Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Continue the fantasy in the palm of your hands!

Final Fantasy XII was a huge game. Many say that it redefined the Final Fantasy series and prepared it for the next-gen. Almost a year after Final Fantasy XII, we get the sequel (or spinoff depending on how you look at it) that takes place one year after the events of Final Fantasy XII. The story focuses on the young sky-pirate Vaan and best-friend Penelo, who, along with their group of friends, embark on an adventure that has a decidedly smaller scope than that of Final Fantasy XII, but no less meaningful.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings screenshot

The game starts you off on a joint expedition with seasoned sky pirate Balthier where you retrieve a mysterious green Jewel. Balthier playfully tries to take it from you, and only gives it back with the warning that there may be bigger things associated with that jewel than may be readily apparent, and Vaan must be prepared to accept this responsibility. From there the lovable Balthier departs, and Vaan and his friends set out for another adventure. Trouble is, the land of Ivalice seems a little too-peaceful for the type of high-octane adventure that Vaan and his friends want to have. So they decide to steal an airship. I mean, nothing says an adventure like theft, right?

You then find out that the stone that you found with Balthier can be used to summon espers, little creatures who have different abilities to help you fight your battles. And that’s where the real adventure begins. Vaan and co. uncover a lost city in the clouds that has been invaded by evil sky pirates who take over their summoning gates and exploit their native espers. Your main contact in this world is Llyud of the Aegyl race, which is the dominant race in the cloud city. He is somewhat of an outcast among his peers for his quixotic nature, but he fits well into your party.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings screenshot

After these few opening events, you’ll be thrust headlong into a sweeping adventure that is mostly lighthearted and plenty of fun to play through. One great thing about Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is that it is a standalone adventure. Sure, it’s nice knowing the background of some of the events that are alluded to in the game, but the story presented in the game is completely fresh. So if you never had time to play Final Fantasy XII, or never really got around to it, you’ll definitely be able to experience the world of Ivalice in Final Fantasy XII

The battle system is also pretty conducive to Final Fantasy newbies as well. It’s pretty easy to assume that the whole series has shifted from the old turn-based menu system to a more active system. The battle system of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings can best be described as an open world tactics-based battle system. Essentially, when you begin a level, you have scrolling access to the entire level. You can select a character (or characters) via the stylus and drag them into a fight or to certain action items. Of course this sounds pretty simple, but when you’re in the midst of a battle with only three party members still standing, and only a handful of espers willing to defend you, you have to plan your attacks carefully. While there is very minimal menu-based time, you will have to set certain norms and gambits to make sure you execute the right attack at the right time. The game is a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics because it forces you to consider your foe’s strengths and weaknesses, and how you can confront them to best infiltrate their defenses. The only real difference here is that Final Fantasy Tactics made a distinction between action sequences and battle modes. In Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, it’s always battle time!

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings screenshot

The core mechanic driving the tactical-based nature of this game is the use of the different espers that you can call forth to fight for you. You can unlock up to fifty different espers, and each has two facets: a type and a nature. There are three types of espers: melee, flying, and ranged. These three types have a complimentary relationship that plays to each one’s strengths and weaknesses. The three types have what is best described as a rock-paper-scissors relationship: melee beats ranged, ranged beats flying, and flying beats melee. These espers can also have a nature that affects the type of effect they have on enemies. These natures include fire, lightning, water, earth, and healing. Espers can also have no nature at all.

The game does take a little while to get used to, I must say, but thankfully the tutorial mode is rather lengthy, and soon enough you’ll find that you have the hang of the battle system. And once you do, boy is this title hard to put down! There are many side quests and individual missions to accomplish that this game could easily be a 35+ hour affair. Sure, you could run through it in about 25 or so, but what’s the fun in that? You also have unlimited access to previously cleared stages for the purposes of leveling up or gathering items.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings screenshot

One thing that is always impressive with games developed by Square-Enix especially for the Nintendo DS is that they continually push the envelope when it comes to the look of the game. Every title I pick up that has been a Square-Enix production has looked better and better, and this game is no exception. I can honestly say that the cinema scenes are the best I’ve ever seen on the DS platform and rival some of the cinema animations found on many PlayStation 2 games. The in-game animations of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings are a little less cutting-edge, but still qualify as some really great-looking graphics.

And as much as we’ve come to expect great graphics from Square-Enix, we’ve also come to expect great music as well. And, as many would expect, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings more than delivers in this respect. The score completely fits the mood of the game, and rises and falls with the action. The score is also beautifully varied, and never ventures into dull territory. I am continuously amazed by the quality of the music in the Final Fantasy games, and I have not encountered one that was not an absolute delight to listen to. And luckily, this title just continues this legacy of beautiful music.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings screenshot

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is an excellent title. It could easily be my pick for the best DS game this year because it seems to have all the right ingredients: A great story, unique gameplay, killer visuals, and a fantastic score. All of these elements combine to create the best gaming experience on the DS this year, and it’s no wonder that this precious gem came from the folks at Square-Enix. It’s an absolute joy to play, and I can’t overstate my satisfaction with this game. It’s a must-play for anyone who enjoys the Final Fantasy series, or strategy games, and will delight any gamer with a passion for great storytelling or strategy-based games. Come to think of it, I really don’t know who wouldn’t enjoy this game.

Cinema scenes are the best I have ever seen on a DS. Absolutely beautiful. 4.5 Control
The stylus-based battle system takes a little while to get adjusted to, but once you do, it’s excellent. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As always, the score is absolutely beautiful. However, the lack of voice acting is somewhat regrettable, especially in those beautiful cinema scenes. 4.5

Play Value
There’s no real replay value here, but you’ll have an absolute blast playing this 35-hour adventure.

4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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