Throughout the history of the FINAL FANTASY series there have been quite a few different offshoots of the games. Reaching back, you'll find the FINAL FANTASY ADVENTURE games, as well as FINAL FANTASY MYSTIC QUEST, and coming soon to the GameCube, FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES. Perhaps the most beloved, and at the same time hated, of these spin-offs is FINAL FANTASY TACTICS. Released for the PlayStation, the game was a strategy title that didn't offer the RPG elements of the main series, rather a very difficult strategy game set in the FF world. Many gamers loved it, many never made it out of the first chapter.
Fast forward to recent history. Square (now Square Enix) announced a new FINAL FANTASY TACTICS game for the Game Boy Advance as part of its return to Nintendo. Originally thought to be a remake, it was found out that the game was indeed an original title, and was not a sequel to the original TACTICS. The story is a bit different than some gamers would expect, and might put off some of the close-minded older crowd. In the game, there's a group of kids that find a book that transports them into the FINAL FANTASY world. Yeah yeah, it's cheesy, but Nintendo doesn't exactly market its games towards the older audience most of the time. In fact, the game doesn't seem nearly as serious as the PlayStation title, as it's more of a make-believe adventure than a serious life or death battle.
While you may be put off by the story being aimed at a younger market, the gameplay is still as difficult as ever. There are some tutorials to teach you how to use the battle system (it's an isometric view) and that is a pretty good way to learn the game. However, that's not everything you need to know. FINAL FANTASY TACTICS ADVANCE requires a ton of management. The Job system and experience systems will keep you very busy adjusting your team and bringing weak members into battle to make them strong. In addition, certain missions just require you to send a lone character. While this seems easy enough, you'll be without use of that character for a while so strategy is important.
The big improvement over the PlayStation game is the laws that govern each battlefield. Before each battle, rules will be laid out. These include things like not being able to use certain types of weapons or items. Breaking these rules will cause you to be penalized. It helps diversify the battles quite a bit and keeps things interesting.
From a graphics perspective, TACTICS ADVANCE definitely won't blow you away. However, it does have some beautiful backgrounds and effects, and the character designs are nice too.
While the sound effects are lacking, the music in the game is absolutely fabulous. It's a trademark of the FINAL FANTASY series, and it holds true on the Game Boy Advance. The music is so good it makes me wish for a FINAL FANTASY VI port to my GBA.... Please Square Enix?
FINAL FANTASY TACTICS ADVANCE is a very difficult, yet very fun title for your Game Boy Advance. Any strategy fan should pick it up.