Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - Reader Retroview  

Around the World Over and Over
by JuMeSyn

40-50 hours


Rating definitions 

   The Game Boy Advance has become a fine portable system for just about every aspect of RPGaming. The Tactical type of RPG is already represented quite well on the system without a new diversion, but Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the best options for this type of RPG on the system. Perhaps players of the original Final Fantasy Tactics bring baggage impacting upon their enjoyment of the title: excepting expectations based upon the earlier title however, FFTA packs an enormous amount of content into its play experience and will not grow old soon.

   The negatives can be dispensed with reasonably quickly. FFTA does not possess a particularly complex story, given that it begins with several elementary-age classmates being sucked into a magical version of their own world. The player then assumes control of Marche and the companions he will run into throughout the game, Marche’s mission being to return the ‘real world’ into its former position. The first being Marche encounters in this fantasy realm is a moogle named Montblanc, who just so happens to be a convenient source of information about the world along with a helping hand just when Marche most needs one…. An interesting psychological text is unraveled thusly, given that Marche finds himself in conflict with a friend who desires nothing more than to remain in the magical fantasy world forever. The main story intrudes only when the player allows it to however, given just how many ancillary tangents can be explored. This is fortunate given how difficult it can be at times to empathize with the titular protagonist’s quest.

The ability of the Vikings to send their oversized heads through time has never been properly documented historically. The ability of the Vikings to send their oversized heads through time has never been properly documented historically.

   Visuals are acceptable, not resplendent. Spell effects can be good looking but are never stellar. Music is similarly inoffensive while remaining unmemorable. Little stands out from the musical morass, and with the quantity of time the prospective player could invest into FFTA many tracks can be heard far too often. Sound effects are reasonable without rising above mediocrity considering the GBA’s capabilities.

   As befits a Tactical RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’s battle system is quite engrossing. In all story battles Marche and up to 7 other characters on his current team can participate. Battles are viewed from a top-down perspective, each participant of the battle taking a turn dictated by agility. Actions taken against enemies are more effective if the player’s character can strike from the side or behind, as enemies are quite good at dodging and countering when struck from the front. Expectedly for such a title, there are a wide variety of actions that can be taken and not all actions can be learned by all characters. Five different races exist in FFTA, each of the five having certain job types that can be assumed at any time, except for jobs that require a prerequisite to be satisfied first. Some jobs have associated magic to be learned, others learn different skills.

   Experience for learning skills associated with jobs is gained through equipping items specific to a class, with each item having a certain amount of experience using it required before the skill it possesses becomes innate to a character. Experience using weapons is gained via fighting battles, most of which come in the form of missions assigned at the player’s choice. There are also some random battles should the player desire to fight inconsequential encounters. Some missions are accomplished via the player sending one character off unsupervised, whereupon the character will either come back with experience and probably items, or fail. These missions are plentiful but as they take no actual playing time away from the player, the less plentiful but more time consuming battles are where the majority of time will be spent. Once a character has mastered all skills available at the time for a given job, changing jobs will be necessary to maximize usefulness of the character. Characters beyond Marche and Montblanc, incidentally, join randomly for the most part but at a frequency high enough to ensure the potential limit of party members will quickly be met.

Think of the Chocobos that Judge goes through – they can’t handle the weight! Think of the Chocobos that Judge goes through – they can’t handle the weight!

   Difficulty, unfortunately, is not a common thing to be found in FFTA. There are occasional opponents who present a challenge thanks to their possession of nasty abilities, but as these foes are usually surrounded by unthreatening comrades they will have a hard time destroying the player’s party. Rare is the battle that truly presents the danger of defeat to the player.

   While difficulty is lacking, the incentive to keep playing presents itself at every juncture in the game. The addictive property of constantly improving a core group of fighters on Marche’s team can keep a player going for far longer than is necessary to complete the main storyline, which conceivably could happen in 30 hours. I cannot say exactly how quickly FFTA can be completed, for I made no effort whatsoever to rush through. Hundreds of hours could be expended upon the quest of endlessly improving characters until the player gets sick of nothing but FFTA. Side quests are everywhere with dozens of optional missions. Of course, once a player has at last completed the title any replay incentive will probably be subsumed by a desire to try something else before madness sets in.

   A note must be made of the Law system in FFTA. In the vast majority of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance battles a judge will be present on the battlefield, and one or more laws will be in effect. These laws can affect just about any issue on the battlefield, from forbidding fire magic to outlawing sword attacks. Laws are absolute; if broken the offending character will first be given a stiff warning and then be thrown into jail for another offense. Even without a jail sentence penalties must be paid after one is broken. Jail is surmountable but keeps a (probably) very useful character behind bars for a certain period of time before bail can be posted. Oh, and if Marche gets thrown into jail, Game Over. There are items to annul laws, and they tend to get more common as the number of laws and their capriciousness increases. How the player deals with laws is a very personal issue, and one of the major dividing lines of how RPGamers will view this title.

   Final Fantasy Tactics Advance offers an enormous amount of content to play through. RPGamers with a tendency to want completion of all tasks the game offers will be sucked into this one for a very long time. The laws are frequently annoying, but offer a fascinating method of forcing the player to alter tactics upon occasion. This is quite possible the premiere Tactical RPG experience on GBA.

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