Nov 19, 2012

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Ragnarok Tactics Review

While the release of the Vita signaled the coming end of the PSP, all is not dim as titles are still released for Sony’s first handheld console. One such release is Aksys Game’s Ragnarok Tactics which is also available for the Vita as a downloadable title. This turn-based strategy RPG might prove that the PSP can still handle great titles.

Ragnarok Tactics follows the story of two empires on the verge of war. While one seems to be content in upholding peace between the two nations, the prince of the other is quick to attack. If you’re new to the Ragnarok series as I am, you don’t need to worry about missing out on anything related to the series. There are nods in the form of enemies and unlockable job classes. However, the story is not related to the series.

When the game first begins, you are introduced to three valuable characters who each represent their empire or militia. The animosity between Cynthia  the Branshaldo Priestess, and Yuri, the Aurian Lord Knight, is tense but soon loosens up with the meeting of Lydia, a strong woman who doesn’t see people for their nationality but for their character. When things go south due to the death of Branshaldo’s Emperor, these two newly-made friends become pitted against each other as the threat of war looms overhead.

The basics of Ragnarok Tactic‘s gameplay can be easily compared to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. The order of turns in which your characters and enemies will attack is placed at the bottom of the screen. The menus you use during your character’s turn is easy to navigate. There doesn’t feel like much difference between a main battle or a free battle. Main battles are the ones that progress the story whereas free battles can be used to level up your party. These optional battles reuse the same huge maps as the main ones. The only differences I could see was that you are able to escape from the free battles without penalty and that the main battles offer different ways to complete them. Not all main battles will require you to defeat all the enemies. In some cases, you will need to defeat the leader of the stage or escape to a green-highlighted area on the stage to win.

However, this title does offer some variety in the form of Burst Strikes and Overdrives. Burst Strikes allow up to three characters to rally together and do impressive damage on one to three enemies. Each character’s Burst Strike is full at the beginning of the battle and will cause the characters who use it to postpone their turns afterwards. As it cannot be filled during battle, you will have to plan the usage carefully. Luckily, Overdrives are filled during battle whenever you take a hit or deal damage. With Overdrives, characters are able to use up to four of their skills in rapid succession against an enemy. If you use the right combination of skills, it is possible to pull off an even better one. The skills that you can use in the Overdrive are limited to the skills that you have learned.

There are plenty of job classes available from the beginning of the game. Four which are locked until you have beaten the title for the first time. You have a wide selection of classes that will appeal to most anyone. If you prefer going headfirst into battle, then the Lord Knight or Whitesmith will be for you. Magic wielders can choose between the healing High Priest class or the destructive High Wizard class. You also have the Assassin class that focuses on stealing and inflicting status effects. Players who might want to think outside of the traditional roles will want to check out the Dancer and Clown classes. Each job class has a full set of skills you can learn by leveling it up. You can also unlock cross class skills which are used during your Overdrive if you have learned the right skill(s) to use. This can prove to be a valuable tool during some of the latter battles.

 

I could not get over how gorgeous the character artwork and backgrounds for Ragnarok Tactics are. Crisp and vibrant, you can see all the detail that was put into the battle fields. If one looks close enough, you can see the movement of water and fire in the background during the battles. The character models remind me of the ones you find in the DS versions of the Final Fantasy games which I always thought were cute. Each character class has its own look. Though the story-line characters can’t wear headpieces that alter the appearance of characters slightly, all player-created ones can. These headpieces function not only to boost stats but to give a character some originality.

The animation for skills do seem to be a little long as it feels like you have to wait a few seconds between the character casting the skill and the skill hitting the enemy. I felt that it was odd for a skill such as Bash to have to be ‘cast’ by a character. I also didn’t like how there is no way to turn off the animations. Burst Strikes have an animation sequence as well. However, you can press the Start button to skip it once the animation has loaded.

While the soundtrack for Ragnarok Tactics is one that I fully enjoyed listening to, I did tend to mute my PSP during battles as some of the voices for characters just didn’t click for me. There is no option to mute the characters in favor of the music though you are given the ability to change the voices. This doesn’t really detract from the experience.

Given that you are allowed to choose which main battle/side for each chapter, there is plenty of reasons to replay Ragnarok Tactics. There are multiple endings to uncover depending on the route you take within the game. With the AIZ, or Another If Zapping, feature that is unlocked once you complete your first playthrough, you can go back to any chapter and experience it from a different viewpoint. You get to maintain all skills and experience you gained prior when you do so. Another thing worth noting is that to unlock certain endings, you will have to play through the game a few times to get the right requirements for them.

Expect to put in a good 15 to 20 hours in your first playthrough. This amount could possibly be more depending on how much effort you put into leveling up your characters and if you are aiming to get 100% completion with all the sub-events. Not to mention, that obtaining each possible ending could tack on even more time.

The PSP is no doubt very close to the end of its life cycle over here. Despite that, we still see the occasional title that reminds us that the handheld system can offer something good. GungHo Online and Aksys Games’ Ragnarok Tactics might not be the best game to ever grace the PSP. However, it is a definite purchase for the strategy-RPG fans who haven’t upgraded to the Vita and for those who have.

Ragnarok Tactics
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Developer: GungHo Online
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB Rating: T
MSRP: $29.99


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About Elizabeth Burnette

Traversing the world of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Catch me on Twitter @TheLiztress and on the PS3 at The_Liztress