Grimoire of the Rift features similar game mechanics of the previous game. The player, as before, takes on quests by visiting Pubs in towns in the game world, and pays for information on quests, which range from the usual fights against a group of foes, dealing with a specific target enemy, delivering something, or handling a unique objective such as defending something or someone from harm for a certain amount of time. As before, completing quests requires the player to visit a location or series of locations across the game map to complete them and earns the player Gil, experience (if battles are involved in the quest), ability points for the player's clan members, and Loot. The latter is a new concept in the game and holds two uses, and along with that is also clan points and talents which hold importance as well, the latter for quests. When players select a quest they will have varying time limits to complete them (in-game days), varying ranks of difficulty (1 - 99) and varying fees to pay (i.e. 200 Gil), with quests divided by New (recently announced in Pubs), Recent (quests still currently available) and Other (quests unavailable until after a certain amount of in-game days). Time limits don't apply for quests crucial for the story's progress as these ones can be completed at any time, but cannot be cancelled once selected unlike the others that can be acquired. In addition to picking a quest, the player is given details about it, including type, location(s) and number of clan members at location(s), items required, clan talent(s) needed (i.e. a certain talent of 4 is needed for quest), reward for the quest's completion, and whether a clan members can be dispatched for a quest, with an additional piece of info on job needed for dispatch to be successful. Dispatching, as before depends on levels of clan members and jobs and what abilities they have.
Battles still use an isometric turn-based tactics battle system just like its predecessor, however Square Enix further developed the game's grid-based system, Law system and increased the number of character jobs used in the game. Battles still function as before with Unit Stats (i.e. Attack) affecting which units move first, how far they can move, what damage they can make, how accurate they are, and how much they resist attacks, with the usual array of buffs and debuffs from the Final Fantasy series (such as Blind and Haste), still appearing as before. Some enemies that can be encountered appear in larger sizes, taking up multiple squares on the grid and can be considered "Bosses" in a way. While some battles are initiated if part of a quest, others can occur from random fights encountered on the game map. The "Law" system from before remains a part of the battles, but was given a much needed change; it no longer hinders the player as such, but it still can determine how they act in a battle. When a battle begins, the "Judge" appoints a law on the battle as before (such as not using an element, like fire, against enemies), but if the player breaks it, the judge goes, and while they may fight on, clan members that get KO'ed after the judge goes, cannot be revived. The clan members also lose their Clan Privilege; after clan members are picked, the player may pick a Privilege, a new feature in the game, which is an advantage to help in the fight, from improved damage, to better luck, or empowering a certain race of clan members (i.e. Humes). If the Law is broken, this advantage is lost, but the fight can still be won. Sticking to the law, has more than the benefit of the advantage, as the player will receive a bonus at the end of the fight granting equipment, items and loot.
The game map was also developed further from the predecessor. It removed the placement system of locations onto the world, to a more standard world map that included "area maps". The area maps feature multiple battle locations and a town in some areas, which work similar to its predecessor, except when the player wishes to move to another area they travel to an exit point, transitioning from the current area map to the world map; travelling between area maps instead of locations within them, takes a day of in-game time just as battles and quest events do. Travelling into an area map, the player may encounter hostile monsters roaming a location, new clan members wanting to join (depending on the in-game month of the year), and various random events which can include encounters with rival clans, all at different locations in the area.
As stated above, the jobs clan members can have, were expanded from the first game, with the classic jobs added to by new ones, including exclusive jobs certain characters may acquire/have. Characters still learn abilities as before by equipping job-specific weapons, armour, and items, and clearing battles to net Ability Points, which go towards Mastering the abilities in equipped items, such as a sword or piece of headgear. Once they have mastered the ability, they can use it in their job, without having the item it was learnt from equipped on them, allowing them to work on another ability in the job (switching to another piece of equipment with a new ability to master). Eventually, characters can use any abilities they've mastered when using a different job, for example a black mage who fights as a thief, may equip the ability to use black magic alongside the abilities of the thief; players unlock other jobs for clan members as before by acquiring a set number of abilities in a job, though some jobs are unavailable until a certain quest for the job is completed. When setting abilities to use, a player may set them under certain categories as before; by default, apart from attack, a player has access to the Action abilities of the current job they are in, with a second Action ability they can customise from either any other job, or for items. Players may also use reaction abilities (such as counter) from other jobs though one can only be set, and passive abilities, which can be used with other jobs as well, once mastered (i.e. a white monk can use a shield after mastering the Shield bearer ability), but again only one can be equipped. In this way, a player can tailor-make a clan member to prepare them for whatever fights are in store.
Clan privileges, as stated earlier, are not acquired through normal means, but by taking on Clan Trials, special quests that require Clan Points to pay for them. When a trial is taken on, the player must select a title for the trial, the higher the title, the more challenging the goal of the trial. Completing it bestows benefits when completed, depending on the difficulty of the title; there are five titles for each trial, but only one can be taken at a time. Completion of a title's goal include changes to clan talents (either increasing one and decreasing its counterpart, or improving all), with some trials also decreasing the prices at pubs and shops for quests and items, while certain titles need to be passed to acquire the new privileges.
Grimoire of the Rift is compatible with its predecessor, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. With Advance inserted into Slot 2, a player can begin A2 with the Clan Privilege "Libra" already known. This ability is also available later through a clan trial in the game. The player may also acquire a privilege during the early beginnings of the game depending on how they answer a set of a questions.
Like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the game begins in St. Ivalice, before transferring to Ivalice. Chronologically, Ivalice featured here is not the dream world of the previous game, but the real one of Final Fantasy XII, and is set a few years after it, while St. Ivalice has moved on ten years after Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
There are seven playable races in the game: Humes, Moogles, Viera, Bangaa, and Nu Mou return once again from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, while Seeq, from Final Fantasy XII, are playable for the first time in the game. The Gria are a new race that has been introduced to the world of Ivalice, and are also playable.
The story of Final Fantasy Tactics A2 revolves around the protagonist Luso Clemens, and his exploits in the land of Ivalice. Upon his arrival in Ivalice, Luso is joined by Cid, the leader of Clan Gully.
The plot of the game also involves supporting characters that have been featured in games within the Ivalice universe. Ezel Berbier plays a supporting role, featured in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Vaan, Penelo and Al-Cid Margrace, a noble from Rozarria, are playable characters that are featured in Final Fantasy XII. Even Montblanc, who appeared in both games, makes an appearance as Hurdy's brother. Other characters include antagonists such as Illua and Ewen of a criminal syndicate known as the Khamja, and new characters such as Lezaford and Frimelda.
The three primary characters of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance are also referenced: Montblanc will utter part of Marche Radiuju's name if he is KO'd in battle; Mewt Randell makes a cameo appearance as the school librarian, and Ritz Malheur appears as an illustration at the game's beginning. Khamja being part of the Final Fantasy Tactics story in relation to the characters Marach and Rapha Galthena.
The game focuses on Luso Clemens, a young boy living in St. Ivalice, who is told by his teacher, as school ends, that he will be staying back and helping the school librarian, Mr. Randell, to clean the library as punishment for things such as turning up to class late, which he feels is unfair as summer vacation has started since school has ended. His teacher tells him otherwise and sends him to complete his task. Luso arrive at the library, only to find that Mr. Randell is not there, and so decides to look around, finding an old book. Reading the book, he finds it abruptly becomes blank in the middle. Just before it does, the book states that the reader should name the person who should fill in the blank pages. Luso decides to write in his own name on page after these words, which causes him to be transported into the world of Ivalice by it.
At the time of his arrival, a clan led by a warrior named Cid, is hunting a mark in Targ Wood, an infamous and large Crushatrice called "Klesta". When Luso appears before them, Cid decides to protect him from the mark by having him join the clan. When Luso does so, swearing fealty to the clan in front of the clan's Judge, he is magically given the abilities of a soldier, complete with appropriate clothing. As the clan begins to fight the mark, Luso offers to help, and discovers a knack for his new role.
After the fight, Luso tells Cid at a local pub in Targ Village about what happened, and how he needs to find a way home, as his aunt will no doubt be worried about him. Cid agrees to help him find a way back home to his world, and Luso agrees to help the clan out with quests while seeing the world of Ivalice until he finds a way home; at this point, he gives the clan the new name of Gully. After a bit of work in the woods, he and the clan move to Camoa, where inquiring for information on a wizard to know more about a magic journal recording Luso's actions, they meet Adelle, a thief known by the nickname of "The Cat", who steals loot from the clan before being trapped by them and deciding later to join the clan and helps Luso out when Cid is attacked in Graszton after they move there for more info. While Cid recovers, Luso clears out monsters in Aldanna range and meets with the great mage Lezaford, who tells him that the journal he carries is the key to going back to his world, as, since he wrote his name in the book, the book has focused its power upon him. Luso opts to do so, and after Cid is well, they travel to Moorabella to use an airship, running into sky pirates, Van and Penelo, while dealing with a mark at the docks. Before, this, it can be assumed that Luso acts as the interim leader of Clan Gully while Cid is incapacitated.
Hurdy the bard, a moogle who decides to join the clan as well. Together they face off against Khamja, a mysterious organization that specializes in illegal activities and assassinations. They also meet Lezaford explains that the more Luso experiences and learns on his journey, so shall the books' power grow, meaning that if he grows enough, he will be able to go home. While adventuring Luso comes up against Khamja several times, with one of these times being against Ewen, a Khamja agent who casts a spell to bar judges from battle, making it possible to die and be killed. Luso also meets up with the infamous sky pirates Vaan and Penelo at different points as well: at one point he must save them from headhunters. The tension between Luso and Khamja escalates when Khamja steals back a silver piece of magicite that Luso had found in the Rupie mountains after the fight with Ewen. Luso's clan is then invited to the Delgantua ruins by a quest, only to discover it was posted by Khamja as a trap to catch them.
There Luso meets Illua, a powerful agent in the Khamja ranks. Luso manages to defeat Illua and Ewen (the latter possibly dies as Khamja do not employ judges and he makes no further appearances); however the journal he carries with him glows and Illua recognises it as a grimoire and tries to attack it, only to have the book deflect her blade. The attack however transports the clan to the forbidden land of Jagd Zellea and has them face the hand of a powerful demon. After defeating it Lezaford shows the way back to the main land which is found inside Lezaford's cottage in the Aldanna Range. There Lezaford reveals that the book Luso carried around with him is named the Grimoire of the Rift, and it is named so for opening rifts to other places. This is said to be dangerous as powerful things lay dormant on the other sides of the rifts (such as the Neukhia, one part of which was battled in the Forbidden Land) and can destroy the world if they are allowed to come through the rifts. The book also has the power to close the rifts, which would hinder Illua as she seeks the power that is held beyond the rifts. This is what the secret organization targets Luso for, they see him as a threat to both Illua's schemes and their illegal operations including assassinations and black market operations.
As things progress for Luso, Adelle leaves the clan for an unknown reason. However, she is found by Luso almost immediately afterwards in the Kthili Sands when he takes on a quest. Unfortunately, she is not herself when she is found: her mind is overpowered by Illua's will, rendering her Illua's puppet as a result. She also uses a strange and powerful new attack she never used before when she attacks Luso, who tries to override Illua's mental programming and return Adelle to normal. Luso succeeds in awakening Adelle, and Adelle returns to the clan, learning that she has a unique power (the player can undertake a side quest chain to unlock her exclusive job).
Luso and friends finally confront Illua in Jagd Zellea and defeat her for good, however the confrontation shatters the barrier between places and a rift opens, allowing the Neukhia to come fully through the rift, instead of merely its hand. After he and the clan defeat the monster he finally feels he can go home. Luso bids farewell to Cid, Adelle, Hurdy, and Lezaford before finally returning home through the books new power. Once back, Mr. Randell appears in the library, where those who played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will recognize him as Mewt. After listening to Luso, he believes his tale and decides to let him head home.
In the credit sequence, Luso begins his summer vacation, Cid and the clan continue questing, Adelle continues living the high life but with the clan, and Hurdy becomes successful as a bard.
A screenshot of the Esper Hashmal from Final Fantasy XII was published in Famitsu's April edition. Other Espers featured in Final Fantasy XII have also been revealed in the latest trailers and magazine scans, including Belias, Mateus, and Chaos. The North American and European versions of the game add stylus control, unlike the Japanese version.
The music of Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto and other composers under Basiscape. Several compositions were taken from the scores of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 Original Soundtrack is the soundtrack for Final Fantasy Tactics A2. It was released in Japan on November 28, 2007.
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu commented on the wide variety of missions, jobs, and skills that are available to the player in Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. The magazine also indicated that fans would be pleased on the ability to customize characters. Famitsu criticized the lack of camera rotation and the shallow story. The reception for the North American version has generally been positive. IGN called it "just as deep as ever. It's also one of the best looking DS games around." GameSpot cited the game's presentation, musical score, and deep gameplay as its strengths. GameSpot complained about the game's slow battles, restrictive law system and customization, and steep learning curve. Game Informer said "When it all clicks, Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a well-oiled adventure combining good design and fun gameplay that any strategy/RPG fan will appreciate." The Official Nintendo Magazine said "It's a daunting prospect but there are rewards for the brave here. This is a classy, addictive and sophisticated RPG."
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift was awarded Best Strategy Game for the Nintendo DS by IGN for their 2008 video game awards. Square Enix reports that as of May 31, 2009, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift has sold 670,000 copies worldwide, with 310,000 copies sold in Japan, 240,000 copies in North America, and 120,000 copies in Europe.
Crystal Defenders is a series of turn-based strategy games that use units from Final Fantasy Tactics A2. The first iteration, Crystal Guardians, was released for mobile phones in early 2008 only in Japan. The second, eponymous iteration was released through various online video game delivery services starting in 2008. Crystal Defenders: Vanguard Storm, featuring a new gameplay system, was released for the iPhone in May 2009.