Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings Review

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the latest spin-off title of a traditional Final Fantasy game, thanks to Square-Enix’s initiative to milk every penny they can out their franchise. Unlike previous games like Dirge of Cerberus, Revenant Wings is actually good and will appeal to the hardcore Final Fantasy fans with its light hearted narrative, and pseudo old-school graphic style. Fans will have to accept the weird RPG/RTS hybrid that director Motomu Toriyama has injected into the game, though.

The story of Revenant Wings picks up after the events of FFXII, and finds Vaan along with Penelo, Balthier, and Fran continuing their adventures as sky pirates. After a quick series of mishaps, thievery, and lucky breaks Vaan finds himself in possession of an ancient airship which is tied directly to a hidden continent now revealed thanks to the destruction of the Suncrest in FFXII. Where in FXII there was no specific main character, Revenant Wings is strictly Vaan’s story. This is his adventure, and while not as serious as FFXII, it still has epic plot threads which are very Final Fantasy in nature. Unlike FFX-2 which was aloof and didn’t feel connected to FFX, the narrative in Revenant Wings is solid, stays true to its FFXII roots, and is easily the best part of the game.

Complementing the easy going narrative are the old-school graphics. Characters are drawn in a cross between FFVI and FFIX which both looks great and horrible at the same time depending on how far away the camera is placed. From afar the sprites look great and the magical attacks performed are impressive for the DS hardware. But during cutscenes any magnification on Vaan and crew will make gamers cringe. The same can be said for the environments which are beautiful, but don’t feel like they were given enough attention.

The environments are just too bland. There are no special touches to make them feel like they are part of a Final Fantasy game; fire caves look like fire caves, jungles look like jungles. Any Final Fantasy fan can tell you there is a difference between a fire cave and a Final Fantasy fire cave. Some extra time could have been spent making this hidden ancient continent feel like a hidden ancient continent.

Luckily, the environments won’t be what the gamer concentrates on since the gameplay in Revenant Wings requires your full attention. Revenant Wings gameplay is a watered down RPG/RTS combo best described as Warcraft 3 Lite. Gamers will command a party of hero units, all of which have several subordinate units under their command. Each hero unit in the party has a set of abilities special to them as well as a fighting class. Vaan is all about dishing out melee damage and stealing buffs from enemies, while his close friend Kytes focuses solely on Black magic and ranged attacks. This also applies to the subordinate units called Espers.

Espers can fit into any one of six elemental categories plus be a melee, ranged, or flying fighting class like the hero units. This plays into the simple rock, paper, scissors mechanic Revenant Wings uses. Melee should be used against ranged, ranged does more damage to flying, and flying is more effective against melee. In order to win battles, gamers have to match up the best hero and Espers against appropriate monsters to take advantage of weaknesses, and strengths in both elemental categories and fighting class. On paper it sounds complicated, but in practice it isn’t.

Battles can be won with the simple strategy of sending in all the units at once, and letting the strength of numbers win out over careful planning. The strengths and weaknesses do help, and are apparent in battles, but unless one makes a terrible tactical decision or has fewer units then the enemies, victory is almost assured. Hero units can also be programmed to use a single gambit repeatedly, but not under certain conditions. It feels limited when one remembers the wonderfully complex Gambit system in FFXII. Don’t expect Penelo to use Curaga when the party is low on HP, and then switch to Esunaga when a nasty status effect is cast. Gamers will have to pull this off manually.

The RTS elements in Revenant Wings are almost insignificant compared to typical RTS games. Resource management, micromanaging units, and just about every typical gameplay element we expect in an RTS is either removed, or severely simplified in Revenant Wings. Units are summoned to the battlefield via portals the gamer has to capture — this is the extent of resources in the game. Micromanaging units is not advisable since the stylus is not specific or quick enough. Like the RPG elements, the best strategy is to send in the whole army and pick up the pieces afterwards.

With all these problems one would think Revenant Wings is a bother to play. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Revenant Wings is special in its simplicity and as a result the gaming experience is very relaxing. The typical intense RTS is replaced by a laid back good time which requires just minimal planning to get the best results. Despite the fact that the underlying mechanics don’t work as well as they could the end result of victory is still satisfying despite the game’s problems. There is something to be said for a game that all one wants to do after they put it down is to pick it up again just to experience one more battle to advance the story.

One final aspect of Revenant Wings worth mentioning is the music. Tracks have been taken straight from FFXII and translate surprisingly well onto the DS. Being downgraded in quality may annoy some, but for longtime Final Fantasy fans, hearing the FFXII tracks resemble the older scores of Final Fantasy games is actually quite enjoyable.

So is Revenant Wings worth the purchase? If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, especially FFXII, then it’s a must-have. The story alone is worth the price of entry. Those looking for a more lighthearted Final Fantasy adventure will be pleased with what Revenant Wings offers. It gives a glimpse at what Final Fantasy XII would have been if Square had stuck with the traditional FF narrative structure and attitude instead of the mature route they went. Yes, the RPG/RTS gameplay hybrid is odd and not fully realized, and the graphics aren’t as special as they could be, but they aren’t bad enough that they distract from the strengths of Revenant Wings. Take the game for what it is and you’ll be happily satisfied.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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