All right, here are my two cents of this game which I would like to share. But before that I would like to inform you all that this is my first DS game, thus I cannot make any comparison and that everything a DS has to offer is relatively new to me. Though, I've tried my hands on Castlevania and Children of Mana but those can't be compared as they are older games. Anyhow, enough of my pathetic excuses and on with the review.GAMEPLAY: 8.5/10
- Engaging and real-time, it is like a simplified version of FFXII. Quite straightforward and nothing too complicated. Even the gambits were simplified and you can only preset one gambit command for each character. You can either control each character or summon individually or either move them as an entire party and whack the living daylights out of the enemy. Most people would prefer the later, if they are leveled properly. The five characters who went to battle will receive most points while the others would receive a lesser amount of points thus you can actually level up your characters even if they do not join the fight. Apart from the five main characters, B'gamnan would only join you for a short amount of time early in the game and later you'll receive Balthier and Fran in Chapter 7 while Basch and Ashe joins you in Chapter 8, and they'll stay with you until the end of the game.
Overall, the game has a total of 81 missions, and 45 compulsory missions for the game plot while the others are free missions. Of course, once you've cleared a mission, you can return and challenge them again. These side missions are tougher than the predetermine missions, as the monsters would be equal level with your characters while in the main missions, it is preset. Thus, even if you level up your characters it would be useless against the side mission enemies, and there's where the challenge lies.
The Summons (Espers): They weren't kidding when they said that this game would hold the most summonses in SE history. In fact, your battle pretty much involves the proper usage of summons. Each character gets to have two summons of their own and a maximum of eight summonses but this is otherwise limited by a capacity gauge. The summonses are also separated into three forms as the characters and further differentiated by three Ranks. For instance, Shiva is Rank III, Darling Shiva is Rank II while Baby Shiva is Rank I. Moreover, these summonses are characterized by different elements - Fire, Water, Lightning, Earth, Heal (Holy), and Non-Elemental.
And to those who want predetermine character's task and wish for uniqueness. Congratulations, you've gotten your wish in this game. They are divided into three types: melee, close range and air. And like scissors-paper-stone, one type has advantage and weakness towards the others. Your weapons and accessories are also pre-set and you cannot exchange with other members (something like FFX, though you can synthesize and upgrade the weapons later). In RW, you can't have Vaan becoming a white mage, he's melee swordsman and that's what he'll be until the end of the game. As for Penelo, she is your only healer, so ditch her out and I bid you good luck. On a stranger note, Ashe doesn't use swords anymore instead now she's a range character and uses hand bombs to attack.
As for items (materials), they are pretty random, and you'll have to keep it for the upgrading of weapons later. Of course, selling it will gain you gil. There are only three types of shop in the game, Tomaj - weapons, armour and accessories; Llyud - materials for synthesizing and Cu Sith - synthesizing shop to upgrade weapons (but in requirement of certain manuals which you'll receive throughout the game). There is no potions, phoenix downs, eye drops, etc and you will have to rely on your healer. Also, there is no MP in this game but you can only perform certain gambit functions after an amount of time. There is a license system but only to gain new summonses, and you do not need them to gain a new skill.
And lastly, mist knacks: Each character would only have one mist knack and the option would be available after you receive certain Summons (Espers). The mist knacks now differ from FFXII, as each mist knack has their own particular function and it is not used for damage. For instance, Ashe's mist knack is used to seal the Summoning Gates while Basch's mist knack is used to increases guard stats, while Peneloís heals the entire party status and restore HP.
If there is one thing I want to complain about is the messiness of the battle screen, with such a vast number of characters in such a small screen, it is pretty hard to control them individually. In certain parts, some of my character where actually stuck behind because they were block by their own ally. A battle between 25 allies against maybe 10 enemies equals to 35 characters in one tiny screen, and that is war-zone. GRAPHICS: 8/10
- For a DS game, I find the graphics to be surprisingly good. Of course, it is nothing compared to its predecessor. These little sprites actually have little changes of expression and movements and thatís simply adorable to me. And the background, I donít have much to complain about, it is suiting but I would like some expansion of space as they seem too cram up once in a while.
There are a total of 8 FMV in the game. These characters in the FMV are nothing too boasts about as you donít see much change of expression on them. CHARACTERS: 8/10
- Now, I've heard many good reviews on this game and mainly because of the engaging game play and also there were more interactions between the main cast and they actually speak to each other about all sorts of things and share their views and fears instead of just talking about the next location you have to reach in FFXII. If you personally like the scenes of Vaan goofing around and Penelo motherhening him left, right, front and centre, then fret not, for this game has an abundance of those scenes. Honestly, I wasn't least bit surprised with more talking as they are after all only dialogue bubbles but it does show the closeness and how much the treasure each other. Though, Vaan gets most of the highlight in the game and all his decisions were actually right.
There are few returning NPC but none of them apart from Bígamnan joins your party, and they only appear in certain chapters. And the Judge of Wings background story was pretty well developed in my opinion and you actually find out about her past through flashbacks and what leads the Judge to this path of destruction.STORY: 7.5/10
- It feels more like a side story instead of a sequel. Of course, they hinted at the hard built good relationship between Dalmasca, Archadia and Rozarria now, and that they are looking towards a brighter future (the Judge of Wings is a character that is too caught up with the past). But ultimately this story focuses on Vaan and party finding out what is most important to them, it shows more growth in these characters. My only complaint is that there are certain things that weren't resolved in my opinion regarding the relationship between the characters - I mean, they still insist of the subtlety of Ashe/Basch/Balthier relationship and Ashe still looks a lttle solemn at the end of the game. Canít they just resolve that at the very least or maybe Iím asking for too much.
Everything is light-hearted in the story and nothing too heavy or solemn. The first half, you spend your time hunting down evil sky-pirates and you only start seeking out the villain around chapter 3 & 4. The first few chapters were rather slow pace in story wise but it picks up speed later and focuses on the true mission of the story. I was a little disappointed in the Judge of Wings as his reasons are entirely personal and that using the identity of the Judge is just to spite the Archadians.
This game feels a little like FFX-2 where you spend the earlier part of the game fooling around, beating up notorious sky-pirates and treasure-hunting. But I wished we spend much more time traveling around places in Ivalice instead of just staying in Lemures most of the time. SOUND: 8/10
- You'll be traveling down the memory lane as during majority of the game play, you'll be hearing familiar tunes - Infiltration, Boss Battle, Dalmasca Estersand, Penelo's Theme, Rabanastre City Upper Ground, Naivetť, Theme of the Empire, etc, though I think there were a few new tunes. And no, there were no voice acting at all. Which was a sort of let-down as I recall in the first RW Jump Fiesta Trailer, we actually hear Vaan and Baltheir exchange words at the end of it. Sadly, there are none in the game, not even in the FMV. OVERALL: 7.5/10
- Iím satisfied with the game. I was a little bored in the beginning where it only focuses on Vaan and party but later parts were interesting albeit a little short. IMO, it is quite hard to finish the game under 25 hours, and there isnít much replay value. I only replay the later parts of the game and that is for the sake of going through the story again. There are not many bosses in the game and they pretty much have the same abilities and donít differ from each, apart from the final boss. All in all, it is a good game for DS and they did manage to pack a relatively interesting side story but I must say that I was disappointed with the ending and the lack of involvement of Ashe, Basch, Balthier and Fran (including Larsa as well).
Well I guess that's all for now and a few of the things that I can think of... I don't think I've inserted too many spoilers into the review. Anyhow, if you are interested in the plot or want to spoil yourself silly (e.g: Is there any development for Fran/Balthier? Who is the Judge of Wings? I want to know more about Raz, Rikken, Elza, Mydia or Velis?), just leave a message, and I'll gladly answer.