I’ve been on tactical overload lately thanks to this game and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and when all is said and done, Square manages to make an excellent game that is going to give Nintendo’s Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises a run for their money. The battle system, the graphics, at least 30 hours of gameplay, and even the sound are amazingly packed into this tiny little cart, and if you’ve got a GameBoy Player for the GameCube then you’re in for even more of a treat. Although I must say that between this and Disgaea, which could have easily been on GBA, I’m going to have to side with Disgaea just because there is so much more to do in the game, but don’t take that as a bad thing, there is still plenty to do in this game, it just gets a tad repetitive with time, and I’ll explain more in detail.Long before the times that history remembers, there was an age of great magic in an ancient land called Kiltia. When a great flood swept over the world, the culture perished, but a key to its magic and secrets – a book called the Grand Grimoire- is said to have survived. It is foretold that the one who holds the ancient text will be able to change the world. Many have sought the book but none have ever found it. Through the ages, many legends were written about the Grand Grimoire, but legends are often forgotten. Those who once know it called it… The Final Fantasy. One day in the peaceful, snow-covered town of St. Ivalice a young boy named Mewt discovers a mysterious book with no title in the local bookstore. Little do Mewt and his friends Marche and Ritz realize that they will soon begin the greatest adventure of their lives.*
After one night with the book, a wish is made that would change the world, and Marche becomes the main protagonist as he is whisked away to the old world of St. Ivalice, where magic and monsters were common, and of course the most pressing issue would be to get home as soon as possible, but as Marche would soon discover, not everyone is exactly eager to head home.
In this new world there are clans to join and Marche is assisted by a moogle named Montblanc who would welcome him into their clan. Once Marche becomes leader of the clan the story picks up and is told in little snippets that will occur before or after a battle and in between jobs that are picked up at the local pub. Those who have played Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSOne will remember how pubs had miscellaneous jobs that could be used to bolster a character, well those jobs are still present but this time a lot of the story progresses thanks to the jobs that are taken. Once certain jobs/missions are completed then you are given the option to lay a new location on the map that will seem quite barren at the start of the game. If you remember Legend of Mana for PSOne then you’ll probably feel very comfortable with laying out the world to your own designs.
* from the Nintendo Game Power guide for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Of course with every mission/job there is a battle to be had and at the start you are given the option to let out a certain amount of characters for the battle, once completed the battle begins and a judge appears. The judges appear in every battle and are there to govern the laws of Ivalice. The laws are probably the most annoying factor of the game when you are first getting started. The laws prohibit certain actions from being used during the course of the battle, of course the laws change from day to day but you must take care not to get stuck in a battle when the law for the day prohibits using the basic action of “Fight.” After a couple of missions you are introduced to a character who is able to make cards that can nullify and enforce laws in the middle of battle, which can lead to quite a bit a madness for your opponents. There is a lot of experimenting to be done here just remember to check the law before going into battle, for if you would happen to break one of the laws you can have the character go to jail or receive a penalty, some of which can be quite harsh, for instance, if you break a certain law you can get the volunteer penalty and not receive any gold for the fight. If Marche should go to jail then the game is over so be sure to take care.
There are five races that inhabit Ivalice, Humans, Moogles, Veria, Bangaa and the Nu Mou. Each race has exclusive jobs that only they can have, for the Humans you’ve got hunters, blue mages, fighters, and paladins. The Moogles have jugglers, gunners, gadgeteers, and the powerful mog knight. The Veria have fencers, red mages, summoners, and elementalists. The Bangaa have the heavy hitters like white monks, dragoons, and gladiators. And the Nu Mou has sages, alchemists, and morphers. There are a large number of other jobs that are shared between the races so make sure you check them all out. Every ability that a character acquires is earned through the weapon they have equipped. The system that is used for this is like that of Final Fantasy 9. As you complete battles you gain Ability Points (AP) that goes towards the skills you are learning. Once you earn enough AP the skill is mastered and then a new weapon can be equipped. The same goes for armor and accessories.
For a GameBoy Advance game there are sounds and visuals that would lead you to think that this were a first generation PSOne title. I am seriously amazed at the audio quality of this game, and graphically the game looks amazing. There is a good amount of animation for all the characters. The interface of the game is also superb, all the information that you need is conveniently packed onto the small screen and you’re never left wondering what the menu says.
Square Enix has done a great job in stuffing so much gameplay into such a tiny little cart and I recommend this game for any gamer on the go. The game starts off slow but the story really starts to pick up after just a short amount of time. The best part about this game is how easy it is to just pick up and play. Thanks to an excellent in-battle save function you can easily stop playing when you need to. So for you students out there this one is for you as well. Head out today and pick up a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and be sure to snag a strategy guide, you’re going to need it to find all the missions in the game.
Square gives a solid portable effort, with a few nagging issues.