Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - GBA

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Viewed: 2D Isometric, Scrolling Genre:
Adventure: Role Playing
Arcade origin:No
Developer: Square Enix Soft. Co.: Square Enix
Publishers: Nintendo (GB/US)
Square Enix (JP)
Released: 2002 (JP)
24 Oct 2003 (GB)
11 Sept 2003 (US)
Ratings: PEGI 3+, ESRB Everyone
Connectivity: Link Cable


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In the early 1990's, Japan’s Squaresoft and Nintendo were two of the strongest softcos in the games industry. Square developed the games, while Nintendo gave them the hardware. But all that changed when Sony entered the fray with the CD-based PlayStation and Nintendo opted for a third cartridge-based console, the Nintendo 64. Square took Final Fantasy development over to Sony’s console, leaving Nintendo bitter. That rift was felt for nearly ten years until the two companies finally buried the hatchet. It’s been a long wait for Nintendo loyalists, but Final Fantasy is back on Nintendo hardware for 2003, under the new Square-Enix name, with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

When Marche and his friends, all ardent Final Fantasy fanatics, open an ancient magical tome, their small town of St. Ivalice transforms into a kingdom of swords and sorcery. To return his world to normal, Marche must join a clan, take up the sword, learn magic and fight his way through literally hundreds of tactical battles. Ultimately, he must unravel the riddle of the crystals - the magical stones that are the key to restoring his home.

In all fairness, it’s probably the weakest plot Square-Enix has dreamt up, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a stellar example of a turn-based RTS and a fine addition to the 45-million-selling series. After being sucked into the new world of Final Fantasy, your adventure as protagonist Marche and his companions begins in a small pub in the uncharted world of Ivalice. It’s here that you’ll learn all about the basics of the game and how to fight in battle.

In an attempt to reduce the linearity of this latest Tactics spin-off, Square-Enix has developed what is dubbed the 'Region Create System'. In the beginning, the game map is literally empty, but with progress you’ll discover new areas. The only difference is, you get to decide where that area lies by placing it on one of the map’s 40 or so vacant spots. The positioning of your new found locales isn’t crucial to the game as a whole, but it does give players a little freedom and choice to make the game their own.

But this merely serves as a hub to carry Tactics’ 300 missions. Some missions entail sending other members of your party to predetermined locations to resolve troubling issues, but don’t involve player participation. The rest of the missions are battles and, like the game’s PlayStation predecessor, take place on grid-like environments with armies of monsters and, on occasion, opposing clans. Players are permitted to send up to six members of their party into battle, in which they must take turns to inflict damage on the enemy. However, if the lead character dies during battle, the game is over.

To help you in this conflicted world are several hundred abilities, spanning a number of specific 'jobs'. Depending on the current job assigned to each of your party members, certain abilities can be learned. A Black Mage, for example, has a full library of black magic at his disposal, and a White Mage can take advantage of numerous healing spells. However, abilities are by no means free. They come equipped with specific weapons, accessories and armour that are, in many cases, costly. It’s is unlikely even the most avid Final Fantasy player will fully learn every ability the game has to offer, but there’s enough there to give players the choice to develop their characters how they wish.

With regards to presentation, there is a little room for improvement in the game’s interface and menu system. Understandably though, it’s difficult to cram so much information onto such a small screen, so in that respect, Square-Enix’s efforts are commendable. And they’ve done a brilliant job with the game’s visuals too. The game runs as smooth as can be expected, and in the later stages of the game, there is some spectacular eye-candy in the form of top-level magic and a few familiar summon monsters. And despite the game not being delivered in 3D, the isometric perspective of the original is retained in the sequel, so nothing is really lost in this respect. It just means you can’t rotate the game environments as you could before, and consequently, the game’s areas are flatter for easier viewing.

Again, Square-Enix has proved itself as one of the most respected developers in the industry, delivering yet another solid RPG that fans of the genre are simply going to love. Enough said.