Every once in a while a game comes along that causes you to spend all your free time playing it. You find yourself resenting having to stop to eat and any attempt other people make to interact with you is met with a non verbal response (usually grunts or growls). Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is such a game for me. My husband picked it up for himself and on a whim I decided to give it a try. It’s been more than a week, I’m a little more than half way through, and he has yet to touch the game. Any effort he makes to try to get the game away from me results in me growling at him. It’s a sickness, but a most delightful one.
FFTA2 is a turn based strategy game. It’s the descendent of Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GBA. I bought the original FFT about five years ago and realized within ten minutes of starting to play that if I continued to play, it would do nothing more than anger and frustrate me. I was pleased to learn that I was not the only person who had trouble. FFT has a reputation for being notoriously difficult. Unlike other games originating in Japan, this one was not dumbed down for the more casual gamer. Thankfully, FFTA2 doesn’t have this problem. There are moments of frustration to be sure, but one mistake is usually not enough to lose a battle.
One of the primary sources of frustration is the laws each battle has. Some are simple enough, such as not using a certain kind of weapon or a certain species of warriors (there are at least seven different species in the game). Others are more of a problem, such as not ending a turn next to another person, be them opponent or ally. You would think this is easy enough until you encounter the debuff immobilize. You can’t move away from your opponent and you are out of luck. However, the worst law I’ve encountered so far is not getting robbed. How exactly am I supposed to prevent a group of five or so thieves from making off with some of my money? Thankfully, breaking the law doesn’t lose you the battle (usually), but it does make it harder. You can’t resurrect killed characters and you lose out on some loot.
There is a plot to this game, but happily it’s relatively easy to ignore. A typical school kid is sucked into a book and transported to the world of Final Fantasy 12. In order to return home, he has to finish the story in the book so he goes questing with a clan. In fact, several characters from FF12 do make cameos in the game, but I have yet to see my personal favorite, Balthier. You have adventures, enlist new people to join your clan, and generally bum around.
What truly has me hooked is the leveling aspect of the game. I’m the sort who played FFX until every character had every ability and had hit level 99. Now instead of seven or eight people, I’m leveling twenty four characters. Each species has a selection of jobs they can learn from cannoneer to white mage to gladiator. You learn abilities through the weapons you have equipped. Needless to say, I am always on a quest for more weaponry. The only disadvantage to this is that once you’ve mastered a job and want to move onto a new one, your characters are reduced to novice status. You can add one extra job to your current job’s abilities, but doing so means you can no longer use items. It’s a tricky balance and one central to the gameplay.
I should note that this game takes time. I’ve played over sixty hours and I estimate that I’m only about half way though. Each battle can take anywhere from five minutes to thirty depending on what you need to accomplish and what your level relative is to your opponent’s. Even if you are incredibly over powered, maneuvering across the battle field and destroying all your opponents does take time. I doubt this will appeal to those who prefer the FPS genre and instant gratification.
With that caveat, I must say this game is incredibly fun. If you like turn based strategy games, this is a must have. So much so that I would suggest you buy a DS if you don’t have one just so you can play this game. But don’t come crying to me that your social life has disappeared. Or that you are only getting four hours of sleep a night so you can play “just one more battle”. I warned you.
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