When lovable prankster Luso Clemens scrawls his name into a mysterious tome, he finds himself transported into a suspiciously familiar world of cutthroat, cuddly clan warfare. Old-time tactical RPG fanatics should have no problem sliding right into Square Enix’s new view of the world of Ivalice with such a set-up. For the full effect, these old hands must also have a strong sense of whimsy or light-hearted fun. Series newcomers, intimidated by the harsh lines and unforgiving strategies of other tactical RPGs should find this fantastic excursion a feasible introduction to the genre.
"At its core it is an upgraded version of its predecessor, but this isn't to say there aren't any newcomers to the nostalgic world."
Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift's Ivalice is a familiar one, marked by cities, forests, and the usual fantasy blend of exotic terrain; its environments and inhabitants are similar to those from the first Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, albeit more colorful and complex. At its core it is an upgraded version of its predecessor, but this isn't to say there aren't any newcomers to the nostalgic world. This is the Ivalice of Final Fantasy XII, home to piggish Seeq and draconian Gria as well as the traditional blend of humans, Moogles, Nou Mu, Viera, and Bangaa. Beefy cameos from several Final Fantasy XII characters reinforce the familiar aspects of the land.
Along with new races, a number of new jobs have made their mark on Ivalice. Including special characters, the number of basic race and job combinations numbers over fifty. Many of these combinations are similar, such as Moogle black mage and Nou Mu black mage, but there are still a several entirely new jobs for each race.
Combat is essentially similar to the first Final Fantasy Advance; the main differences are that monsters no longer leave corpses on the battlefield and that all experience is shared evenly between winning combatants. One further element that Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift holds over many tactical RPGs is weather. Each region has differing weather patterns, which can affect certain spells and abilities.
Although judges still roam Ivalice, enforcing their draconian rules upon its combatants, their iron fists have softened with age. Not only have they torn down their prisons, but the abilities that they outlaw in each battle have slimmed in scope and no longer completely cripple affected characters. Furthermore, there are benefits to co-operating with them. Abstaining from forbidden actions awards the clan with bonus items as well as boosting a privileged statistic for the duration of the battle. As long as no one in a clan breaks a law, they can be brought back from the dead during a battle.
The innovative map-building system from the first game is gone, but replaced with a meatier system of clan management. Like many tactical RPGs, the player is able to send inactive party members on training missions to grab loot and explore side-stories. The clan serves two other purposes as well: to control land and participate in clan trials.
Clan trials are special missions that cost Clan Points to undertake. Each clan trial is accompanied by a number of optional handicaps. Each handicap that the player chooses to accept makes the battle more difficult while increasing the rewards. Unlike handicaps in standard battles, these cannot be disobeyed in exchange for short-term benefits.
Controlling land replaces Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’s turf wars, which often sent busy parties zipping around the continent in order to defend their scattered holdings. Regions are now controlled through an auction house where clans bid upon the right to hold territory. When a clan fights in territory under its control, it receives a home-field advantage in the form of an attribute boost.
Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift will be released June 24, 2008 in North America and three days later in Europe and other PAL territories. It has been available in Japan since October 25, 2007.