Game Freaks

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Review

Posted in Blogroll,Game Reviews by gamefreaks on November 16, 2006

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Greetings. This week’s Game Freaks will be a foray into the 32-bit realm, and also into the realm of Ivalice. In recognition of the surpassing excellence of Final Fantasy XII, recently released for the PS2, the Matts have opted to review Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a not-so-old-school game still well deserving of the title “classic.” Released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance stands on the shoulders of its predecessor, Playstation title Final Fantasy Tactics. A large part of the enjoyment of this game is dependent, then, on the player’s enjoyment of Tactics, as well as on a general appreciation for turn-based strategy games. This will all probably bear out in the review.

Matt #1

Play Control: 9
The control in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is intuitive, simple, and easy to learn. The systems in place for changing Jobs and learning new Abilities make sense, and I have always been a fan of learning Abilities off of Equipment as a play feature anyway. The Jobs themselves are varied and interesting, although there does tend to be a lot of repeat functionality between the Jobs that the five Races of Ivalice have control over. The Human Fighter, Bangaa Gladiator, and Moogle Mog Knight, for example, all have a similar set of core Abilities – although not all of them are the same, making each of the Jobs advantageous under slightly different circumstances. The Laws are also an interesting function in the game: prohibiting your characters from using parts of their Ability sets can be devastating, or extremely helpful if you set it up so that the enemy party is affected by the Law more than you are. Generally, the controls and features of the game lead you to easily pick up the turn-based strategy style, and also make the play interesting within that somewhat formulaic genre.

Graphics: 8
Really, on the whole, the graphics in GBA games are outstanding. Tactics Advance is no different, although it is not perhaps the most stellar example of the graphical power of the system. Each Job’s sprite is unique and easily identifiable, the textures of the landscapes are great, and the enemies are classic Final Fantasy style baddies. However, the game tries to pack a lot of detail into the small screen of the GBA, which, at times, leads to a reductionism in the graphics that prevent them from being as compelling as they could be – characters tend to be somewhat SD (super-deformed style, a method of Japanese animation) and there is really no difference in appearance between, say, one Human Archer and another Human Archer – it might have been nice to at least be able to see the difference between a male and female human. Doesn’t that get awkward after a while? “Hey Fred… oh… sorry Becky.”

Difficulty: 7
The game suffers here because, frankly, it’s too easy. There’s not nearly as much challenge to Tactics Advance as there was to its predecessor, which, although it could be sort of mean at times, did give you the chance to fail. Tactics Advance certainly isn’t mind-numbingly simplistic, but there are a lot of cases where you think “hmm… that could have been more challenging than it was” as you clean out all of the enemies in a significant battle after just one round or two. And, in the really tough fights, there’s almost always one opponent that you can take down to end the entire instance, which seems like kind of a wuss-out when there are clearly seven other guys standing around. You kill their leader and they just… leave you alone? “No, it’s OK, you wiped out our leader and friend, who we care about deeply, but we’ll just let you go. Have a nice day. There’s a great Chinese restaurant down the block if you want some food. I mean, you know. Take it easy. Gosh, the boss sure does know how to bleed.”

Replay Value: 10
Both Tactics titles are masterworks in this department. Aside from the fact that a highly complete play-through of the game will take you upwards of fifty hours, there’s always mixing and matching of Jobs and Abilities to keep you coming back to play the game over again. Even as I’m playing through my copy right now, there are things that I think “man, if I played this through again, I’d totally change…” The game also has very open-ended solutions to almost every battle, meaning that there are theoretically a very high number of possible methods to defeat every monster, win every encounter, and so forth. If I was better with the maths, I’d get all Mr. Spock on you and give you some precise mathematical equation by which you could figure out the blah blah blah hypotenuse radian mean something something. Man, I don’t know how Biedermann does this math major shit. Just thinking about it makes me stupid.

Overall Rating: 8.5
A must-buy, certainly. There’s no arguing with a game this fun that is conveniently divided up into five- to ten-minute chunks. On your lunch break? Fight a strategic battle! Food is for pansies.

Matt #2

Play Control: 7
OK, I’m not trying to say that FFTA is really “difficult to control” with this rating. The entire game is made of menus, so there are no reflexes involved. It’s not like I have trouble pressing up or down and then the A button, seriously. No, my complaint lies with what they decided to do with said menus. The whole appeal of the “Tactics” genre is micromanaging your characters, which is inherently going to create a little bit of clutter, menu-wise. But the way FFTA is set-up makes switching between various menus very tedious and overly complicated. This is particularly noticeable when purchasing equipment. In Final Fantasy Tactics, you could “try on” equipment from the store menu, allowing you to see how it would change your character’s attributes. Here, however, you have to figure out what each character is wearing, then find its statistics in the equipment menu, then go back to the shopping menu, find equipment that’s an improvement, buy it, and then go back to the character menu to equip it. It’s unnecessary complication, which sometimes makes the micromanaging aspect of the game overly frustrating and boring, when it’s supposed to be the appeal of the game.

Graphics: 9
Stylistically similar to its predecessor, FFTA features lots of colorful sprites, with many variations for each race and job. The battlefields are also impressively rendered, and the bosses look supremely tough and awesome. This game definitely features some of the best artwork done on the Game Boy Advance. The character design choices are a little odd sometimes, though: who decided it would be a good idea for the main character to have a haircut that would probably best described as the “reverse Alfalfa”?

Difficulty: 7
I concede, before I write this section, that I have not played FFTA to completion. However, I am a good chunk of the way through the game, and I have to say, this game is generally too easy. This could be because of the way I play the game; I obsessively do any of the side missions before I do the “story” missions, meaning my characters tend to be over-leveled for the story missions, but even the side missions are set up in such a way as to be biased heavily in your favor. It doesn’t even seem to matter what jobs any of your characters are using; you can wander into a battle with a bunch of Flans using only warriors, and you’ll still win the fight. Although it will probably take a couple hours, since you’ll be dealing 1 or 2 damage with every attack.

Replay Value: 8
This game has so many missions, so many jobs to master, and so much equipment to gather that it has extremely high replay value. However, like with many RPGs, once you play through the whole story once, it will probably be a while before you want to play through it again. But if you’re obsessive about full completion in your video games, this game is going to keep you busy for a long time.

Overall: 7.75
Am I a bad person because I laugh when the people I don’t let into my party leave crying? Jeez, man, don’t take it so personally, I just don’t need another N’Mou, OK? You guys only have 3 starting jobs anyway.


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