Final Fantasy VI Advance - Reader Review  

It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Wretched)
by JuMeSyn

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20-40 Hours
+ Easy to pick up...
+ and rewarding to continue
+ With goodness at every juncture
- Not much new here
- Music sounds a bit 'off'
Click here for scoring definitions 

   In 1994 a game was released for the Super Nintendo that took the RPG world by storm. Perfect it was not, but as a friend of mine once said "I think this game might control the world somehow, it's so good." Final Fantasy III received acclaim wherever it went. 13 years later the now-properly titled Final Fantasy VI became the last significant release for the Game Boy Advance, with differences between its SNES (and PS port) incarnation but being at core the same game. Final Fantasy VI Advance's core remains a title no RPGamer should go without experiencing.

   A neo-Industrial Revolution. An Empire intent upon fusing the fruits of that Industrial Revolution with the fantastical ability called Magic and using the result to achieve world domination. A young woman caught in the Empire's machinations being freed from its mind control. The Resistance against the Empire's advances taking an interest in this young woman. A psychotic jester spearheading the Empire's atrocities against humankind. These are but the beginning elements to FFVI's story, and though they are known to most I shall go no farther in deference to players who may not have experienced the game.

   Combat in FFVI is derived from its direct predecessors FFIV and FFV and in a sense feels like them. The Active Time Battle system is here in all its glory, meaning that reading the newspaper between actions will result in enemies gladly mauling the player's party. Each character has his/her own ability inside of combat in addition to attacking and (eventually) magic; these unique actions range from the intermittently useful (Locke's Steal) to the hopelessly hardcore (Gau's Rages). Magic eventually becomes usable to more than a few characters and, once learned, is cast as its own option during combat. Experience and money are awarded after combat (though annoyingly not after boss fights) and battles are random.

Our heroes tactlessly destroy poor herbivores. Our heroes tactlessly destroy poor herbivores.

   Inventory arrangement is easy in FFVI. In shops not only the current party members but every character who joins the player's party is displayed along with whether a piece of equipment offers positive or negative effects. Magic is learned by attaching pieces of Magicite to characters, each piece having its own learn rate for spells. Magic is learned through combat, as after Magicite is made available most fights begin to award Ability Points used to teach spells. There are but two issues with the interaction here: one is that the shop menu and auto-equip functions disregard all effects save pure attack/defense power of an item, and two is that removing anything from a character not currently in the party requires that everyone not currently in the party also be shorn of equipment.

   Visuals could, perhaps, be improved. As FFVI was the last in the series to feature opponents that did not move, it feels odd to encounter stationary adversaries constantly. But the graphics are quite good regardless, with some very impressive spell effects that come and go quickly. No such criticism about the audio can be made, for Nobuo Uematsu turned in one of the most memorable scores in video game history for this title. The GBA makes things sound a trifle different and in some cases less impressive, but that is not a negative with regard to the compositions.

   A veteran of Final Fantasy VI could inquire as to what is new for the Advance version, and not much is the answer. True, the translation has been redone, which should please naysayers of Ted Woolsey. Late in the game a few additional Espers with corresponding Magicite appear to be challenged, and for those seeking a challenge an enormous optional dungeon now exists near the end of the game. Aside from this and the audio tweaking, nothing is different.

Celes regrets her poor skills at hide & seek, though it is harder in Doma. Celes regrets her poor skills at hide & seek, though it is harder in Doma.

   Defining the challenge in Final Fantasy VI is difficult to do. Without a great deal of effort a player can create a team that will blast its way through the game, but to a newcomer many enemies will seem incredibly sneaky and strong. To a knowledgeable player the game is easy, to a player without a knack for discerning proper strategies it can be difficult. As to completion time, around 25 hours seems a reasonable estimate for an RPGamer not rushing things. Seeing all the optional content certainly adds to the playing time, as most of the second half can be completed in whatever order suits the player and while leaving numerous things undone.

   To any RPGamer who has not played this game, the Advance version offers an ideal way to do so. To any RPGamer who has played a prior version of it, personal choice must be exercised. Final Fantasy VI Advance may not offer much that is truly new but the game at its core is such a standard for the genre that a portable version of it without any notable downside is difficult to turn down. Any and every RPGamer ought to experience this game at some time.

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