Friday, February 16, 2007

Final Fantasy VI Advance review

Ah, my special Valentine's Day post is complete and it is a review of Final Fantasy VI Advance, the perfect gaming companion for any gender. Warning: contains massive amount of spoilers as it is written with the assumption that the reader has played a Final Fantasy VI game.


Final Fantasy VI, in my opinion, is without doubt the best Final Fantasy game ever created (bar Final Fantasy XII which will be released here in less than two weeks), and it has finally gone portable. So this review will have bias written all over it. Thankfully I have restrained myself from dissing other more popular Final Fantasy titles.

Booting up Final Fantasy VI Advance even gave me goose bumps. I am so goddamn busy I have hardly the time to play games, which is why being portable sweetens the deal. Watching Kefka clowns around, while standing uncomfortably in the Underground is way better than watching commuters fidgeting with their latest iPods trying to show them off. Then there is Celes' performance at the Opera and Cyan's Ghost train scenario...

When it comes to Final Fantasy VI, gameplay takes a back seat for an epic story (which in my opinion is the best since Final Fantasy IV). The plot revolves around a resistant group known as the Returners and their battle against the Empire. It takes place a thousand years after the War of the Magi. Since the war ended, magic has ceased to exist in the world, which now resembles Europe during the industrial revolution, until Emperor Gestahl decided to harvest magic from Espers for use in a hybrid weapon known as Magitek.

Though there are plenty of playable characters (most of which has large amount of fascinating history and character development), each of which is unique in their own right, none of them are in any way lead characters. You are free to select your own parties, though at times you are required to have certain characters in the party in order to proceed. Even though the game is still fairly linear, back-story narrative are added based on which characters are in your party, thus increasing the replay value of the game. One example is during the return trip to Figaro Castle, if you have both Sabin and Edgar in the party you will be able to witness a flashback concerning Sabin's abdication from the throne.

Final Fantasy veterans will note that there isn't any job system to play around, which is a shame, but not a total lost as there are still tons of customisation to be had. Job levels, as in Final Fantasy IV, are tied to each individual characters. As with every traditional Japanese RPGs, combat will yield experience points and character statistics increases with every leveling.

Apart from a few instances, enemies are randomly encountered on the field map. The familiar Active Time Battle turn based and menu driven combat system, introduced in Final Fantasy IV, returns. However unlike Final Fantasy III and V, getting through is dead easy and requires no prior strategising, as long as you continue taking time off to grind, and not ignore critical healing moments.

The port/remake isn't without its problems though. Battles can occasionally slowdown if sprites crowd the screen, and if certain offensive magic is used. It is a minor concern and for most part the game is speedy enough to enjoy. The 16-bit re-mixed soundtrack isn't as sharp as it was on the SNES/Super Famicom (it contains a very unique Ken Kutaragi designed Sony sound-chip), but this is hardly a surprise.

Then there is the usage of the tilted Mode 7. Walking on the overworld is bearable as the map is only slightly tilted but navigating on the chocobo or airship is almost nigh impossible, especially if compared to the 2D fieldmap. Navigating the overworld with Mode 7 may seem revolutionary 12 years ago, but it looks awful now. Fake 3D is also used in an escape scene from the Magitek Research Facility in Vector, and the result was a truly horrifying showcase of terrible visuals.

Whilst it is clear that the GBA is no match for the SNES superior hardware, for most part they did an excellent job porting the game for the GBA platform. Despite the lower resolution of the platform, this port features excellent visuals and detailed sprite animations, similar to the Super Nintendo games. Memorable animations such as Kefka's comical laugh remains visually appealing.

I have already blogged about my impression on the new translation. Whether purist will like it or not, I still think the new 'modern' script is wonderful. Sure there are already complaints about the 'dialogue being toned down' as well as some the more graphical violent scene being ‘censored’. While some purist might basked in their SNES superiority, the rest of us should be grateful that Square Enix even bothered with a new translation, one that apparently follows the original Super Famicom version more closely.

Update: I just tried summoning Siren and she is still all 'dressed-up'. As I mentioned before, this isn't a huge concern, but damnit Nintendo of America/Square-Enix USA, you are just so prude! I wonder if Square-Enix Europe will re-instate the esper's exposed arse, if they even bother releasing it over here. Still plenty of sexual content here.
Bushido in the Bedroom!

Also included in the game is the bestiary, where you can check out the stats of enemies that you have defeated. This is ideal for completist and may prove useful for treasure hunters as well. There is also a music player that is available once the game is completed. As I mentioned above the sound quality does not match up to the original game – but regardless it is still a nice touch, as I am sure many of you would agree that Final Fantasy VI was one of Nobou Uematsu’s finest project.

The Game Boy Advance hardware has been abandoned by many but for the rest of us this port is the perfect end to the GBA's lifespan. The GBA shares many similarities with the SNES's (including housing many old school RPG titles), so it just seems fitting that one of the greatest games of all time to grace the SNES should give the GBA a proper farewell. Apart from the hit in the sound quality department, this is the definitive version to own. Do not give this a miss.


Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK


20quid said...

What about Celes's suicide? No longer a leap of faith I hope.

Jon said...

Proper suicide attempt now.

Anonymous said...

Good review. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

How can you play it if you can't see the world map? I have the PS1 port but it doesn't have a music player, that would be a nice feature.

Jon said...

World map is visible by pressing 'select'.