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September 08, 2003
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More in this Series
 Written by Jeff Milligan  on November 19, 2003

Review: Don't let the name fool you, these aren't the most advanced tactics you can find, but it works nonetheless.

When you want a great new RPG game to play, it's common knowledge these days that all one has to do is turn to Square. Especially now that Square has merged with Enix, the RPG realm is basically ruled over by the superpower game company. It's also common knowledge that when you want your new game published by a veteran company, you need look no further than Nintendo. Nintendo single-handedly changed the face of gaming in the '80's, and still continues to be one of the major players in the industry today. So, when news hits of a new Strategy-RPG being developed by Square-Enix and it is being published by Nintendo, people tend to get excited. Even more excitement ensues when people see the name "Final Fantasy" in that game's title. This brings us right up to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the game that features every one of the elements above. Needless to say, Tactics Advance has a lot to live up to.


Another worthy note involving Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA) is that this is the first product to be produced by both Nintendo and Square in a good number of years. Before the days of Sony's consoles, Square and Nintendo shared a hand-in-hand type of relationship, with Square products being showcased on Nintendo's console quite frequently. However, since the Playstation's debut, Square's games, especially the Final Fantasy line, have enjoyed their stay on their new home console. This is how it has been for almost the past decade, until now. Hopefully FFTA will spark a new found interest between the companies, as we Nintendo fans always like to see quality Square products come our way.


Now that we have the short version of the history between Square and Nintendo out of the way, we can focus more on the game at hand: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. It should be noted that FFTA does not follow the typical trend for Final Fantasy games, and is therefore not considered to be a 'true' entry into the series. Instead, FFTA is more of a side game that uses many of same techniques as the Final Fantasy games. However, instead of being the typical adventure type of RPG, FFTA is a Strategy-RPG, focusing more on winning battles with your team more than being a character driven story. Not that FFTA doesn't feature unique characters and an involved story, it's just that these things are more on the sideline to strategizing and building your team of characters.


To start it all off, FFTA begins in the small town of St. Ivalice. Marche, the main character (who can also be renamed to whatever you want) gets involved in a snowball fight with a group of friends. One of Marche's friends, Mewt, is picked on by the other children, and eventually is struck in the face with a snowball hiding a rock inside. The snowball fight ceases, and Marche, Mewt, and Ritz decide to head over to Marche's house to check out a new book Mewt had bought. Upon opening the book, the children fight out that it tells about mythical monsters, races, weapons, and people. Being fascinated by the book, Mewt tells how he wished his world was like the one shown in the book, and mentions his favorite gaming series is Final Fantasy (go figure). The children then finish up with the book, and Ritz and Mewt head home.


The story however is just beginning. That night, Marche is somehow transported into a kingdom known as Ivalice. The kingdom is ruled by sorcery and weaponry, similar to the worlds found in the Final Fantasy line of games. Marche eventually finds out that this world is actually Mewt's dreamworld, that he is in fact in the world of Final Fantasy. In order to get home, Marche must figure out the secret of the crystals. To do so, Marche joins a clan and takes up the role of a soldier, thus beginning your adventure.


First things first, Marche has the option of naming his new clan. It's up to players to name it as they wish, so make it a good one. After this has been done, the true meat and potatoes of the game can be started. The main purpose behind FFTA is to take on and complete various missions in order to progress and find out the secret behind the magical crystals. Missions can be taken at pubs within the cities of Ivalice. Once a mission has been accepted, you can head back to the main world map, head to the location of the mission, and carry out the mission objective. Missions range from gathering ingredients for cookies on fiery mountains to taking up the challenge of rival clans. After completing a mission, your clan is rewarded money (gil), usually an item or two, and AP.


Gathering AP is the first step to building your clan. Each member of your clan will be of a certain race, with there being 5 races in all. Each race can take on different job titles, which in turn offers your characters different skills. Firstly, you must decide what type of races you want within your clan. At default, your clan starts off with 2 humans, 1 Viera, 1 Nu Mou, 1 Moogle and 1 Bangaa. You will have the option of adding new clan members at the end of certain missions, but to begin with this is what you're offered.


By selecting a certain clan member, you can equip him with various weapons, armor, and accessories. This is where collecting AP becomes important. Each weapon/armor/accessory will have a skill that can be learned when equipped. For example, your sword may have the ability "First Aid" on it. By equipping this sword, your character can than learn the skill First Aid. Each skill will also have a number by it, which indicates how much AP is needed to master that skill. Mastering skills allows characters to use that ability even when the weapon/armor/accessory is not equipped. Skills that can be learned depend on both the race of the character, and its job class. Another example is that a Viera Archer can learn "Aim" abilities, but Human Soldiers cannot. This is why it's important to have a variety of races within you clan. Likewise, certain races can take on jobs that others cannot. You can train a Human to become a soldier, but a Viera cannot.


Now we can take a look at the more in-depth part of jobs. When a job is selected, your characters A-Ability is filled by that certain job. For example, if your character is an archer, their initial A-Ability becomes "Aim". The A-Ability (Action Ability) determines what skills can be learned and used. Characters can have up to 2 A-Abilities, which makes diversity between characters important. You may decide to create an Archer/Hunter, which means that characters A-Abilities would reflect Archer and Hunter skills.


Keeping on the same track, certain jobs will only become available by mastering other jobs. In example, having your Human become a Blue Mage requires him to have mastered 1 White Mage skill and 1 Black Mage skill. There are lots of jobs that can become available by mastering certain skills, so be sure to master as many skills as possible. Some of the more advanced job classes include the Dragoon, Summoners, Mog Knights, Illusionists, and Blue Mages.


By participating in battles, your characters will also gain EXP. points. These points will raise your characters level, which in turn raises your characters stats. The higher the level of your character, the stronger he/she becomes. Battles can be commenced by accepting missions, or by walking into clans on the world map. It is strongly encouraged that you encounter as many clans as you can so that you gain lots of AP, Gil, and EXP.


One big note you have to realize is that there are judges that watch over the battles in Ivalice. These judges assign laws, which are rules that must be obeyed during battle. Laws range from not being able to use items during battle, to not being able to use color magic. If these laws are broken during battle, the judge may give a warning to the character who broke the law. If a character is killed by someone breaking a law, the character causing the infringement is removed from battle and sent directly to prison. However, for every law that is frowned upon, these is one put in place that is exalted. When a character uses a skill or item that is accepted in that battle, he is awarded a Judge Point. Judge Points can be used for combo attacks, as well as secret attacks learned later in the game.


As was mentioned before, each character can learn up to 2 A-Ability. However, there are other abilities that can be learned. Reaction Abilities (R-Ability), Support Abilities (S-Ability), and Combo Abilities (C-Ability) can also be learned. Reaction abilities are attacks or magic that are triggered when enemies attack you. A common example of an R-Ability is "Reflex", which causes certain attacks to miss. S-Abilities are those that give you a bonus during battle. "Immunity" and "Shieldbearer" are 2 common S-Abilities. Combo Abilities are just as the name implies, they allow your character to use combo attacks. The more characters that know C-Abilities, the more can join in on a combo attack. Combo attacks deliver extremely high damage when numerous characters are in on it, so be sure to equip as many characters with C-Abilities as possible.


Graphically, FFTA is pretty much what you can expect from a Game Boy Advance game. Everything is done in 2D, with characters and enemies showcased via sprites. It does a good job of creating an old-fashioned RPG type of feel, especially with the use of sprites. Playing FFTA with the Game Boy Player really takes you back to playing the RPG's of old on the Super Nintendo. The same can be said about the sound within FFTA. The musical tone has a very RPG feeling to it, even if it is just repeating MIDI's. Overall a very good effort in the technology department, especially considering the very limited options of the Game Boy Advance.


Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of those games that can honestly be played forever. Personally, I've put in 73 hours of total gameplay time, spanning 2 separate save files, and still have not yet even beaten the game. Creating your clan exactly how you want it is a time-consuming adventure, but those that enjoy the Strategy-RPG genre should love it. There are also a number of side-quests that can be done, including trading law cards, capturing and raising monsters, and finding hidden treasure within Ivalice's regions. Locations can be placed on the map at the users choice, and by placing certain locations next to each other, certain rare treasure can become available. Just another facet to push the replay factor even further.

Bottom Line
Hands down, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the best Strategy-RPG's around, rivaling even the Advance Wars line of games. Definitely worth the full price of admission. However, if you're not a big fan of Strategy-RPG's, this isn't for you, as the gameplay will seem be tedious and somewhat boring. But for you RPG enthusiasts, you'll be glad the Game Boy Advance is portable.

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