Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift


Review by · July 15, 2008

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GBA caused quite a stir in the strategy RPG world. Many fans of the PlayStation classic Final Fantasy Tactics didn’t like its kiddy nature and light-hearted storytelling. They also didn’t like some of the design choices made by Square Enix. One of those was judges that upheld laws during battle. If you didn’t follow those laws you were punished quite extensively. Despite all the ire the first game received from fans, it was still very well received both critically and commercially. It’s still quite possibly my favorite game for the GBA, so I waited for the sequel with baited breath. Is it an improvement on its predecessor? You’re about to find out.

FFTA2 starts you off as Luso Clemens, a student at his school who opens a book in the library where he was serving his detention. When he opens the book, he gets transported to Ivalice, much like Marche did in the first FFTA. From there it is a similarly told tale to that of the first FFTA where Luso is trying to get back home to his real world while gaining friends and fighting evil in Ivalice. You can clearly tell that Square Enix did not focus on the plot as it is incredibly generic and forgettable. In an effort to get people excited, Square Enix threw in some cameos of characters from Final Fantasy XII, but it doesn’t change the fact that the plot is completely forgettable. Now on to more important things…

Odds are if you’re slightly interested in this game you know what a strategy RPG is, so I’m not going to go into huge details other than the differences that make it stand out from other games and its predecessor. Since I know the thing everyone wants to know the most is whether or not the law system that everyone hated from the first FFTA has been changed, I’ll touch base on that first. Yes, it has been changed and loosened significantly, but it is bothersome. Your characters no longer go to jail for doing actions that are forbidden by the judge. Instead you lose all of your bonuses for beating the battle and don’t get anything for it. You also can’t revive allies unless there is a judge present. One of the new features thrown in is a clan privilege, which gives your party slight stat boosts during the battle, but those also go away if you break a law and the judge leaves. The bothersome part is that some laws will prevent you from beating a quest if you follow them, and if you don’t follow them you lose your bonus for beating the battle (although you still get the bonus items and ability points for completing the quest). Some of the laws that you break won’t make much sense sometimes either (I broke a law because I knocked an enemy backward and it counted as a distance attack, which was forbidden). When you have no control over whether you are following the laws, things aren’t working properly.

Other than change in the law system, there are a few other things that have been changed, including one which makes no sense to me. FFTA2 no longer has you buying all your equipment at the store after you advance so far in the story. Now you have to get loot from enemies and quests a la Final Fantasy XII and make them yourself before you can buy them at the store. This makes it practically impossible to make your team of characters the job you want because you won’t be able to buy the equipment for them to learn their abilities until you make the proper erquipment. It was much better in the first game when they started you off with equipment for all the jobs, even if they were weak. At least you could learn some abilities and pick the jobs you wanted. It’s like the game forces you to pick the jobs based on what equipment you have initially, which I find absolutely ridiculous. One other minor change that doesn’t really affect a whole lot is that your characters no longer get experience points for their actions in battle. All the experience is given to the character at the end of the battle after you have one, and everyone gets the same amount from the quest. The more useful characters in battle also get a slight boost of experience, so if a character didn’t do much, they won’t get any bonus experience. For the majority of the game, all the characters you use will be at the same level, so there won’t be any uber powered character who do everything like in other strategy RPGs.

Even after these changes in the gameplay, FFTA2 still plays very much the same as its predecessor. The story progresses by accepting quests at the pub, where most of the time the victory condition is either wipe out the enemy forces or kill the boss. There are a few other victory conditions, but not many. The clan system has also been carried over, even if changed slightly. You still add members to your clan, but in FFTA2 your clan has stats that are sometimes required to be so high before you can accept a certain quest. Increasing these stats is simply done by completing quests and clan trials, which are quests that force you to use skills in battle pertaining to the stat you want to increase. You can also controls areas on the map, like in FFTA, but it is done by bidding in an auction house. If you are the highest bidder, you become of the owner of the territory and get to reap benefits such as lowered quest and item prices. Overall, If you liked the gameplay in FFTA, you’re almost guaranteed that at least most of the gameplay elements will feel familiar and comfortable enough for your enjoyment. I found some of the gameplay changes disappointing, but I still enjoyed the gameplay.

FFTA2 allows you to use either the stylus or the standard D-pad control, just like with pretty much every game on the DS so far. Much like most games though, the D-pad controls are much better and come recommended over the stylus controls. As far as concerns with the controls, there really wasn’t any. Only the lack of camera control, much like the first game, came as an aggravation since you can’t always see the battlefield properly. Other than that, all the menus work great and the addition of the second screen helps alleviate the cluttered menus the first game had.

The presentation in FFTA2 has been increased significantly since the first FFTA. All of the animations are smoother and the spells look much more vibrant. All of the sprites in the game have also been given a boost and look great. This is definitely a very colorful game and one of the best looking 2-D games on the system thus far. The soundtrack is largely the same as the first game, so if you liked it then you’ll like it now or vice-versa. The sound effects are also largely recycled. It’s a little disappointing that they recycled so much stuff from the first FFTA game, but since it was high quality stuff to begin with it didn’t bother me that much.

It’s hard to understand why Square Enix didn’t put any effort into the story, which would have upped the greatness of this game significantly had it been good. Even after some disappointments, FFTA2 remains worth it for all the reasons that FFTA was: great presentation and solid gameplay. For me, FFTA2 was a somewhat disappointing sequel since I loved the original so much, but it is still bound to be liked by many strategy RPG fans. The tried and true gameplay from FFT and FFTA keep this game afloat, but if Square Enix makes another one I don’t know if they can rest on the laurels of the series’ predecessors again.

Overall Score 84
For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview. Learn more about our general policies on our ethics & policies page.
Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis

Josh was part of RPGFan's reviews team from 2008-2010. During his tenure, Josh bolstered our review offerings by lending his unique voice and critique of the world of RPGs. Being a critic can be tough work sometimes, but his steadfast work helped maintain the quality of reviews RPGFan is known for.