The land of Ivalice is one of the longest standing worlds created in any Square Enix game. First conceived in Final Fantasy Tactics for the original PlayStation in 1997, Ivalice has now been featured in six unique game titles with the last being Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the latest iteration of the world of Ivalice and is a direct continuation of Final Fantasy XII.
"...the real innovation of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is within its combat system."
The story occurs one year after Final Fantasy XII and centers around Vaan and his companion, Penelo. After the aforementioned title ends, Vaan and Penelo stumble across the hidden continent of Lemurés; however, this continent is far from typical. Floating far above the landmass below, Lemurés is a region inhabited by a winged race called the Aegyl. After arriving on the continent, Vaan and Penelo learn that the Aegyl are at arms against an army of sky pirates. Deciding to defend Lemurés, Vaan and Penelo join forces with the Aegyl to ward off the latter's oppressors.
Even though a solid story is the backbone of every good role-playing game, the real innovation of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is within its combat system. In attempts to further push the ever-changing genre of role-playing games, and to expand the real-time strategy genre in Japan, Square Enix has pulled some real-time strategy elements into the title. Even if the title isn't a true real-time strategy game, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings makes leaps towards creating the game into a hybrid of both real-time and turn-based strategy gameplay.
Typical strategy RPG battles are turn-based, but Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings takes a unique spin on this by merging real-time gameplay elements. The player's party consists of five characters, referred to as group leaders, which control their army of creatures; however, creatures aren't included in the initial setup at the beginning of battle. Instead, creature acquisition is handled by way of summoning gates. Group leaders must locate these summoning gates on the battlefield and pray at their locations to capture them. Once captured, said gates may be used to create various monsters and Espers that each group leader can direct in packs of up to eight.
The eventual goal of each battle is to eliminate the enemy, though the player must also meet certain predetermined winning conditions to do so. Even though winning conditions are included, they also remain fairly standard. One battle may have the player suppress waves of enemy creatures, while another may have the player defeat a specific boss on the other side of the map. After completing said winning conditions, characters are rewarded with experience points, increasing their characters' level and abilities.
Since Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is setting out to break away from typical strategy role-playing gameplay, the utilization of intuitive and functional controls are quite important. Selecting units can be as simple as tapping on a single unit or drawing a square around a group of units. If the screen ever becomes too congested to individually select leaders or units, icons representing each of the five group leaders are located towards the top of the touch screen. A single tap on a group leader's icon will select the group leader and their associated creatures, while a double tap will allows the player to access commands specific to the selected group leader.
The obvious showcase of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the battle system and real time elements; however, that's not to say that other aspects of the game are lacking. The game features beautifully stylized cinematics, and efforts were made to preserve the spirit of the audio from Final Fantasy XII. Obviously, the audio could not be replicated precisely considering the limitations on the Nintendo DS, but Square Enix strove to keep the essence of the music intact for fans of the music of Final Fantasy XII.
Overall, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is a game that will appeal to both role-playing and strategy fans alike. The unique formula it presents is innovative for the platform and for video gaming in general. If strategy gaming is your fancy, then you can catch Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings on shelves in North America on November 20, 2007.