By Rolando . November 8, 2007 . 3:11pm
The first Final Fantasy Tactics Advance received a lukewarm reception among fans; some appreciated the game's depth with its job system and customization as well as the whole clan concept, others disliked the game's lack of a deep story like Final Fantasy Tactics and detested its lack of a consistent job system. It's true that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance never had a deep story, but its gameplay (especially its job system and clan missions) more than made up for the lack of a story about war, betrayal, and honor. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2: The Sealed Grimoire, the next entry in the Tactics Advance series, manages to rectify the many issues fans complained about in the original game while creating new complications of its own. If you're expecting A2 to have a deep story, then you'll be sad to know it completely lacks one. However, there is a difference between the story of both; the Ivalice Luso enters, after being sent to clean the library for misbehaving in class, happens to be the real Ivalice where Vaan and Panelo live.
The map creation feature of FFTA no longer has a place in FFTA2. Instead, locations are all viewable on the map with the map indicating different regions of Ivalice you are allowed to travel to. One major factor of FFTA2 that will play a huge factor in mission availability is time. Unlike the previous FFTA where missions remained in the pub for a good long while, missions in FFTA2 have a limited time of availability attached to them, forcing you to be a little more conscious about how you manage your time in the game. Some of these missions include special missions that net you items necessary to summon Espers. The auctioning feature of FFTA2 also allows you special access to hidden areas throughout the world of Ivalice by bidding on them with special tokens found throughout many of the clan's actual missions.
One of the many changes that I'm sure everyone wants to know about is the Law system and whether or not its as annoying as the original. In Tactics Advance, a Judge would set a law that must be followed throughout the course of battle (unless you used an Anti-Law Card to nullify the Law), and anyone who broke the Law would receive a penalty two times then sent to jail if broke a third time. In A2, however, that idea has been thrown out the window in place of a reward system. A Judge would still set a Law that must be followed throughout the flow of battle; but unlike the original where you had to follow the Law, A2's Laws can be broken without receiving a penalty. If you manage to follow the Law get finish the battle, though, the Judge rewards you with some nifty equipment at the end. However, there is a personal consequence that comes with breaking the Law. If a Law is broken at any point in battle, not only is everyone fair game to use what that Law prohibited but you also won't be able to revive any of your fallen comrades in battle and allow them to gain EXP. When your comrades are defeated and the Law is broken, they will be sent to a prison cell on top of the screen and will remain there until the battle is over. Some of the game's Laws are fairly basic and are easy to follow (like "No Ice Magic", "Don't Attack a Viera", "No Ranged Attacks"), but it's not until you get further in the game when the Laws become a bit harder to follow (like "No Damage Over 100HP", "No More Than One Move Per Turn", "HP Cannot Drop Below 200"). These Laws, plus the new option of occasional invisible traps appearing on the field without notice, add a new element of strategy to those who want to abide by the rules and earn the nice bonuses at the end of battle.
Item synthesis, originally featured in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, now makes it return to FFTA2's shops by giving you the ability to make use of materials you found in treasures, acquired from defeating enemies, or completed missions and synthesizing them into new equipment for your clan. Each item you find varies in rank (D-C-B-A-S) and is vital when creating new equipment as its the S ranked items that will surely give you the rare and most powerful equipment the game can offer. The only major problem with this feature is, unlike Revenant Wings, the item you created will not immediately enter your inventory. Instead, you have to purchase it at the shop, and the higher ranked materials you use to create better equipment, the more money you'll end up spending. It's nothing too big to worry about, though, as prices will decrease as your Clan Rank is higher.
Other new features worth notice are team dispatch missions and a new way to earn EXP. When taking up a mission in the original Tactics Advance, you and your clan had to go to the area in question to complete in the mission. In A2, however, most missions feature a new option where you can send out a team of clan members to take care of the mission in question, allowing your main force to take on other missions. Clan members aren't recruited the same way they were in the original. In A2, potential clan recruits are now found on the map with a ? appearing in certain spots for you to go to and recruit them. Also, characters no longer earn EXP in traditional SRPG fashion where they'd have to deal damage or defeat an enemy to earn it. In A2, all participating members in battle receive EXP with the MVPs (obviously the ones who've dealt the most damage and defeated the most enemies) receiving nice EXP bonuses. Another new feature to A2 is the inclusion of Clan Abilities, abilities that you equip at the beginning of a battle that provide all participating members in battle with nice enhancements. Things like Libra (which allows you to see the hidden traps in battle and can only be obtained by having the FFTA cartridge in the GBA port), EXP Up, Speed Up, Power Up, and even race specific power ups like Hume Boost, Viera Boost, and Bangaa Boost can be equipped to spice up your battles a little more and make your team a lot more powerful, giving you a nice incentive in battle.
Removed from FFTA2 is what made the original FFTA fun playing with a friend; co-op missions and friend battles. What probably hurts FFTA2 a little is the exclusion of anything Wi-Fi related to the game like WiFi battle, a feature Luminous Arc had and showed can be done on the DS. The only real action that happens between two friends who own a copy of the game want to do something WiFi related is receiving Clan Memos from a character and then taking those memos to the airport in the main game and paying roughly 2000gil to receive very nice items, and repeating this action over and over can really make you powerful very early in the game since a majority of the items you find are powerful. FFTA2 could have definitely benefited from online battles and co-op missions, giving it tons of replayability as the original and the ability to test your skills against fellow gamers from around the nation.
Regardless, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is the definitive game of the FFTA subseries, containing a lot more missions (400 in total which include battle and clan battle missions, item specific missions, job specific missions, and new dating missions), newer jobs (Chocobo Knight!, for example) and jobs that don't suffer from the carbon copy syndrome as the previous one, Clan Trials that help improve your Clan Abilities and increase your Clan Rank, a Normal Mode and Hard Mode to choose from, most classes now having their own unique ability, and no stylus interface at all. While some of the new Laws are annoying and may be hard to follow, there's no denying how they all add a new degree of strategy to a battle that, depending on how good you are, may prove to be a worthy challenge. The music itself is nothing to marvel at since the majority of the game's tracks are remixes of songs found in both FFTA and FFXII. However, anyone who is both a fan of deep gameplay structure and a fan of the original FFTA and wished for some of its issues to be polished will find comfort in knowing that FFTA2 will be as time consuming as the original. It may not feature a story of biblical proportions, but the gameplay itself is more than enough recompense.