Review by JPtheGreat

"I Nearly Pulled My Hair Out Over Some of the Changes, but the Magic of the Original Remains"

This review is intended for those who have played the original SNES game. This review is solely concerned with comparing that game with this port. If you haven't played the SNES version, or only played it once for a few hours 15 years ago, this review is not for you.

FFVI is a legend, the greatest SNES game and a contender for greatest game of all time. When I found out this was coming out on portable, I immediately invested my $40 Canadian and was eager to relive my childhood. But there's a problem I didn't know about: this isn't FFVI. No, it's FFVI ADVANCE! Does that make a difference? Well, yeah, and I nearly had to get my forty bucks back.

The graphics remain unchanged. The sprites look like your favourite sprites of old, the scenery is still that stunning 16-bit artistry and the opening credits still have that ominous thunderstorm. Ah, yes, graphics that were amazing a decade ago and they still hold that charm. The only changes I can see are the inclusion of character faces in dialogue. So when Terra says something, Terra's portrait is displayed with her text. This takes a while to get used to (especially with, um, visually unappealing faces like Dr Cid) but it works. Also, when you enter a random battle, a white swirl descends down, making the screen pitch white before entering battle. This is more annoying than anything and never becomes natural. Sometimes, though, on the world map, it doesn't happen and the ‘normal' SNES version of screen distortion is used to enter battle. That feels good.

The only other thing to note is that GBA screen is smaller in terms of ratio than a standard television screen. So there is actually less fit into the GBA screen than on a TV. This isn't very noticeable except for a few select examples, like when Relm is stealthily following Strago on Thamasa. You can't see her unless you run downscreen. But this is such a mute point anyway.

Musically, expect to grind your teeth for the first few hours. No, they did not change any of the music, rest assured. The greatest soundtrack in videogame history is still intake. It's just -- the GBA does not have the same sound system as the SNES did. You can tell the difference in most tracks, but where it is painfully obvious is the battle theme. It doesn't sound ‘choppy' but that is the best word to explain it. At first it seems too much to bear, but you'll be amazed how quickly you get used to it. The music gets better as the game progresses, and by the time I reached the World of Ruin, my ear could scarcely detect a difference (Dancing Mad is done exceptionally well). Then again, I'm partially tone death, so take this with a grain of salt. But on a whole, the music doesn't disappoint.

The battle system is the same battle system we know and love. This, along with riding the airships and chocobos, is the only time you will experience significant slowdown. Note the word significant. Some people have complained about lag on the world map or in towns. Personally, I don't see it. Real slowdown comes from the battle system. Battles feel just a hair slower than normal, and if you start casting spells, it becomes obvious. It seems that enemy spells trigger more slowdown than the party's spells, but a spell like Meteor triggers slowdown regardless. Instead of taking five seconds for Fireball to hit the party, it takes eight. The slowdown is obvious but not enough to detract from the overall experience in any big way.

Oddly, random encounters seem more constant and happen more here than in the SNES version. I haven't looked through the game mechanics to see if this is true, but I've never remembered having so many random encounters just a few steps away from the last random encounter. If you've never liked random encounters, that may be a turnoff. But if you're that die-hard FFVI fan, no worries.

What you should worry about is the story translation. Does your heart skip a beat if I say most of the dialogue is different? It should, and you should be scared, very scared. If you haven't played the game in ages, you may not notice this, but if you have a memory like mine, you will be horrified at some of the changes. I knew something was wrong as soon as the first words appeared on the screen. The dialogue following between Wedge and Biggs was absolutely butchered. I wanted to cry.

And, unforgivably, they changed the Opera scene! I wanted my money back then. What on earth were they thinking? The Opera scene, so revolutionary and legendry that it deserves capitalization, was in many ways the BIG achievement of FFVI. In the middle of a complex struggle, we get an entertaining Opera woven seamlessly into the story! It was magical and perfect in every way. And FFVI Advance decided, in their infinite wisdom, to mess with perfection. Essentially, the only change is in the song lyrics, but that was too much. ‘Oh my hero, so far away now, will I ever see your smile?' Those words were perfect! The new lyrics try to rhyme with everything and just don't fit the mood. It actually became somewhat of a game, seeing the ‘new' changes in the Opera and mentally putting back the original wording.

Actually, this ‘game' can be played throughout the entire game. Most of the changes are ridiculous. For example, Locke, when being called a thief by a merchant: ‘Call me a treasure hunter or I'll rip your lungs out!' vs ‘Now that was just plain rude.' Sigh. Or take Setzer: ‘Nothing to lose but my life.' That's a classic line. The GBA game adds but six words and a conjunction, but it completely ruins it: I feel so excited, like I have nothing to lose but my life…' Ugly. It completely changes the mood of the original, which was in no need of changing. So many unnecessary changes, and the few times there should have been changes, they were omitted! Edgar still remarks how the esper seemed to react to Terra, despite the fact that Edgar wasn't there when said reaction was taking place. Or, another example, Terra says that Edgar talked to her about Locke, when of course this discussion did not take place. If the goal was a complete ‘retranslation' of the text, they should have fixed those little ‘Opps!' too.

Nothing is free from this harsh retranslation. Spells and items and equipment all get changed too. Say good bye to ‘RegalCutlass' and saw hello to ‘Greatsword.' Tonics and Potions are now Potions and High-Potions (this is very confusing early on). What was once the self-explanatory Scan spell has been redubbed Libra (in an attempt, it seems, to make FF12 seem more like the old FF). Bolt 3 is now Thundaga. The scimitar is now the Zanetzuken. So, question: why did these all change? Did it make the game ‘better' in any way? The answer is no, obviously. It seemed they had a quota for Changes to release this game, and they resorted to renaming items and equipment. Well, no big deal. It doesn't really hurt the game.

What DOES hurt the game is renaming characters, espers and abilities! I don't care what this game says, Swordtech number 2 is Retort, not ‘Sky.' It is called Suplex, not Meteor ‘this-is-going-to-appeal-to-FF7-fanboys' Strike! And it is definitely called Tritoch. Yes, that's right, they decided to rename Tritoch (into something that I can't pronounce, let alone spell). I wanted to cry. Also, Terra's mother is no longer named Madonna. No, it is now magically Madeline. YOU DON'T RENAME CHARACTERS!! Man, that is just irritating.

‘Then why the hell does this game get 9/10?' An excellent question. For one, this game is STILL one of the greatest games of all time. Even when they butcher the dialogue and change once beautiful names into hideous demons, this game has that magic. It is still a testament to the art that is videogame making. And, to be honest, some of the changes were in fact good. The ability to hold B and have free SprintShoes was brilliant. And once you get the airship in the WoR, I dare say this does a better job than the original. Heretical statement, I know, but it seems very complete and whole.

Also, there is some very nice extra content. Four new espers and a few new spells and an extra dungeon to explore, beautiful. Try to find these without a guide, as it isn't too difficult (the hidden dungeon doesn't count: it is VERY difficult to find) and it gives that wonderful sense of satisfaction, the way the SNES version did so long ago when everyone took their first step towards reuniting the party in the WoR. However, I wouldn't buy this game just for the extras. Only a few hours for 40 bucks? That's not a good deal.

Bottom line, the godlike nature of this game is directly proportional to how anal you are in terms of changes. If you're like me, every change jumped out and smashed me across the forehead repeatedly with a hammer. If you're less anal than me (there's a good chance of that), the changes will glide over your head and you will be lost in the magic. If you have never played this game before (and read my review despite my command that you do not; Shame on you!), ignore everything in this review except for the following sentence: if you like RPG's, and those RPG's don't have to have Cloud, then get this game.

In summary, this is not a direct port of FFVI. I've listed my pet peeves and the changes that I abhor. If you're wondering why I'm making such a big deal over so little, this means you should buy the game: you will enjoy it. If what I have said rings true in you, think long and hard before you make a purchase. If you have a copy of the SNES version, this should be a no-brainer: don't get it unless you REALLY want those four new espers.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/13/07

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