For years now, you've known what to expect when it came to combat in Final Fantasy games. Though recent games have mixed up the formula a bit, it's still been about small parties of heroes taking on small parties of enemies in either turn-based or real-time confrontations. The upcoming Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for the Nintendo DS will throw a monkey wrench in that design with a mixture of traditional role-playing game elements and real-time strategy combat that serves to create an entirely new Final Fantasy experience. While we've played the Japanese version of the game before, today at the Square Enix booth we had a chance to see the localized version of the game for the first time.
Helmed by game director Motomu Toriyama, Revenant Wings is one of the many games that make up the so-called Ivalice Alliance, a series of games all set in the Final Fantasy world of Ivalice. It's also a sequel of sorts to 2006's Final Fantasy XII, and several of the characters from FFXII will find their way into Revenant Wings, including hero Vaan--who's upgraded from wannabe to full-fledged sky pirate in this game--and his pal Penelo.
The demo version of the game shown off at the Square Enix booth featured the first tutorial that was found in the Japanese version of the game. The idea of the tutorial is to get you used to moving your units in the game with the stylus and touchpad. Moving characters is as simple as sweeping over them with your stylus and then touching the spot on the screen where you would like them to move. You can scroll through the level with the directional pad as well. Just as with the Japanese version of the game, the characters moved at a fairly measured pace across the screen--we were hoping for an increase in the pace from the Japanese version, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards at this point.
The tutorial dungeon had a number of monsters to attack--to do so, you simply tapped the enemies with the stylus, and Vaan and Penelo would automatically lay into them, with Vaan dealing physical attacks and Penelo automatically healing as they went. After defeating those enemies, the pair meet up with Balthier and the rabbit-eared Fran, who join the team as NPCs for a final showdown with a boss monster at a huge structure known as the Glabados gates. As you fight the boss, new enemies are summoned from a spawn point, and it's here you get a glimpse at the flexibility of Revenant Wings' combat. While Fran and Balthier deal with the boss, you could send Vaan to sweep up the stragglers while Penelo stays put and heals. Or you could keep Penelo with Vaan and make sure his health is maximized.
The demo ended once the boss was defeated, so we didn't get a chance to see many of the features that will be part of the final game--including the ability to summon creatures tied to each of the main characters, which eventually greatly increases the number of characters that make up your party; as well as the various special attacks that each member of your party can use in battle.
Because the RTS genre is still looking to gain a foothold in the Japanese gaming market, Revenant Wings is a fairly new experience there. However, Toriyama has said that his team is aware of Americans' predilection for RTS and, as a result, the North American version of the game will be tuned to challenge an audience that's more experienced in the genre. Key improvements to that end will be the ability for enemy units to set their own gambit and more realistically react to situations in combat, and a new "deep dungeon" designed for experienced RTS players, complete with a new boss battle. The game is due for release on November 20 and we'll be keeping you updated with all of the latest in the coming months.