Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is one of the best RPGs on the GBA.
There are two major complaints people bring up when discussing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and I'll defend them both here. First the storyline. You play as a school kid sucked into a magical fantasy land. Yeah, this isn't the same medieval-ish Final Fantasy Tactics that you known and loved that involved a deep storyline of backstabbing and more backstabbing. However, I grew up with these type of storylines in my movies and books as a kid. I love these fantasy storylines. The deeper I got into the game, the more I was attached to the characters. Even though there wasn't MUCH storyline in the game, it did a great job of advancing the characters feelings, thoughts and dreams.
The other major complaint is the Law system. Heck, I thought it was lame at first, but the more the Judges became part of the storyline and the more you could tweak Law and Ant-Law cards, the more fun the Law system got. I admit it's an aquired taste, but it add a bit more depth to the battle system.
If you enjoy Strategy RPGs, I can't find a reason NOT to pick this up.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a turn-based Strategy RPG.
At the start of the battle, you place up 4 to 6 characters on a field. Before you do that, you must check what Laws are placed on the battle field. That's right, each battle is "judged" and if you break a law, then you are going to jail or you'll be fined. You can, however get around the laws later in the game with Anti-law cards. Laws can also be helpful for you, for example, if you are fighting a group of Mages and the law is against Color Magic, then the advantage is heavily in your favor.
Turns are determined by the enemy or character with the best speed. You gain experience for ever attack you complete. After each 100 experience points, you gain a level. You don't gain Job Points like you did in the original FFT though. The Job Points you do gain go towards a meter of sorts. When you reach 10 Job Points, you are then allowed to unleash a MASSIVE Summon against the entire battlefield. You can also unleash a big combo attack with them too. Each race has a different summon though.
You gain new abilities by equipping weapons. Each weapon has a ability attached to it, that only a certain race can equip. There are a TON of weapons to gain and alot of abilities to learn. You only skill points after you beat a group of enemies. You need a certain about of skill points to learn a s This is also another change from FFT. This also makes the game less-breakable. You can't easily skill grind and learn a buttload of skills in one fight. You NEED to fight a ton of battles to learn skills.
Races take a huge part into the game too. You can no longer learn EVERY class in the game, but certain races can learn certain classes. For example, Humans can learn Ninja, but can't learn Assassin. Or a Mog can learn a Mog Knight but can't learn a regular Fighter. I think this is an improvement.
Once you master a skill, you learn it forever. You can attach up to 5 skills per character. One that is automatically attached with your Class, the other is another Class of your choosing. You can then equip a Counter skill, and Combo skill and a Weapon skill.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Marche, a young school student. While playing a game of snowballs, he befriends a new student Mewt. Mewt's mother passed away and he is currently living with his single father. Marche invites Mewt over to his home, along with his friend Ritz, to play a game of Final Fantasy with his wheelchair bound brother Doned. As the kids are sucked into the game, they realize they are IN the game and all their fantasy come true. Ritz' hair color changes (she hates her white hair), Doned can walk again, and Mewt is reunited with his mother. Marche joins a clan, and trys to find his place on the new world of Ivalice.
I know alot of people hated the storyline. I agree, it's NOTHING like Final Fantasy Tactics, but I LOVED the storyline. I reminded me of the Wizard of Oz or possible Neverending Story.
Even if you dislike the storyline, it's only a small fraction of the game. I played 209 missions and put 56 hours into the game, and only 10% of that was probably strictly storyline. This reminds me a bit of Final Fantasy XII in many ways. I spent more time playing sideqests than actually advancing the storyline.
Final Fantasy XII is also set in Ivalice and shares more similarities to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance than the original FFT.
The graphics impressed me quite a bit. This is a GBA game and it looks nearly as good as the original Final Fantasy Tactics. It's scaled down, compared to FFT, but it some aspects it looks better. Sure, the maps are smaller, the special effects aren't, the sprites are smaller, there are fewer cutscenes. However, I think the sprites have amazing detail for a GBA game. The special effects are freaking amazing, especially the summons.
The sound is near perfect. It has everything you would expect from a Final Fantasy title, great music and great sound effects. I can't think of a single complaint.
The world map is a pretty cool idea. Basically, you start off with a town and dungeon, but the farther you advance the storyline, the more towns and dungeons you unlock. This is basically like the original Final Fantasy Tactics, however, this is a huge difference. Once you unlock a new town or dungeon, you can place it where ever you want on the map.
Unlike the original Final Fantasy Tactics, there are no more random encounters when you travel along the map. However, Rival Clans will pop up, sometimes three at a time, randomly runnin around the map. You can avoid them or fight them if you want, they are unimportant to the storyline but good for skill grinding.
Another thing you have to watch for on the map is your territory. The stronger your Clan gets, the more territory you control. Sometimes, rival Clans will attack your territories, and you have to rush to them to defend them. These fights are always 4 on 4 fights, and rather easy. You usually have 30 days to defend it, so it's not a difficult or frustrating task.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance can be as long as you want it to be. I reached the final boss fight at 35 hour mark, but decided to level grind and do more side missions before completing the game.
One cool thing about beating the game is it takes you directly back to your last save spot, so if you want, you can continue side questing the game.