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   Final Fantasy VI Advance - Staff Review  

How Long is Your Fantasy?
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
15-40 Hours
OVERALL

4.0/5

Rating definitions 

   The Game Boy Advance is bidding the RPG world farewell with the release of what will most likely be its last RPG, Final Fantasy VI Advance. Many played this game years ago when it was first released in North America under the title Final Fantasy III for the SNES. For those that missed out the first time, they were given another chance as it was packed into the PlayStation compilation, Final Fantasy Anthology. This latest release doesn't offer the cinematic intro of the version found in Final Fantasy Anthology, but it does offer a bit of a new experience.

   Final Fantasy VI tells an epic story of a group of adventures that band together to battle an evil empire. Though there is no clearly designated main character, Terra's story is one of the most important early on. Terra has lost her memory and is being treated as a weapon for the Empire. Upon discovering a magical entity known as an Esper, her guards are killed and she is freed from her captives, now free to do as she pleases. She meets up with Locke, a member of the Returners, a resistance group fighting the Empire. She escapes with his help and chooses to follow the Returners in order to find out the truth behind her captivity. For those familiar with the story, little has changed. It follows a fairly linear path right up to about the halfway mark at which point the story becomes quite non-linear with the story advancing via character developing side quests.

   The translation is a bit cleaner with enemy and spell names being more closely unified with the more recent Game Boy Advance Final Fantasy ports, but a few changes were made that shake things up from prior versions. Some scenes have been edited for content, such as the first meeting with a certain female character. It no longer shows her being beaten by the soldiers holding her captive, and now just vaguely implies it. Other modifications in this version change the gamer's view of some characters rather drastically. In prior versions, upon first meeting Setzer, he states, "The Empire's made me a rich man." This makes him seem like he'd be throwing a lot to chance if he were to oppose the Empire. But in this version, he says, "Business has been awfully slow lately, thanks to the Empire." That one line changes the player's whole perspective of Setzer as a successful gambler to a down-on-his-luck man. Thankfully, just these few things and nothing major has been changed.

Pimp My Chocobo"Pimp My Chocobo" debuts with limited success.

   Following a four character party system and featuring over a dozen unique playable characters, Final Fantasy VI Advance offers quite a bit of variety. Characters have their own unique abilities, plus once Espers can be equipped, they can learn any combination of magic spells. If desired, Sabin, the powerful martial artist, can pummel an enemy one round and cure the party the next. Since all characters can learn any spell and gain stats to improve their magical ability, this does lead to an imbalance as there is little need of weaker characters who are usually magically gifted. This is offset by the fact that many times throughout the game either certain characters are required in the party or multiple parties are needed, making character balancing a necessity. Random battles might occur a tad too frequently for some gamers, but the low difficulty of standard enemies and the speed of the battle system prevent this from becoming a problem.

   Interaction within Final Fantasy VI is quite smooth in most aspects. Equipment and item management allow for easy control of all basic functions: optimization, manual equipping, and sorting. Menu navigation is simple, whether it takes places during combat or events. One minor issue is with overworld navigation; the smaller screen of the Game Boy Advance makes the world map difficult to see, especially when traveling via chocobo or airship. Also, one noticeable irritation is with the game's initial start screens. None of these screens can be skipped, and for gamers who wish to play quickly while on the go or would like a speedy reset, it takes about 30 seconds before the game's start menu appears. That may not seem like a long time, but it was longer than it could have been.

   Visually, Final Fantasy VI is still impressive, even on a portable system. Not only is the level of detail on the characters and monsters high quality, but the game environments are visually stunning. The overworld can be a little drab, but some of the mountainous areas, castles, and forests are extremely nice. The overall quality of the game's music is mixed, however. The soundtrack is extraordinarily memorable and fitting throughout, but the sound quality seems somewhat hollow due to the Game Boy Advance's limitations. Those hearing these tracks for the first time shouldn't have any issues, as the feel of the soundtrack is still intact.

Trick My Castle "Trick My Castle" quickly jumps the shark as well.

   Considering that Final Fantasy VI Advance is merely a port of an SNES game, there really isn't much expected of it in terms of originality. It does offer quite a few things that few other RPGs do, though. The aspect of multiple parties is rare in RPGs these days, and Final Fantasy VI does it well. There are times when not just two, but three parties of four characters are required. Thankfully, with fourteen main characters to choose from, this helps to better develop each individual character. Plus, this version offers the additional challenge of two bonus dungeons, four new Espers, and new spells which come with some of those Espers. One of the dungeons takes advantage of multiple parties while the other tests the party's skill in a marathon of combat. The new Espers are obtainable closer to the end of the game, and most require the party to defeat them before they can be used. While these additions are nice, they are mostly an afterthought as they don't add an extraordinary amount of depth to the game, though a couple of the new Espers and spells are quite useful.

   Final Fantasy VI Advance is a very dynamic game. It can be finished in as few as fifteen hours if the gamer is skillful enough, but the adventure can expand out to as great as thirty hours quite easily with all of the side quests. As the game encourages completing all quests for the greatest level of character development, Final Fantasy VI accommodates all different kinds of RPGamers. From those that just want a quick fix to those that want to play for hours, this title meets their needs. Final Fantasy VI is a game that has stood the test of time and can make for an enjoyable experience regardless of whether this is the player's first time through or they played it years ago on another system.

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