Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Review
For the uninitiated amongst you, Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance (FFTA) is the much-awaited GBA only sequel to the original Final Fantasy Tactics, a strategy based RPG for the PlayStation, only available in the U.S. and Japan. Not only was it's announcement a pleasant surprise for the legions of die-hard FFT fans out there, it was also great news for European gamers, who could soon experience the delights of FFT without having to resort to chipping their PlayStations. Early shots of the game proved to be very promising, and it seemed as though SquareEnix managed to recreate the graphical stylings of the original to an adequate extent on the tiny handheld. It was almost as if nothing could go wrong.
So, how did it shape up in the end? Well, first off, it's worth noting that it's not quite up to the standard of the original, and if you're playing this game in the hopes of experiencing an engrossing, ever-twisting plot in the style of FFT, then you will more than likely be sorely disappointed with this offering. The story is most definitely the weakest point of Square's latest game. It details the adventures of Marche and his friends, who are magically transported to the world of Ivalice through a book. (Yes, you read that right. Magically transported, no less.) The land of Ivalice itself is a sort of Final Fantasy-ised (a fact that the main characters themselves can't help but state numerous times, in a bizarre, self-referential attempt at product-placement, or so it seems) version of their hometown, with many familiar faces popping up in the alternate world. At first things seem hopeless for our hero, though, as ever, it transpires that there is a way to escape the fantasy world and return everything to normal, though not without the help of a clan of warriors who help you for no apparent reason, and resolving the various problems of characters from the real world. Combine the fairly poor premise with a merely average-translation and you have what could fairly be called one of the worst FF Plots ever. It's really nothing more than a lame excuse for 300 strategy-based missions, and 100+ hours of gameplay.
However, the gameplay is where FFTA really shines. It's more or less standard tactical RPG fare, with the AP, jobs and combat system being familiar to veterans of any other example of the genre. Despite this, Square doesn't fail to innovate, and new additions such as the Judge/Law + Law Card System bring a new element to the gameplay, forcing you to change your attacking style depending on the laws that are currently in place. This may seem rather pointless and irritating at first, however, various law cards exist around the world of Ivalice, and with their help you can nullify certain laws and even introduce ones that will work in your favour. The collection and trading of these cards also becomes a rather absorbing aside for the duration of the game. Two new job classes have been introduced, adding little else to the gameplay, but they are a welcome new addition for those already familiar with the series, and will certainly give the hardcore fans a few new things to play around with for numerous hours, though some of the more interesting jobs from FFT are unavailable for usage during the outing. The monsters that can be captured and later deployed in battle are also much more useful than in the previous game, with a plethora of new attacks at their command. The battle objectives vary very little throughout the, with the conditions for victory rarely straying far from "Destroy the enemy/Do not allow Marche to be sent to Prison". This can make for some monotonous gameplay, particularly since the characters plod along at quite a sedate pace, and means that FFTA is probably best experienced in short bursts, lest the whole thing become too tiresome, particularly if you're aiming to complete all of the various 300 missions on offer. The gameplay of TA is basically exactly what you'd expect, and lots of it. Definitely one for the completionists out there.
The graphics are very solid, some of the best seen thus far on the GBA, featuring intricately detailed background and character designs, convey the world of Ivalice brilliantly, Spell and Summoning/Totema animations in particular, rarely fail to impress. Characters design is also remarkably similar to the original Tactics, which is never a bad thing, considering the handheld nature of its sequel. The sound tends to grate during extended play. The same few tracks are reused over and over again, featuring only one theme for normal battles and towns, and this can really become irritating when playing for long sessions. However, what is there is of quite a high standard, particularly when compared to other GBA soundtracks, it is only let down by the severe lack of quantity. However, this is nothing major, and can easily be fixed by just turning the sound off.
Minor niggles include the shopping system. While acquiring equipment, you have to continually check whether the current piece is suitable for certain classes, as well as the different skills learned from it by accessing different status screens is clunky and makes buying equipment needlessly complicated, whereas a small display to the side, or a listing of class-specific items would have been preferable.
Overall, FFTA is a solid, predictable example of the Tactical RPG genre, spiced up a little by the Law system, with a reasonable amount of minor complaints (particularly the lack of a plot) which may serve to hamper the experience for some, though they are easily ignored. In general, it delivers a solid performance where expected, and will keep fans playing for hours on end.
Review written and submitted by Duo.