Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is obviously the long-awaited sequel to the GBA installment, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Released on the Nintendo DS, it lost its “Advance” subtitle and gained a new one, which is more descriptive of the story line that will unfold. I was so excited for the sequel, as the GBA release seemed to do everything right. I was thrilled to receive this as a gift on my birthday years ago from everyone's favorite SuperGamecube64. This game, however, took everything I loved about the series and threw it in the toilet, giving me a weak list of new features that hardly made up for what it lost.
The game begins with a classroom scene, and you soon learn that it is the last day of school. A young boy is preoccupied with thoughts of what he will do this summer, and you are prompted to answer a series of questions about what your summer activities will be. Your responses will affect the flow of game play, and similar situations will arise throughout the game.
Just as the boy (whom you can name whatever you wish, his default name appears to be Luso) is about to leave for his vacation, the teacher pulls him aside and forces him to clean up the library. Even though the boy protests and just wants to get home and begin his break, the teacher forces him to do it as punishment for being late to class all year.
Once in the library, the librarian is not there. (Do you see Mewt’s bear on the desk? This little Easter egg from the last game pleased me.) Unsure of what to do, Luso wanders around for a moment, playing with a music box and ultimately finding a strange book. Curiously, Luso opens the book and notices something odd. The second half of the book is all blank! The last page of text reads something to the effect of: “What is the name of the hero...?” Amused, Luso writes down his own name, as he is not one opposed to vandalism, and in a flash of light, is transported to a whole new world...
When Luso awakens, he is face to face with a giant chicken! Confused and astounded about where he is, and still in his school uniform, a clan finds him in peril. The apparent leader, Cid, instructs the boy to take the oath of a clan and join to save his life. Although Luso doesn’t know what that means, he has little choice and agrees to join the clan. Transformed into a soldier, he can now fight off the monster! During this battle, you get a tutorial about how things work. Despite a few minor changes, battles work the same way as in past Tactics games. You can “move” to any blue squares on the field, and then follow up with attacks with swords, spears, or whatever weapon you have. Magick attacks and bows are still long range weapons, but seem to me that they have less of a range than in Tactics Advance.
The graphics seem to be downgraded to me. The sprites are colorful and well detailed, but their character portraits are less impressive. They don’t seem as detailed as they were in the past game, and look completely redone! Vieras have super-long ears and humes have horns and such on their heads. I was not pleased with the new character designs, as they seemed to take a step in the wrong direction.
Just like in past games, each race of character has a vast variety of jobs available, expanded in this new installment. Humes can be quick-footed thieves, hardy fighters, and more. Vieras can still perform magic as a white mage, and have new jobs such as the green mage and spell sword.
Bangaas also have new jobs as well, such as the trickster class that allows them to use tricky magick to deceive their foes. They aren’t the only ones, Moogles and Nu Mous also have a wider range of job options to play with.
Some new races have also been included, such as the powerful and adorable Gria and rough-and-tumble Seeq. This game has huge potential to maximize the skill range of your clan units, but it falls short of meeting this goal due to the reduced availability of good weapons.
A new race addition, the Gria.
To my disappointment, equipment in the shops is severely limited. Only the weakest weapons are available, and there is hardly anything that will teach units new abilities. Without new abilities, units are hardly able to master jobs early on, which is essential for building strength throughout the game.
To get new equipment, the only way to do so appears to be in sending items to the Bazaar. During an early visit to the shop, the clerk will explain how the Bazaar works. Loot you get from battle can be used to forge new weapons and armor, and will then be available for purchase. This can make getting new equipment tedious, and near impossible if you don’t get the loot you need. Loot is considered any item that a monster or other enemy drops when defeated, and can range from liquid, to wood, to flora or metals. This was the main deal-breaker for me, as my clan remained powerless without the opportunity to learn new abilities that were basic in the last game, and weak due to better weapons not being available.
Adding clan members is an essential part of these games. Without clan members, you cannot hope to win later on in the game. Of course, this game makes it harder. Instead of picking up new members the way you did in past Tactics games, certain races appear in certain areas at specific times of the year, and you have to go there to hope to get lucky and meet someone. There are also quests placed at the pub where you may go do a questionnaire to obtain a new member suited to your tastes. Either way, it is a challenge to recruit enough members to meet the demands of quests.
They were called “Missions” in Tactics Advance, in this one renamed as “Quests”. These jobs are the reason for clans, and can be about anything. Unlike Tactics Advance, this game is heavier on “dispatch” missions, where you send a clanner to do the job for you. There are so many dispatch quests; you will often fall short of members to send! In comparison to the dispatch missions, the ones for actual battles are few and far between, usually consisting of a storyline quest and perhaps one other where you actually have to do something other than wander from place to place to pass time.
Another change to the game is the way the Judges work. In the last game, Judges oversaw the battles on the field, and gave red or yellow cards to members who broke the law, either sending them to jail or otherwise punishing them. In this game, the Judge does not ride a chocobo, and is not present on the field. The laws are battle-specific, and not randomized each day as they are in Tactics Advance. If a member breaks the law, they lose the protection of their Judge, and cannot be revived if defeated. Following the law has benefits, such as keeping your clan “privilege” (a stat boost that you get to choose at the beginning of each battle, such as luck, power, or agility), and gain extra loot and items after successful battles, called a “Law Bonus”.
New clan privileges can be attained by taking on “clan trails” that can be purchased with clan “points”. Each trial has specific conditions that should be met, increasing with difficulty with each higher level. Completing these has great rewards, such as the new clan privilege, and discounts on quests and shop items.
Unlike in Tactics Advance, instead of clans attacking each other in “clan wars” to gain control of turf, it is handled in more civil “auctions”. In this new activity, clans wager their clan points to auction for turf that goes to the highest bidding clan. Gaining as much turf as you can holds a variety of benefits, such as discounts and popularity. This was a disappointment for me; I enjoyed the clan wars better than the new auction system. Maybe I’m just a bloodthirsty barbarian?
Overall, the game did some things right, but the disadvantages make it seem completely different from its prequel. It seemed as if they added a bunch of new things so they could say that it’s “new”, in the end confusing and disappointing the fans of the GBA game. I liked the new classes and jobs, but the ridiculous Bazaar idea and lack of readily available equipment make the game play incredibly hard. The battle-specific laws also disappointed me, I enjoyed the ability to wait for laws to change and use them to my advantage. With new laws making it illegal to “miss” while attacking make it almost inevitable that you will break it. What's more, laws do not affect opposing units at all. In short, if you liked the past Tactics games, this one may fall short of what you are expecting. In essence, it is in the same series, but the new add-ons make it harder and more confusing than it has ever been before.