Platform: Nintendo DS
Prepare to be confused, Final Fantasy fans. In a way, Revenant Wings is a sequel to last year's Final Fantasy XII. It features the same game world, the same characters and - to some extent - the same visual style, not to mention airships, sky pirates, and espers. It even has that disturbingly saucy rabbit-eared woman that I know some of you out there will have checked out at least once before wondering whether you might need urgent psychiatric work. Barring the obvious fact that Revenant Wings is hosted on the comparatively feeble DS, these things might lead you to expect more of the stuff you loved in last year's PS2 epic. You'd be wrong. While it has many RPG trappings, the new FFXII is more of a strategy game. In fact, just to confuse you further, it's not even a strategy game in the established mould of Final Fantasy Tactics, because here the action isn't turn-based but real-time. Is the world ready for something as strange as a Final Fantasy RTS/RPG hybrid on the DS? Well, Square Enix has clearly put a lot of time and effort into making its game ready for the world.
For a start, it kicks off with two familiar faces - Vaan and Penelo - living the high life as sky pirates in the aftermath of Final Fantasy XII. Joined for the prologue by pirate chums Fran and Balthier, they're soon grounded by the loss of their airship. Opportunity soon comes knocking, however, as a mysterious derelict airship touches down in the city of Rabanastre. More by luck than judgement, Vaan, Penelo and a gaggle of their street-urchin mates end up on an unknown continent floating high in the sky above Ivalice, where the Aegyl - a race of winged humanoids - are under assault from a less principled breed of sky pirate and an armoured Judge with sinister intentions. It's up to our gang to ensure that the Aegyl people survive and that those dark plans never reach fruition.
What that means, in practical terms, is a small amount of exploration and an awful lot of combat - and it's in the latter that the differences between Revenant Wings and FFXII really kick in. You see, Revenant Wings does a lot to remind you of its illustrious forebear. While the graphics combine 2D sprites, 3D backgrounds and illustrated close-ups during dialogue scenes, the characters are recognisably stylised versions of the FFXII originals, and the scenery follows along the same grand Mediterranean/Moorish lines we saw before. The presentation carries on in the same styles of chapter titles and typefaces, and the cut-scenes - amongst the best I've ever seen on the DS - are a chip off the same old block. Even the terminology is the same. The summoned creatures, spirits and monsters that effectively functioned as special attacks in FFXII are still known as espers, and many of them are vaguely recognisable from their appearance in the PS2 game. You can still program characters with AI routines known as gambits - though these work in a much less sophisticated way than they did in FFXII.