Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Game Info
Platform(s)
GameBoy Advance
Publisher
Nintendo
Developer
Square Enix
Genre
Strategy RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Violence, Alcohol Reference
 
Grade
The Good

• Tons of character classes and skills
• The game looks great
• Lots and lots of missions
• New Judge and Clan gameplay elements

The Bad

• Removal of Charge Time and limited revival time makes game too easy
• Menus could be better streamlined

 
Grade
A-

Ever since the release of the original Final Fantasy Tactics, fans have been clamoring for a sequel to return them to the world of Ivalice. With the recent reuniting of Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and Nintendo, one of the first games announced was a GameBoy Advance Tactics title. When it was revealed that the title was actually a new game and not a remake, all eyes were on Nintendo's handheld to see how the new title would compare to the Playstation original.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance's story starts with a radical departure for Final Fantasy titles - set in the real world, a school boy by the name of Marche and his friends read a book that transforms their world in the land of Ivalice. Marche discovers that he must fight in this magical world in hopes that he can return back to the real world. Rather than being told through a linear path of cutscenes and battles, the story is played out as the player takes on certain missions or arrives at locations after certain events.

One of the major aspects of the game are the Clans, one of which is your own party. The Clans fight for control of territory while taking on missions from Pubs. These missions range from non-battle, where you send a Clan member to investigate, to regular missions, where you go to a specific location and fight in a battle to complete, to encounter missions where you fight against other Clans. As you complete missions, your Clan grows in level, which will open higher level missions for you to take on. Also, missions will reward players with AP (for skill mastery), Gil (FF's form of money) and weapons and items. Some of the items you earn are vital to accepting other missions.

While you can take on missions, you can also fight other Clans by going to the same location as other Clans roaming around the map. In doing this, you'll hope to free more areas and even unlock new areas to visit. When you get a new place to visit, players can choose where to place the icon, not unlike the Town Building aspect of Dark Cloud. When you place new locations, always be sure to check them and nearby locations for treasure that may have been unearthed.

Within your Clan party, your be able to customize your characters through the Jobs System as seen in previous Final Fantasy titles. Present are a large number of Job Classes, including Soldier, Paladin, Red Mage, Cleric, Archer, Beastmaster - just to name a few. Since there are a number of races in the world of Ivalice, you'll have to take into account what classes are available and even useful with the races in your party. Unlike the original FFT, characters don't earn skills by gaining and spending Job Points. Instead, they learn new skills from their equipment, much like Final Fantasy 9. Equipping a certain item while as a specific class will teach that character new skills as they earn AP from battles. To unlock more jobs, characters must master a set number of skills in the classes available.

This time around, JP isn't for Job Points. Instead, it represents Judge Points, which can be awarded during battles by Judges. In just about every battle, a judge will be present to enforce the Laws of the field of play. These Laws can forbid anything from using items to casting fire magic. If one of your Clan members get caught breaking the Law, the Judge can either give them a Yellow Card, which comes with fines, or a Red Card, which removes them from the playing field and you'll have to pay for them to get out of Prison. On the flip side, though, characters are rewarded with JP when they use the Recommended command for the field or when they defeat an enemy. These JP can be used to cast Totema (not be confused with regular summons) or to execute Combo Attacks during battle. At a certain point in the game, you'll be able to collect, trade and even use Law cards to add and remove Laws from the battlefield.

As is the RPG standard, your characters gain experience points during battle by successfully performing even the most mundane tasks. Characters level up after gaining 100 EXP, as does your Clan. In fact, by completing certain missions, your Clan's skill levels go up. Having certain skill levels in your Clan will allow you to meet the requirements of those missions.

Battles in FFTA play out on a grid-based battlefield where your team engages the enemy. The battlefield is scaled so that you have to take into account different environmental heights and depths when moving around and attacking. Unlike other Strategy RPGs, turns are taken on an individual basis where each character takes a turn based on how quick they are. When you start a fight, you need to choose your team based on their abilities, both inherent of their class and learned and equipped from other classes they have experience in. For instance, you can have a Fighter who has the ability to cast White Magic if he mastered at least the Cure spell while as a Cleric. The same goes with Reaction, Support and Combo abilities. This allows for some serious customization.

This time around, though, Square Enix has removed a part of the Charge Time aspect when it comes to casting spells or using special abilities. In the original game, spells and abilities would take a number of character turns to be cast. This time around, though, everything occurs as it is cast or initiated. For those who may not have like the original scheme, this is good news, but I for one find it oversimplifies most battles and even dilutes the strategy that the previous title required of you.

Visually, FFTA is a treat. Square Enix has gone to great lengths to try and replicate the look of the original title. The style of the locations, enemies and characters go a long way towards creating an exciting gameworld. Battles play out on detailed locations and while there aren't many cutscenes to speak of, the ones that do occur show a fine degree of animation. FFTA is easily one of the best looking games on the GBA to date.

Audiowise, FFTA does fairly well, especially with the standard array of sound effects. The soundtrack provides some good tracks, but just seems too limited and repetitive for a game of such scope. While this may be a limitation of the GBA cart size, I really wish Square Enix could have squeezed a few more tracks in.

Outside of the alteration of the Charge Time for spells, there are a few other things that I wish were different with this handheld sequel. To be frankly honest - this game is just too easy. Instead of giving players a limited number of rounds to revive fallen allies, you can leave them be as they no longer will turn to crystals and are removed from your party within two to three rounds. Also, don't be surprised to have to spend an excessive amount of time in menus. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to switch menus all the time just to see what skills your clan members have learned, what items they can equip and what skills the items they equip will teach them. Lastly, with no ability to turn or tilt the battlefield, you may find some units obscured by background elements.

Even with the complaints noted, I would have to say that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a fine title that any GBA owner should seriously consider owning. If you were a fan of the original and want more of the same, be sure to understand that some changes have been made to the formula and that this new title is a bit easier and may require less in the way of strategy and planning. Still, if you can come to terms with that, you'll find yourself seriously addicted to a game that can take 40+ hours to beat and well into 100 hours to master.

- - Kinderfeld

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