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   Final Fantasy VI Advance - Staff Review  

Pocket-sized Portable Perfection
by Majed "lost_keeper" Athab

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
GBA
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
5
MUSIC & SOUND
5
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
25-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

    Thirteen years ago one of the greatest games, Final Fantasy VI, graced mankind with its presence on the SNES. This year, an equally important milestone is set in place as that same classic game is resurrected and ported to the GBA as Final Fantasy VI Advance. For the first time ever, gamers can now take one of the most beautiful, memorable, and widely celebrated games with them wherever they go.

    For the uninitiated, FFVI is not the story of one specific character, but rather it's a story shared equally between the entire cast of fourteen playable characters. The adventure begins at the northern city of Narshe where Terra, a mind-controlled magic user, leads a group of imperial soldiers in search for a rumored magical entity known as an Esper. In short time, trouble ensues as they meet resistance with the local militia. Soon after, the suzerainty of the Empire over Terra is broken, leaving her an amnesiac and a confused, emotional wreck not knowing how to feel towards her prior masters. With the aid of Locke and the Returners, a resistance group opposed to the Empire, Terra escapes from Narshe. From there, a slew of characters are introduced and the story revolves around the fight against the Empire. The GBA version of Final Fantasy VI has an all new script which helps to make the overall narrative clearer than before. It also reflects the personality of each character in a superior way over the original. In terms of how the story flows and the chronology of events, the experience is exactly the same. The only things that have changed in the script are the specific words used in telling the story, the lines that characters speak, a few spell names, and monster names.

Aw, man. How long is it gonna take to defrost this thing? I Aw, man. How long is it gonna take to defrost this thing? I'm getting hungry!

    The battle system incorporates the classic four member battle squad fighting it out with beasts in active time fashion. While each character can execute the basic commands of "attack" and "item," they can also use unique class-specific skills. The engineer and King of Figaro, Edgar, can use tools to attack enemies. Locke, the treasure hunter and spy, can steal. Terra and Celes held the exclusivity of magic way before it became accessible to everyone else. Along with the classic battle interface comes the dreaded way of getting into battle; yes, that would be random encounters. However, fights in FFVI are over rather quickly, are quite easy in difficulty, and are well-balanced in terms of applying strategy. In this sense, random battles are usually never something to get annoyed at, and only become annoying if a player gets stuck in an area where there is no way to return to the previous area for healing and preparation. Luckily, the game subtly warns players before entering such areas, so there is no excuse for rushing in with poor party management. Even so, since the game is meant for on-the-go action, a "quick save" feature has been integrated. Players can save in the middle of a difficult dungeon, take a break from battles, and then continue later on at their convenience.

    While the game's battle system remains the same, executing it is quite a different story. Several changes have been made to the interaction in the game; since the GBA has less buttons than the SNES controller, the in-game commands are delegated to other buttons. While this may seem trivial, it does affect the gameplay. One area that is greatly affected is Sabin's blitz attacks whereby players will have to input a combination that's somewhat similar to what one would find in a typical old-school fighting game. The original combinations have been changed to suit the GBA's button layout, using the shoulder buttons in place of the Y and X buttons. On another aspect of Sabin's blitz attacks, doing his moves with the small D-pad of a handheld device can be frustrating at times as making a small mistake will cause the attack to become utterly useless and a wasted turn.

    Seeing as Final Fantasy VI Advance is a port, it's not surprising to hear that the game is not that original. When FFVI came out for the first time, it certainly was jaw-dropping, innovative, and became a standard in narrative-based production values. As for the port, it does feel fresh, and the game has aged well; however, it's still the same game with only a few new additions. For those who've never played FFVI before, the game is certainly going to feel exciting and will be addictively fun. As for those additions mentioned, they consist of a new dungeon, a challenging battle marathon, several bosses, three spells, and four Esper summons.

Check out one of the all new Espers. Do you know which one this is? Check out one of the all new Espers. Do you know which one this is?

    The musical score in FFVI marks one of the best and most diverse soundtracks ever produced by series composer Nobuo Uematsu. It is also easily one of the most recognizable and memorable collections of music in gaming history. The GBA version of FFVI doesn't always have the best sound quality due to the GBA hardware, but it's a minor complaint that can be remedied with the right headphones. The sound effects have not changed much and though most of the effects can be overlooked, some manage to stand out and take on a life of their own; case in point: Kefka's infectious, diabolical laughter. As for the game's visuals, there is not much of a difference between the GBA version and the original. The smaller screen of the GBA or DS, while somewhat limited in terms of space, makes everything in the game look sharper and clearer than ever before. Character and vehicle sprites are still as charming now as they were back then.

    FFVI is not a difficult game. It is, for the most part, quite easy all throughout with only a few specific areas that raise the difficulty level. Most of the difficulty usually arises in places where it should: in the boss battles and major dungeons. The game can easily be beaten within 25 hours, but players who want to explore and get everything the game has to offer will expect to finish around the 40 to 50 hour mark.

    Overall, Final Fantasy VI Advance is an experience that will not disappoint the veteran gamer or the new player. The changes in the game have made it better and though there are some minor issues with control, the game is definitely worth playing. Final Fantasy VI Advance would make an excellent complementary portable version to that SNES cartridge collecting dust or to that other port, Final Fantasy Anthology, for the PlayStation. For those who have never played FFVI before, this version of it would be a great place to start.

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