Final Fantasy Tactics Advance can be compared to a marriage. Once this game has caught your eye and you’ve decided to play it, you will find yourself with it for the long haul. Unlike in real life, there will be no need to cheat on other games with it because it only gets better with time. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance will please its spouse through its extremely addicting gameplay while giving the player a massive amount of freedom.
For those unfamiliar with the Tactics series, the game plays out through grid-based battles similar to Advance Wars, Tactics Ogre, and even Vandal Hearts. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA) is the second Tactics game in the series. The original was on PSOne and it sucked players in from the opening FMV. Even though the original Tactics was a great game, the sequel surpasses it in almost everyway.
The story is somewhat strange and rather unique. The main character, Marche, befriends two other fellow classmates Mewt and Ritz. After a quirky snowball fight, Mewt and Ritz agree to meet Marche at his house. There, they read a book about adventures and monsters. After viewing this book, they declare that it would be cool to live in the mystical environment of Final Fantasy. The next morning Marche awakens to find that he is in the Final Fantasy universe. He now must find a way back home.
One classic characteristic to the Final Fantasy series is the job system. There are five races within FFTA. Each race has special and unique jobs. Once a job has been assigned, skills can be learned. For example, if the player chooses one of his characters to be a Black Mage, then that character can learn spells such as fire and blizzard. However, if the White Mage class is assigned, cure and life can be learned. In order to learn these abilities, specific items must be equipped. Once enough Ability Points (AP) have been collected, that skill will be mastered. Once a skill has been mastered, it can be used at anytime without the use of the item that it was learned with. AP points will be awarded after each battle. In order to assign a character a more powerful class, the player must fulfill prerequisites by learning skills of different classes. For example, in order to become a Hunter, a human must master two skills in the Archer class. This may sound confusing, but after a battle or two, it will become second nature. Because there are so many job classes and skills to master, this game can take weeks to complete.
Most of the time, battles are six on six. These grid-based battles are a dream come true for any strategy fan. Players of the Tactics Ogre series will know exactly what to expect in battle. Think of the battle system as a piece of graph paper where each square is composed of different heights and terrain. Sword wielders can only hit enemies that are in adjacent squares while archers, snipers, gunners, and mages can attack from a distance. Because each class has different strengths and weaknesses, a well-balanced party is key.
This game is not linear. Besides from assigning characters the class they choose, players can take on missions whenever they want. Missions are posted in each town’s pub and can be taken for a price. These missions advance the story while providing the player will gold, experience, and items. There are even different types of missions. Battle missions involve the entire clan fighting an enemy party while Dispatch missions involve only a single character. Because there are so many types and quantity of missions, the player will be completely emerged in the gameplay. Players will even customize the overhead map. Also, monsters can be caught through the Hunter class and raised in a Pokemon type way.
New to this Tactics game is the law system. Ivalice (the world in which the game takes place) is governed by strict laws. Before each battle, specific laws are laid out. A chocobo-riding judge is always present on every battlefield to make sure the laws are not broken. If a law is broken, a yellow card or red card will be issued depending on the severity of the illegal action. For example, a battle law might not allow Fire. If Fire is cast, then the user will be penalized. If this is a repeated affair, than that person will go to jail. The only way to get characters out of jail is to pay a hefty fee of money and time. On the other hand, certain moves will be awarded on the battlefield. Once again, if Fire is outlawed, and the player casts its opposite (Ice), then a Judge Point (JP) will be awarded. JP can be used to perform certain moves such as summoning creatures or combo attacks. A JP will also be given to the character that delivers a final blow to an enemy. Having laws forces the player to think before he performs each action, which in turn, will make the players better strategists.
No matter what GameBoy you play this game on, the player will always achieve the best color and graphics. The Color Mode option should be taken advantage of before play begins. Because the screens on the original GBA, GBA SP, and the GameBoy Player are all different, colors sometimes seem washed out or blurry. The color mode option is the player’s best friend as it makes a noticeable difference in the visual department. The player just needs to simply select the proper color mode for the corresponding game system they are using. Besides from changing the color mode of the game, the animations, sprites, and environments are very friendly. Everything looks clean and detailed. Character’s weapons will even change in battle to the weapon that is equipped. I love the fact that SquareEnix took the time to give the player the smoothest colors and variety possible. In the audio department, the music unfortunately is not as epic as other Final Fantasies. The music is very pleasant, but I was just looking for something a little more. Because the Final Fantasy series has always had some of the best audio effects and orchestrated music, my expectations are very high. While the music in this FF is not the best in the series, it is still better than most games out there.
It is pretty rare to see a co-op multiplayer option on GBA. FFTA has a highly engrossing multiplayer aspect. If two game paks are linked up, items and clan members can be swapped. Besides from just trading, the two linked clans can work together in co-op missions. Each clan can only bring a limited number of characters to battle so team work, planning ahead, and discussion are needed in order to be successful. Besides from co-op missions, special kinds of vs. modes are also an option. Instead of straight out clan vs. clan battle royal, the object is to kill more monsters than your opponent. Certain items and weapons can only be obtained in these linking modes. The game even keeps the stats of all the clans you linked up with. Link mode is very clean with easy to use menus and fast loading times.
As with any game, I noticed a few minor drawbacks in FFTA. First is the menu system. To the beginner, the menu system when equipping your clan will be confusing. However, after sometime with it, everything will fall into place. Along with the menu system, there is really no easy way to view the stats of a weapon or piece of armor. For example, the player might want to see the defensive value of a particular helmet. The player will want to know if the helmet is stronger or weaker when equipping. The menu system doesn’t really show this in a clear fashion. Equipping and re-equipping along with memorization is your only real option here.
In battle, it is important to attack the enemy from the sides or from behind to guarantee a higher hit percentage. Before attacking, the menu will tell the player how much of a chance he has to hit the target. Even though the percentage will display something over 80%, the attacker will still miss more often than it should. I think the attacking is based more on random chance than on a percentage system. However, missing attacks forces the player to plan back up his strategies. During the quest, other members will join your clan. Negatively, the player cannot rename these characters. If these crazy named characters could be renamed at anytime, then more customization would result.
FFTA is a wonderfully deep and detailed game. Don’t be surprised if you can’t put it down or if three hours seems like ten minutes. There is enough replay value between learning new abilities and through the linking mode to keep the player engaged for weeks. FFTA is a suitable sequel to the PSOne game and it is one of the best RPG’s for the system. People who play this game might as well pull out a ring and get down on one knee because you will love this game more than anything before it.