Embark on a journey into the vivid and enchanting world of Ivalice, a realm steeped in fantasy and intrigue, where countless adventures await. While a great game, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift is the least-known sibling in the Final Fantasy Tactics franchise, overshadowed by its legendary predecessor, Final Fantasy Tactics.In this review, we'll explore the facets of this captivating yet polarizing tactical RPG, delving into its intricate battle system, charming characters, and the various strengths and weaknesses that set it apart from the beloved original. In this article, I, Brighton Nelson, will unveil the secrets of this often-underappreciated gem and discover the unique delights it offers to fans of the tactical RPG genre. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift Review: Better than the original.
Battle System - 10
This system is marginally better than the original Final Fantasy Tactics, but I still think the original's is excellent. I found the law system in this game to be fun most of the time, even if they occasionally become very annoying—these laws added a lot more to the battles, mixing them up and making them very diverse. The privilege system also allowed for unique clan-wide upgrades, allowing for choosing upgrades that would completely change the tide of battle. I loved how every mission felt completely different, whether it was killing an overpowered Red Mage, finding recipe ingredients for cooking, or beating up a colossal monster found in a pit. Sure, fighting a bunch of antagonists and having epic story beats during battle has a fantastic appeal, but I enjoyed how diverse these battles felt compared to the original. In summary, these battles aren't as climactic as story-heavy as the original, but they definitely had more variety—I still think both battle systems are a 10 out of 10, though.
Story - 3.5
All I remember about this story was that Luso wrote in a journal and that Adele and Cid did some cool stuff (which I barely remember). And there probably was a Grimoire of the Rift, judging that was the title of the game... maybe that was Luso's journal? Seriously, this story is forgettable and possibly the most forgettable Final Fantasy story I've ever experienced, which is sad... especially since the original Final Fantasy Tactics was one of the best RPG stories I've ever experienced. I adore this game, but the story is its weakest aspect.
Music - 7
Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, one of the two composers of the original Final Fantasy Tactics, this game does an excellent job of establishing the ambiance of Ivalice and matching the mood of the game, enhancing immersion. This soundtrack does a great job of showing that the game is not too serious or not too joyful—like the original Tactics or Tactics Advance did, respectively. Unfortunately, this soundtrack sits in the middle of the quality of those soundtracks, being more mediocre than both. Overall, the music in this game wasn't phenomenal, but it also wasn't all too shabby and definitely holds its own.
Art & Graphics - 9
This game has phenomenal and charming graphics for a DS game but in the end? It can't get a 10 because, quite frankly, it is still a DS game. However, it is the best-looking DS game I've ever played, and I adore how everything in this game looks. It used the system well with beautiful environments and UI, and with the Dual Screen mechanics, you can always see your turn order, laws, and privileges at any time. This game also had incredible artwork that went along with the text boxes perfectly, making every character feel so alive and making the world of Ivalice feel so alive. This is one of the few DS games I've played that feels timeless from a graphical perspective, and that's quite the pedestal to be on.
Characters - 7
I loved Adele and Cid... they were both enjoyable and charming characters! Also, Luso wasn't all that bad. Also, there were a lot of fantastic characters that you interacted with during different quests! While they usually weren't all that memorable, they had great dialogue (similar to the fun but generic Toads found in Paper Mario: Color Splash and Paper Mario: The Origami King), making every character interaction fill the world with more charm. While I usually frown upon games that don't have a solid core cast, this game did an excellent job of making not-so-important characters feel unique, even if none of them were really developed outside of the main three. A seven is a very fitting score for this game.
Locations - 7.5
This game might not have memorable locations that I can tell you about (unlike most Final Fantasy games), but it definitely had diverse locations. Unlike the original Tactics, which mostly had medieval castles and towns that were solely great in terms of story, this game made every location feel different. From the Arabian-looking desert town of Cyril to the Venetian city of Fluorgis; from Moorabella, a coastal town with Mediterranean influences, to Goug, a steampunk-inspired city full of magic and mechanical contraptions; from Tramadine Fens, a lush and mystical marshland, to St. Ivalice, the central hub town of the game. While I had to look up all these locations to remember them, they were solid, even if they weren't all that memorable.
Quality of Life - 9
This game can have slow pacing quite often, which is almost always an element of tactical RPGs, so I can't dock this game for that. Also, many of the menus and in-game features could be explained better, with dispatching and privileges and the bazaar being quite convoluted to understand at first. This game definitely has a skill curve to understand, but for some (like me), this made the game all the more rewarding. The biggest issue with the game is the Law System, a double-edged sword of a system. While I usually found this to make combat more diverse and strategic, it was often poorly explained or overly inhibiting. However, in the end, I didn't have too many issues with this game—just a bit more in-game explanation could have gone a long way.
Sidequests - 10
This game is all about taking on sidequests and side missions to gain loot to use at the bazaar. This game feels like the Majora's Mask to the original Final Fantasy Tactics being Ocarina of Time. This game isn't for everyone and is somewhat controversial but for me? I'm okay with that because I love how this game played out. Instead of being laser-focused on the story at every given point like the original, this game allows you to take on tons of sidequests and missions as a clan, genuinely giving a fun and grandiose gameplay experience (where the original gave a fun and grandiose story experience). I found the gameplay loop in this game to be so much more fun and replayable than the original, and to this day, I'd love to replay incredible missions like taking down the challenging Red Mage early game again. I'd love to recruit the rarer races and learn their jobs again. I'd love to create every single item in the bazaar all over again. Due to this game's entertaining missions, I can never see myself wanting to replay the original over this game—I'd just rewatch the story cutscenes for that game, to be honest. But if I could, I would give this score higher than a ten out of ten because I think this game has my favorite sidequests of any tactical RPG I've played. That's genuinely impressive, to be honest.
Customization System - 10
From leveling up different jobs and gaining abilities through the equipment of the phenomenal Bazaar mechanic to leveling up your clan and modifying their abilities, this game's customization system is exceptional. I also loved how different races had different job classes. Many hated this mechanic but as somebody who likes a good balance of exclusivity and "everyone can do everything," this game perfectly rested on the fine line between the two. From Humes, who are perfectly balanced between magic and physical attackers, to moogles, who round out your team with unusual jobs that fill unique niches; from Viera, a race that has an equal balance of quick, ranged attacks and support skills, to Bangaa, a race that will always be your most vital physical unit; from Nu Mou, a race that will always be your best mage unit, to Seeq, a race that can manipulate the battlefield with unique and robust classes, to Gria, who will always be your fastest and most mobile units. And on top of all that, there are five character-exclusive jobs: Bard, Sky Pirate, Dancer, Heritor, and Agent. In the end, there are literally 53 jobs in this game. This game is endlessly customizable and has one of the most underrated customization systems ever. While I understand why some like the customization system in the original better, I could never agree. This used to be my favorite game of all time for a reason—it is just so fun in terms of its customization. I could spend (and did spend) hours hanging out in the bazaar, trying to find the best equipment to teach my units the best abilities they could learn, fighting battles to level them up, and repeating that endlessly fun, tried-and-true cycle of customization. This took everything good about Final Fantasy IX's and Final Fantasy Tactics's customization and cranked it up to be one of the most fun and replayable games I've ever played. I could rant about this system for hours, and I likely will in a future article, but for brevity's sake, let's get into the verdict.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 83%
Letter Rating: S
This may be the most underrated and over-hated Final Fantasy game ever. Every memory I have of this beautiful game is a fond throwback to an era when I could just sit with my DS on road trips and become engrossed in a beautiful, endlessly fun, portable experience. Having played both Tactics and A2 around the same time, I enjoyed this game a lot more. This game may not win you over with a captivating story of characters, but it will hook you into its addicting customization, battle mechanics, and, occasionally, its grandiose and familiar setting of Ivalice. This game may not have its first entry's fame, acclaim, or legacy... but I believe it is the quintessential Final Fantasy Tactics game and always the one I'll clamor to if I'm craving an inspired adventure in the world of Ivalice. I recommend this game to any tactical RPG fan who can take off their nostalgia goggles and set aside their differences to revel in its experience—one of the most underrated Final Fantasy games ever created.
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Primary Version: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (DS)