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Review – Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings

posted on February 26th, 2008 by golden jew

Like many gamers, I yearn for the mighty games of yore. In my case, I’ve been craving a strategy RPG. Tactics Advance, Shining Force on the GBA–I was hunting around for these games in hopes of something that would occupy my time and fill me full of tactical goodness during my daily commute.

Of course, this led me to ignore NEW games that I could be searching for. So it was by complete accident that I got a copy of Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings. I was about to travel, and needed a new DS game. I saw FF: RW, and decided “I’m a Square fanboy, and it’s an FF game… I should get it!”

Great, a chocobo. Square’s creativity truly knows no bounds.

Imagine my surprise when I found that FF: RW is a real time strategy RPG, and a good one at that. Combining a battle system that is nicely varied (though it’s sometimes hard to execute orders) with the things that FF lovers expect (such as cut scenes and extensive side quests) FF: RW is an excellent game.

Let me summarize the plot briefly: FF: RW takes place after FFXII, which would mean something to me if I ever finished FFXII. Fortunately, my lack of knowledge about how XII ended has not impacted my ability to follow the plot in FF: RW. The one thing that is clear is that Vaan still hasn’t managed to score with Penelo. Slacker. There’s a magical sky continent that had been previously sealed off but is now open. Sky pirates, such as Vaan aspires to be, are running amok stealing auricite (wait a second, that rhymes with magicite!). Auricite lets you summon espers (or Yarhi, in the native tongue of the local flying people in secret continent land). So now there are all sorts of seedy character running around stealing auricite and summoning espers to generally rape and pillage.

As mentioned, FF: RW is a real time strategy RPG. Battles are fought on various maps, with your party of five plus their companion espers. Every character is one of three types: flying, melee, or ranged. It’s classic rock-paper-scissors, and very unforgiving if you match up against the wrong type. Beyond this, characters may (but won’t always) have an elemental, which makes them weak against the opposing elemental and strong against their native elemental.

At the start of each map, your characters (usually) start with minion espers you’ve selected, and on some maps, the ability to call in more. Esper types are the same as character types, although their elemental is affected by the type of esper they are, such as a tonberry (no elemental) or Ifrit (he’s still fire). On the board, your goal is usually to kill one particular enemy or commit jihad on everything. Sometimes you have to protect someone, or get an item, but these activities are usually closely correlated with killing everything in sight.

Maps also have resource points, which let you collect goodies, and healing points… which heal you. In general, your job is to assess the enemies you’ll be fighting (you get to see what you’re up against beforehand), to make sure you have the right proportion of melee/flying/ranged heroes and the right elemental types. If you do your homework, most battles are fairly easy. Still, it can be more difficult in the actual battle, where you need to make sure your characters are fighting the right type of monster. This can get tricky if monsters are in multiple type (such as flying/melee or melee/range) groups. This is because while the game is very easy when you properly set elementals and group types, it can be VERY unforgiving if you match up the three type of units improperly.

For example, ranged units absolutely annihilate flying units. Sometimes I’ll be micromanaging a battle and a monster patrol will sneak up, and despite the fact there is a map where you can see all units, I’ll miss it–and if the patrol is strong against the units you have, you can see some horrific casualty rates. This is a good thing, though, as it is a strategy game, after all. On the whole, most battles are relatively easy, but fun to play through. My biggest gripe is that the interface is poorly suited to the DS. The game feels like it’d be better on a computer than with the stylus. You can select groups, but you can’t hotkey them to “ctrl-1” as you can in Starcraft (obviously). So having to manually select groups can take some getting used to. The good news is, this is mostly a minor nuisance.

Ahh, glorious over complications.

After you clear plot battles, you can play the maps over again, often in different battle formats, for additional loot and experience. You also get an absolute bevy of side missions which are technically optional, but give critical loot, unlock new espers, and unlock Quickenings (yes, they’re back, and yes, they have cut scenes).

Speaking of unlocking epsers, there is a “ring of pacts” which is a screen that somewhat resembles the skill/stat screen in FFX. Here you spend auricite, which is collected by beating battles, allowing you to unlock new espers. The ring is fairly large, and new espers are added by advancing the plot and playing the optional missions.

As to be expected from a FF game, there are tons of additional goodies to be had. There is an intricate crafting system, where gathered materials are collected and forged to create weapons that are of greater quality than their store-bought counterparts. During this process you’re given a chance to customize the weapon’s statistics. Of course, this is done in a typically abstruse and annoying way: the crafting character asks you three questions. Now, in a realistic world, these questions might be something like “Do you want your weapon to be slow and hit for extra damage, or fast and hit for less?” Instead, you get absolutely retarded questions such as “What do you think of Penelo’s dancing? Does it make you want to go down on her, or buy her roses?” The sad thing is this isn’t really even an exaggeration. The net result is that you can either experiment all day long and write down everything… or search the internet. I searched the internet, and didn’t even feel bad about it, as I often do when cheating off a FAQ.

One of the things that most impresses me about the game is that even though it’s on the DS platform, Square did an excellent job of making it an FF game. A rendered intro scene and rendered first part of the actual game scene (as has become customary in FF games) covers both DS screens. The attention to detail is great: side missions, side quests, crafting system, there’s even a garden on your airship you decorate based on your accomplishments in the game. For me, the awesome thing about all the extra content that forces such a mixed reaction in me is welcomed on the DS: I’m typically looking for anything to kill time if I’m gaming on my DS, so side quests, side missions, crafting and the like are very welcome. The fact that Square put so much effort into this game, at an admittedly smaller scale, as they do on the big FF’s makes me a very happy gamer.

*Note: this review was written with approximately 50% (per the game’s interpretation) of the game complete. This author has been burned in the past by game plots taking ridiculous twists, as in Magical Starsign, where the game went form cutesy to macabre. The author apologizes to readers who have progressed past 51% and know more than he does, especially if the plot does something like, “Vaan turns out to be the dream of a dying civilization” or “Penelo becomes a pedophile” or “Ultros wins the game.”

3 Comments

  1. pat said on February 27, 2008:

    the most blatant use of rock-paper-scissors in a battle system i have encountered is probably the first suikoden. not the regular battles, but both the army battles and the one-on-one duels with opposing generals. i once called my flying dragons into battle against a barrage of arrows and i dont think i killed a single enemy soldier.

  2. GJ said on February 27, 2008:

    They don’t make dragons like they used to.

  3. TrueTallus said on March 2, 2008:

    Revenant Wings sounds like a ton of fun, but how terribly does series cannon get the shaft in this game? I didn’t finish ff12 either (though I still intend to at some point), but from what I’ve seen of both games, more than a few things seem to have gotten “re-imagined”. I know you can’t give me a completely accurate rating of how many things have gotten changed around, and I’m not sure how much you care about setting and characters (it is a strategy game after all), but from what you’ve played how bad would you say the disconnect is? Yuna/Penello dressed like a slut now but otherwise no big deal bad, or the world blew up and everyone died but really they didn’t and hey check out Cloud’s new cell phone bad?

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