It's fun, but it could have been much more challenging.
The game’s story revolves around four children-Marche, Ritz, Mewt, and Doned. Marche is the new kid in town and he is very shy. Ritz is outspoken and quick to help Marche and Mewt when the other school kids pick on them. Mewt’s mother has recently died and he is constantly teased because he always carries a teddy bear around. Doned is Marche’s wheelchair-bound little brother. The game opens at a school in the town of St. Ivalice, where some kids are having an innocent snowball fight. This basically serves as a tutorial. After the snowball fight, Marche invites Ritz and Mewt over to look at a new book that Mewt has bought. But while they are asleep at night, the book magically turns the town in a magical world known as Ivalice (the same realm as the original game). In Ivalice there are many clans that go about and do missions for people. The clans also war over turf. Here the friends are separated and Marche meets a Moogle, a small furry race, and explains what happens. The Moogle, named Montblanc, is obviously finding Marche’s situation hard to believe. Long story short, Montblanc asks Marche if he would like to join his clan and Marche obliges. I guess I’ll stop here, as this is where the main game begins and I want to avoid spoilers, but in case your wondering, Marche, Ritz, Mewt, and Doned’s paths do cross at various times throughout the game.
The game has a fairly basic turn-based battle system. Characters act in order depending on speed, move around the map a certain number of spaces based on movement, and act using certain abilities that they gain. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting tactical elements of the original FFT, the fact that some spells took multiple turns to cast, has been removed from this game. Now, this isn’t like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars, where each team takes turns moving. There are no turns. Characters on both sides act in order according to speed. Characters get Judge pints throughout battle for killing enemies and other performing recommended abilities specified by the law. You can also acquire Totemas later in the game. Totemas are powerful beings that guard the crystals that keep the world from being destroyed. These Totemas are all race-specific and must be defeated in battle before they can be used. A character must amass 10 Judge Points across many battles before he can summon one. Since they take so long to get, they should be used sparingly. Totemas can end battles single-handedly.
FFTA also has an interesting law system. Every battle has a judge who enforces certain laws. These vary from things such as “no magic” and “no items” to “no missiles” or “no fighting” (with fighting being basic attacks). It adds a nice tactical element to the gameplay. However, you can nullify laws and add new ones, once you start acquiring law and anti-law cards later in the game. Judges play a small story role as well. The reason characters never die in battle is because judges don’t allow it. However, there are some areas, known as jagds, where judges cannot go. There are no laws in these places, but here if your characters die, they are gone for good.
Probably the best aspect of FFTA is the game’s robust job system. The jobs are alchemist, animist, archer, assassin, beastmaster, black mage, blue mage, defender, dragoon, elementalist, fencer, fighter, gadgeteer, gladiator, gunner, hunter, illusionist, juggler, mog knight, morpher, ninja, paladin, red mage, sage, sniper, soldier, summoner, templar, thief, time mage, warrior, white mage, and white monk. Needless to say, there’s lots of variety. Many jobs are also only available to a specific race. You can’t get all these jobs from the get-go however. Most jobs require you to get abilities from other jobs first. For example, to get a Viera elementalist, you must first get a white mage ability and them get a fencer ability, before you can use an elementalist. The jobs are all very diverse and can all learn different abilities. Abilities are all learned by using associated weapons. Use the weapon enough and you will master the ability. You can then switch jobs, but retain those abilities. However, you can only use one other job’s abilities in addition to your current jobs abilities. Some of the game’s most powerful characters come form creating powerful hybrid characters.
You have the option to recruit new members to your clan throughout the game, but you rarely have to. Since you usually have only six members of your clan in each battle you will usually stick with the characters that you started out with at the beginning of the game.
This game would have gotten a better score if not for one thing: it’s insanely easy. You have items in battle, but you will rarely use any because your healers can easily handle you team’s healing. You also frequently outnumber your enemies. Your enemies aren’t very smart either. Thankfully, the game makes up for this by being insanely long. You could easily squeeze two hundred hours out of this game, due to the fact that the game has 300 missions! This still doesn’t make up for the game’s low difficulty, however.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a great game overall. It has an excellent story fun gameplay, incredible depth, and will last a long time. If you are a fan of the original or of the genre, or you’re just looking for a good game to last you awhile, you should be able to look over FFTA’s shortcomings and find a satisfying and long-lasting adventure.