one? Is does seem pretty standalone though...

  5. DuelKing Thursday 26th Jun 2008 at 21:21

    Thank god ive been playin FFA1 for ages. I've played throo it 4 times but this looks even bigger and better I cant w8.
    :D :shock: 8) :twisted: :arrow: :wink:

  6. FrederickONM Friday 27th Jun 2008 at 09:01

    quick question -- although it doesn't seem like it from the review, do I need to have played the original FF Tactics to appreciate the story in this one? Is does seem pretty standalone though...

    No, i'd say you should do fine with no prior knowledge.

  7. fienno 123 Friday 27th Jun 2008 at 14:43

    Yays! i love Tactics and was really looking forward to this

  8. TOKIJHY Friday 27th Jun 2008 at 17:41

    I'll most likely get this game before I go on Holiday, if it's anything like the original I'll find quite addictive. Although I do remember getting a bit annoyed with the long cutscenes if I keep failing a quest repeatedly.

    Does anyone know if the super-power god thingys (I can't remember what they're called) are going to return or the law less jagds?

  9. stretchlightning Saturday 28th Jun 2008 at 13:45

    I loved the first game and this looks very similar so it should be just as good, if not better. That is the problem though. It seems to me that its almost the exact same game, so even though it should be very good, I'm going to give it a miss, because I have already played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GBA to death.

    Don't let that put you off what should be a fantastic title!!!

  10. Super Link Aran Thursday 3rd Jul 2008 at 17:09

    When i first played tactics advance on gba the ds was out and i immeadiately thought how good a ds version would be!
    This even looks like it's fulfilled everything on my wishlist for that game,
    The touchscreen will make the game so much easier to navigate if they use it well enough
    Looking great!

  11. AceGamer Friday 4th Jul 2008 at 11:40

    This will likely be my next purchase. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was one of the finest games for the GBA, so I'd imagine I'd love this.

  12. catinthefreezer7 Wednesday 13th Aug 2008 at 09:55

    I disagree with the score given. This is the first game I've ever played were I got thrashed on the first level.I am finding normal mode impossible at the moment & there are levels wre I feel like trashing my DS in anger. I'd given this game at least 80%.

  13. twilightwolf616 Wednesday 13th Aug 2008 at 22:29

    i love this game so much!

    its kept my busy for nearly 100 hours now and still only just done about 200 quests!

  14. catinthefreezer7 Monday 1st Sep 2008 at 17:54

    I have some advice for beating Illula for the last time.
    The first thing you see is a off-world landscape with coloured (not different) all over the place, monster will come out from them but pay attention to them first as Illula isn't not going to move until you get close.
    Go the long way to get to Illula as the short path is only climbable by Vaan. Movement is slow But that's not the problem, Neither is the two beasties that appear.
    Illula will heal herself fully without side effects.
    She can also make a buff That gives her the power to regenerate. Extremely annoying. Defeating her is long & painfull but try & keep your health as high as possible & don't break the law set (breaking it won't help you).

    When you finally despose of her, her final act in the story is openning the rift, & the rest of the bestie hand, from the same rift earlier in the story, follows. It is very hard & movements worse than the previous level & harder. Go to the core first but put units up the arm as the core moves. The beast is very powerful so if possible, chose allies with power & high HP like gladiators. They are good.
    I can't help you as I got wiped out.

    If you don't feel like doing any of the above, you can head pack through the portal & not get told of for being a coward.
    Take as long as you want as none of it effects the story, so you can power up & thrash.

  15. starfox1994 Wednesday 24th Jun 2009 at 09:56

    Just bought it yesterday, and they weren't kidding about all the menus, but it's a great game. To keep it a bit more simple you just need to remember: Vary your unit's jobs, give them the right equipment, assign abilities. That's about it.

  16. lava_princeton Tuesday 5th Jan 2010 at 09:53

    They say this game is so difficult, but it was my 1st time playing the tactics kinda game nd i found it easy to grasp. i cleared all 301 quests too, tho it took ages, like a few months cus i hardly play!

    It is slow though! but fun!

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