I love tactics games. To the passing gamer, they may seem boring with the lack of action and constant planning and strategizing. But to me, it’s an intense chess match where every move matters and the satisfaction of watching a strategy play out perfectly is oh so satisfying. I’ve been playing a TON of Fire Emblem recently and it got me thinking to where I started playing Tactical RPG’s. My first ever foray into these sub-genre of games comes from one of my personal favorite games, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA).
The game was released in North America in September of 2003 and came out to positive reviews. It was like the 1997 PlayStation game though not a direct sequel, but the big difference in combat was the Law System. See when you start a fight (Or ‘Engagement’ as the game calls it) there is a Judge that oversees the battle and has a set of laws for the fight. These laws could be “No Swords”, “No Potions”, etc. The trade off is you can earn Judge Points for using the recommended way of fighting, say you can’t use swords but you can use black magic all you want, the Judges will award you these points and once a character gains 10 they can summon a powerful ally. These laws can range from the obvious to the “Wait I can’t use what?” As the game goes on, more and more laws are added to the battle and can really mess up your play style and they get more and more obscure. I can’t tell you how many times I wold be in a fight, commit to an action to win, then find out it’s against the law and have my character thrown into jail (yes there is a jail in this game and you can get your characters sent there. It’s quite funny). Besides from the Laws system the game has your standard Final Fantasy classes and jobs. You got knights, black/white mages, dragoons and all sorts of jobs your characters can take. Each unit has a name and you can change their jobs based on their stats and what weapons they are attuned for. Unlike some games (Fire Emblem I’m looking at you) when a unit falls in battle they won’t stay dead. However! There are some areas in FFTA where there are no Judges, laws, and if one of your characters DOESN’T get revived with a Phoenix Down then they STAY dead. Besides those areas there’s no fear in losing a unit.
The story is something we’ve heard before but it’s still fun to watch play out. 4 friends find an enchanted book, get sent to a great fantasy world, main character wants to go home but his best friend doesn’t, fights break out and hijinks ensue. The best part of the story are the character moments throughout the game. Especially when Marche (the main character) meets up with his classmates who don’t want to go back home. He desperately does, but his best friend is not only a prince but his mom is also alive and well and his dad is a respected knight. With motivation like that, you can’t help but feel a tad bit like the bad guy for taking your best friend’s dream come true away.
I remember playing FFTA for hours on end when I got it. My characters were so overpowered and I loved playing the game. My biggest gripe however, is that I reached a certain part of the game, where I was in a constant loop of missions that required certain items, and the only way to GET these items was through other missions. It was a constant loop of trying to get that one item to do a certain mission and I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. I checked Wiki’s, online strategy guides, but couldn’t figure out where exactly in the game I was and what I needed to do. It was so frustrating that I spent over 120 hours playing the game, only to get fed up and starting over. Erasing the save file where I had so many super strong characters, but no progress to show for it. I know I must’ve missed something in my initial play through and definitely plan to go back and play it again. Even with the frustration of not knowing how to progress late game, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a great tactics game to start out with and play.