Review by Action
"Magical in 1994 and just as excellent in 2008!"
The original FINAL FANTASY VI was released in Japan in 1994 on the Super Famicom game system. Soon after, translation of the game was quickly started to bring it to US shores. When it was released later that year on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it quickly became a fan favorite. However, it was only the third FINAL FANTASY game ever released in North America, so it was dubbed "FINAL FANTASY III" by Nintendo to eliminate confusion amongst Final Fantasy players.
Final Fantasy VI (back when it was III on the SNES) was the first Final Fantasy game I had ever laid eyes on, or played for that matter. That was back in 1994 and it got me hooked on the Final Fantasy series for years to come.
When I heard that my first and favorite Final Fantasy game was coming to the GBA, I was enthralled (in all honesty, I figured it was inevitable when IV Advance was announced). This updated "Final Fantasy VI Advance" would tout portability, as well as an updated translation, not to mention extra dungeons specially built for the GBA version.
In February, the very second I saw it available at Best Buy, I swiped it up and purchased it without so much as a second thought. Upon returning home, I popped it into my DS (at the time, I had both the old DS and the DS Lite, and I eventually played it on both systems). Instantly I was worm holed back to the instant I first saw Final Fantasy III in action on my cousin's SNES. Needless to say, the magic was always there and waiting for the proper moment to come back. Let me tell you all that time has come.
GRAPHICS : 9/10
I'll admit, I half figured after the TOSE travesty that Final Fantasy IV Advance was (it was because of the fact that it was based on the WonderSwan Color version but that's another story in itself), that they would inevitably do the same with Final Fantasy VI Advance. I'm grateful to admit that I was wrong and TOSE did rather well overall.
The graphics remain true to their SNES counterparts. Sprites look just the same as they did before, only mini-sized to fit on the GBA. Backgrounds haven't changed; everything looks well as I said before, mini-sized for the GBA. Nearly all graphical aspects of the original have not changed in the least in the GBA version,
You may find people on the boards who had said that the overworld was laggy and could have been fixed with only a small amount of modification. These same kinds of people would also have you believe this without any further research or thought about the matter. However, both statements are erroneous and unlike said user, I have actually played through all three versions of Final Fantasy VI: FF III for the SNES, FF VI for the PSX and FF VI Advance for the GBA (this user admitted to not playing any other version prior to VI Advance). Upon holding all three versions side by side, there is no more lag on the overworld in the GBA version than there is in the SNES or PSX versions. The statement that it could have been fixed with only a small amount of modification is also erroneous. From a programming standpoint, the code is being rewritten from its original SF/SNES format (assembly, which has no universal code) to the structured C-type code that the GBA is built to use. Most of these terms don't mean anything to most of you, but suffice it to say that it is a technical impossibility that it could have been fixed with only a small amount of modification.
This aforementioned people also state that battles are laggy and cites that the initial battles are slowed down just for 2 and a half seconds. I decided to put this statement to the test by running the GBA version against the SNES version in these initial battles. Needless to say, there wasn't any difference between the two versions, leading me to conclude that this so-called lag is actually how the game is supposed to act.
Of course, I'd be ignorant if I didn't acknowledge the places where there IS indeed lag (all of which said user neglected to mention or didn't play enough to get around to seeing). Some much higher-level spells can induce small amounts of lag; however, these lag times are nowhere near the amount of lag generated by the Meteor spell in FFV Advance (which was a great game in its own right). In addition, the Blackjack and Falcon flights will generate small amounts of lag as well; this is a technical issue related to the fact that the GBA can produce Mode 7 graphics, but it was never intended to produce them as well as the SNES. To be honest, I knew that the GBA couldn't generate Mode 7 graphics as well as the SNES and I figured that the lag would be worse than what it is, so I think it is rather impressive that the Blackjack and Falcon run as well as they do. In addition, there are other spells and effects that use Mode 7 graphics as well, so you may see slight amounts of lag during battle as well. However, it will be nowhere close to the 2 and a half second lag mentioned by certain other users.
Overall, there is lag, but it is hardly a game-ruining experience. The 4-5 second loading times between battles and the overworld in the PSX version were abysmal when compared to the 5-10 millisecond lag times in the GBA version.
SOUND : 8/10
As unfortunate as it may seem, the sounds have been downgraded slightly from their SNES and PSX versions. The tunes themselves have not changed, but their presentation has. As with previous GBA FF games, there is more of a focus on the lower tones; this essentially changes the way that you (the player) hear the sounds.
Of course, it should go without saying that the tunes themselves are equally as epic as they were 13 years ago; that has not changed. Even better is the fact that once you beat the game, you are free to listen to them as you wish via the Music Player that has been added to the Advance version (something completely unheard of in the previous incarnations of Final Fantasy VI).
The sound effects have made a fairly good transition from SNES to GBA. They remain true to their originals while being downgraded to fit the GBA's systems. None of the sound effects have made a giant gaping change from their original format, which is a great way of staying loyal to those who have played Final Fantasy VI in its original format.
I should note that if you DO play Final Fantasy VI Advance on a GBA system (be it the GBA, SP or Micro) instead of a DS system, all GBA models come with one built-in speaker. To get the full stereo sound the GBA is capable of producing but incapable of delivering, you MUST use headphones. The DS (and DS Lite) compensate for this by creating the stereo sound through its multiple speakers. So if you're playing on a DS or DS Lite, you can feel free to ignore the headphones because you won't need them. :)
TRANSLATION : 10/10
If you've been one of the ones who played the original SNES version and learned more about it, you know that Ted Woolsey, who translated the SNES version, didn't quite make it 100% complete and had to make massive cuts from the original script. However, Woolsey himself is not wholly to blame; as there were technical limitations and deadlines he was forced to meet. Woolsey himself stated that his original translation was approximately 300-400% too large to fit the SNES cartridge limitations at the time. In addition, Woolsey only had a month to translate the entire game from beginning to end and most of the script he read was being taken out of its original context. He literally had to rewrite the entire game multiple times JUST to make it fit on the SNES cartridge.
Long story short, Woolsey admits that he dropped the ball (search for Player One Podcasts to hear it for yourself), but there were tons of things working against him that resulted in the original Final Fantasy III.
Flash forward to 2006-2007 and you'll see Final Fantasy VI Advance. The translation has been rectified and fixed up. It is far more accurate than the original, mostly due to the fact that space is no longer the limitation it once was.
It should go without saying that most of the old SNES names stuck around for the GBA release (I could imagine a few million fans asking just who the hell Tina and Mash are). If you're an old FF VI fan, the old Madonna has been renamed to Madeline. The spell names have been updated to fit the conformity that has existed since Final Fantasy VIII on the PSX. The town names have not changed from their SNES incarnations either. Items have been translated differently, but they are closer to the actual translation, so it's all good.
Espers have had their names changed as well from their SNES versions. Even though some of them might not make a lot of sense at first (Valigarmanda suddenly pops to mind), they do make perfect sense if you actually do some research on them (there are many different theories about the origins of Valigarmanda, but I won't go into them here suffice it to say, the name comes from three different monsters in mythology, which makes sense considering Valigarmanda's esper attack is TRI-disaster).
I see a few others who will tell you that the new translation ruins the game. I disagree wholeheartedly since the biggest issue to them is not how accurate the script is, but rather how nostalgic it feels to them. Given, with the spells, accuracy is not an issue, but rather the conformity to the FF standards. The rest of the script is geared more towards accuracy instead of the nostalgia, but that doesn't mean that there are no nostalgic moments left in the game: Son of a submariner is has been modified to Son of a sandworm. There are some moments geared specifically towards the North American players (like Kefka with a C; anyone on the boards should know what I'm talking about).
Lastly, the text is significantly smaller and narrower than it was on the SNES version. That's not to say that it is unreadable. On the contrary, it's possible for much more text (accurate text) to be displayed on one text box. It may be possible that someone with terrible eyesight may have trouble reading it (I've seen a user who had trouble seeing the text on the GBA screen due to his eyesight problems), but the bulk of gamers will have no problem reading the text on the GBA or DS screen.
The bottom line is that the translation is far more accurate in the GBA version than it ever has been before. It's great and really enhances the game playing experience while still maintaining the magical feel of the original.
GAMEPLAY : 10/10
If you have played the original SNES or SF version, there's very little that is new here (except for the fact that the Evade bug has been fixed), but that's a very good thing.
Battles are fought with a four-character party, instead of the 5-character standard in IV Advance and similar to the 4-character party in V Advance. Each of the characters has their standard Attack and Item commands as well as a specialized attack. For example, Locke can Steal items from the enemy and Edgar can use his Tools for helpful (and sometimes quirky) results. There are deviations to these standards Gau can't Attack, but he uses his Rages instead; Gogo has his Mimic command and you simply cannot control Umaro at all.
Speaking of Gau's Rages, they truly are a different game playing experience in their own right. Gau will Leap while on the Veldt and after some battles he will come back with the Rages of the monsters that were in the battle he left and the battle he returned in. Afterwards, Gau can use the abilities of the monsters that he has learned the Rages of, which can be extremely helpful or extremely hindering, depending on how you use Gau. Gau has the potential to be one of the most devastating characters in your team, or one of the most useless, all depending on how surgically you use him.
After a storyline event, you will gain the ability to equip Espers and use them in battle. Magic is taught by equipping an Esper and then earning AP in battle. This can be used to differentiate the Magic that each character learns. You can either have a dedicated Black Mage type character, a dedicated White Mage character, or even a character that simply learns every Magic spell in the book. The possibilities are literally endless.
With that said, it's not hard to make a team that is overpowered when compared to others. It also makes the game fairly easy throughout the hours that you will spend in the game. I should note that throughout the game, your equipment will most likely play a larger role in the game rather than the levels your team attains. The minimum level you can beat the game with Is 6 and yes, people actually HAVE beaten all incarnations of Final Fantasy VI with those levels (albeit I think they had an easier time doing it on the SNES versions).
The Active Time Battle (ATB) system has returned in all its glory and has been upgraded from its predecessors to create the best ATB game in the FF series, prior to the series going 3D. For those of you who haven't played previous versions, your characters will enter a battle and their ATB bar will fill up; once their ATB bar is full, they will be able to take their turn.
The other user I mentioned before says that the implementation of the ATB system was too hard for him. The user states that if you have a dedicated healer, they cannot act until their ATB bar fills up and this gives the enemy time to defeat them. What the user DOESN'T state is that gamers have been compensating for this for over 20 years by doing a simple little thing called strategizing. They anticipate when a character's turn comes up and then compensates for any status changes that the characters suffer; all of this is done on the fly. Also, the user states that the ATB system is broken, which is totally incorrect when given the context it is in. A broken system would be far too easy since a broken setup is one that is completely and totally overpowered, such as Celestriad + Soul of Thamasa + Ultima setup (casts the most powerful spell in the game twice in a row for a mere 2 MP total).
For the record, I think the ATB system makes strategizing EASIER than pre-ATB FF games. The original Final Fantasy didn't have ATB, so if you didn't know what stat determined the turn order (in all honesty some gamers were around the age of 6-8 back in 1990), then strategizing became significantly harder. Just so you all know, Agility (better known as AGI back in 1990) is what determined the turn order. The ATB system in Final Fantasy VI Advance is nowhere near as bad as it was in Final Fantasy IV Advance (which in all honesty, they shouldn't have used the WSC version, but whatever).
The glitches that existed in the original SNES/SF versions are gone in Final Fantasy VI Advance. In the SNES version, the Evade stat did absolutely nothing since a programming error directed all Evade checks to the M.Evade stat instead; this has since been fixed in Final Fantasy VI Advance. The whole Vanish+Doom trick that could be used to quickly end nearly all battles is long gone as well. However, with that said, there's a whole plethora of new tricks to exploit, but some esteemed board users are in the process of making a FAQ on said glitches, so I won't go into any of them here.
Overall, the ATB system has been executed rather well in Final Fantasy VI Advance. It is a definite treat for anyone who has played the game before and wants to re-experience the magic, or for new players who have never tried out a Final Fantasy game before.
Story : 10/10
For those of you who have played previous versions, there's really nothing new here.
For those of you who have NOT played any previous version, the story starts in a small town of Narshe. A thousand-year old esper has been found in the mines of Narshe and the Gestahlian Empire wants its power for themselves. The story begins as a simple fight against the Empire. However, from there it flourishes into one madman who decides to take on the entire world and succeeds with the power of Magic at his side.
I won't go into Super Spoiler Land, but let's just say that when I first saw the game back in 1994-1995, it was truly a magical experience. The story blew me away and is what got me into the Final Fantasy series to begin with. Suffice to say, it follows the Final Fantasy formula established with the original Final Fantasy II for the Famicom and the story in VI does not fail to deliver.
If you are new to this game and/or the Final Fantasy series, might I remind you that no prior knowledge of the series is required to pick up and play (nearly) any Final Fantasy game. If you were to pick this game up today in 2008, you wouldn't have to play any other game to follow the story.
Controls : 10/10
The controls have been simplified for use on the Game Boy Advance. Instead of using X and Y, the game has opted to use Select and Start instead. The only thing that has had any major changes is Sabin's Blitzes, which used the X and Y buttons in conjunction with the other buttons. Instead, his Blitzes have now been mapped to the R and L buttons and focus more on the directional pad that they did in the SNES version. So overall, the Blitz controls have changed, but they still flow as smoothly as they did before.
The rest of the controls are simple; the type you can just pick up and play on. The controls are sharp and responsive and never show any signs of lagging (then again, it would be nearly impossible to do worse than the controls in Final Fantasy IV Advance).
There isn't too much else to say on the controls. In all honesty, the controls are probably the easiest thing to pick up on and the gameplay aspects will be harder for brand new players to pick up on.
Replay Value : 10/10 (also includes bonus content)
New to Final Fantasy VI is the Bestiary, which will show you what monsters you have killed throughout the game. Since the Bestiary is based on location, you can easily see what monsters you have not killed because they come grouped according to the location you first find them at.
Also new to Final Fantasy VI is the addition of the Music Player; the only catch is that you have to beat the game first to access it. So if you've defeated the final boss and want to sit back, relax and listen to the music that's in the game, you are actually free to do so. Awesome.
The other bonus content (which is described on the back of the box) is the Dragon's Den and Soul Shrine. These are built to challenge those who have already beaten the game and wish for a more difficult challenge. I've played through both and they are both excellent additions to the game. Even though you can't access the Dragon's Den until you defeat all the dragons in-game (which more or less means beating the game) and you can't access the Soul Shrine until you've completed the Dragon's Den, they are still worthy additions to the game and you can literally spend hours performing little challenges (especially in the Soul Shrine).
The main game itself will keep you busy for a good 40-60 hours, depending on how you play it. Of course, it goes without saying that you can beat it in less than 40 hours or more than 60, but that is just a rough estimate on the timeframe. After you have defeated the game, there are plenty of user-created challenges that you can choose to undertake (like the CES challenge, the Natural Magic challenge, the list goes on). These challenges are built for those who are looking for more of a challenge in the game; they are also built by those who have fun doing challenges. So if you've put 100+ hours into Final Fantasy VI and are looking for something more, there's always a different way of playing the game for your personal enjoyment.
Replay Value: 10/10
Total ... 67 / 70 95.71% of the full 70 points
9.571 / 10 rounds up to 10
Final thoughts: Final Fantasy VI Advance may simply be a port of the SF / SNES game with some additions, but that doesn't make it any less worthy than the original was. If you're a new player looking for an old school RPG to enjoy, or even if you're a veteran gamer who wants to play Final Fantasy VI on the go, look no further than Final Fantasy VI Advance. It looks good, plays just as great and has some extras to boot.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/07, Updated 01/06/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)
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