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Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

Preview By: AJ Middleton

Developer:  Square Enix
Publisher:  Nintendo
Genre:  Strategy/RPG
Est. Release:  September 2003
Posted:  8-14-03

It’s official.  Square has returned to Nintendo!  And they’re bringing one of the PSX Final Fantasies to the Game Boy Advance!

…Not really.

Despite what was rumored months before E3, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is not a slightly updated version of its PSX predecessor.  FFTA is a whole new game on its own.

The story, from what we know now, seems pretty simple.  Marche, the main character living in the town of St. Ivalice, returns home after a snowball fight (which serves as an introduction to the battle system.)  Upon arriving at home, Marche’s friends, Mewt and Ritz, come by his house to show a mysterious book that they found.  They can’t read the cryptic writing, so they leave and allow Marche to fall asleep.  But when our hero wakes up, he’s not in Kana…I mean, St. Ivalice, anymore.  Instead, he is in a strange new world.  A Moogle first guides Marche, but he is later introduced to a gang of various characters who will help him.  Marche’s mission is, along with his new crew, to understand this new world and to ultimately get back home.  Of course, being a Square game, the plot is bound to develop into something great.  We DO know that it has something to do with crystals…

Like in Final Fantasy Tactics, FFTA uses the job system.  Marche’s gang can be given a variety of jobs, over 30 in all.  Each job has different stats and abilities.  For example, the ninja is fast, but he has low defense and HP.  Grunts are strong, but they can’t cast magic like a mage can.  Jobs can be switched, but you don’t start the game with all of them.  New jobs become available as your experience increases, and with over 30 available, I would love to see what occupations exist in the higher levels.

Battles are also like that of FFT.  They take place on a 3D, isometric viewpoint, and the field is composed of different squares.   The system is turned based with HP and MP, but more strategy is built into it.  On a turn, you move a character through the squares to use items and eventually to attack.  The strength of the attack depends on a number of things.  It’s necessary to pay attention to the direction that your character will attack from, the distance from the enemy, and even the terrain that you are on.

A new interesting feature is the Law system.  A judge will reside over every battle, and he’ll tell you the rules of the fight.  Such rules may be something like no magic attacks or no items.  For this reason, its necessary to always have a well rounded team; you never know what tricks a judge will pull out of his sleeve.  You can break these laws, but a criminal will go to jail after battle, and you’ll have to give up some cash to get them out. Tricky tricky.

The game’s graphics look amazing.  They bring back memories of Square’s old RPGs on the SNES.  The characters are colorful, the action is smooth, and everything looks pretty detailed.  And the magic!  Of course FFTA has a magic system, and it looks great.  Lightning comes down and crashes into one-eyed baddies.  Meteors fall from the sky.  To make everything better, there are summons too.  With what Golden Sun showed us a few years ago, I can’t wait to see what Square will do with today’s improved technology.  Oh, and the game contains a graphics setting so that you can adjust contrast and brightness depending on whether you’re playing the GBA, GBA SP, or the GB player.  It’s about time for that option!

Being that it IS a Final Fantasy, FFTA will contain shops, a variety of items and weapons, and side quests.  The shops contain the usual goodies…at a price.  Weapons and items can significantly alter stats at the cost of taking from others, but watch out!  Some items may be ruled “illegal” by a judge in battle!  The side quest system sounds pretty unique.  Marche can send some of his team members on smaller quests during the main journey.  Of course, they can’t be a part of the battles at home, but it seems to open the potential for two things to be going on at once.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance looks like a very promising game.  With hours of gameplay, I’m sure the newly formed Square Enix will make a handheld masterpiece.  And besides, it’s SQUARE back on a Nintendo system?  What RPG fan wouldn’t want that?

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