Review by ReyJavikVI
"FFVI: The game, not the port"
Final Fantasy VI Advance, the GBA port to maybe the most popular Final Fantasy for the SNES Final Fantasy III. While most reviews here compare this game to the original, I will not do so. I will review this game's characteristics, pretending this is a stand-alone game. A consequence of this is that I will not specifically comment about the bonus stuff in this port.
I'll divide the review into sections: Story, Gameplay, Graphics, Music/Sound, Replay Value.
Story - 7/10
The story isn't that original, although that doesn't mean it's bad. Basically, you start off as a couple of soldiers of the Empire. The Empire has rediscovered the secret of Magic, lost in a war 1000 years ago, and has been using it to make powerful war machines. Apparently, you are looking for something called an Esper. The story goes on after that.
Although the story has been hyped as one of the best, I guess I never saw what makes it so fascinating. One aspect I liked, though, was the character development. There are 14 playable characters in total, each one (except a couple) with a lot of personality and backstory. The same goes for the antagonist. I won't go deeper on the analysis because it would contain spoilers, but rest assured that the characters in this game are some of the best.
The gameplay is very nice in this game. The characters have very different special skills, which make each one very unique, and at the same time customizable, due to the Esper system. What is the Esper system? Espers (magical creatures) can be equipped on a character, and they can do many things.
First, you can summon them in battle, although the power of the attack isn't that great and it costs a lot of MP. Second, each Esper grants a level-up bonus, which makes it the only way to permanently increase your stats (not counting Hit Points and Magic (mana?) Points). And third, probably the most important feature, Espers teach magic. When a character has an Esper equipped, you gain Ability Points at the end of a battle. When you have enough AP (depending on the Esper and spell), you learn that spell.
Other than the Esper system? The equipment is very diverse, with most armors giving some special effects or increasing your stats. In fact, equipment makes a far greater impact than levels on damage output and other things, meaning overleveling isn't required at all, unlike other games.
I'll admit one thing, though: most end-game spells are too overpowered. Once you learn Ultima, you'll start killing everything at sight with minimal effort, because there is a Relic that reduces every MP cost to1. I guess you can still stop using these things, but hey, they're still there.
This leads me to another thing: the game is far too easy. While the normal end-game level is in the 30-45 range, the game can be completed at an average level of about 7, or without using any magic, or with no equipment, or with a combination of these and many more. Plus, a lot of end-game bosses that probably were supposed to be though are, in reality, complete lamers with some easy-to-exploit weakness.
Don't get me wrong; I really loved the gameplay and customization of this game. I'd say it has a perfect balance between static and customizable characters: It's not FFV or Tactics Advance, where you constantly change jobs/classes, which give your characters all sorts of possibilities, nor is it Chrono Trigger, where each character learns and can equip only certain things, and the only thing you can do to customize them is changing equipment.
This is the only section where I'll have to compare it to the SNES version. Why? You see, the graphics were made back in 1994, so it wouldn't be fair to compare it to games like, say, Golden Sun.
Now, on to the actual analysis. The bad part of this is that have played very few SNES games (mainly this and Chrono Trigger), so I really can't compare it to other games. However, that doesn't stop me from saying that the graphics are really good. The characters can show a lot of emotions and expressions, having sufficient space for it. Plus, the battle backgrounds are really beautiful.
I won't go into depth here for the reasons stated above, though I still think the graphics are unmatched even by some GBA games.
I would also like to comment that supposedly there is some lag, with the bigger spells and such. I have never spotted it myself, but most veterans have said it's true, so I guess we can trust them. Don't worry, it's nothing bad, just saying it is there.
What, were you expecting a lower score? Nope. This is a place where the game really excels. The music is, plainly stated, beautiful. Every character, location, event, or whatever has a theme that represents him/her/it perfectly. Of course, this makes the addition of the Music Player a really wise thing. You can sit back, and just listen to whatever theme is your favorite, without having to actually play the game for it. The only downside is that you have to beat the game at least once to unlock the Music Player. Consider it some sort of prize.
Well, I think I'll stop being a fanboy and move to the sound part. I don't have a lot to say about this, because in my opinion sound effects aren't that important. Of course, that isn't going to stop me from talking about it. Just know that the sounds are very fitting, no matter the situation. Yeah, sorry for the short thing. It's just that I don't have a lot to say about the music and sound without worshipping it. Yes, I am that bad.
Replay Value 8/10
First off, the Espers' level-up bonus makes the characters pretty customizable. That alone, makes a good reason for replaying, because you can raise your characters a completely different way from before. Another thing that adds to the replay value is the non-linearity in the second half of the game. Without spoiling anything, there are a lot of completely optional things which you can do in any order you like, or not do them at all and go with three characters to the final dungeon.
Plus, there are a lot of challenges for this game. Low Level Game, Natural Magic Game, No Equipment Challenge, Single Character Challenge, Perfect Stats Game, CES Challenge, to name a few. I'm sure they're pretty fun to play, and that alone makes the game worth playing a few times.
One last issue that's somewhat important but doesn't deserve its own section: Play Time. The average is about 40 hours, though there are people who completed the SNES version is 6:30 hours.
What can I say after all? This is, in my opinion, the best RPG I played (granted, I did not play that much RPGs) and one of the best overall. If asked whether to rent or buy, I'd tell you to buy if you are a RPG fan. If you're not sure, well, do whatever you want. It's not like I can force you to do anything.
Replay Value 8/10
Final Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/26/07, Updated 01/14/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)
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