Review by LordShibas

"One of the Best Portable Games I Have Ever Played"

As I'm sitting here, thinking about how to start this review, I've come to a problem. The problem is that I just don't know where to begin with Final Fantasy VI: Advance. It's simply a masterpiece of gaming and art that has to be played to fully understand how incredible it is. The fact that the original release of Final Fantasy VI came out over a decade ago, yet the game is still able to captivate me from start to finish is mesmerizing.

Some of my fondest childhood gaming memories come from Final Fantasy VI, and being able to relive them through Final Fantasy VI: Advance was quite an ethereal experience. With its incredible cast of characters, excellent and addictive gameplay, and superb soundtrack, Final Fantasy VI: Advance is a game that every gamer should play.

Final Fantasy VI: Advance is a remake of the classic SNES game Final Fantasy VI on Gameboy Advance. Despite Square's lackluster efforts in porting Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V to the GBA, Final Fantasy VI: Advance is without a doubt the best port of the three, and the best game as well. Almost everything from Final Fantasy VI has been included into the Advance remake, and there have even been some things added for some additional incentive to play the game again.

The Advance version offers two new bonus dungeons, a few new Espers, a new translation, and some new items and other bonus features as well. While some of the added features are impertinent, most of the additions are welcome and enhance the already phenomenal game.

On the down side of the Advance port, the music has taken a slight hit in quality since it's now on the GBA, and there is some noticeable slow down at certain points. However, neither of these ruins the game in any way, and the game should be considered a milestone of what the GBA is capable of.

I'll now give a brief rundown of the game, for those of you that have never played it (shame on you). Final Fantasy VI focuses on a group of characters that reside in a world following the War of the Magi. The War of the Magi was an ancient war that consumed all of the remnants of magic from the world. The now industrialized world has not seen magic for centuries. An evil empire, led by General Gestahl, has courted the only know magic user in existence, who is named Terra Branford. The Empire uses mind control on her and forces her to do their bidding.

It won't be long before a young thief named Locke has his first incursion with Terra, and frees her from the clutches of the evil Empire. Things only escalate from there, and the Empire will begin pursuing you. The story gets far too deep for me to explain any more without ruining anything, but the story is very good, and one of the best parts of the game.

Along your journey, you can amass a whopping 14 characters for your party. Your active party can only consist of 4 characters at once, but having the extra party members is a great bonus, and offers quite a bit of variety. Even though you will have an inordinate amount of characters, each one has their own unique qualities that make them different from the others. Sabin can use Blitzes, which are special attacks that require a small button pressing combination before execution. Edgar has the ability to use Tools, like a Chainsaw and a Drill amongst others. Cyan has the ability to use some advanced sword techniques. Celes has a Runic ability that allows her to absorb magic, and so on and so forth. This really helps the characters break the standard RPG archetype and become a cohesive fighting unit.

The game breaks down like a standard turn based RPG with active time battles, meaning each character has a bar in battle that fills depending on how fast they are, and when it's full, you can have them perform an action.

You will also have the ability to equip Magicite on your characters. Magicite are stones that allow characters to summon Espers and when Magicite is equipped for certain periods of time, you can learn magic spells. There are a slew of other gameplay features that come into play during the game as well, and you will learn about them when the time comes.

That's a short summary of the game, but there is so much more I could talk about, but I'll get on with my review.

Graphics 9/10

As I previously stated, Final Fantasy VI: Advance is a port of the SNES game, so the graphics are quite comparable to the original. The only noticeable difference is a slight bit of slow down during some of the more visually impressive spells, but it's rather sparse and will only catch the eye of those that have played the original.

The game offers an impressive set of backgrounds, some detailed enemy models, and pretty fluid animations. The game also stutters a bit during the 3D Mode 7 ship flying sequences.

Other than that, the game looks almost identical to the original and that is an impressive feat for the GBA.

Sounds and Music 9/10

If there is one area of Final Fantasy VI: Advance that is inferior to its original release, it would have to be the music. However, that's not to say that the music in Final Fantasy VI: Advance is bad, in fact it's an incredible achievement on the GBA and is without a doubt the most expansive soundtrack I've ever heard on the little system.

People that have never played the original SNES version will not even notice the difference, but those of us that have will notice it right away. All of the tracks from the original release of Final Fantasy VI are included in the Advance version, but most of them sound a bit more midi quality, and are not as rich.

On the positive side, you will get used to the new style of music fairly quick, and it will sound normal to you after awhile.

So if the music has taken a hit in quality, why does it still score a 9/10? Simply put, it's still one of the best soundtracks that the GBA has to offer, and it still sounds incredible with headphones on. There are so many tracks, that the original soundtrack spans 3 cds, yet all of this is represented in a very presentable fashion on the GBA. The soundtrack spans all kinds of music, from the high energy battle theme, to Shadow's Western theme, all the way to Relm's whimsical music that will make your heart sink for a brief moment while it starts up.

Final Fantasy VI: Advance has one of the best portable soundtracks I've ever heard.

Story 10/10

The story in Final Fantasy VI: Advance is truly epic. The most interesting thing about it is that there is really no central character that can be considered the “true” main character of the game. All of the characters will be coming in and out of your party for various reasons, and almost all of them have major plot involvement.

I've heard some people say that Locke is the main character, I've heard some people say that Terra is the main character, I've even heard people claim that either Celes, Sabin, or Edgar are the main character, but it's almost impossible to discern.

The first half of the game is fairly linear, and going from point A to point B will be your desired goal. However, a grandiose, game altering moment in the game will change this all, and force a more non-linear approach to the second half of the game. During the second half of the game, you pretty much have free reign over the entire world, and you can explore to your heart's content. In spite of the non-linear environment, I felt compelled to explore the entire world since it was all so inviting and almost every stop on the way offered something of value or a piece of the story that needed filled in. Very few games compel me to finish all side quests and find everything possible, but Final Fantasy VI: Advance was one of those games.

The story is pretty good at first, but things go from good to epic once Kekfa is introduced. Kefka is the main villain of Final Fantasy VI, and he is one of the highlights of the game IMO.

Kefka is quite possibly the most barbarous villain to ever grace a Final Fantasy RPG, and his actions will make you despise him like no other. He hates everyone, wants everyone to die, and he doesn't have the slightest clue what it means to lament. He's basically an over-grown child with a strong hatred for everything but himself, and he is evil in its purest form.

Run-ins with Kefka are sometimes intimidating, sometimes funny, but always entertaining. He is one of my favorite video game villains of all time.

Final Fantasy VI: Advance has a fairly complex story that does a good job of making each character seem important, and the interwoven stories really make your party members seem reliant on each other.

There are lots of standout moments in the story, but none I would dare ruin for anyone who has never played this game. The story is solid, and there are so many positive aspects of the characters and events that surround them, that you will never feel like you are being forced to play.

Gameplay 10/10

Back when RPG simplicity was king, and turn based combat ruled, Final Fantasy VI broke the norm of the genre and threw some more interactive gameplay into the mix. While it still complied with the turn based combat, Final Fantasy VI offered many more options to the players than simple attack and magic commands. Each character had well defined “Special abilities”, so making a party of characters that complimented each other became important. Having a character like Cyan in your party requires you to have some fast attackers up front to keep the enemies at bay while you charge up his sword attacks, and having too many magic users in your party could spell you an early doom if you run into an enemy with strong physical attacks. A good balance of characters is recommended, but not really required, since the game is kind of on the easy side for the most part.

The Magicite system works out pretty well, and is addictive to say the least. When you equip a Magicite, it comes with a list of spells you can learn, which all have multipliers next to them. When you fight battles, you will get a certain number of “AP” or ability points. Your acquired ability points get multiplied by the Magicite multiplier and when the number reaches 100, you learn the spell permanently. It's a pretty fun system, and it really makes you want to learn every spell you can possibly get with every character.

Being prepared in Final Fantasy VI is as simple as taking the time to level every now and then and taking the time to AP grind as well. Even though you will be grinding for exp or other reasons, things just never seem to get old, and Final Fantasy VI is one of the few games that I actually enjoy grinding in since there is always a suitable reward for the time you spend grinding.

There is also a “Relic system” which allows you to equip 2 unique abilities on any character at your main menu. Some affect you in battle, and some affect you out of battle. These can be anything from using a Relic that allows you to use a weapon in each hand, or a Relic that makes you run faster in the dungeons and towns. There really are far too many Relics to explain them all, but the game will force you to often juggle your Relics to conform to the current stipulations your party is facing.

As for how the Advance version plays compared to the original, it plays almost identical. There are no noticeable load times like the previously ported Playstation version, and the only area of the game that seemed a bit different was inputting Sabin's Blitzes. For some reason I had more trouble doing Sabin's more advanced Blitzes on the small DS d-pad than I did on the SNES gamepad.

One more thing about the game I'd like to touch on is the new translation. The game has been freshly translated to more closely reflect the Japanese original. It's good for the most part, and the general story sequences seem to run very smoothly, but for people that were used to the previous translation on the SNES they may be a bit disappointed. Some items, locations, skills, and enemy names have been changed. Some examples: Sabin's “Bum Rush” is now his “Phantom Rush”. The “Fanatic's Tower” is now known as the “Cultist's Tower”, “Doomgaze” is now “Deathgaze”, and even some of the Espers and magics have been renamed.

I was a big fan of the SNES translation, and I was pretty used to it, but I don't think the new translation really ruins anything. It just takes a bit of adjustment for people that previously played the SNES version. After this brief adjustment period, the new translation will become second nature.

Playing Final Fantasy VI: Advance is incredibly rewarding, and you will become enraptured in the nostalgia evoking journey that Final Fantasy VI: Advance brings to the table.

Longevity and Re-Playability 10/10

Final Fantasy VI: Advance offers quite a long quest, and the average playthrough is between 40 and 50 hours. I was able to finish the game in about 50 hours, but I did almost all of the side quests and spent a good bit of time leveling my characters and getting them the appropriate spells.

If you are looking for a game with lots of things to do, then look no further than Final Fantasy VI: Advance.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy VI: Advance is a game that everyone should play. If for some reason you missed the game on the SNES, there is no reason to pass this game up since it's good in pretty much every regard. If you have already played the SNES version, I'd still recommend getting this version since it's the best remake of the game, and you might appreciate the added content.

Final Fantasy VI: Advance is one of the best portable games I have ever played, and it's the high point of the Final Fantasy series IMO.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/03/09

Game Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)


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