Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Reviewed by Minna Kim Mazza
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2004-05-14 GBA Strategy E (Everyone) Square-Enix

Having never played the original Tactics, I really didn't know what to expect here. I knew it was not like your run-of-the-mill Final Fantasy games, but more about... battle tactics. Upon starting the game I felt like I was in a time-machine, traveling back to the days of SNES and FF6... but in miniature form of course. This can't be good on the eyes, but you can't beat portability.

I have to start out by saying I hardly looked at the manual before playing the game, and initially it was a little cryptic and weird. Your game starts out in the town of Ivalice, your main character being a boy named Marche who is the new kid in town. He makes friends with spunky Ritz, kind of a tomboy-ish strong-willed girl, and Mewt, a quiet boy who is bossed around by his classmates. There is a snowball throwing match between Marche, Ritz, Mewt, and the bullies, which is a nice introduction to the mechanics of the game (though you don't necessarily know that yet). The three make a likely group and get together after school one day to check out Mewt's cool new book, aptly entitled "Final Fantasy." However this is no ordinary book, and Marche wakes up in an entirely different world (called "Ivalice" of course) with strange creatures, and his friends nowhere to be seen. Marche befriends a Moogle named Montblanc, and his adventures begin as a clan leader for missions to undertake to gain money and items for your clan members.

While the game has a storyline, leading up to the end boss, the meat of this game is in the missions themselves, and building up experience and abilities for your clan members that you recruit while playing the game.

There are four different races in the game: human, nu mou, bangaa, and viera. Each race has a starting set of classes, and as you learn more abilities per class type you unlock more advanced classes. Humans have the largest set of classes to choose from initially. Nu mou are mainly magic users, bangaa are primarily fighter-types, and viera focus on their swiftness and have fighter classes focused on agility, and some magic classes as well that are unique to their class.

Recruiting clan members is kind of random. Often after you complete a mission, you will get a prompt that a new member seeks to join the clan. Except for Marche and Montblanc, you can release clan members anytime, in order to seek a clan of well balanced races and classes. You can have up to 24 clan members (including Marche and Montblanc) so choose wisely. Generally new membership will be around the same average level as your other clan members, but will probably not have any abilities either.

Clan members gain leveling experience and ability points (AP) through missions which you obtain at a pub in a city on the map, or through random battles when encountering other clans. There are two types of missions - battle and dispatch. Dispatch missions simply involve sending a clan member off on a mission that will be completed after a number of days, battles, or enemies defeated in regular battle missions. Clan members will gain AP that will help learn their abilities, but no experience, so make sure that you don't just keep sending one clan member off to dispatch missions because they won't gain levels. Regular battle missions involve going to the location on the map and selecting that mission to engage in battle. Certain equipment will teach your clan members particular abilities based on the class, so as the clan member learns abilities they will be switching out equipment often.

As the game goes along, you learn that there are laws governing your battles. These laws basically dictate abilities you cannot use during a battle or else you get penalized by the judge (who watches over the battle ominously). A law's counterpart ability allows you to gain judgment points (JP), which will eventually help you in combo attacks and something called "Totema," which become available for different races as the game progresses, as a powerful attack that targets all enemies. Clan members also gain JP when KO'ing an enemy in battle. If you break a law during a battle, you'll get a yellow card from the judge, and if you have 2 yellow cards you get a red card, which sends you off to prison! The prison is in the city location Sprohm, and you can go to release the clan member by paying gil. Also, you can pardon clan members who have yellow cards already by doing certain tasks, like suspending your clan activity or such, but generally it's not a big deal unless your clan member is actually imprisoned (in which case, I'd just reset the game back to the save point and remember not to break the law again!)

Eventually you gain the ability to nullify a law with "anti-law cards," which you can play at any time during the mission on a clanmember's turn to nullify a law in effect. You can also create a law as well with "law cards," which institute a new law. This is very helpful for obvious reasons! You gain new law cards during missions, but eventually will be able to trade them in for ones that you want after you complete certain missions.

The battle itself is kind of like playing on a chessboard, where each clan member takes up a space on the map, and can move a certain number of spaces. It's pretty self-explanatory, any gamer should be able to figure this out! It's a turn-based battle, and speed is a factor in how soon a turn comes up, so keep that in mind when selecting clan members for a battle. When you select "Move" for the active clan member, squares are highlighted in blue showing you where you can move that clan member. The "Action" menu will have all the abilities available for that clan member. You can pick and choose what goes in your Action menu as well, either just before battle begins or in between missions on the main map. All clan members will have the "Fight" command which basically just involves whacking the adjacent enemy unit with your weapon (be careful though, some weapons actually will heal the target). Many magic and skill abilities will allow you to target an enemy from further away, and some will allow you to target an area of adjacent squares or even the whole map. There will be some turns you won't be able to do anything at all, in that case you just select "Wait." At the end of the turn you determine what way your clan member will face. This is important because for physical attacks, you can do more damage to an enemy's backside, and less if they are facing you directly. So it's always a good idea to face your clan members in such a way to prevent their backs from being exposed.

Your map is initially pretty empty with only a couple cities, but as you complete missions that involve the storyline (generally battle missions), you can place new locations on your map in the designated areas. As you do this, you will see some connecting map locations jiggle, which means there is an item available. Visiting that location will have a menu item "Treasure Hunt" and when you select it, you will find a free item. Some strategy guides will show you the optimal placement for locations - I personally don't think it's a big deal, but you may want to check them out for some rare items that you won't be able to find in the game otherwise. There are some good maps on Gamefaqs.

Join Marche in his quest to find his way back home! This is a highly addictive game, great for playing during air travel and all that waiting in the airports now that they make you get there so early, and definitely the game worth getting for your Gameboy Advance.