FFTA is a fantastic game that, when given the time, can be immensely rewarding.
Thanks to the resurgence of the strategy genre in the early naughts with the releases of games like Tactics Ogre and Advance Wars, it seemed inevitable that the Final Fantasy Tactics series would get a reboot of sorts for the Game Boy Advance. I wasn’t sure what to think of the game when I first picked up way back in the day, but once I put the hours into it, the game felt immensely rewarding. That still rings true well over a decade later as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance can be a wonderful experience and a great start for players looking to get into the genre, though it can be time consuming.
The game’s premise is a relatable one. As the new kid in school, Marche befriends two other students, all who have some insecurities about their appearance or personalities. One day after a snow fight gone awry, Marche invites his friends to read a book based on their favorite video game, Final Fantasy, only to discover most of the pages were blank. Later that night the book comes to life, transforming their quiet, snowy town into a bustling desert oasis full of enemies, moogles, and other creatures in the Final Fantasy universe. The theme throughout the story is Marche looking to find a way home, but his friends have other ideas as their insecurities are gone in this new world. I’ve always enjoyed the story in this game; it isn’t deep by any means but is certainly relatable as everyone has insecurities they wish they could get rid of. The game’s dialogue can get cheesy here and there, but the light humor and overall sense of adventure throughout keeps the story told at a steady, solid pace. While not revolutionary, it’s perfectly acceptable.
Gameplay within FFTA is simple on the surface, but can be very deep once you get into the thick of things. You start off with basic classes based on a character’s race (hume, no mou, moogle or viera) and can evolve a character on there based on how many skills they learn in that class. Skills are learned by equipping different items; these can be collected by either purchasing them in the shop in various towns or obtaining them through missions. This gives the game incredible depth -- you can mix and match whatever skills you want, giving each character a different set of moves, reactions and perks that I’ve gleefully spent hours on getting just the right kind of character I want in my party.
Difficulty wise, the game is very streamlined, especially in comparison to the original. Characters, for the most part, don’t die, elements don’t really play part of the battle and as long as you grind, you won’t have much trouble getting past big battles. For advanced players, this game might not be much of a challenge at all. This is in stark contrast to the original game on the Playstation where it could be very difficult at time. It’s very much a streamlined experience in comparison to other strategy titles, but at the same time the game is also pretty inviting, which is a plus.
The art and music of the game is also really well done, though there are some faults. The music in the game is really peppy and enjoyable to listen to, and sets the tone for each area very well. It does get repetitive, however, especially when you’ve devoted a lot of time to the game. The graphics and characters really pop out in color and design and are nice to view, but some stages can be a bit barren based on where you are at on the map.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a very rewarding game once you put the time and effort into it. There’s a nice story, deep combat system and challenging battles for you to enjoy should you take the challenge. It can certainly turn into a bit of a grindfest and takes a long while to fully beat the game (for me, it was clocking in at nearly 100 hours) but if you are looking for something to play for the long haul, you can’t do any better on the Virtual Console.