Final Fantasy Tactics A2 Import Hands-On

Square Enix's latest turn-based battler is on the streets in Japan, and we've strategized our way through the early hours.

Square Enix is celebrating Final Fantasy's 20th anniversary in a big way this year, and a revival of the sleeper hit Final Fantasy Tactics series is a significant part of that celebration. The role-playing magnate recently released an excellent PSP port of the original PlayStation game complete with new content and wireless multiplayer, and now there's a new Final Fantasy Tactics on the Nintendo DS, too. Well, at least in Japan. The awkwardly titled Final Fantasy Tactics A2: The Sealed Grimoire is in stores across the pond, and we've been hammering on its dense strategy-RPG mechanics to find out what's new this time around.

Tactics A2 is basically a quasi-sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the Game Boy Advance. That explains the A2, in case you were wondering. Similar to the GBA game, A2 presents a much more lighthearted take on the franchise than the original, plot-heavy PlayStation game. Much like in Tactics Advance, A2 casts you in the role of a schoolboy named Russo (or Luso--take your pick) who is sucked into a magical book at the beginning of the game and deposited in the mystical land of Ivalice (seen in Final Fantasy XII and a number of other games). You'll quickly join forces with this game's version of the perennial Cid character--who in this case has a disturbingly pointy nose, but seems adept at combat--and a host of Ivalice's other indigenous races, like the bunny-eared viera and the lizardlike bangaa, to throw down in the turn-based, grid-oriented combat that should be quite familiar to series veterans.

The overworld itself is quite simple, from what we've seen so far. It's essentially a group of locations represented by dots, all connected by pathways. You can move your character to a location or the nearby town by simply clicking on it, though you'll have to visit the town to actually enable the combat missions at each location. Once you're in the town's pub, you can do things like read the daily newspaper or talk to the bartender to pick up the missions that are currently available. From what we could tell, the level of each mission is indicated by a ranking number, and once we'd completed enough of the missions in the starting area, we were able to exit the relatively small initial area and access a new town and a bunch more missions.

Combat here should be old hat for strategy RPG fans.

Even if you have little to no skill with the Japanese language, you'll be able to draw upon previous strategy RPG experience to muddle your way through the combat in Tactics A2, since the fundamentals are unchanged. At the beginning of a mission, you'll be able to place Russo and his current allies--each of whom specialize in offensive magic, healing, ranged attacking, heavy melee combat, and so on--in their starting positions and tell them which way to face. Then it's a matter of moving your characters one turn at a time while your enemies do the same, issuing attack and magic commands per the standards of this genre. The battlefield is situated on the bottom screen--though, strangely, there's no touch-screen control whatsoever that we've found so far--and as you'd imagine, the top screen is used to show character stats, turn order, and other relevant information.

Of course, there are a handful of combat mechanics--some new, some old--that identify this as a tactics game. The judge law system is back, whereby one of Ivalice's enigmatic combat judges will mediate your battle and award you a bonus at the end if you don't violate the rule he's laid down at the beginning of the match. As far as we can tell, these rules typically restrict you from using particular abilities and such. There's also a new "clan ability" system, which we're honestly still trying to figure out. You can select from a number of buffs at the beginning of a battle--including increases in power, speed, and luck--but how these relate to the clan you're a member of, we haven't determined yet. There's a lot of Japanese text in here.

The story unfolds primarily in towns between battles.

The visual presentation in Tactics A2 is of the same whimsical, cartoonlike style used in Tactics Advance, and we've generally been quite pleased by the lush color palette of the game's entirely 2D graphics. Our only complaint so far is that with no ability to reorient the battlefield, the characters tend to stack up on top of one another in close quarters, and it can be hard to see exactly who is standing where. But you can cycle through characters pretty easily to plan out your attacks and position your magic spells, so the fixed perspective isn't a huge problem.

Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is looking like a solid, lighthearted follow-up to the previous Game Boy Advance game. Newcomers to the series who recently cut their teeth on The War of the Lions shouldn't look for the same dramatic gravitas here, but the gameplay looks like it will satisfy those armchair fantasy strategists among you. We'd recommend waiting for a domestic release unless you're highly proficient in Japanese, though sadly, we don't know yet when that's going to happen.

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Discussion

78 comments
Yukapi_Wurumi
Yukapi_Wurumi

Compared to the character cameo sprites in the first FFTA, the ones for this game suck. That's a disappointment, but otherwise I hope it will be as fun as the first, since FFTA is the only final fantasy game I've managed to play through to the end

Deadbolt6
Deadbolt6

On second thought, I think I might still get this game. FFT:A disappointed me cause I set the bar too high after playing the original on the ps1. But now that I understand where this game is headed and I know what to expect, I think I can appreciate it a little more.

Deadbolt6
Deadbolt6

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Mikijoraygor
Mikijoraygor

I doubt you will need the stylus even though you could use it for stuff like picking a item you want to use and the microphone is probably likely useless but it does look like the graphics are improved but I am not sure if it has a judge {that some people like and dislike it depends on how the person feels} and it seems it still has Jobs like Thief and Black wizard and all the races from FFTA and I want to play it after I beat FFTA.

legs1986
legs1986

gamestop now has it listed as mid june

freek666
freek666

I had no idea about this game till a week ago. Awesome!

Kitsukage
Kitsukage

@ AdolChristin: There'll likely be some sort of touch screen capability; however vague and unnoticed it may be. For one; and it isn't exactly the greatest example, but Pokemon Mystery Dungeon seemed to have no touch screen capabilities, either, but you could actually move and attack, as well as select menu commands with it. Other than that, if there really aren't any touch screen capabilities in the game, it wouldn't really matter, anyway. In the end, a game is a game, and you buy them to play them; not for the features they use from the console. There's no love lost over a game on the DS that doesn't use the touch screen, so long as the people that play it enjoy it. I, for one, when it actually bursts from the shores of Japan and America, will likely enjoy the game, as I did the original FFT and FFTA. As for FFTA, the only thing I didn't entirely like was the laws, but nonetheless, it was a good game to play. Mayhap FFTA2 surpassed that, seeing as I've looked at the screen shots, thus far, and no Judges in sight. Though I'd still say FFT is a much better game; regardless of its lack of Viera, which happen to be my favourite race from the world of Ivalice set within FFTA and FFXII.

tyman20107
tyman20107

I just got done beating FFT:WOTL and i think it is the best game for PSP and a fntastic story.....ive also beat FFTA a long time ago and it doesnt compare to FFT:WOFL and from the looks of A2 this wont be much better.... but dont get me wrong, FFTA was still a decent game

AdolChristin
AdolChristin

I see no real point in releasing this for the DS if there's going to be no touch screen commands or other stylus-related features.

iamBenG
iamBenG

This was a godsend when i first saw it, i have more hours logged into FFTA than both Golden Sun games combined. I found the judge system ingenious as it encouraged you to train alot of characters in different classes. And it was fun to have to bail someone out of jail. That being said, i'm really excited for the US release of this game.

pokemonmanic75
pokemonmanic75

This game looks really good. I just finished FFTA and it was one of the best GBA games I ever played. I had no problem with the judge system, despite the fact I broke a few laws here and there >.>. And since this game is gonna be wi-fi, it'll be better to play and trade with friends without them being next to you :D the only downside to this is that the attack menus in battle wont be on touch screen.

lew_0911
lew_0911

Good. Now, let me finish FFT:WotL (hopefully) before they release this.

aerisol
aerisol

what, no touch screen controls? looks cool but you chould be able to control your characters with the stylus at least.

therealapowers
therealapowers

i can't wait for this game. FFTA was my favorite game of the GBA. i just bought 'war of the lions' for my psp, and i must say, i quite dislike the heavy storyline. FFTA was mucheasier to understand, and i like the art style better. i like it when my characters have visible noses. ;D

BangaaPride
BangaaPride

What I don't get is that Disgaea gets kudos for it's lighter stories yet Tactics Advance regularly gets slammed. If this gets released over here I'll pick it up for sure. I too would like a direct sequel to the PS Final Fantasy Tactics however.

T070Y
T070Y

Hope it has WI-FI

fienno123
fienno123

all we need is a europe and american release and ill be fine

bendall01
bendall01

Some people back this game because it inst as "Tactical" as the one on PSP (I have that one, the lions war). To be totally honest I like the half hearted DS version, it has just the right amount of strategy IMO. I think both games are good :D

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

Whoamiagain, there a lot of improvements, yes the style is the same, but i guess its the same with the invention of the wheel, it's always gonna be pretty much the same. and thats not a bad thing at all, totally looking forward to an english relase :D

WhoAmIAgain
WhoAmIAgain

meh... it doesnt seem they put their heart into the game... just look at it, it looks far too much like it was in the GBA vers of the game. Im not even kidding you, this is the freakin' DS. Better everything than GBA. They absolutely had no intention of really improving anything from the looks of it. it would have been smarter to improve on graphics, create a new Tactical system rather than boring the hell out of everyone with the casual system. If a had a chance to improve a new tactical system, i would very much take terrain in for consideration. doesnt ice freeze better with water also, wouldnt it be good to hit them good with a lightning bolt on a puddle? would grass and wood burn way better? OH! wouldnt it be great if your attacks and moves change the terrain? There are many thing they really could have taken in for advantage. what did we get here? A FFT Clone worth crap. Im not here to seem like im opposed to the game. i want to put out my opinion about what Could have been done to improve the game, not this clone crap.

siberian142
siberian142

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Raykuza
Raykuza

Music from FFXII!!! YES! YES! YES!

Smith_45
Smith_45

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

KingBahamut
KingBahamut

even worse are fights against monsters and the jerk judge says no attacking monsters and I just need to complete 2 more quests to finish it but I can't because they need special items that I don't have and there are no quests available but apart from that tactics advance was brilliant if those two issues are fixed then A2 shall be a must have

ukillwegrill
ukillwegrill

i like the judge system except when it makes ur harder battles even harder by imposing stupid rules "no swords" WTF

kelvinhole
kelvinhole

I've played it (130+ missions now), the game could really do without its judge system, it's a waste of space. They've also revamped the experience system--you get a lump sum at the end of each engagement, which has cut out some of the unnecessary potion-using that plagued the prequel. All in all a good game, but could have been so much better. The story is waffle at best.

rome_tx
rome_tx

I liked both Tactics and Tactics Advance but I like the Playstation version because the AI is more ruthless than in Advance. I can also do without the judge system but I can deal with it. Can't wait for it to hit stateside.

_TheJoker_
_TheJoker_

I loved FFTA, but I couldn't finish it (damn square for letting me throw away useful items without giving me the opportunity to get them back) I'm really looking forward for this game, hopefully it will have an online mode.

Katai_Kenaku
Katai_Kenaku

Gotta be honest, I love heavy stories and although the judge system in the first one was alright and an interesting idea, I would have prefered not having it. I hate to say it, being a Nintendo fan, but I liked tactics a whole lot better on the Playstation :o. Either way, I think this game will be great, just not as good as they have potential to create. Still looking forward to an english release of this game. I hope however, that they make one with a real in-depth story with a dark twist to it. Lack of touch screen controls isn't really a downer for any RPG's as long as they use both screens which this game will.

MrSaturn33
MrSaturn33

...(left speechless)...Uh...AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE TO GET THIS GAME!!! I HAVE GONE CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Final fantasy tactics advance is probably one of the best (If not THE best) game I HAVE EVER PLAYED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And now they're making a game for it...On my favorite system!?!?!?!?!?!? Look! New menus! They kept the cool job sprites! New characters! New jobs! Better sound effects! New music! Two screens! Touch sensetive!...Tobreak this all down into one word...AWSOME!!!

fienno123
fienno123

is there wiFi dammit?! press the +1 if there is and 1- if there isnt. pleeease!

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

need it , now, please.... com'n i know you got an english translation somewhere ='(

jjdomo
jjdomo

I didn't care for the lighter tone of Advance. I prefer the heavier tone and more serious nature of the original Tactics. I'd really like to see a new one come out for consoles . . .

promano3
promano3

Must...Have...English...DS VERSION!!! 8)

shadowg16
shadowg16

i will like this game i think :P..................

mikedude_01
mikedude_01

The first game sucks so much, but I'm still interested in this game. Russo looks even more horrible than Marche does though and both have ridiculous names.

kyo_tetsuei
kyo_tetsuei

Okay, the Law system is HORRIBLE. I hated it. But, I've seriously missed the lighter tone of Advance over the one presented in Tactics, so I'm definitely looking forward to it when it is released in English here in the US.

dryden555
dryden555

it's all 2d graphics and its a "lighter" version of FFT? -- hmmm, I'll wait for the reviews first

Zeus-Guy
Zeus-Guy

I have to admit it looks better than FFTA. And I personally don't mind if its lacks touch screen controls.

mr_gouda
mr_gouda

Looks good so far. I wonder if they changed the way your characters gain new skills? I'd like to see something similar to the Job Points system they used in the first FFT.

PostedOval
PostedOval

This seems like a downgrade from the PSP version... Not sure why I would pick this up...

moh2in
moh2in

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I JUST BOUGHT A PSP FOR FINAL FANTASY TACTICS:WAR OF THE LIONS AND NOW THIS! GOTTA START SAVING UP-AGAIN

death919
death919

Screw MGS4, screw GTA4, screw SSBB, screw all of those, I don't care what anyone says, THIS is THE series, this is THE game of the year 2008! :D

Kratos_Cruxis
Kratos_Cruxis

FFTA was not only my one of my fav FF games but is one of my fav games eva. BIG BIG hopes for this 1. Would buy a PSP to play War of the Lions too but not buyin a PSP to play 1 game.

dredzz
dredzz

FFT is good for DS but their still copping out ocphon is right, people want a real sequel on a console. The continue to release FF games with Nintendo but in a patronizing way, FFCC, FFTA and now this. Its a bit insulting

wjc04c
wjc04c

Excited about this game. Loved the first FFTA, and more Ivalice is always a plus in my mind. Seems like the judges are a love it/hate it sort of mechanic...I happened to love the extra challenge.