Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Final Fantasy Tactics A2

Picture the following:
You sit down to play a classic game of chess. You make yourself comfortable (but not *too* comfortable, lest your complacency and false sense of security cause your army to be demolished, your king and queen beheaded, and your precious castle be burned down to the ground) as you struggle to remember the rules of the game.

The 'King' is the most important piece, but only slightly more useful than the pawn (symbolism?). The 'Queen' is the most powerful player on the board and can do irreversible damage to anyone caught off-guard. And the 'Knights' ... well, they fucking suck - inexplicably.

The thing about chess is that the battlefield is mirrored so that both players have equally powerful pieces - fair and square.
This allows for the more cunning and better seasoned strategist to come out the victor (usually?).
All things considered, it's a decent -if outdated- pastime.

Now, picture what an evolved game of chess could potentially resemble:
First off, there is no useless 'King' piece! You have not one, but two 'Queen' pieces completely capable of murdering everyone in the trenches. One is a 'Sniper/Assassin' and the other is a punk-rock 'Hunter' who flies with dragon wings and hunts down enemies with bows and knives.
Also, your shitty knights have been replaced by a superior, large man-dog 'Beastmaster' who can tame and command wild creatures to do your bidding, and a child-sized rabbit who shoots lightning bolts from magical pistols (a 'Fusilier', as they're called).

This, my friends, is the ridiculously awesome game of 'Final Fantasy Tactics A2' for the Nintendo DS (compatible with the 3DS), and one of my favorite games in existence!

As the title implies, this is actually the 2007 sequel to the 2003 title, 'Final Fantasy Tactics Advance'.
Why there aren't annual updates to this isometric, turn-based series while the rotting 'Pokémon' franchise gets double-milked to death is beyond me, but allow me to sell the idea to you even further if I haven't already.

What I've described above is a totally plausible scenario, but there are countless ways to play the game, and it's great enough that you'll soon forget what the hell the story was all about to begin with.
Something about a young boy (that's you, the main protagonist) who ends up in a magical land and needs to find a way to get back home. That old story!

Before you know it, you wind up managing a zany clan of warriors (a maximum of six can battle at a time, but your gang can include a maximum of up to 24 characters - not recommended, fyi) who take up job requests which more often than not consist of beating rival clans until they beg for mercy (only half kidding).

The biggest highlight of the game (as with most Final Fantasy titles) is the job system which allows your characters to become skilled in a wide variety of 50+ classes. Be aware that there exist limits, however.
For example, human characters -being the most versatile- can excel in jobs like 'Thief', 'Black Mage' and 'Ninja'.
The child-sized rabbits (moogles, officially) are likewise capable of becoming skilled in the arts of thievery and black magic, but they cannot become ninjas. They have their own exclusive classes, such as the aforementioned 'Fusilier'.
So on and so forth for the other 5 "races" of recruitable characters.

The extra nice thing about this game? Unlike 'Pokémon' characters which can only access a maximum of four attacks at a time, FFTA2 characters can retain moves from any two classes of your choosing (usually a maximum of around 12 or 14 attacks when 'perfected').
Perhaps you're not satisfied with your favorite character mainly leveling up their magic stats. Well, you can take said 'Illusionist' and "teach" them the way of the sword so they can fight as a magic-wielding samurai (frankly, one of my favorite combinations)!

But wait, of course there's more!
Certain weapons and 'accessories' can drastically change your battle plan before you jump in for your first attack.
A Flame Shield will not only protect you from any and all fire-based attacks, but they will actually heal your shit!
Combine it with a 'Thunder Robe' (again, there are always exceptions to who can wear what) and congratulations! You are now immune to fire & lightning!! Not only that, but you can now use your supporting cast of fighters to save you by shooting you with said magic attacks.

'Ribbons', on the other hand, are an item which *usually* only female characters can 'equip' (note: they aren't actually visible when you "put them on").
So what the hell do they do? They protect you from harmful magic attacks which can render your character blind, poisoned, or incapacitated. I'm fairly certain that ribbons won't protect you from certain doom, though (yes, that's an actual thing!).
Oh, what? I failed to mention status buffs & debuffs?

As previously stated, the layers and combinations to this game are immeasurable and there remain plenty of cool details I don't have enough space to get into.
The many variables which affect your gameplay are fairly easy to keep track of, and with enough careful planning your team of level 50 warriors can beat the odds in order to bring down level 99 monsters!
I've accomplished as much and it's one of the most satisfying of feelings.

This game isn't perfect, however. If I have to complain about anything, it's the fact that many missions are pointless, a few jobs useless, and enemies repetitive. More importantly, because there are so many missions in this game (300, but not all required in order to beat the game), you won't receive the most important weapons and items until dozens and DOZENS OF HOURS into the game.
That said, acquiring the best weapons in the game can kill most any challenge and make your battles incredibly easy towards the end.

It's certainly no dealbreaker, but the whole thing could've been shortened and better balanced.
Regardless, stop playing chess and buy this fantastic piece of software because there's no sign of a direct sequel being released anytime in the near future!
I'll just warn you to pace yourself, keep your party as small as possible, and enjoy the ride because it can last well over 100 hours if you let it.


Final Grade: A+