Although I did a Final Fantasy game just two weeks ago, allow me this brief post while I try to get caught up after a busy week.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was given a Virtual Console release this week on the Wii U. While I still on my original cartridge, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up for $8. FFTA is hands down my favorite GBA game. I played it extensively in late elementary and middle school. It made me completely rethink what could fit into a handheld game. It was the first non-Pokemon game I played for more than 40 hours. On a less personal level, FFTA delivered memorable stories, characters, and gameplay on a handheld system. For this reason, I nominate it to my canon.
Story: The plot centers around children from the town of St. Ivalice being sucked into the fantasy world of Ivalice, which seems to exist in both an old book and the imagination of sad little boy. Shortly after arriving, your character, Marche, takes over a battling guild that runs missions for fun and profit. Along the way you encounter some characters from the real world and try to find a way back home. While that may sound a bit on the generic side, the story focuses heavily on the internal turmoil of Mewt, the sad boy who caused the world of Ivalice to be born. It hits harder than expected, and creates a memorable experience that ties the goals of the game together.
Characters: The main characters, Marche, Ritz, and Mewt, all stand out for driving the plot. However I found the more sideline characters like Cid the Judgemaster and your Moogle friend Montblanc to be sources of enjoyment. The world of Ivalice is filled with more than humans. Moogles, Viera, Nu Mou, and Bangaa are all present and fill roles of enemies, guildmates, and bystanders creating distinct archetypes to play with in the world of Ivalice.
Gameplay: FFTA relies on turn based tactical battles. The grid based maps vary in terrain, effects, and space giving a good diversity to play with. You build up your guild members, selecting their equipment and abilities like all RPGs, and then have to select who to send to each battle. Strategy is key to this game. The depth is quite impressive and requires significantly more thought than most main line Final Fantasy games. Throw in the law system which arbitrarily bans certain actions, and you have think twice about every choice you make in battle.
While there are plenty of fantasy tactical games, like the entire Fire Emblem series, I think FFTA stands out for its accessibility and character. It is not a light game, but it does not take long to get a handle on the strategy. It lacks permanent death of clan members, except in a few situations, but makes up for that lack of difficulty with the added law-breaking mechanic which will throw offending clan members in jail. The world is fantastic and ignites that Narnia-esque feeling of jumping from a mundane reality to something more interesting. I can’t recommend this game enough, and hope that it is remembered well in the future.
I promise next week won’t be Final Fantasy.