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Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2007 (US), Feb. 15, 2008 (EU)


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NDS Preview - 'Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings'

by Alicia on July 12, 2007 @ 1:08 a.m. PDT

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is not a sequel or a direct link to FFXII for the PS2 but rather a standalone title in the same universe. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is an all-new experience that fully utilizes the Touch Screen functionality, allowing players to control massive armies, unleash special attacks and activate Gambits, all with the use of the stylus.

Despite a truly dubious demo, Final Fantasy XII managed to debut to a warm reception worldwide. Ultimately, the Gambit system was at worst non-intrusive, and in terms of story and characters, XII was easily the best the Final Fantasy franchise had seen in years. Fans ate it up and were left wanting more. Square Enix was happy to oblige ... and this time, without producing a festival of recycled assets like the unfortunate FFX-2. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is fan service in the best sense of the term, bringing back the XII's core cast for another adventure in the Ivalice setting (now, all games using this setting are branded with the "Ivalice Alliance" logo to help continuity nerds keep track of things).

This time, the plot centers on Vaan and Penelo (who sometimes seemed to purely be along for the ride in FFXII), and sticks to the tone of high-flying pirate adventure. World-saving is kept to a minimum, and at that, treated like the fantastic jaunt it ideally should be. It takes place one year after the events of FFXII, so I suppose Revenant Wings could be considered a spoiler for that much earlier title. Vaan is now a sky pirate, and meets up with Fran and Balthier to raid a lost dungeon full of treasure. This, of course, turns into a far more sprawling adventure than anyone involved ever could have expected.

The Revenant Wings E3 demo was a simple affair. You began with Vaan and Penelo in a dungeon, exchanging tutorial dialogue. This time, instead of setting Gambits and customizing with Licenses, each character has a default attack he/she favors. Vaan attacks with swords, and Penelo heals; when Balthier and Fran join the party later, Balthier uses guns while Fran uses her bow. Characters begin initiating their combat actions whenever monsters wander into the screen: Vaan will approach monsters with his sword, while Penelo waits for him to take damage before healing. When monsters aren't around, they wait patiently for you to tell them what to do. This involves lassoing groups of characters with the stylus and touch-screen and instructing them to move around a dungeon map with the control pad. In practice, it feels a bit like playing an RTS, although there's no resource management with which to wrestle.

You simply progress through dungeons in classic RPG style, encountering increasingly difficult enemies and then a boss monster. Vaan and Balthier argue over treasure, and Balthier gets plenty of the sort of dialogue that made him the fan-favorite that he is. The demo is sadly short, ending when the boss of the first dungeon is defeated and the Sky Pirates have to make a daring escape. The characters are redrawn in a simpler, almost Kingdom Hearts-esque style, although no one's really been redesigned besides Penelo (whose Revenant Wings outfit is slightly inexplicable). The graphical style for the game hearkens back to the 16-bit Final Fantasy titles and is also a bit reminiscent of Nippon Ichi's various strategy games. It uses 2D sprites on 3D backgrounds, a combination that looks much better on the DS than it ever has on the PS2. The character sprites are cute and charming in the way of the old-school Final Fantasy SD sprites, while the backgrounds are very detailed and give you a clear picture of where you're going and how you'll get there. Fans of new-school Final Fantasy have plenty of high-quality pre-rendered 3D cut scenes to look forward to as well.

Since your ability to customize characters seems minimal, Revenant Wings instead puts a big emphasis on recruiting new types of characters to fill out your ranks. You acquire new characters by using the License Ring system to bind summons to your party. This includes friendly monsters and Espers, who can use exotic attacks and powerful magic spells. (Yes, Chocobo is one of the friendly monsters.) How many creatures you can field at once appears to change over the course of the game, and how you recruit them isn't quite clear at this writing. A developer demo did show off a late-game battle that involves what appeared to be upwards of two dozen defenders and attackers charging across the field, battling it out in real-time. It's a sight to behold, even on the DS' relatively tiny screens. Once the battle begins, you can simply sit back and watch the carnage unfold. If you intervene, it's not to do much more than point a group of attackers at a new target.

Both summons and your characters grow more powerful as they win battles and gain experience. Summons eventually progress through experience "Ranks," evolving into more powerful versions of themselves. Characters acquire better equipment by synthesizing it in the game's alchemy system.

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings' simple dungeons and tactical battle style suggest a game where progression is relatively linear and focused largely on winning particular battles. The elaborate cut scenes suggest a game rich in story, and it is known that new characters eventually join the party. For E3's purposes, though, familiar faces like Fran and Balthier are certainly more eye-catching. After its E3 debut, Revenant Wings is definitely a game Square Enix and RPG fans are going to want to keep an eye on this fall.

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