|Square-Enix’s “Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance” for the Game Boy Advance is a brilliantly designed strategy game in the style of Tactics Ogre. It is a great game, with fantasy, strategy, and action rolled into one package.|
The game starts in “the real world”, the world we know and sometimes love. The main character of the story is Marche, a young boy who lives in the cold, northern town of St. Ivalice. He’s just recently moved there, and goes to school at a public school. During a snowball fight (in which you learn the basics of the game), a boy named Mewt is mocked by other kids because of his habit of holding a teddy bear for comfort. Mewt is picked on a lot, and ends up bleeding from a rock hidden in a snowball. The only people who try to help him are Marche and another student, a girl named Ritz. After Mewt is taken care of, he says he’s going to a bookstore to buy this new book he saw, apparently about fantasy things. Marche invites Ritz and Mewt over to his house to look at it, as his younger brother (who has a condition that forces him to be in a wheelchair and to need to go to the hospital) likes fantasy and that kind of stuff. The children look at the book for a long time, but none of them can read the words, because they are written in some strange, other language. That night, while everyone is asleep, the book opens by itself and a strange light comes out of it. The entire town of St. Ivalice is turned into a different town, with creatures and things pictured in the book. Now, Marche must find a way back to his world, encountering strange creatures and many battles as he goes.
The system of the game combines bits from several games, with a bit from Final Fantasy, and a bit from Tactics Ogre. Characters can be of several races-Humans, the furry, trickster Moogles, the wise Nu Mou, the fierce, reptilian Bangaa, and the humanoid/rabbit cross Viera. Each race has their own list of jobs that they can eventually have. Humans, for example, can start with the Soldier, Black Mage, Thief, White Mage, and Archer. Gaining abilities of these classes gets you elite classes, which are more specific jobs, like Paladin or Fighter from the Soldier job. Abilities are gained through weapons. Weapons have abilities linked to them (such as Fire for a Mage’s Staff) that can be used while the weapon is equipped. Winning battles gives the participants Ability Points that are used to master abilities, which means that you can use that ability even without its specific weapon equipped. This means that taking, say, a Soldier, switching him to Black Mage, equipping him with a staff, making him fight a couple battles and switching him back will result in a Soldier with Black Magic abilities. There are limits, though. Switching a character to a class (like the Soldier to Black Mage example) means that he or she can only use the things a Black Mage is allowed to use (no heavy armor or swords). Even so, this allows for an amazing amount of customized characters.
Since Marche is in a clan, there is a whole “clan” aspect of the game. The main mode of combat is done with missions that you get from checking at pubs. There are also Dispatch missions, in which you send one character off for a certain time. When he or she comes back, they report if the mission was a success or not. There are also enemy clans you must fight. Victory will give the clan some Clan Points, which upgrades the effectiveness of certain skills that are needed for some missions. There’s also “Clan Turf”, in which you do missions to get a town as your turf. These missions include driving off bandits and slaying monsters. Once an area is considered your turf, you get battle bonuses on it, and if it’s a town you get reduced cost on things. However, occasionally enemy clans will try to get some turf, and if they get it you can’t ever have it. So, you must beat the clan in battle before they complete the takeover.
In battles, there are several things to consider. The first of these is the current laws, which are enforced by Judges. The laws prevent the use of certain things, such as certain weapons or spells, on a battlefield. Breaking the law means penalty or being sent to prison. Conversely, there are also awards (Judge Points) for getting KOs or for doing what the Laws recommend. The second thing to consider is KOs. Instead of as in Tactics Ogre, where death is permenant for characters unless you resurrect them, KOs mean that the character is only out until the end of the current battle. So, there is much less concern over losing a high-level character forever. The third thing you must take in is position. A character is more likely to hit an opponent from behind or the side than from the front. Also, bows can’t shoot high easily, and go farther on smooth ground than higher up.
The graphics in the game are very good. The character portraits are very well drawn, and the game graphics are very nice also, with the same types of graphics as Tactics Ogre and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Spell effects are done well, with good special effects.
The sound is good. The music seems sort of tinny, but overall is very nice. The people’s voices (for when they are KO’d) are better than Tactics Ogre’s voices were. The sound effects are done well, with the appropriate clangs and zaps.
Overall, this is a great game. 9/10.
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