Final Fantasy Tactics Advance takes a step away from the traditional roaming Final Fantasy role playing game. Instead this is in the same format as the amazing Tactics Ogre (GBA) game, where it is a turn based tactical strategy mixed with role playing elements. Its a gem of a game, even if I feel its just under its predecessor, its still an incredible effort to take a fantastic game and use elements from Final Fantasy to make something fresh.
This is not a sequel to Tactics Ogre, but it does use the same system, which is you are a commander of a band of do-gooders, called a “clan.” Your clan can consist of dozens of members and to gain gold, you must visit pubs at towns and take on missions. The missions have different plots but they are all basically traveled to a place and defeat all of the enemies or a boss.
Because of the tactical strategy, I’d say is one of the most realistic role-playing games in existence, because with a normal RPG, you wander the countryside looking for a battle, when you find it, you have a choice, fight, use magic or run. With Final Fantasy Tactics, when you battle you see an entire landscape of a battle area, trees you can hide behind, mountains, water and so on.
In battle you take control each character of your army (up to six can be in a battle at a time). Control them to move, fight, use spells, special abilities, items, and use real battle tactics! Maneuver a character behind an enemy and have them stab the enemy in the back! Have your archers take the high ground and bombard the enemy with arrows or you can fight the enemy head on! Its a complex, engaging and enthralling game of chess.
There are dozens of weapons, spells with dazzling graphics, armor and so on to equip to characters of your clan. The reason why I am calling members of your clan “characters” is because there are several character classes and races. There are classes such as knights, soldiers, magicians, clerics, archers, thieves, ninjas, beast tamers, dragon tamers, musket men and more. The races vary from humans, fairies, mermaids, moggles, lizard-like people and beasts such as antoids, griffins, dragons and giant hounds. Throughout the game randomly people will ask to join your clan.
What is really nice about this game is to mix things up it has dispatch missions where it requires you send out someone of your clan for a few days to do the mission themselves. You do not see their action, but they come back successful or not.
Another nice twist of the game is that there are rival clans to compete against and turf wars. For each battle you control in the game there are different rules for each area you battle in, rules such as no blinding, or ganging up. If a character dies during combat he is only “knocked out” until the battle is won, however there is also an impartial referee to carry out these rules, if you break a rule you get a warning, the second time you are thrown in prison for a penalty of a few days (so that person cannot compete in the present battle or any others while in prison).
The story takes a back seat to the combat. While there are twists and turns, its nothing like the other Final Fantasy games. The game never tries to incorporate your randomly generated characters into the story. Instead you have one or two main characters and evil villains that drive the story. By the end of the game, I had forgotten that the protagonist was from the real world before he was sucked in and forced to build a clan.
Its a fun, deep game for its tactical combat on a grid, but anyone wanting a traditional role playing game should steer clear. Even if the game is still fantastic, it feels alien from its predecessor Tactics Ogre. There are lot of new things to learn. New species, new rules and old tactics to forget about.