Square Enix had little support for Nintendo’s home consoles for quite some time, but they did provided a large amount of software support for Nintendo’s portable systems. Final Fantasy Tactics was one of many Square Enix titles for the Gameboy Advanced. Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced is some what of a sequel to the original Final Fantasy Tactics which was released on the Playstation and received Impressive review scores and sales. While Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced May not be a direct sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics, it keeps most of the core game play elements while adding some new elements to freshen the experience from the first game. Can this title innovate while keeping the quality of the first title?
The story follows four young kids who open a book called “Final Fantasy”. After they finish glancing through the book they all decide to go home to go to bed. The next morning they wake up and the world has changed to same world that they were reading about in the book, Ivalice. You see one of the kids, named Marche, wake up. Soon after waking up Marche realizes that this isn’t a dream and sets off on a quest to change the world back to normal. To do so Marche has to destroy 5 crystals which keep the world intact and convince his friends to go home with him. Oddly enough, despite being a Final Fantasy title, the game’s story seems to take a back seat most of the time. It’s definitely a unique and interesting story but depending on how you play the game, the cut scenes can be few and far between.
Instead Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced has a greater focus on…well, tactics. The game takes a turn based approach were every unit gets their chance to act, but instead of just staring at each other the game takes place on large grid-like field. The ability to move around adds a lot of strategy to the game because depending on which side your attacking from you will get certain combat advantages. For example attacking from sides will make it more likely you’re going to hit and if you attack from behind you have an even greater chance of hitting them. This effects almost every type of attack, including magic attacks and it requires you to strategically place your self to do as much damage as you possibly can while being as safe as possible from an enemy attack.
Instead of just learning and abilities from using a scroll or learning them at a certain level like in most RPGs, you have to train in them using certain pieces of equipment. Most pieces of equipment will have a spell or ability you can learn from it listed its information and the amount of experience needed to master the ability. Once you master an ability you can use them on other jobs, depending on what slot their in. You can also gain new jobs for units by mastering a certain number abilities on currently available jobs. This system helps provide a lot of customization for each and every unit, but as well as this system works, unfortunately, it has its flaws. The game doesn’t do a good job explaining how to learn abilities and spells, so if you don’t pay attention you may understand how the system works. It also became a bit tedious when adding new people into your clan and having to constantly learn techniques for them as well.
The main twist on this game from the original Final Fantasy Tactics is the addition of laws. The law system has a list of moves, items, weapons and other actions that are forbidden for that day and every day the law changes. Break the law and you get a penalty, or worse that character can get sent to jail and you will have to bail them out. This plays a big factor into what units you deploy before the start of a battle. As you progress more laws are in effect each day. At times this can feel overwhelming but thankfully soon after the game offer relief with Anti-law cards that can cancel out laws. With the anti-law cards you are also introduced to cards that can add laws. For example if you come across an army of archers, and change the laws to ban archery for that day you completely removed their main attacks, making the battle much easier. It adds another layer of strategy but some may find the system annoying.
Due to the constant changes of the laws you will find your self checking back on the laws often during a fight to re-look at them. That wouldn’t be a problem but it’s a bit of a tedious process opening and closing multiple menus just to check on the laws, if it was mapped to a single button like on the on the over world it wouldn’t be so tedious. Without the right anti-laws you may also find your self circling an area waiting for suitable laws which can also become annoying.
The mission system is the main factor into how many hours you will get out of Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. While there are quite a few story missions there aren’t nearly as many as there are side missions. If you do a healthy amount of both side missions and story missions though you will get a good forty hours of game play. There are plenty of side missions to play though to get you even more time hours. Decking out your characters with the right gear, spells and abilities will also play a huge roll in how many hours you get out of it. This is one of those games where if some body likes it enough they can sink tons of hours into it. While some one just playing through can cut lots of corners and get to the end of the game as fast as possible.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced has 2D graphics but at the same time uses a camera angle that gives it a 3D look while in battles. Character Sprites and environments are very detailed and keep the unique art style of the game. Spells are detailed and weapons change color and shape even when their in the same class as another. Character portraits during conversations are well done and have a very unique look, although facial expressions never change but the emotions are taken care of by the character sprites and are detailed enough where you can tell exactly how a character is feeling during a conversation. During crowded battles the game can chug a little with some minor slow down which is noticeable but doesn’t affect the game play.
While it has a 3D perspective during battles it doesn’t run off a 3D engine, therefore you cannot alter the camera’s position to get a better view of the battle field. Characters can be covered by objects that are larger then them and can be difficult to see from the perspective they force you to watch from. This also shows in the level design where all the levels basically have the exact same design, the top right corner is the highest point of area and the bottom left corner is lowest point. This can make many of the battles feel the same and repetitive along with many enemy types who are reused but just have different colored sprites. Music is really well done, but overall only a few songs are memorable. Songs also feel overused some times. Some sound effects sound a bit more lower quality then they should be on Gameboy Advanced but it’s nothing terrible.
Overall Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced is a great successor to the Playstation hit Final Fantasy Tactics. While it may have its good share of problems overall most of it can be worked around. Once you learn the ins and outs of the game then you can easily get over many of the points made in this review. For around $10 used on amazon.com Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced is a great strategy RPG despite some of its flaws. If you’re a strategy RPG fan than this is a definite buy. If you’re not sure if you like strategy RPGs then this game is a great place to start.