Review by Computerbug8
There's a reason "a fun, delightful mix" rhymes with "Final Fantasy VI"
As you're probably aware, for the past two decades, the Final Fantasy series has been capturing the hearts of gamers and setting the standard for RPGs in almost every category, from stories, to graphics, to music. But of course, some of us, such as myself, may have gotten a bit of a late start and now don't have the means to play some of the earlier entries in the series. Luckily, that's why ports exist. So, how does a game released over ten years ago stand up to today's standards on a handheld?
Considering when this story first came around and what was usually expected for the time period, the story for FFVI Advance is probably well above average. It has everything you'd expect for a good story, and the Final Fantasy feeling is there.
The story starts off with a girl named Terra who is actually a legendary being called an esper. An Empire is trying to harness the power of this esper, but things quickly go wrong and things unfold from there. After this, the story focuses on Terra as she makes friends with the other characters in the game as they realize what Terra is truly capable of while, at the same time, trying to protect her from the empire and a psycho who will stop at nothing to attain that very power.
And of course, what good would a story be without a great cast of characters. Out of all the Final Fantasy games I've played prior to this one, there have been very few characters who have struck me as likable or memorable. But FFVI Advance presents a surprisingly large cast of characters (even for today's standards) and even gives them a fair amount of development and personality. (Something FFXII couldn't do, despite having less than half the amount of characters and having the means to develop them even further) In all honesty, I would be shocked if there wasn't a character that would be easy to get attached to-from the perverted prince Edgar, to the gambler Setzer.
One last character I want to touch upon is the game's villain. Just like the regular characters, I've never found much to like or respect about a lot of Final Fantasy villains. But again, FFVI breaks that barrier and delivers a villain who could very possibly be the best in the series. (I won't mention his name just for the sake of spoilers, although I'm sure you probably know who it is) The best part about this villain is something that happens a while into the game that not only sets him apart from every other Final Fantasy villain, but almost every video game villain in general. (Veterans to the series are probably all too familiar with what I'm talking about)
To recap, the story has been able to stand the test of time. The story itself is among the best I've played in the series, and it's accompanied by a strong cast of characters and a superb villain. If there was ever a handheld RPG I'd get for the story, FFVI Advance could very possibly be that one.
I think I've ranted on with the story for long enough-time to get to the actual game. Like the FF's before it, FFVI takes you from dungeon to dungeon and town to town as you battle your way through hordes of enemies and solve basic puzzles in the process. But there's not really a lot to say here; most of the attention goes to the battle system.
The battles in FFVI Advance play out in a typical Active-time battle fashion. All the members in your party and the enemies have to wait a set amount of time before attacking. However, the battles in FFVI Advance are much more customizable than other games before it. Not only are there different characters with obvious differences in strengths and weaknesses, but the system of learning magic functions in a way where all the decisions are made up to you. Later on in the game, you get several espers, and equipping certain espers will gain the character certain spells. For instance, equipping one esper to a character might eventually teach them Thunder magic while equipping a different esper to a different character might teach them healing spells. This makes the game more fun due to how it requires you to think about which characters you want to be in your party and how you want them to fight.
The problem with this system, though, is how it can take a painfully long time to learn some of those spells. After having an esper equipped for a battle and winning it, your character gets AP points which will boost their stats and help them learn stronger magic. Unfortunately, you only get stat points in very small increments, usually by only one or two. And to balance all this out, by keeping all the strong characters in your party and just continuously powering them up, you could simply steamroll over all your opponents, leaving the customization options almost useless.
As for the overall difficulty of the game...well, it's not that hard. If you've played games in the series before and didn't have a lot of trouble with them, then it'd be shocking if you had a hard time with this one. That's not to say every single boss is a complete pushover, because there are a few tougher ones scattered about. (but even those shouldn't take you more than a couple of tries to beat) You could definitely make the game harder for yourself by setting up challenges, especially since the whole party becomes disbanded a while into the game and it's completely up to you on which characters you'll bother getting back.
As far as gameplay goes, FFVI Advance offers a fairly balanced experience. Battles are fun, despite how frequent some of the random encounters can be. The idea of customizing characters with espers and developing them all individually was a nice touch, but the time it can take to form a really powerful character from this and how it can simply be cancelled out by a strong character takes away a lot of the importance from this system.
Not much to say here other than the graphics look pretty good. The character models are all rendered fairly well and it's easy to see which character is which based on the sprites. The enemies are also done well, namely the bosses that you'll be encountering along the way. The towns look colorful and seem well rendered; Narshe looks almost as close as you can get (considering the hardware) to a run-down industrial style city. The characters are colorful and the towns and cities usually set the mood fairly well. Not much else to say about the graphics, really.
Due to there being no voice acting, most of the sound is based from the game's music. For the most part, FFVI Advance delivers pretty well. Towns and cities have their own unique themes, and, while some tunes aren't particularly memorable, they are fairly catchy and sound easy on the ears. (Just thought I'd mention that the one particular town theme sounds like it completely copies the Pink Panther theme for a few seconds) There's also the battle music. While most of the battle tracks aren't the strongest in the series, they nonetheless are good to listen to, especially the ones that play during the final battle.
Depending on how long you want it to last, Final Fantasy VI Advance can probably go well beyond forty hours. But if you want to complete it quickly without doing most of the unnecessary stuff, you'll probably finish around 25-30 hours. For a handheld, that's not a bad length. You'll get your money's worth from this game as far as length goes.
And if one playthrough isn't long enough for you, then there are plenty of things you can do after beating the game that will add on more time. Due to there being fourteen possible party members, you might not have gotten them all, and trying to acquire them would help make the experience last longer. Also, due to the customization options, you can go back and set challenges for yourself or you could try and max out everyone's stats and powers. Basically, you can do a lot with FFVI Advance that you could normally only do with a handheld to lengthen the experience.
+ Good story
+ Large, lovable cast of characters
+ Possibly the best villain to date in the series
+ Satisfying length
+ Many customization options
+ Higher-than-normal replay value
- Music isn't as good
- Ability for powerful characters to dominate takes away point of customization
- Not so good for a challenge
- Random encounters get too frequent at times
This is probably one of the strongest entries in the Final Fantasy series. The great cast of characters helps to propel the story, and the gameplay is what fans have probably come to love in the series. The customization options allow for creativity and flexibility, but that gets cancelled out by the fact that those things usually aren't needed to win any of the fights.
This game is easy to recommend to anyone who's a fan of RPGs. In fact, anyone who would play an RPG (even if they don't typically) would probably find FFVI Advance to be an enjoyable experience.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)
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