From Penelo’s diary: It was over before it started. We’d only just began to spread our wings, and they were taken away. Vaan shrugged it off. He said he’d buy a new airship, and he never even talked about the treasure he’d found. It was as though our adventures were only dreams, dreams that faded day by day under brilliant Rabanastre skies. We went back to the quiet lives we’d always led, like nothing had ever happened. But it wasn’t to last...
Revenant Wings is something I thought I would never see working in practice. It’s a real-time strategy game running on the Nintendo DS. And it’s mostly controlled using touch. Revenant Wings is also a spin-off from the main series, but with most of the characters returning from Final Fantasy XII to discover a new area inside the world of Ivalice.
The game is mostly played within the bottom screen, with the top screen mainly reserved for the tactical map. They can be quickly switched over to make it possible to scroll the camera directly to a particular location with a swift tap on the map. Because of the available screen real estate however, Revenant Wings does not play like your typical RTS. There are no bases to set up, and no resources to gather for building up new units.
Each mission allows you to choose up to five playable characters and by the end of the game, the available character roster gets longer. Preparing for missions also calls for choosing your Yarhi. These are creatures that the main characters summon to fight beside them. Most missions are littered with summoning gates. As you might have guessed these gates are used to summon more Yarhi. Your adversaries can do the same, so capturing gates becomes essential for the ultimate victory.
Scions are a stronger type of Yarhi which may end up giving you an edge over your opponents. The Ring of Pacts is a system which allows you to add new Yarhi and Scions to your summoning catalogue. Again by playing different missions, you can gather more points to be spent on Ring of Pacts creatures.
Mission progression is mostly linear, with a new location or two becoming available after you complete a previous mission. You can also return to earlier locations to replay the same maps with a different twist from the main campaign. Apart from bringing some variation in gameplay, it also helps you to gather experience points. These can also be obtained in special missions organised by a character named Tomaj. Special missions also allow you to unearth new scions. There is also an element of crafting stronger weapons so gathering raw materials from side-quests becomes important.
As for choosing which characters and Yarhi to choose for any particular level, it depends on your opponent’s setup. There are three character types; melee, ranged and flying and each one has an advantage and a disadvantage over another in rock-paper-scissors fashion.
To make the game flow faster, the main characters also have a secondary ability which can be triggered automatically. Towards the end of the game, your heroes will also learn to use quickenings after reaching a certain level. These quickenings build up power as the character fights along, and can be used when their power bar is at full level. One of these powers unleashes a massive elemental attack on a group of enemies for example.
As the game progresses, you will discover that Revenant Wings is a story about sadness. There's no truly evil bad guys here, only characters who have caused pain and sorrow through their actions. Maybe even without realising it. Ultimately, however, this tiny game running inside a tiny screen is also a story about friendship.
All in all, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings is a solid game that will surely please the strategy game enthusiast. Its innovative real-time gameplay, complemented by a thrilling story and visually-pleasing cutscenes bring an experience that should not be missed. I won’t go as far as to say that it’s the best game that the tiny console can offer or that it’s a game for the masses. However, it manages to do enough to keep the world of Ivalice alive and must be applauded for not being afraid to try new ideas.