Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings Preview - 03/11/2007

When Square-Enix announced that a sequel for Final Fantasy XII would appear on the DS, many people wondered whether the hardware could cope. After the masterpiece that its predecessor was, we take a look if Revenant Wings can live up to expectations.

Out of all of the franchises in gaming, Final Fantasy has always been the one that spans the most genres. Even so, a Real Time Strategy game has never been made for the series, and RW is attempting to rectify this. It looks, and also feels, like a Tactics title, but is still a major departure from the norm. The graphics are bright and vibrant, feeling reminiscent of Tactics back on the PS1. The character models are sprite-like, nearly crawling out of the screen with cuteness. Even with the limitations of the hardware, they are still bursting with personality and energy. They are also instantly recognisable, even in their sprite form. Vaan looks just like he did in the PS2 game, but just shrunk down to miniature size.

Talking of recurring characters, the story follows straight on from FFXII. It has been a year since their last adventure, and sky pirates Vaan and Penelo are off to visit their old friends Balthier and Fran. They eventually get caught up in a whirlwind of an adventure, meeting old faces and new ones throughout. The game’s story seems to be a good one, even if it will never reach the heights of its predecessor’s. By having a simple and clear story, Square-Enix is hoping to attract non FF players to the game, and not get lost in overcomplicated prose. Still, it will be nice to revisit Ivalice, and get to know its charismatic denizens all over again.

The gameplay is very similar to other RTS’s but features the gambit system found in the PS2 game. This system allowed for players to ‘program’ their party before battle, and tell them what to do in certain situations. It was received well, and the inclusion of it in an RTS is a good decision. This will allow for even more customisation when it comes to your party’s actions. Another feature that has made its way across to the handheld is the Licence system. This is where the player has to gain licences to use certain abilities, spells, weapons and other skills, before they can use them. It felt like a hindrance, and having the same grid for everyone was annoying. The Licence Ring found in RW though, is completely different, allowing the player to unlock new monsters rather than abilities. This seems interesting, and will make you want to gain more experience to in turn gather new troops. These, along with other revisions from the previous title, show that the game is trying to reinvigorate the RTS genre. And it’s throwing in a lot of FF along with it.

The entire game is controlled with the touch-screen, which makes sense in this genre. It seems as if this allows the player to have complete control over their party, and feel connected to them at all times. There have been complaints about the accuracy of the stylus, when picking out troops, and this seems worrying if the game is as fast-paced as the creators say it is. Allies can be selected by drawing a rectangle around them, and the same for targeting enemies. This worked all right in FFIII, though feeling a tad tacked on, while here it feels like it’s a lot more relevant.

There are three main classes in the game, melee, ranged, and airborne. These are included in a basic ‘rock paper scissors’ style weakness feature, where the different classes oppose each other. This seems pretty basic, and may become tiresome throughout the game. Hopefully this is just the basis of a more complicated structure, allowing for a lot more depth. The characters can also use magic, and other class specific abilities, which will be accompanied by a series of standard flashy action sequences. These look great on the DS’s small screen, and will be right at home in the FF world.

The game also features FMV’s to accompany the action. These are just as good, if not better than the FFIII one (notice how I said one). There is no lack of production values here, with sequences for nearly all of the Espers looking as amazing as they can be. The sound will also be well done, with instantly recognisable tunes from FFXII, coming back for an encore. If the trailers are what the game will sound like, prepare for a PS2 sounding DS.

After the marvellous XII, Revenant Wings has a lot to live up to. Hopefully the game can deliver on its hopes of being a hugely accessible RTS that will appeal to a mass audience. The game is still scheduled for a Q1 2008 release, so be ready to take the trip back to Ivalice in the New Year.

- Sam Atkins



Square Enix
Square Enix