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Final Fantasy Tactics Advance [Game Boy Advance]

7 Ratings: 4.0
The 2003 Game Boy Advance Fantasy Turn-Based Strategy video game

Game Boy Advance

Console: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Strategy
Release Date: September 08, 2003
1 review about Final Fantasy Tactics Advance [Game Boy...

Fun For a Time

  • Sep 13, 2009
  • by
 In 1998, Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) released Final Fantasy Tactics.  It was a huge cult classic that became unquestionably popular.  No Final Fantasy was like it before.  It was tough, had an engrossing story and, most of all, it was addictive in part because there were so many things to do in terms of gameplay thanks to the job system.  In 2003 those who enjoyed Final Fantasy Tactics got Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  It didn't just drop down out of nowhere, this was a game which had great expectations for fans.  Except it wasn't exactly what most fans were anticipating it would be.  What we did get, however, was quite an ambitious game. 

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance focuses on a young boy named Marche who is a new student in school in the town of St. Ivalice.  Although he isn't very popular.  He meets a few other kids who aren't too popular either, including a kid named Mewt who is constantly picked on by the other students (probably because his parents gave him the unfortunate name "Mewt").  The first battle which is a snowball fight, serves as a tutorial to help you get adjusted to the game.  After this snowball fight, Marche and his friends go to the library and check out an old book that is only called "Final Fantasy."  After Marche goes to bed that night he wakes up in the world of Final Fantasy and discovers that Ivalice is its own world, filled with many different races.  While he's here the first thing he thinks of is how he's supposed to get home and where his friends are.  However, it turns out that his friends don't want to go home because in this world they aren't picked on... and they're respected.  Mewt even has a position of authority in Ivalice.  Why would his friends want to go back to the life they once had? 

The story isn't exactly the most brilliant thing in the world.  It's not bad, at least, but it isn't filled with the excitement, themes and messages you'd expect.  In fact, in between battles there isn't much exposition within the story.  It begins that way, sure (and the prologue in and of itself is pretty long), but in the latter half you don't get as much exposition as you might think.  The characters, while not exactly unlikeable, aren't all that well developed either.  Although, the boys who make the Ivalice themed games have never been big on character development.  This was true of even the first Final Fantasy Tacics.  Nevertheless, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is more gameplay oriented than story.

It works very similar to games like Tactics Ogre.  Before each battle you can choose units to send in.  Story oriented battles always require Marche to be in the fray, but when you're just fighting in a free battle, you can send in anyone from your clan that you want.  You move around the map, finding enemies to strike in various ways.  How you learn these abilities is all dependent on what abilities you've learned thanks to the games job system.

The job system, in the original Final Fantasy Tactics, made battling interesting and fun.  It emphasized a lot of strategy.  That comes over to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  The job system is here and it's a lot more expansive.  Each different "race" from the humans to the moggles, nu mou, viera and bangaa, have different jobs to choose from.  For example, Humans and Nu Mou can become white mages while Viera can become Assassins and Fencers.  It works in a way that you'll want to use every race at least once.  And each job has their own set of abilities.  Black Mages cast several forms of Black Magic like "Fire" "Ice" and "Thunder".  Green Mages are in charge of support spells.  Fencers have rapier techniques while Ninjas have a lot of speed and can throw weapons.  Every job class has a specific ability and techniques that can be learned. 

Learning abilities is simple enough.  Each time you buy a piece of equipment it has abilities that can be learned.  For example, you might buy a rapier for your red mage that has "Fire" "Thunder" and "Ice" on them.  As long as you have that rapier equipped, you can use these abilities.  But once you "master" them you can use them any time you want without having to equip the rapier to do it.  It doesn't end there.  What's nice about the job system is that there is near endless customization.  Once you've mastered an ability as a red mage, you can easily switch to a white mage and use those same magics provided you've got them set.  However you are still limited.  You can't for example, use every single ability you've ever learned at once.  You're limited in such a manner that there's still a requirement for strategy.  Every good party needs a healer at least.  So you'll find yourself wanting someone to learn some healing spells and another who might want to learn support and another who might want to be your offensive man.  As you master more abilities, more jobs are unlocked.  You'll start with basic stuff like White Mage, Black Mage, Fighter etc., but you'll unlock better jobs as you master abilities.

Along those lines every battle also has a judge who will give you a set a laws you must obey.  At first this doesn't seem so bad.  Most laws are easy to obey.  Laws that restrict you to use items or laws that restrict you from ganging up on one enemy.  When there's only one of these types of laws in effect it's not so bad.  But the laws eventually become ridiculous and absurd.  No items?  Okay, fine.  But later on you'll start getting laws that restrict from Damaging Monsters (on a map that has no humes) or that prevent the fight command itself!  The punishment for such things can be jail time for characters who break the law (and you'll have to bail them out).  But some of these laws are quite ridiculous.  You get "Law Cards" to compensate, which allow you to bypass and change laws, but that comes pretty late in the game.  Sometimes you have to wonder just who had the bright idea to impliment the Judge System anyway.  There are times when you'll get into battles and not know what to do because the laws work so well against you that it seems you can't even fight.  The laws constantly change as you make your way across the world map.  So you'll almost never fight a battle in which the same laws apply twice.  In short, the laws you get for each fight are almost completely random (they do, however, go in a specific pattern).  If the punishment for breaking said law wasn't so harsh there'd be no qualms breaking the law just to get the battle done.

What really keeps Final Fantasy Tactics Advance down is more based on the gameplay than anything else.  Battling, for the most part, is rather slow and sluggish.  And while learning abilities is rather simple... it's far more time consuming.  In the original Playstation Final Fantasy Tactics you gained Job Points for every action.  Here it's al saved for after the battle.  This doesn't seem bad at first, until you're learning abilities that cost an upwards of 400 ability points.  And if you're only gaining around 30 or so per battle... you'll be grinding for a while.  I've nothing against grinding.  I rather like it... but I do wish that in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance I could speed up the process considerably.

There are over 300 missions.  While that may sound awesome, it should be known that you won't battle in every mission.  In fact, a lot of these side missions are dispatch missions where you'll send a single character off... and then wander around the World Map a bit until they come back with either a success or failure.  A ton of missions are like this.  There's still plenty of battling to be done, however.  The game will keep you busy for hours on end.  The story itself will take a good amount of time, but the bulk of your gameplay comes from learning abilities and doing sidequests.  There's more to do after the story is completed.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will easily keep you busy for well over 100 hours. 

It's hard for me to say it's worth it.  It's got good qualities about it.  It's visual presentation--for a GBA game--is pretty awesome, but battling can sometimes be bothersome because it's isometric 3D and not fully 3D.  This means you can't rotate the camera, and when your characters get bunched up it can suck.  On the other hand, it's still one of the best looking GBA games out there.  It's got a good soundtrack, even if it is a little limited, but it's still rather easy on the ears.  It's overall presentation is really good.  It's gameplay is okay if you can muster through the horrible Judge system... but seeing as how that's one of the games biggest problems, it's hard to give the game any higher than a three.  It just doesn't utilize much of what made the first Final Fantasy Tactics so special in the first place.  The story is forgettable and the gameplay has some serious issues.  If you're a die-hard Final Fantasy Tactics fan it's worth trying... but Final Fantasy Tactics A2 on the DS actually fixes most of the problems with gameplay.

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"Fun For a Time"
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