Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings Cover
Platform Nintendo DS
Genre Real-time Small-screen Strategy
Score 7  Clock score of 7Gameplay: 6
Fun Factor: 7
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 4
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Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the direct sequel to Final Fantasy XII for the Nintendo DS. It was released late last year and was the first game I received for Christmas and thus the first game I decided to play through. Revenant Wings is essentially a real-time strategy game on the small screen, something that is not attempted very often and especially not from a company like Square Enix. They do have plenty of experience with strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics, but surprisingly the game does not play like that at all. It's much more focused on split second decisions and fast action.

The game brings back most of the main characters from Final Fantasy XII and also integrates a few gameplay elements from its big brother. The game is also long, clocking in at around 40 hours depending on how many extra levels you want to play. This is pretty typical for a Final Fantasy game, but it seemed really long for a portable title! Thankfully though, the game is designed to be digested in small chunks, so it still works very well as a portable game. Here's the review for Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (from now on this game will be called Revenant Wings and the PS2 original will be called Final Fantasy XII).

Scores

Gameplay: 6
This game was very frustrating to play at times. It really is a real-time strategy game but the DS stylus isn't precise enough to give you full control over the battles. Your party is made up of five leaders and typically 2-5 Espers under their command. You can select units individually by clicking them, or by selecting the leader's portrait which will select the leader and their Espers, or by dragging a square across the field. However, selecting one unit can be troublesome if they're all grouped up so usually you just select the portrait or drag across the field and grab whomever you get. This essentially means that battles boil down to you throwing all your heroes against all the bad guys in one giant Rise of Nations style skirmish; it's a big mess and you just hope your team is stronger.

The gameplay does have some high points though. The battle system is made up of three unit types: flying, melee, and range. They have a rock-paper-scissor style relationship so that's where most of the strategy and preparation lies. Most units also have a magic type, so they are weak against say fire, but strong against ice. So there are a lot of layers of complexity that make this game fun to play when you get down to it. I put a lot of thought into most battles and it usually paid off in success. As the game progressed it seemed to become less focused on giant skirmishes and more on strategy and using your units to your advantage, a great improvement over some of the early levels.

A final thing to mention is that your characters can have a gambit skill in Revenant Wings. Gambits in Final Fantasy XII were basically if-then checks (eg. if Vaan is low on health, Penelo will heal him with Cure; if he's not low on health, he will not be healed) during battle. Some people complained that the game would play itself then, but I thought they were an awesome improvement to the battle system. The key thing to note though that in Revenant Wings, you can only gambit one spell or ability, and you can't set the "if check." This really disappointed me as I don't think Gambits are that complex that they could not have been fully utilized, instead, we just get a little tease.

Fun Factor: 7
As I said in my introduction, Revenant Wings is a pretty long portable game. I finished it in 38 hours or so and had about 90% of everything completed. I was left satisfied as some of the later levels were really tough and required many attempts. However, the first half of the game is really mediocre and slogged along. I remember this distinctly because at right around the 17 hour mark, the game finally picked up by adding more characters and a more interesting storyline. Before that, you were using the same team over and over again and strategy wasn't that important, just build up your team and rush them in mobs. After that though, I really felt like the game was unveiling new layers of gameplay that kept me going happily. The problem is 17 hours is a long time for a game to become interesting enough to make it good, and many players will probably not last that long. I did and I think the reward is there. The main storyline levels are decent and there are some cool side levels that are mixed in.

Graphics and Sound: 8
Revenant Wings really shines in this category, the game looks and sounds really good. One thing to note quickly is that all the characters look much younger than in Final Fantasy XII even though this game takes place about a year later! This really bothered me before the release but it's pretty obvious that this art design was chosen because the game is really intended for younger players. The in-game characters are pretty detailed and you can recognize them easily enough thanks to the younger, simpler design. The actual environments are rendered from an isometric view that allows you to see the current battle easily enough, but there's no way to alter the angle or rotate the camera, which would definitely help in some situations. Also, since the world is 3D, sometimes pillars and other objects can get in your way and you won't be able to see an enemy or two (a little transparency would be great). Otherwise, I enjoyed the art style in the end and it was always clear what units you were selecting and what kind of unit type they were. There are also some cutscenes that use both screens that actually look really good, rivaling the quality of console graphics.

Sound wise, the music is pretty much ripped right from Final Fantasy XII, which definitely isn't a bad thing. If you played the original you will recognize many of the songs and be able to hum along with them. The sound effects are helpful during battles and give you a clue to what is going on. There isn't any voice acting in Revenant Wings though, and while I understand it's a cartridge, it would have been nice to hear some voices during the pre-rendered cutscenes.

Story: 4
I honestly did not like the story in Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 (but that's for another review), and Revenant Wings continues that apathy towards a mediocre and uninteresting world. The game is set in Ivalice, but you need not have played Final Fantasy XII to fully understand the story as Revenant Wings adds virtually nothing to the existing set of characters and settings. Actually, most of the game takes place above Ivalice on a floating continent home to the Aegyl, a winged humanoid race. The Aegyl weren't in the first game at all, so that allows the writers to escape the confines of a relatively boring post-war world. However, the new story never really intrigued me and the characters are never given room to grow. This really frustrated me as I wanted more, but Revenant Wings is really a light-hearted game and targeted for a younger audience.

Overall: 7
Besides the weak story, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is a pretty good game. For what it does right it does it above average and I really did have fun playing it. The real-time strategy gameplay doesn't really work on the DS very well, but that's more of a limitation of the hardware as I think Square Enix pulled it off almost as good as anyone could. I wish unit selection was better but that's my only major control complaint. Sometimes the difficulty was out of whack, and the final boss is pretty unbelievably crazy hard. I beat him in a cheap manner but don't feel bad about it because he was fighting dirty too. Anyways, I am going to recommend this game to fans of casual real-time strategy games and people who are interested in a nice, long adventure. The battles themselves are short and sweet and make for a really good portable experience. If you're looking for Revenant Wings to continue on with the Final Fantasy XII story, don't expect much. The old characters and settings are not expanded on at all and are really just used for their recognition factor, which is too bad.

Final Fantasy 12 Revenant Wings Vaan Penelo