Friday, May 30, 2008

You are the wind beneath my Revenant Wings

Okay, so this game came out in November, and well, I've had it since then, but since nothing amazing has come out on the DS since then, I thought it time that I picked the talking stick and gave you my speel about Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. And because only one poster has the floor at a time, you're gonna have to deal with my opinions...and my embedded videos for your viewing pleasure. Hey, why not, I did it for Phantom Hourglass, and that seemed to work out.

Basically, this game is the continuation of the story that Squareenix presented in FFXII, complete with archrivals and best friends. This dual screen version, however, takes place a year after the events in FFXII, with Vaan flying his own airship with Penelo after Balthier and Fran 'stole' the Strahl. That's right, VAAN's good old friend and motherly figure is back to travel the skies again, in search of treasure and advancement. Digressing, the two groups enter Bervenia in order to obtain the Cache of Glabados, but come face to face with Ifrit in the process, the aftermath of which destroys Vaan's airship, leaving him back at square one in Rabanastre. But not for long, when a mysterious airship derelict comes crashing out of the sky and Vaan's crystal gets the thing running again, bringing the new crew to the sky islands. They come in contact with a new race and join the fight against the Judge of Wings, growing ever closer to "Eternal" who is apparently the god-like person of this world. (That's an interesting thought since this is technically the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, both games that took place at different times in the world of Ivalice, but 1200 years before)

Anyway, the following video shows the entire prologue ten minutes of the game. First, it starts you off with a tutorial, which is great the first time around, but really really annoying when you are a veteran player of the game and it's telling you how to move the camera and control your character...well, I wouldn't have been able to beat the Judge of Wings if I didn't know how to do that, now would I.

Anyway, yeah, so after you've gotten passed the basics, you meet up with Penelo. (Die hard fans of FFXII should be squeeing right now.) Then, you get to head into a room with your old enemies and fight something big and scary...well, watch the video, then I don't have to explain.

Cool, eh. Yeah, unfortunately, what that video doesn't show you is the cumbersome movements that come out later when you finally become able to summon. Yes, there is summoning in this game just like there are in almost every other Final Fantasy that exists, but this summoning is sorta like calling minions to fight in your advanced rock-paper-sissors game. No seriously, your melee guys get worked by flying dudes but rock against ranged opponents, your ranged guys shoot all fliers out of the sky like they were standing still but get jacked when something brings the good old fashioned can of whoopass, and your flying units come tumbling down when they get hit with arrows or magic, but seem to be untouchable by the melee enemies. Basically, if you like chess or really like the gameplay in Final Fantasy Tactics, you'll love the way this game plays out.

Except for the units. Basically, unlike Tactics, your characters are not the whole army, but the commanders. Thus, at the beginning of each battle, a series of "Espers", or little fighty minions that are basically advanced fodder, are "summoned" by Vaan and assemble themselves in their respected groups. If you know what you are doing, you can keep them united by style of combat, but if you just don't pay attention, you'll end up having your flyer controlling ranged guys, your melee controlling healers, etc. Once you get the hand of it, though, you might as well just sit back and watch the mayhem, because eventually even the best plan becomes throwing all your units into fighting the boss while your healers keep everyone alive, or you start mass producing units from the summoning platforms like you're playing a game of Starcraft. Prepare for zergling rushes, they'll happen to you if you don't capture the enemy's summoning platform.

Anyway, the story is interesting throughout the game, but I can tell the graphics designers weren't expecting the slightly better than 256 x 192 pixels, because the video cut scenes, like the opening, are beautiful better-than-64 type graphics, but when the actual game play drops in, you feel like you are back in the Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced game. There are moments when Vaan is obviously sitting with his mouth open, and only because it is a simple rendering of anime style surprise can you tell. I guess it happens occasionally.

Interestingly, despite the fact that you have a horde following you, which make it hard to move units, you have to keep track of like 40 different fighters all at the same time, the music has an airy white noise overtone, and the story survives on the premise that there are islands in the sky, this game has a lot of addictive values. It's hard to put down, if only because it requires your full attention while you play. It's simple, its fun, and it has a good story...oh yeah, and it's from final fantasy, so you know it's going to have those amazing scenes where a giant behomoth comes flying into the air, growls, and then spits balls of fire that rain hell down fromt he heavens upon the you keep playing because you just can't stop...

All in all, I'd have to grade this game a B for being an interesting sequel. I like the idea of continuing the storyline on a different consol, like FF Crisis Core, because it makes you feel like the original is still untouched in the story if you don't have the money to drop to find out more, but if you do, you can feel like your favorite stories are following you.

I give it a C for music, a C for planning, but a HUGE A+ for addiction. That's right, I'm playing it again...right now...while I....

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