Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings Review (DS)

With the recent pact of "expansion" from Square Enix in the American market, we're beginning to see a lot more Square games hitting the scene aside from the well known Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests. Square is even pushing the envelope with a somewhat wider range of releases including the likes of DS games, and separate game genres altogether. If anyone has played Heroes of Mana on the DS, they'll know what it's like to experience a Square created handheld RTS, and you've seen what they can do with the engine. Recently released was Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, and with a similar gameplay style to that of it's Heroes of Mana counterpart, this becomes one Final Fantasy sequel that people aren't going to be disappointed with.

You'll have an easy to read battle map at your disposal at all times
And when long distance travel is in order, the world map is there too

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings takes place after the ending of the hit success Final Fantasy XII on the Playstation 2. For those of you who might not have beat the original yet, I'm just going to leave this spoiler-free and go ahead by saying that in 'this' new adventure, Balthier, Fran, Vaan, and Penelo will be the focus in this story. You don't really have to play Final Fantasy XII first to understand what's going on in the storyline, but as an avid Final Fantasy gamer myself, I'd highly recommend it, as Revenant Wings is packed full with little inside jokes hinting back to the it's PS2 brother that any fan of the Final Fantasy XII universe will appreciate.

Without giving too much of the storyline away (I have a tendency to do that sometimes), I'll just move on to the gameplay. Revenant Wings is an objective based RTS game, but don't expect something completely similar to the likes of Civilization or Age of Empires. As opposed to "building a base", your primary concern will always be on your party. In each mission you'll control a party leader (usually Vaan or one of the other main characters), and lead a group of units through some kind of "Point A/Point B" map, pressing your way to the objective. It's a bit similar at first to something you'd see in Ninety-Nine Nights or the Dynasty Warriors series, but with more strategy, and less button mashing. The further you progress in the game, the more strategy is required from you, and features like training units and full on army vs. army battles will become more key.

Familiar Final Fantasy monsters will be at your disposal for easy summoning
And even some of the bigger names from past Final Fantasies will make an appearance

Each party leader character has the ability to level up, set gambits, quickenings, and change equipment much like the standard Final Fantasy RPG would allow, and thank goodness that this is all done with simple clicks of the stylus. After playing this game, I'm beginning to believe that the DS is more efficient for RTS type games than even the PC. As you'd probably imagine, a simple "click" on a unit will select him/her, at which point you can command them around the map, and a "click - drag" method will allow you to select multiple units at once and move them as a squad. One slight qualm I had here is that since the DS screen is small, and the units are equally as tiny in proportion, you'll oftentimes find yourself clicking on the wrong unit, or selecting units into a squad where you don't want them. Summoning Espers is also is an option, and is done easily enough (usually just requires a couple clicks on the stylus in an appropriate location, at which point they're summoned into battle and follow you around). I'd go more into detail about how an Esper is summoned, but I'd rather leave that to you the player to discover since it's a plot connected feature.

Overall, the game to me felt a lot similar to that of Heroes of Mana if any of you have ever played that DS title, though Revenant Wings interested me a lot more just because of my knack to increase my Final Fantasy XII lore, and because of this, I'd like to consider this game a must play for all FF fans. In my opinion, it brings a lot more to the table than any Square-Enix DS game released in the past. The audio score is definitely worth noting, as it chimes in brilliantly through those DS speakers with recognizable musical hits that you'll surely remember from Final Fantasy XII if you've played it. The graphics aren't half had for DS either. The environments look amazing, and while the character models aren't exactly in 3D, they have several different movements and position scripted in so that it create the illusion that they're truly moving fluently throughout a 3D world with other 3D creatures. The way Square-Enix pulled off that illusion is really amazing from a game developer's stand point such as myself, and it's obvious that a lot of work was put into each animation. The highlight of the graphics department though, is easily the cinematic, which are by far the best I've seen of any DS game. Spanning cleanly through both the top and bottom screen of the DS, the cinema experience is truly breathtaking, and easily makes up for the par gameplay graphics.

Most of your favorite characters from Final Fantasy XII will be interacting with you in totally new ways
And the cinematics on this tiny DS handheld are the best of the system to date

Overall, I don't want to play this game up to be the greatest of all time DS game, as that's likely not the case, but I will go as far as saying that this is the best RTS/RPG game that I've personally played on the DS so far. If you're a fan of Final Fantasy XII, you'll appreciate this story continuation, and the amazing features described above that keep the game interesting and innovative. We've had a few complaints as noticed, regarding the occasional fumbled controls on such a small screen, and the fact that the overall gameplay from map to map seemed a bit too linear for our liking. To make up for it though, there are tons of extra features that can be found, including side quests and huntable "marks" which should prove to keep you busy for awhile. If you've never played a Final Fantasy before, I suggest you try this game! But if you're a Final Fantasy fan, you're a fool if you don't own this one.

Top Game Moment:
In a monster battle towards the end of the game, I stepped in unprepared, and was in danger of getting beat. As a last ditch effort, a well timed single quickening ended the battle in my favor.