Ever since the beginning of the Final Fantasy franchise, fans of a particular installment have been clamoring for a sequel to some beloved episode. While a few games have made some sort of reference to a previous game, often this is only in the form of a cameo or hidden joke, and this discontinuity has annoyed many fans. Fans? wishes were first answered with a sequel to Final Fantasy X for the PS2, but this met with mixed reception, and generally proved to be a vaguely related game that altered both mood and gameplay in a manner many found unsatisfying. Well, for better or for worse, Square Enix has again released a direct sequel to one of their Final Fantasy titles, following Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 up with a sequel for the Nintendo DS. Is the game worth a look? How does it compare to the original? Read on to get the whole story!
Those of you who have played the original Final Fantasy XII likely have a general idea what to expect in FFXII: RW. While it remains true to the basic premise of FFXII, numerous changes, both small tweaks and major shifts, have been worked into the game, producing a wholly different experience. Many of these changes can be attributed to the change in platform, but overall it feels as if the change in platform is more a symptom of a shift in target audience (aiming it at younger children). While this is not a bad alteration per se, it does bring significant changes to the feel of the game.
While Final Fantasy XII was rather deep game with a convoluted storyline and several interesting plot twists, FFXII: Revenant Wings takes a much simpler approach and follows the more traditional ?save the world from an overpowered bad guy? type of story. The story is overall a much shallower and easy to follow affair, though it does have some interesting developments late game. RW does, however, stay true to the story of the first game, this time following Vaan and Penelo who have set out on their own as sky pirates. Through several seemingly coincidental actions, they wind up in possession of a mysterious airship and flying around a group of equally mysterious floating islands rife with trouble. After running into some unlikely allies and old friend, Vaan and his companions discover events brewing that threaten the islands as well as all of Ivalice, and of course they are the only ones around to stop them.
The battle system keeps the same feel as it did in FFXII, but gravitates towards the real-time strategy (RTS) genre, maintaining RPG elements but possessing a much more active feel than FFXII. While this is an interesting mechanic, it does alter the flow of the game quite a bit. Battles occur at a decent pace, lacking the artificial pauses that were found in FFXII. While the main characters level up and each possesses three slots for equipping various items, the RPG element is notably subdued throughout the game. Aside from a minimal system of equipment, there really is not much in the way of character development other than generic level ups. The primary strategy involved comes in the form of choosing the summoned monsters that you will use in battle, and then of course the actual commands that the player issues to the group. While both of these play a role in combat, the game really does not lean towards advanced strategy, due mostly to the interface, which will be discussed later.
In addition to the flaws in the general system, gameplay during battle suffers from a few problems as well. While the concept is interesting and certainly useable, numerous small issues plague the game. All input can be made with the stylus, but many actions prove difficult. Camera control is especially touchy with the stylus, but Square Enix was kind enough to allow the use of the D pad to move it as well, and this works perfectly. Many of the other interface glitches were fixed by using the other buttons as hotkeys for various common actions. Most helpful is the ?Select all? command, which allows the quick selection of all of your units to order them around as a group. The unresolved problems, however, are the ones that tend to be the most frustrating in the long run. Most problematic was the inaccurate interface, for in the heat of battle it is nearly impossible to select a specific unit to control from the mass of enemies and allies on the field. Additionally, selecting groups from a closely bunched formation can prove problematic as well, and the fact that the program forces the reselection of units after each command is issued makes coordinating multiple parties nearly impossible. Overall, the interface makes good use of the DS?s capabilities, but it could have used a bit more polish.
Graphically the game is nothing special, but it does manage to keep the spirit of portable Final Fantasy games intact. Characters, while still true to the originals from FFXII, are visibly altered and appear much more childlike (especially in the in-game portraits). While this doesn?t diminish from the visual presentation, it can be a bit disconcerting for those who played the original. The graphics in general are a mixed lot: the environments use the DS?s 3D rendering quite well, with intricate maps and beautiful scenery creating a variety of incredible environments. Characters themselves are 2D images displayed on top of the environment, and, while they are decent, don?t feel like DS quality. As a matter of fact, most of the sprites look exactly like they did in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Overall, the game looks respectable, but the sprites seem like a letdown to me, and I wish that they were a little higher in resolution. In its favor, however, the game does include several videos that look excellent, but these are limited and generally very short.
Sound comes across much better than graphics do, both in the area of sound effects and musical score. While the effects themselves are rather limited, they all are of high quality and we never found them distracting in the least bit. Spell sounds are simple and convincing, as are the rest, right down to the clang of a weapon as it strikes stone. Music is also very well done, and it does a good job enhancing the atmosphere. Much like Final Fantasy XII, the music provides background ambience, but none of the tracks really stand out. One nice feature, however, is that the music alters slightly to suit the mood of a given situation; each region has its own matching song, but subtle variations are introduced to match whatever is happening at the given moment. In one case your party is sitting around a campfire, peacefully passing the night away. Suddenly enemies appear to attack the party, and the background music adopts a much more intense style while maintaining the same theme. This concept is relatively simple, but it makes a very nice addition to the game and helps to improve the immersion by a least a notch or two.
As to moral values, Revenant Wings contains little that is objectionable. The presentation is milder manner than in FFXII. Language is kept to an absolute minimum throughout the game, an improvement even over the already limited cursing in FFXII. In general the writing of this game is simplified as well, so that even from a reading standpoint it is much simpler and easier to follow. The battle animations tone down the violence a step, with no blood to speak of and significantly less detail. No characters ?die? in the game; when you defeat a monster it simply fades away and returns to the world from which it was summoned, and enemy leaders fall unconscious, often reviving immediately after the battle for the cut scene. Sexuality is quite limited, much as it was in the previous game. There are no overt references to sex, nor any inappropriate joking. A few of the characters wear somewhat revealing outfits, but this is generally present only in the pre-rendered movies, which are quite few.
One of the hardest most difficult aspects of this game to rate is the magic. The game is rife with it, though it plays a minor role. Every character, even the melee fighters, has certain special abilities. These range from hitting an opponent twice in a row to reviving someone (from an unconscious state, not death). For some characters these abilities are certainly what one would call magical, causing lightning to fall from the sky or fire to consume enemies. This magic really has no explanation; some characters are able to use it (though there is one reference to studying magic). In addition to these abilities, magic also takes the form of an enchanted crystal that is able to summon monsters from another realm to fight beside the player. These beings are said to be from the ?world of illusion? and are basically spirits that have taken on the shape of monsters. Much like FFXII, all these forces and creatures are portrayed as being neutral, so the magic of the world has no negative connotations. There are no rituals or chants to speak of, though summoning involves holding a crystal up and a flash of light.
In terms of its message, FFXII Revenant Wings is very clean as well. While one character is the bartender from FFXII, he serves an entirely different role in this game (shopkeeper/information source). In the story there is really nothing that could cause a problem, though it does portray one character as seeking to gain the power of ?eternity? or immortality, and there are godlike-beings who are said to manipulate humans to their whims. Perhaps the most problematic concept is the fact that the characters you control are self proclaimed ?sky pirates.? There are a few parts in the game where your main character acts the part, engaging in questionable behavior, but never in any significant amount. An important distinction is made between your party and the other sky pirates, indicating that you are more a party of adventurers than common thieves. At one point the main character even states that a treasure that one hasn?t earned is basically worthless. Also, your characters are allied with the authority figures of the major nations, and, while free spirited, are in no way rogues.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings provides an enjoyable experience with its short missions and simple story ideal for light play in small increments. The overall depth is limited, but possesses enough meat to keep most players entertained. The story does justice to FFXII, continuing it and staying true to its roots, all the while adapting it to a new audience. All in all, players who enjoyed the last game will almost certainly find Revenant Wings a pleasant sequel. The game is not without its flaws, but most of these can easily be overlooked in favor of the things that the game does right. While certainly not the greatest DS game we?ve played, content-wise it offers minimal objectionable material, and generally seems like a highly accessible title for those still a bit young to tackle other, more mature RPGs.
» By Jesse Porch, Plain Games. Published 12/17/2007 1:10:37 PM.