Square Enix strikes again with another addictive tactical RPG: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift for the Nintendo DS!
For some tactical RPG fans, the Final Fantasy Tactics series is about as good as it gets. The complex job system, a multi-layered hex-based gameplay and compelling narratives have always been trademarks of the series and the latest chapter, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, continues the fine tradition set forth by its predecessors. It's an excellent title and one that's sure to keep your DS glued to your hands for a long time to come.
Grimoire's interesting if somewhat cliched narrative centres on a mischievous boy named Luso Clemens who finds himself thrust into the mysterious realm of Ivalice via a mystical book. Almost as soon as he arrives in this storybook world, Luso is taken in by the benevolent Gully Clan and in, typical Final Fantasy fashion, Luso gets embroiled in grand adventure. The narrative isn't particularly great but it serves as a nice backdrop for the game's true strength-the tactical battles.
Battles are very similar to past Tactics titles, utilising a three-dimensional playing field and relatively simple turn-based combat. Judges make their triumphant return, laying down specific laws before each battle-they may forbid ice attacks in one battle and decide that ranged attacks do extra damage in another. In exchange, you get to choose one Privilege, a power up that grants you a bonus, such as increased speed or damage, for the duration of the battle. It should prove instantly familiar to anyone who's played a Tactics game before and even if you haven't you'll get the basics soon enough. Just be warned that the finer intricacies can take a long time to master.
Happy as a clan
Grimoire also features the extraordinary Clan dynamic through which you'll guide Luso and his cohorts through various quests and missions. It's extremely deep and very customisable-it really feels as if you are training a functional army and I really have to applaud Square Enix for the level of freedom that they instil in the player. And talk about deep-with nearly 400 missions available, you'll have plenty to do during your time in Ivalice.
Of course, I did have a few issues with the game. I hated that I couldn't rotate or move the battlefield when planning my next strike, which really cut down on my strategic capabilities. Things also got problematic when the screen became overcrowded with units and scenery; the isometric view does a competent job of showing you the battlefield but the fixed perspective can lead to a lot of frustrations.