Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was a 2003 strategy role-playing game by Squaresoft, Inc. for the Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance was a pretty powerful handheld console compared to the older Game Boys. It was capable of playing Super Nintendo games, even some 2D PlayStation games were capable of running on it if developers took the time. Because of this, I had looked into good past games, hoping developers would re-release them or make sequels of them for the Game Boy Advance. That exact thing happened when Squaresoft came out with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The original game, simply titled Final Fantasy Tactics, had come out only for the PlayStation. I was really excited to be able to play a game like that.
The story was about three school friends who discovered a magical book after school one day. They decided to read a few pages of the book, not knowing it was magical. That night as they all slept, somehow they were all teleported into the book’s fantasy. The story mostly focused on the character of Marche, who was the leader of the group. Over the course of the game, Marche had to get his bearings in this new world, find his friends that had also been transported to this new world, and find a way to get back to the real world. Because it was a video game, he ran into many opposing people, requiring combat to settle their differences.
I really had a blast with this game. It could get tedious at times, but I must have sunk hundreds of hours into it. The gameplay was a combination of turn-based strategy and role-playing games. Like a turn-based strategy game, players took turns moving their fighting characters on a battlefield to defeat other characters. Like a role-playing game, each character could be leveled up to gain stats and improved with better items to learn spells.
I really loved the whole job system in the game. Each character had several different combat jobs available to them from being a defensive warrior to being an archer to flinging spells at enemies. The player could switch a character’s job anytime outside of combat, but they could only learn new abilities or spells in their chosen job during combat. Each job had a few special abilities that could be used in combat when the job wasn’t active, but most of the job’s spells were restricted to when it was the active job. Rounding out the role-playing game features were shops to buy items, heal characters, and get quests from.
There was a series of story missions. The reward for each one was a special “location token”. These tokens were a new level to play on. The world map started out with a bunch of empty dots where these tokens could be placed as the story was completed. This was a really cool idea to me because everyone created their own unique world map. There were some bonuses for placing location tokens in certain patterns. The player could continue the story as fast as they wanted or slow things down to engage random enemy groups on the map.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was a complicated game. I spent hours just planning out how I would advance my characters. It then took hours for the plans to come to fruition due to how slow combat could be sometimes. It wasn’t that the game had long loading times. It was just that turn-based combat always takes time. I really loved all the tactics involved, but leveling up characters and learning new job skills could take hours.
On many occasions I got so tired of Final Fantasy Tactic Advance, I actually stopped playing the game for months. Then when I came back, not interested in figuring out what I was doing before, I’d start a whole new game. This happened at least three times, maybe more. Finally, one time I was able to beat the game. I was getting tired of leveling up characters and learning new skills. I just gave up on maximizing my character’s stats and finished the story. I had beaten the game but never got to see all the skills.
In addition to the sometimes tediousness of the combat, I didn’t like how certain unique items were missable. If these items were missed, certain skills for certain jobs could not be learned in that game. This was needlessly tedious. I eventually bought a strategy guide to ensure I wouldn’t miss any unique items. I wanted to get every job mastered on at least one character. The game was definitely beatable without doing this, but I was disappointed that there was the possibility I couldn’t do everything in one save file.
Another thing I didn’t like about this game was that most characters that joined my clan or gang to fight had no personality. After battles and some quests, a random character would request to join. I could accept them or deny them, but it didn’t matter all that much. I needed one of each race in the game (five total) to be able to master all of the jobs in the game. Outside of those five characters, I really didn’t need any more. I did keep a backup character because some battles allowed more than five people on a team, but most times those secondary characters just sat in camp doing nothing. All of the characters involved in the story were great. I wanted them on my team and many times they were required, but I wished Squaresoft could have made these random characters more interesting.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was far from perfect, but I still had a ton of fun with it. Fans of the original game didn’t like the more childish story in this game, but it was a great introduction to the Final Fantasy Tactics gameplay. I do wish the original game was available on one of my newer consoles. I would enjoy seeing what it was about, but Squaresoft (now Square Enix) have always kept it on the Sony consoles, which I’ve never owned.