Review by zeshin_reloaded
"The best 2D Final Fantasy available"
Final Fantasy is the quintessential role-playing game series of our time. If it weren't for Hironobu Sakaguchi's last-ditch attempt to save the old Squaresoft, we might not have the dozens of other competing RPG's the market has a niche for. Final Fantasy has had its share of great titles, such as IV, and VII, and IX, and it has had its share of terrible iterations, including II, X-2, and XI. Square has been re-releasing the Final Fantasies of old on the Game Boy Advance. Herein, I shall relate to you the glorious peak of the series, manifested in the VI installment.
Previously, VI was only known as III when it saw its US release on the Super Nintendo. Widely regarded as one of, if not the best RPG of its time, it has been continuously held in high regard as the best pre-VII Final Fantasy, rivaled only by Final Fantasy IV (a.k.a. Final Fantasy II on the US release of SNES version). Since Square seems to be out of original ideas lately, they've been porting over the old Final Fantasies to updated hardware. Naturally, VI Advance has a ways to go to live up to the glory of its first release.
The plot is fantastic and possibly the best in the entire series. The story starts off with two Imperial soldiers and a mysterious girl named Terra who assault a small northern town in search of an entity known as an Esper. The Esper overpowers the trio, killing the two soldiers, while Terra falls deep into the cavern where the Esper is found. Terra is rescued by a resistance fighter (And self-proclaimed treasure hunter) named Locke. The plot goes far from then on.
VI has an incredible and epic story. The plot has hours of twists, romance, and battles. But where VI has its real strength is in its cast of characters. There are no less than 13 people you will come across to join your party, each of them with a special back story and personality. No one feels like an archetype and it is easy to connect with most of them. This installment also has one of the most compelling villains the series has seen thus far, the treacherous Kefka.
As far as gameplay goes, it follows a familiar standard. Battles are randomly experienced and you're given a simple set of commands to use in battle, such as attack, magic, and item usage. What is neat about VI's battle system are two things.
First, the specific characters each have a specific command or quirk that helps make each one unique. For instance, Sabin has a Blitz command that requires a specific input on the D-Pad before executing the move with the A button; or perhaps Locke, who is allowed the Steal command due to his nature as a thief. Even later, a secret character has the entire base of his party role around copying his allies.
The other feature that helps increase VI's addictiveness is the magic system. While every character has their own unique set of abilities, they are all capable of learning any magic spell available to you. Similar to VII's Materia system, you can attach an Esper, or summoned spirit, to each of your characters. The more battles the character fights with this Esper, the more along they learn specific spells that the Esper can teach them. Once they've reached 100% of the spell, they can use that spell finally without having to still hold on to that Esper. It really makes managing your party more involving and interesting.
As far as the rest of party management goes, it's pretty standard for an RPG. Each character can equip a multitude of armor, weapons, and special trinkets that confer bonuses. Level ups are the same fare any experienced RPG player is familiar with, boosting your character with stat assets for gaining a set amount of experience from fighting battles.
The game is mostly linear. At times, the party splits up due to the plot, and you are given the choice of what order to follow them in. The game also consists of two acts, and while the first act is interesting, the story truly picks up during the second act. Without spoiling much, you start out the second act with only one character and must reunite everyone with whom you've lost contact.
The graphics are a tad dated, but take all in good measure, since you can't expect too much from a GBA in terms of pretty aesthetics. Still, the retaining of the old SNES look adds a bit of retro goodness to the aesthetic.
The music is also lovely as ever, being composed once again by the series' stalwart composer, Nobuo Uematsu. The tunes range from melancholic to bouncy little jigs. The boss battle themes are also extremely noteworthy as being some of the best in the series.
Nothing special here folks. VI's re-release didn't bring too much to the table aside from an extra dungeon, but it's still the great game we've played before. If any veterans care to give the sixth installment another go, disappointment will be nary to be seen. If you've never played FFVI, this is the perfect opportunity to experience one of the best RPG's ever made. For it's portability and easily accessible design, you can't go wrong with FFVI Advance.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/28/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy VI Advance (US, 02/05/07)
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