Developer: Square Enix Holdings, Think & Feel
Publishers: Square Enix Holdings
Genre: Tactical RPG
Price: Try your luck
Full disclosure: I’m not the biggest fan of tactics games. I know that there are many tactics games out there that have amazing stories woven into them, but, even so, I tend to find the gameplay repetitive after awhile.
That said, I rushed out to get Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings the day it released. Final Fantasy XII isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I was excited to read what I could about the game’s plot and couldn’t wait to see what the otherwise dull Vaan would become in the next chapter of his story. To my great surprise, Revenant Wings was not only a worthy addition to FFXII‘s narrative, but could also easily stand alone as its own story.
From a storytelling perspective, Revenant Wings is pretty impressive. FFXII‘s plot is complicated and works in shades of gray. The characters don’t stand apart from the rest of the FF heroes over the years, with exception to Balthier, but they are hardly intolerable. FFXII: RW takes some of the young, dull, oblivious characters from the previous game and builds them up into lively, vibrant heroes. Sometimes, a good story can grab the attention of even the most hesitant of gamers–and that was certainly the case with me.
One of the main plot points of the game revolves around a god, Feolthanos, who robs the anima from its own people, leaving them in an emotionless state. This god also has ties to the nature of the Espers and their origins, which can be a little dark with some pagan undertones.
It’s exceedingly mild. You see sprites of characters jabbing weapons at each other, but there’s no blood, no gore, and no mauling of any sort.
There is none to note.
While we’re grabbing for the low-hanging fruit, I do need to point to some of the less-modestly-dressed characters. Fran returns in her rather revealing outfit and even Penelo, who was a fan of tacky jumpsuits in the last game, has decided to go bare midriff in this installment. Nothing over the top is seen, but it may raise eyebrows.
There is none to mention.
Compared to Revenant Wings, the themes in the original FFXII are far more complicated and tend to lean into the “shades of grey” philosophy. Of course, the backbone of FFXII is a political struggle that spans several nations and classes of people. FF12: RW, however, is a little more straightforward in that regard.
While our leading protagonist, Vaan, is now a rookie sky pirate, his actions and motivations are never malicious. Regardless of his new position as a pirate, Vaan has retained his boyish optimism and the lessons that he learned through the course of FFXII. Rather than living through spite and revenge, Vaan has become a compassionate young man with a free spirit and firm resolve to defend those he loves. His band of pirates, ragtag though they are, seeks to make themselves wealthy off of treasure-hunting rather than plundering. It’s a pretty typical motivation, but when you consider who and what his crew is comprised of–poor street orphans–it’s a noble ambition. Even little Kytes, a character who appeared for a total of maybe ten minutes in FFXII, makes a return as a notable member of Vaan’s crew. He’s put his money where his mouth is and pulled his friends from the gutters into a life where they can make an honest living.
Aside from that, Vaan puts his personal ambitions aside once he encounters Llyud, an Aegyl whose entire race has found themselves the victims of constant pillaging by sky pirates. Rather than joining his fellow sky pirates, Vaan sides with Llyud and the Aegyls in order to drive off other invading sky pirates and restore the Aegyl’s way of life. He has nothing to gain in assisting the winged race. In fact, he has everything to lose. Putting himself on the wrong side of other pirates is a sure way to put a target on himself and his friends, but it’s a risk Vaan is willing to take.
Time and again, Vaan steps forward to defend his friends and even perfect strangers. He’s truly lifted himself out of a bad situation by his bootstraps and soldiers on, not only as a means to improve his own life and chase after his lifelong dream, but also in a way that’s honorable and benefits those around him.
Following closely on the heels of Final Fantasy XII, Revenant Wings continues the story of Vaan, an orphan of the recent civil war, who has begun down the road of becoming a sky pirate. (This is actually the second of three canon games Vaan appears in, the final being Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.) Some time has passed, and Vaan has become a rookie sky pirate with a crew comprised mostly of fellow war orphans and childhood friends. He’s a friendly rival to Balthier, a companion from the previous game, but not nearly as competent yet. A lot of the characters from the first game return, if only briefly, but both Balthier and Fran join up with Vaan eventually and become active unit leaders.
The heart of the plot revolves around the “Legendary Floating Island” of Lemurés, the sky pirates pillaging Lemurés for its treasures, and the winged beings known as Aegyls who’ve found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Having lived completely isolated from the rest of the world, the Aegyls’ entire knowledge of the outside comes from their less-than-civilized interactions with the sky pirates. The story begins to unravel from there, delving into the reason behind the near-emotionless state of the Aegyls, the god that oversees them, and the nature of the Espers. All the while, Vaan comes into constant contact with other sky pirates and headhunters who aren’t exactly thrilled the boy is interfering with their affairs.
While it seems a little complicated, the story is actually a pretty straightforward tale of a young man trying to forge his own path in the world. I won’t say it’s the strongest story in the Final Fantasy series, and it’s nowhere near as complicated or philosophical as its prequel, but Revenant Wings is a solid enough plot with a likable cast of characters. The ending, especially upon a perfect 100%, is completely worth it.
The gameplay is much more straightforward than Final Fantasy XII‘s. Like most tactics games, you are given an area to battle in and a few units to manage against the enemy’s units. Each of your units has their own set of attributes. For example, Llyud is a flying-type unit with no nature, no weakness, and no resistances. While he has no advantage against an enemy with an elemental weakness, he also has no weakness to elements himself and can pose a pretty strong offensive front in a pinch. He also travels faster because he’s able to fly without having obstacles on the field slow him. Every type and nature can be used to the advantage of the player if they are able to properly match units against their opponents.
While it’s simplified to a massive degree, the gambits have also returned to FFXII: RW. Gambits can be assigned to a character and arranged by importance on the field so your units will manage themselves automatically. In a tactics game, it can become extremely difficult to manage several units when the battle begins to spread them out. For example, Penelo is a great healer. If she is set to prioritize healing over attacking, she can follow an ally, healing them when they take damage.
Every character also has magics and abilities that can be utilized on the field. These magics can include elemental attacks, healing, or status cures. These traits carry over to Espers and monsters the crew can ally with throughout the course of the game. Carbuncles, for example, are healing units that will use curing spells on ally units when they take damage. Overall, the key to victory is to build a well-balanced army with a diverse group of units. The enemy spread will give you information, such as a foe’s level, elements, and weaknesses.
Revenant Wings includes a main campaign, as well as dozens of side campaigns that you can take on to gather items, level up your units, and work towards the coveted 100% completion ending. Grinding, as in the previous game, is almost necessary to progress, as the main story alone will not give you the experience needed to stand much of a chance against enemies. The late game can be a little difficult in this regard. Grinding is a little more arduous between all the micro-managing of your troops and having to rotate through units to make sure everyone is leveled up for the late game. It’s a small complaint, but, at times, the grinding feels like unnecessary padding.
Overall, if you like RPGs, tactics games, or both, there’s something to enjoy. Revenant Wings adds a little more RPG spice to the typical tactics formula, so it’s a nice change of pace for the genre
Visually, FFXII: RW is pretty impressive. Granted, the in-game sprites and environments aren’t anything special, but they’re up to the standards of games released for the DS era, and they still hold up well today. The worst of the graphics is odd pixelation when the screen zooms in during a magical attack, but it’s not distracting enough to break focus from the game. The cutscenes, however few and far between, are impressive for the Nintendo DS. The classic characters have been reenvisioned as a little more cartoony but I actually prefer these designs over those in FFXII because they seem to have a little more personality.
As far as the audio goes, there’s little new material. A lot of the songs are remixed versions of the original FFXII soundtrack, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was a little disappointed the game didn’t come with a completely original soundtrack. There’s also no voice acting, which suits the feel of the game just fine.
All together, Revenant Wings is very enjoyable, especially in the handheld format. It’s easy to pick up, step away from, and come back to. The story is strong, even if it’s simplified from its predecessor. The graphics have aged well, and the characters have grown up quite a lot. Vaan, who was kind of a joke for a lead, has grown into his role and taken on a lot of personality. The rest of the cast are enjoyable and the plight of the Aegyls tugs at the heartstrings, especially in regards to Llyud. Any fan of Final Fantasy will find something to enjoy about Revenant Wings, and any newcomer can step into the game easily, as the story stands apart from its source material.
The Bottom Line
Whether you like tactic games or not, if you're a fan of Final Fantasy or RPGs there's a lot to enjoy in Revenant Wings. The characters from Final Fantasy XII return, continuing the wonderful narrative and expanding upon the world and the lore of their world. The story is fantastic, thought-provoking, and tugs at the heart strings. Overall, it's a worthy addition to the world of Final Fantasy XII and the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole.