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   Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - Reader Review  

Wings of Icarus
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

PLATFORM
NDS
BATTLE SYSTEM
2
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Very Hard
COMPLETION TIME
30-50 Hours
OVERALL
2.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   A year has passed since the events of Final Fantasy XII, and Vaan is now a sky pirate with his best friend Penelo as his navigator. After stumbling upon the legendary floating continent of Lemurés, they must defend it from the evils of the outside world. Square-Enix's Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for the Nintendo DS forms part of the company's Ivalice Alliance line of Final Fantasy titles, continuing its predecessor's story while featuring a new real-time strategy battle system. Unfortunately, the sequel proves to be nowhere as enjoyable as its predecessor.

   Revenant Wings is very heavily combat-driven (in addition to making extensive use of the DS stylus, which isn't a bad thing), with the player, before each battle, being able to set up a party consisting of up to five combat leaders and five different types of Espers of different ranks, which play a significant role in battle. Each Esper slot can only hold a certain rank of Esper or lower, with the player at most being able to take one rank III, two rank II, and two rank I Espers, into battle. During this setup time, the player can see the enemy leaders and their own Espers.

   Player and enemy leaders and Espers come in three main types: melee, ranged, and flying. Revenant Wings uses a Rochambeau-esque formula of unit effectiveness, where melee units are effective against ranged units, ranged units (except healing units, which deal no damage yet are still considered "ranged") against flying units, and flying units against melee units. Magical elements also play a role in many battles, with player and enemy Espers, and on occasion player and enemy leaders (the former depending in most instances on their equipment: one weapon, one armor, and one accessory), having elements that the player can naturally exploit depending upon the setup of their leaders and Espers.

At least this Esper's cute... Auracite, occasionally gained after battles, helps increase the player's selection of Espers.

   When a battle begins, all combat leaders each summon two Espers, with the game automatically matching Esper types to leader types. On the normally vast battlefield, the player typically has a summoning gate from which he or she can summon additional Espers to each leader's troupe, with each Esper requiring a certain amount of Affinity to summon, and the player having a maximum amount of Affinity (and the player can only have one rank III Esper on the battlefield). The player's leaders, moreover, can capture neutral and enemy summoning gates, consequently raising maximum Affinity and restricting the summoning capabilities of enemy leaders.

   Each leader gains a number of special abilities throughout the game, with the player able to set one of these abilities as a Gambit for automatic use on the field (the player can change a leader's Gambit anytime during battle, or peruse their ability menu to use it manually). Once a leader executes one of their abilities, it requires a certain amount of time to recharge before that leader can use it again. As the game progresses, moreover, characters will gain Quickenings they can execute after dealing and/or receiving enough damage for powerful offensive or defensive effects.

   All battles have objectives the player must fulfill to win, such as defeating all enemy leaders or destroying an enemy soul crystal (where fallen enemy leaders revive after some time, with the player sometimes having a soul crystal whose destruction loses the battle). Normally, except when the player has a soul crystal, the death of all his or her leaders will lose the battle, although all leaders will still gain a meager amount of experience, albeit with no money or items. Winning a battle, conversely, gives all leaders a great amount of experience (with participating leaders receiving the most), alongside all items acquired during battle and some money.

Laser emission Kind of a suggestive attack...

   Although the battle system has some decent ideas and sounds good in theory, it often falters in execution. For one, the North American version was made more difficult than the Japanese version, sure to alienate those inexperienced with real-time strategy games, and even with ideal leader and Esper setups intended to exploit the enemy's weaknesses, there are many points where the player will often struggle through main story battles, and spend a fair amount of time on sidequests in hopes of eventually advancing the plot.

   Battles themselves also suffer from traffic jams among the player's characters, making rearranging units difficult in instances such as sudden enemy onslaughts (and many battles have a nasty habit of plunking in monsters from out of nowhere, even when the enemy doesn't have summoning gates). Manually selecting skills during such assaults can also be somewhat difficult since the action of battle doesn't stop while doing so, and reviving deceased leaders can be tedious as well since it can be hard to tell where exactly they are on the battlefield.

   Somewhat ruining the game's portability, furthermore, is the lack of in-battle saving (and a quick-delete-save feature wouldn't have affected the game's balance in any way), with the player only able to restart the current battle or exit to the overworld, with either option allowing the player to retain nothing from the battle. Overall, the battle system has strong potential, although gameplay and balance issues severely hamper its execution throughout the game.

   All the other aspects of Revenant Wings, ironically, don't suffer as much. For one, interaction is actually acceptable, with relatively easy menus and a decent idea throughout the game of how to advance the main storyline, with sidequests being easily accessible, as well. Pre-battle setup, however, can be somewhat tedious, but other than that, the interface doesn't detract too heavily from the game, yet certainly isn't perfect.

Sparkle, sparkle! Of course, they always keep shiny crystals with them.

   The sequel to Final Fantasy XII also does a decent, albeit heavily flawed, job of separating itself from its predecessor, with a brand new real-time strategy battle system, although it does reflect a few conventions of the genre such as a supposed Rochambeau formula of unit effectiveness, and the story about a floating continent isn't entirely original.

   The plot, however, isn't half-bad, and decently expands upon the world introduced in its predecessor, featuring many familiar faces and a few new ones. There are some interesting twists, alongside a mostly solid translation, and while the story isn't nearly as solid or intriguing as its predecessor's, it is in some respects a driving factor throughout the game.

   Revenant Wings's soundtrack consists mostly of remixed tracks from its predecessor, which isn't a bad thing as the pieces are still solid, with the DS hardly affecting the music's quality. There are also many instances in battle when the music changes somewhat depending upon whether or not the player is currently engaging enemies. Many of the sound effects, though, sound fairly primitive, yet the aurals are perhaps the game's best aspect.

   Visually, Revenant Wings relies upon three-dimensional scenery and two-dimensional character and monster sprites, alongside occasional FMVs and new character art. This graphical fusion has many things going for it, with the FMVs and art looking nice, but while the 3-D scenery is fairly smooth, the character and monster sprites often appear pixelated depending upon how close they are to the screen, with slowdown occasionally occurring in battles dominated by endless sprites, as well (though it doesn't severely affect the flow of combat). All in all, the graphics, while not bad, could have certainly been more polished.

   Finally, the game, depending especially on the player's skill, can be fairly lengthy; this reviewer spent a little over forty hours to finish the game, time that included sidequests necessary to get through the main storyline, although more experienced players may be able to finish the game more quickly.

   Ultimately, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings fails to live up to its predecessor, given the numerous issues in its battle system, although its other aspects, incidentally, don't suffer as much, yet in most instances certainly don't excel, either. Fans of real-time strategy games, though, may find something to celebrate, although there is a chance, especially among players highly unfamiliar with that genre, that even loyal fans of Final Fantasy XII may have a difficult time enjoying its sequel.

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