An exceptional ride for the GBA. Kupo.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a reiteration of its predecessor, though now on a portable console. The usual downgrading has been done to this title--something to be expected for a remake to the Gameboy Advance--and veteran players will notice that the original title's difficulty and depth has gone missing in this game. However, this is not a major loss, as the overall gameplay experience is enjoyable. Plus, it's the GBA, so you can take it anywhere.
The storyline is my main pain in this game. Maybe Square Enix decided that since it's a portable game, it doesn't need much of a story, but it truly is spectacularly lame. The storyline follows a troupe of downtrodden, bullied kids who get picked on at school. One day, one of the kids finds a weird runed book, and when they thumb through the pages, a strange magical occurrence happens. Their world is tranformed into Ivalice, the traditional setting of FF games, where monsters roam freely, and each of the kids is a powerful warrior equipped with magical weaponry. The main character, Marche (you get to rename him) tries to set about and restore the world to the way it originally was, but his friends don't see it that way.
Whatever. The story is something I completely disregarded as I was playing through the game.
The game's strength lies in its hybrid gameplay, and not in its story. I say hybrid, because it's not completely like an RTS. Although it does have some elements of an RTS, it borrows things, like the character positioning and attack system, from other games, like Fire Emblem and Legend of Mana. The battle system is virtually unchanged from the original FFT. You're allowed to select and fine-tune a group of warriors for your party, place them strategically in the battlefield, and begin. Each character's turn position depends on their speed. When their turn has come around, you can position them by moving them a certain number of spaces depending on their move capability levels. Depending on your character's class, you can do a host of actions to your enemy (or your team). White mages can heal, black mages can use long-distance spells, soldiers (such as Marche) can use short range sword attacks, archers can use bow and arrow attacks, etc. There is an objective of each battle, and usually it is to defeat all enemies or the boss. Once this is done, you have completed a mission and can progress through the story.
Once again, Square Enix creates a visual and aural masterpiece with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The gameplay, instead of being in ugly polygonal format, is a beautiful isometric view, encompassing many of Ivalice's environments, from the deserts to the mountains, to the plains and the swamps. The characters are cute, albeit chibi-looking, 3D-ish sprites. The music is an epitome of classic Final Fantasy, with orchestral-sounding MIDI themes that suit the overall package well. I could have done with a bit more sound variety, though.
This game is a great buy for the GBA if you're looking for a fun game to keep you coming back. If you're looking for a deep RTS with an awesome story, look elsewhere.
+ Fun, fun, fun
+ Great graphics
+ What music is there is great
+ Good level variety
+ Tons of sidequests
- Lame story
- Could use a bit *more* sound variety
- A bit easy/watered-down for fans of the original game