Final Fantasy, it was supposed to be the last game by a near bankrupt game developer, it has now turned into Squaresofts, I mean, Square Enix's bread and butter, but do we really need another one?
Unlike previous FF encounters in FFTA the people actually know they're in a game, well partially, at the beginning of the game you are treated to a maybe overly long intro/tutorial with a class having a snowball fight, in this fight and intro you are introduced to all the characters you will run into during the game.
One of the characters Mewt after the snowball fights tells you character (Marche) that he is going to buy a book, and Marche suggests he brings it over to his house and shows his little sibling who is sick, so everyone goes off and Mewt turns up to Marche's house with Ritz (a girl who shows up frequently) and they open the book, they cant make out much in the book apart from the name, Final Fantasy, but they think the words are magic and try to speak some, after a while they give up and Mewt leaves with the book, and Marches younger sibling wishes something about been in Final Fantasy, then everything goes haywire and well, they go into the book, or game, depending on how you see it.
The story reminded me more of Secret of Mana than Final Fantasy, making me think they just used the name because they could, the reason it reminded me of Secret of Mana is because when trying to turn the world back you character much destroy Crystals, which are protected by a Totema, or Guardian, which reminded me very much of Secret of Mana where you had to go and find the Spirits that protected various stones around the world.
Overall the story is pretty well done, most of the time it is just used to get you from place to place and although it is quite prominent at the beginning it begins to fade away and focus more on fighting and missions. Even though it isn't always there the story was there enough for me to actually care about the characters and what was happening to them.
FFTA plays a lot like Tactics Ogre, also on GBA, it may also play like the PS1 version but I don't know cause I never played it.
At the beginning of the "game" Marche is saved by a Moogle and then joins the Moogles clan, and names it. The default name is Clan Nutsy, which is kind of lame but I kept it none the less. At first the Clan just seems to be a way for the game to keep Marche from going around alone, but later it becomes quite important, as when getting missions you dispatch single members of your clan to go and do them. Also you can controls turf, or towns and locals. Controlling an area means you get better treatment there, ie cheaper item prices or mission prices.
Most of the time you enter battles to defeat all enemies, not much else, maybe a defeat the boss in which you just kill one unit to win. I would of liked a bit more variety, especially considering some of the missions are to collect flowers or an item, I would of preferred that in some larger battles if I could of just run to the item and then finished the round, or run to the item then back to where the characters spawned.
In battle you just run into the vicinity of your enemy, on squares, and then attack, no two characters can inhabit the same square so the most you can surround and enemy with is four fighters. When you go to attack various stats come up, like chance to hit the enemy and the damage, if you are behind or on the side of an enemy you get a higher chance to hit, but for some reason you don't get a higher attack damage. When behind the enemy or above them on a ledge the characters do seem to get more critical hits than if from in front.
Also a lot of the skills I had no idea what they did, like Burial, the game gives you no description of the skills, but most of the time the name lets you know what they do, but a description would have been nice. So I have never actually used the Burial skill, so I have no idea if it is strong or what it is for, although my character is still effective without it, it would be nice to know what its for.
I forgot to mention, the Laws. This game is very Judge Dredd like. The world is overruled by the palace, and as palaces do they have set laws. The thing is, the laws are for engagements (battles). Each day the law changes so you will have to keep an eye out for what they are. If you use a sword on the day that swords are outlawed then you will find your character been slapped with a yellow card, and subsequently lose an item once the battle is over. If your characters crime is heinous enough you will get a red card, which acts as a, do not pass go do not collect two hundred dollars, or a free ticket to jail. If you are sent to jail, your clan must then go and bail you out.
The Judges are highly annoying and I wanted to kill them many a time, but you cant, they're invincible sorry. The only good thing about laws, are anti-laws. After a while in the game you will run into a man who has created a system of cards that are anti-laws. These cards are used so that you can turn off the different laws if they are impeding on your mayhem
The way the items are handled isn't very conventional. Unlike most RPG's where you have slots for your right and left hand, your body etc. In FFTA you have six slots for everything, because of this you can equip 1 weapon and then 5 accessories, no having an form of armour at all. At first I found this very annoying, as I liked my characters to be tidy, but in the end if found it quite good, as my mages didn't really need armour, so I could place more accessories on them buffing up their power.
Also most items are gained through you buying them, if you rely on getting the items via missions your going to be very underpowered. This was the first FF game that I actually bothered to spend my money, most of the time I don't bother as you find better items in game, but in FFTA after every couple of major battles I found myself returning to a shop somewhere to stock up on new equipment.
Another strange thing is that when you choose a class you do not begin to automatically learn a set amount of skills, instead you must equip various weapons and armour that then teaches you the skills, to level the skills you must win battles and you are then rewarded with points, although it doesn't tell you how many. Once you have enough you master the skill, once a skill is mastered you no longer need the weapon to use it. I found this system highly annoying, because no matter how much I fought I never had the same skills as the enemy, I always had lower powered skills, this is because you rarely get good or new items, and the items in the shops don't update very often. So I had a party of people who had learned all the skills they could from the store items, and then had to just wait around for a reward item or something similar so that I could teach them new skills. In that respect the skill system chosen is very annoying.
Classes are maybe just as bad, I'm not meaning to pick at the game but they are. I would just like to know when I pick a class what I'm going to upgrade to. If I chose to be a Soldier you don't know what comes afterwards, although it may not matter what comes after I would like to know just for the sake. That way I can more easily plan my entire clan instead of just guessing what comes next.
The game looks a lot like Tactics Ogre, but a bit nicer. The only thing in the game that I thought looked particularly stupid was the water. Cubed water just didn't really do it for me, ya know. I would of liked the squares to be maybe half water half dirt so that the water looked a little more natural, but that's not really a graphical thing but a layout.
The characters all look nice, each is distinguishable from each other, but you will run into duplicates of all the characters apart from your main character just different colours. Spell effects are also tops, looking as good as though in any other game apart from Golden Sun 2.
So overall the graphics are pretty good, although maybe not the best the GBA can push they are very adequate and you wont find yourself thinking, well this looks stupid.
The music is great, I really appreciated the tunes that played during the course of the game. Although they're not memorable enough for me to actually hum them they are memorable enough for me to know they don't suck.
When you enter a engagement (the games battles) a small tune plays that readies you for the oncoming slaughter, well I like to think it readies you. Its not a very original tune but I still liked it. All the weapons have their own sound effects that are pretty well done considering the lack of power in the GBA's sound department. Spell sound effects are classic whooshes and the like but again, it doesn't really matter.
The game is pretty substantial in length. It features 300 missions, yes you read it right, 300. Trust me, it's a lot. 300 missions over 30 odd locations = lots to do. The missions are made longer as that a lot have item perquisites from other quests, so even though a mission is listed you may not be able to undertake it for many hours of game play because you don't have the item to do it.
Even if you finish all the quests there is still multiplayer to be considered, you can boot up a multiplayer game with another GBA owner and trade items with them or just battle it out.