Final? No. Fantasy? Yep. Revenant? Perhaps…
The word ‘revenant’ means ‘one who returns’ (I had to look it up), so I suppose you could say that Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is the long-running franchise’s revenant to the handheld. Then again, we all know what the word ‘final’ means, and since when has any game in the dozens of sequels, spin-offs, and side adventures in the Final Fantasy universe ever been the last of anything?
[image1]Regardless of Square Enix’s adherence to the explicit definitions of English words, their latest offering for the handheld is an addition worthy of the well-established name. In Revenant Wings, you are cast in the role of Vaan, the lovable leader of a ragtag band of sky pirates seeking fortune and adventure. After chancing upon an ancient skyship, you and your merry band of feisty buccaneers stumble upon the lost sky continent of Lemures, whose people, the winged Aegyl, find themselves beset on all sides by sky pirates that are not nearly so kind and good-hearted as you and your buddies are. Both they and your long-time nemesis, the Judge of Wings, are ruffling the Aegyls’ feathers, because they’re searching for auracite. It is a rare, magical kind of crystal that gives its bearer control over the belligerent yet indispensable little minions known as espers, who are basically foot soldiers you can use to fight your enemies.
Your team of adventurers is hunting for these powerful crystals as well, though of course, you’re using them for good instead of evil. Every chunk you get your hands on allows you to use the Ring of Pacts, a nice selection tool that allows you to choose which espers you would like to have in your menagerie. You’ll want to build a nice, balanced team, because you never know who you’ll be fighting against next.
The Revenant Wings combat system is based on the time-honored system of rock, paper, and scissors. Units come in three types: ranged creatures are no match for stalwart melee creatures, who stand no chance against the death-from-above flying creatures, who in turn are easily picked off by deadeye ranged creatures. It’s like the circle of death. To further complicate the mix, most creatures are aligned with one of the four elements – earth, fire, water, or lightning – and are particularly strong or weak against other elements. Fortunately, you have a chance to pick your team before each battle begins, so you can stack the deck in your favor.
[image2]The ro-sham-bo system works well – almost too well. Rarely is a battle so challenging that you are in danger of actually losing. Unlike most Final Fantasy games, Revenant Wings is not turn-based but real-time. In the heat of the battle, it’s easy to forget which espers are your melee units, or if fire beats water or vice versa. Fortunately, the blunt-hammer approach of simply siccing all of your guys on one poor enemy at a time seems to work equally well. The opponent AI is not particularly bright and tends to fall for even the simplest of tactical strategies.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game if you couldn’t collect raw materials and forge them into highly specialized weaponry. Revenant Wings is no exception, as your earnest colleague and crass capitalist Tomaj has thoughtfully set up a number of shops on your ship to part you from your gil. Generally, however, the weapons and accessories you can forge are at best equal to the loot you find during missions, so there’s not much point in building weaponry other than to sell it for cash. But then if you have a lot of cash, there’s little to spend it on.
On the brighter side, the cinematics in this game are incredible. Fluid, panoramic camera shots pan seamlessly across both screens and make you wonder why other DS games have to look so crappy. The in-game graphics aren’t quite as good, but that’s to be expected. Revenant Wings features the same wide-eyed, brightly-colored, third-grader-looking sprites we’ve come to expect from the small screen. The characters and shaded backgrounds are well-drawn, though the game has the unfortunate tendency to zoom in on areas of the screen during cutscenes – enough to turn that beautiful background into a pixilated mess.
[image3]The music is everything you would expect from a Final Fantasy title, though whether or not that’s a good thing is questionable. The dialogue is well-written (or well-translated, I suppose), enough so that it’s easy to follow the plot, and the characters remain distinct and engaging. There’s no voice acting, and the sound does its job in letting you know what’s going on, but never really goes beyond that.
While the difficulty of Revenant Wings could be dialed up a notch or two for experienced gamers, it’s a fun, great-looking game that will keep you occupied for fifteen to twenty hours. In fact, there’s a picture of Revenant Wings next to “quality entertainment” in the dictionary. No, seriously. You can look it up. And while you’re at it, check to see if they’ve added in the word “gullible” yet.