Hands on with Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings

Teenager touching condoned in new RPG

Hands on with Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings

Square Enix has been snuggling up with PSP for some time now, but it isn't without love for Nintendo's dual screen wonder. Indeed, Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings marks the beginning of a bevy of DS-exclusive titles from the publisher. As an official side-story to Final Fantasy XII released on PlayStation 2, the game builds on the gorgeous fantasy world of its console big brother with touchscreen controls and action-oriented gameplay.

Revenant Wings follows one year after the events of FFXII, in which teen Vaan has been exploring Ivalice with his friend Penelo. Through the course of their journeys, the duo stumble onto the hidden sky continent of Lemures, home to a race of winged creatures called the Aegyl. They soon learn sky pirates have begun raiding the once-protected land, prompting Vaan to defend the Aegyl by battling back marauders.

Our hands-on time with Revenant Wings commenced from the game's opening sequence. A gorgeous pre-rendered cut-scene detailed Vaan's discovery of the Aegyl race and set the stage for the playable prologue. Taking control of Vaan and Penelo in the Glabados Ruins – dilapidated stoneworks housing all manner of beasts – the mission required locating Vaan's friends, Balthier and Fran.

With both traditional role-playing elements and real-time strategy controls, Revenant Wings proved to be an interesting play. It completely distinguishes itself from FFXII in terms of its gameplay since you take a more tactical approach to combat and position characters as you would in a real-time strategy game. You'll still develop your characters through experience, but it possesses a distinctly strategic feel.

Using the stylus, you can select characters by touching them directly or simply draw a box around several characters to control them all at once. You can also use tabs at the top of the touch screen to select individual units on the map.

Once Vaan and Penelo were selected, it was simply a matter of touching the map to move them or targeting an enemy to order them into battle. Combat occurs automatically once you tap a victim, although you can select special attacks, spells, and summons by means of a battle menu. We had no problems wiping out a group of pink slimes inhabiting the ruins with a quick-targeted tap.

Upon meeting up with Balthier and Fran, the mission continued into a new area of the ruins. Subsequent exploration of the monster-infested space yielded the discovery of the esper Ifrit and, consequently, a boss fight.

Just throwing units at a boss won't work, as we discovered when battling Ifrit – tactically applying characters' abilities to boss battles is crucial to the game. In the case of our confrontation with Ifrit, for instance, sending in Vaan and Balthier to hack away the esper while Penelo stood back as a healer and Fran with long range attacks worked well.

Completing missions rewards you with experience points, which naturally apply to raising character levels and opening up new abilities. All of the magic spells and espers featured in Final Fantasy XII are here, including a few additions unique to Revenant Wings. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try out the more advanced battle tactics since the demo level was set so early in the game.

Our hands-on with Revenant Wings certainly has us looking forward to its autumn release – its blend of real-time strategy and role-playing elements looks like working well on Nintendo DS. Even better, it's refreshing to see Square Enix aiming for something a little different with this game, rather than slapping together a miniaturized version of Final Fantasy XII featuring touch controls.