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Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

In 1997/1998 Square Soft gave birth to one of the most popular strategy-role playing games to date, Final Fantasy Tactics. This exclusive Sony Playstation title was very popular. The amount of breadth the game involved provided gamers with hours of play and replay. Now again in the year 2003 Square Enix blesses us with another installment in the world of Final Fantasy on Nintendo's ever so popular Game Boy Advance portable gaming system, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA).

FFTA takes place in the city of St. Ivalice. The story begins with our hero, Marche Radiuju with his two friends Mewt Randell and Ritz Malbeur being picked on at school. Afterwards Marche makes plans with Mewt and Ritz to come over to his house. Mewt brings this new book he bought that contains the world of Final Fantasy. Later that night something happens and Marche and his friends are magically taken to the fantasy world of Ivalice. As it turns out this Ivalice is the dream world of Mewt. Marche must work by himself attempt to get the real world to return, as both Mewt and Ritz have no desire to return.

This game contains 300 missions. The world of Ivalice contains five different playable races including Human, Bangaa, NuMou, Viera, and Moogles. There are 34 unique classes that some are race specific, while some are available to more than one. Some of the classes include Soldier, Fighter, Thief, Illusionist, Gladiator, White Monk, Bishop, Time Mage, Sage, Fencer, and so on. You can customize user's abilities; this will be discussed in further detailed later. You can recruit variety of characters into your clan. This is something you will need to do in order to accomplish all 300 missions. You can beat the game without doing so, but...

The game play centralizes around four major systems the world map, the clan system, the battle system, and the class/skills system.

The world map is a bird's eye view of the world of Ivalice. The map at the beginning is empty by default. After accomplishing various missions you are given new locations to place upon the world map. By strategically placing locations in different orders you can obtain hidden items. The movement on the world map is also very restrictive. For instance if you are at one location, you may have access to only one or two other locations. However you may move to any place on the world map, whether a location has been placed. At towns you can purchase new equipment, visit the local pub, further along the story and so on. The other locations are used to carry out missions or further along the story.

The clan system is your group of characters. Once in your clan you can accept optional and required missions at a town's pub. Once you have accomplished a mission your clan rank goes up which unlocks other missions, attracts new recruits, and unlocks special items.

The battle system has a board game like feel. The majority of missions you can deploy a total of six of your characters into the battle field. You strategically place them for the initial combat. The game play is completely turn based. The character on the board with the highest speed will move first. Characters are allowed to move and perform one action per turn. The movement is limited by two characteristics, move and jump abilities. The battle field map has vertical and horizontal obstacles like ridges, water, trees, flowers, rocks, etc. Some actions may include fight (attacking with your equipped weapon), skills (to be discussed soon), totema (a specific race's special move), or combo (a class's special move). Another key portion of the battle system is the judgment system. During different periods of time certain skills or skill sets are banned or encouraged during battle. Violating these laws can result in the violator in jail.

The class and skill systems add a customizable and unique feel to the game. Each character in your clan has potential access to change character classes. A human soldier with the necessary training can eventually become a fighter. This becomes essential in the game because each class can learn from a specific set of skills. However once a character has learned a certain skills, the ability can be used no matter what class the character is. For example it is possible to have a human soldier that can attack with black magic like a fire spell. This provides the potential to create unique and extremely powerful characters in the game. However it takes a great deal of time and effort to do so.

The game play provides an interesting mix produced from the long line of Final Fantasy titles such as Final Fantasy 3, Final Fantasy 5, and of course Final Fantasy Tactics.

The graphics of this game are fairly simple 2D. The graphics look pretty sharp on the little Game Boy Advance LCD screen. The graphics are pretty similar to what you would expect from a Super Nintendo game. In other words this game is powered by superb 16-bit graphics. The graphics are good. The graphics look pretty good on the big screen television when played through the GameCube's Game Boy Player. Though the picture is not nearly as sharp as on the GBA handheld unit. Perhaps it is a different between the two technologies? LCD versus CRT? Most likely that is the reason. Some GBA games also have a problem when played on the Game Boy Player, that the screen does not refresh quickly enough. Thus in high action games the game can appear sluggish. However this does not happen since the game play is all turn based.

The audio is pretty basic and pretty bland. It gets extremely repetitive and annoying. You might be better off just turning the sound off and listening to the radio.

This is definitely a good game. There is a solid amount of game play if you are prepared to sit in front of your little screen (or big screen if using the GB Player) for hours. Unfortunately the game does get slightly repetitive, as after a while the 300 missions and the random battles all seem to be the same. I have logged well over 60 hours into my game and I'm at a point where I just can't play it any more. Nonetheless it's still a good game.

While I suggest this game, individuals looking for game play like Final Fantasy won't like this game, since the game play borderlines games like the Shining Force series and Tactics Ogre. Hopefully and most obviously, people who don't like turn based role playing games should also steer clear.

One final note. While this game is rated E for everyone (ages 6 and older), I feel that the game play is a little more advance than a six year old. However the story line is perfect for a six year old. Perhaps I just don't know enough six year olds. I would have thought this game would have been better targeted at teens and older.