perjantai 8. lokakuuta 2010

REVIEW - Final Fantasy VI Advance (2006)

Genre(s): RPG
Released: 2006
Available on: GBA
Developer(s): Square Enix, TOSE
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

The foundation of the Final Fantasy Advance series was the consideration of a Final Fantasy VI remake, first made public in 2001. However, Nintendo still held a grudge against Square for unceremoniously quitting making games for their systems in 1996. The Japanese WonderSwan Color, which already had had its share of Final Fantasy remakes, was not powerful enough to run a port of Final Fantasy VI, so the idea of a remake was scrapped. In 2004, Nintendo and the company now known as Square Enix came to terms and the Final Fantasy Advance series began with the release of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. In 2006, this series of handheld classics came full circle with the releases of Final Fantasy V Advance and the long anticipated Final Fantasy VI Advance. With its minimal and mostly artificial changes, Final Fantasy VI Advance is all but a port instead of a remake, but nearly as loveable as ever.

The empire strikes back

A thousand years ago, three gods descended down to Earth and created the Espers, humanoid beasts with great magical power, to fight for them in a battle for world tyranny known in the present as the War of the Magi. Realizing their war was a petty mistake, the three gods known as the Warring Triad retreated and confined themselves to stone, and told the Espers to separate themselves from the human world, to prevent their great power ever to be harnessed and abused by the human race. Both humans and Espers continued their lives in peace, apart from each other in two different dimensions. In present time, technology has all but erased common knowledge of magic. The Gestahlian Empire rules the world in a constantly evolving dictatorship. It won't stop at nothing to enforce its rule by studying Espers, searching for their remains all over the human world, and attempting to resurrect the power of magic to make its technologically advanced army simply unstoppable. Whole towns are destroyed and innocent people are killed due to Emperor Gestahl's merciless hunger for more power. A small resistance group called the Returners stands against the Empire, and gets a chance at a true breakthrough when Terra, an amnesiac young girl brainwashed to fight for the Empire, and the last human capable of using magic naturally, takes their side.

The first task Final Fantasy VI Advance takes care of is Ted Woolsey's original translation, in the fashion of wiping a few asses on the script, burning it and flushing it down the toilet. The whole new script is very close to that of the original Japanese version; some of Woolsey's most famous lines are left in and the content of the dialogue's pretty much the same, but for the most part, it's completely different. And better. The original game's level of graphical censorship is also toned down a bit, however still not even close to the Japanese version.

So it begins.
As you have seen this far, I've played every game in the Final Fantasy Advance series and they've been very good, but since Final Fantasy IV, they've hardly managed to bring something truly new into the game. It took me 42 hours to beat Final Fantasy VI the last time, so I decided to play the Advance version just as long as it would take me to pick up the pointers I needed for the review of a port; as awesome as the game is, I wouldn't have had the energy for another 42 hours with the exact same game. Make that a few hours more, since there are a couple of new sidequests, complete with a whole new dungeon, of course. My information on these sidequests is based solely on what I've read on the Internet. I believe in their good quality without the need to hack through the game, after all I've tried the rocking extra stuff Square Enix squeezed in all of the previous games.

The graphics are OK, but I would've expected a little bit more out of them. There's no extra opening scene, since the original already had one, and it appears in the same vein as the scenes in the previous Advance games. The colour palette is changed radically; the game is not nearly as dark as the original. At their worst, varying graphical elements look very foggy and out of place. The font used in menus and battles simply sucks, there's no way around it. When I heard the music was heavily remixed, I shit my pants in terror. It's not as bad as the remixed soundtrack for Final Fantasy IV, but it still sounds wrong and kind of chaotic. Where's an in-game sound mixer when you need one? 

There's no actual need to go over this stuff for the umpteenth time, especially since the original Final Fantasy VI didn't leave anything to hope for unlike its predecessors, but I'll still do it. The menu design is slightly better, almost all enemy names have been relocalized as well as skills (SwdTech is changed to Bushido to correspond to the Samurai skill in Final Fantasy X), items, and magic. There's a Quicksave feature, as well as a bestiary. Perhaps the most notable aesthetic addition to the game is that each character now has a pre-defined class, but just a few of these classes are of the traditional Warrior, Mage, Thief etc. fare. Locke is an Adventurer, Edgar is a Machinist, Setzer is a Gambler, Terra and Celes are both Magitek Elites, and so on. To further exclamate the possibility of character customization in Final Fantasy VI, Strago is the only playable character strictly classified as a Mage, and by far the only character to have notably better magical talent than physical prowess.

Moogle army on the march.
The Advance version comes complete with the inclusion of a new teamwork-based dungeon named Dragon's Den and its boss Kaiser Dragon, who raises the total number of the Legendary Dragons from eight to nine. Also, new equipment is available for each character. There's a new battle arena and a couple of additional sidequests. These, as well as the new dungeon, affect the total number of different Espers in the game; there are now 31 of them. Leviathan, Gilgamesh, Cactuar and Diablos join the cast, and judging by the appearance of the last one, and the method to acquire Cactuar, these characters are influenced by their portrayals in Final Fantasy VIII.

Some of its audiovisual qualities in comparison to the original game aren't to my liking, and Final Fantasy VI is a bit too large and remarkable to fully enjoy as a gaming experience on a handheld console, but it's still very close to being the original article - and the translation rocks - as well as being the most essential game you could possibly imagine to try on the Game Boy Advance.

Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 8.7
Playability : 9.4
Challenge : 9.4
Overall : 9.4


GameRankings: 90.65%

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