Game: Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Platform: Nintendo DS
Here’s another title from late last year that I missed amongst the huge stack of triple-A titles that were released over the holiday season. Now that things have finally slowed down a little, I’ve had a chance to play the newest spin-off from the beloved Final Fantasy series, and while it didn’t feel quite as epic an adventure as the games usually do, it also does not disappoint devoted fans of the franchise and was a pleasant way to return to Ivalice.
Revenant Wings occurs a year or so after the events of Final Fantasy XII. Once again, the game stars young street kid Vaan, with his best friend Penelo staying close by his side. There are also appearances made by several other FFXII heroes and villains, such as Balthier, Fran, and Ba’Gamnan. The little references to XII (which, let’s just get it out there, I enjoyed immensely) are appreciated, but it is also enough of a stand-alone game that someone who has never played the last PS2 Final Fantasy tale can jump into this without feeling lost.
Since we last saw them, Vaan and Penelo have fulfilled their dream of becoming sky pirates and have embarked on some adventures with fellow pirates Balthier and Fran. The game starts out sluggishly, which is never a good thing. Tutorials generally bore me to no end, which is frustrating because there are ways to incorporate them without completely slowing down the first few hours of the game. More games like this need to start taking a page out of Odin Sphere’s book as far as that goes, and I wish this game had incorporated the tutorial stages a little more smoothly. However, as gamers have come to expect this sort of thing, it won’t be enough to deter the player from wanting to complete his or her mission objectives.
Basically speaking, this is an RTS that barely feels like one. The RPG elements involved make sure that the game doesn’t stray too far from its roots. It’s almost as if the creators didn’t know what they wanted it to be. The battles all take place in real time, but without the complex (but effective) combat system from FFXII. All you need to do to attack an enemy is touch it with your stylus, and using magic, healing, and summoning work basically the same way as well.
The stylus is used to control almost everything in the game, which generally works pretty well. You’ll control several members of a party at once, as well as their summons (called “espers” in the world of Ivalice), if need be. After the dreadfully easy early battles are out of the way (hey kids, welcome to Strategy 101!) they actually become more of a challenge, which is always welcome. The battles can be a lot of fun, provided that you take the time to properly plan how to disperse your forces and when to attack. This isn’t a hack and slash; you’ll need to take a lot of factors into consideration before moving, but you’ll also need to stay on your toes and think quickly. The process makes victories very rewarding.
The cut scenes in the game are cinematic and breathtaking, among the best seen on the DS. It is there that this really starts to feel like a Final Fantasy game, that you really get the feel of a great quest for the good of the world that you’re in the middle of. During all the other parts of the game, the players and enemies are represented as tiny sprites on the screen. They might not be the best-looking little guys out there, but they get the job done.
This is by no means a bad game; it’s actually great for fans of the Final Fantasy universe. However, it’s also not one of Square-Enix’s bigger titles, nor does it try to be. As I’ve said before, prequels or sequels of straight Final Fantasy games can sometimes be downright embarrassing, but this one manages to avoid that trap. I generally like games to focus as much on story as they do on the fighting, but the fact that this is so mission-heavy is one of the things that distinguishes it from its predecessor. Though it doesn’t live up to the original, it still offers some good times and enough entertaining gameplay to make it worth picking up.