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     " Whoever came up with the idea for those commercials needs to be shot… but whoever cast the chick that plays Ritz deserves a promotion… "

      Title: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance by SquareEnix

      Format: Tactics game for your GBA

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: Final Fantasy, one of the longest running RPG franchises in gaming history, only branches out every so often. So somewhere back around Final Fantasy Eleventy-Five (One of those Japanese only releases...) Square took a look at their game and thought to themselves- "So what else can we do"? The answer? Tactics! Thus Final Fantasy Tactics was born unto the playstation with much love from the fans. The excellent combo of job system and squad based tactics set in the chocobo lovinest world ever devised won fans over right quick. Now, many years later, they're out to do it again... this time for the small screen of your GBA. It's been a long time coming, let's see if they've done it again. Kupo!

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Honestly, these are sprite-based graphics at their chibi sized best. The game has three-color settings, allowing you to optimize your settings for either version of the GBA, or for your TV (if the small screen just isn't cutting it for you). The colors are all bright and cheerful for your characters and most environments. There are a few barren desert environments that you'll see enough to get sick of them, though there are enough varied types of maps that you can find all kinds of terrains for your ass whomping pleasure if you look around enough. The variety of sprites for different jobs and races are all nice to look at, although there seems to be some predilection for big floomfy hats on the people…enough so that I think the fashions of this world are dictated by the Pastry Chef industry. One of the things they did in this game (as opposed to the original FFT) was to ditch the idea of gender for your units. Now you are whatever your job looks like. Which can lead to quite a bit of surprise when your formerly male white mage suddenly becomes a female illusionist. Of course, when that same white mage has brown hair in his portrait but blonde hair on his sprite, I suppose anything is possible. Little inconsistencies aside, the graphics are quite nice, and a good example of what can be done with GBA tech. 4 out of 5

      Playability: For those of you familiar with the old FFT, the mechanics have changed just enough to keep the whole experience fresh. For those not in the know, let me break it down. You're basically in charge of your own small army. You charge about the world with your tiny militia beating down any opponents who rear their chibi heads. Unfortunately, your world starts out a little bare. By completing story missions, you actually get to build your own version of the world map, putting down cities where you think they belong. For this version, they've not only done away with gender, they've added different species. Now you get units from one of five races to mold into highly trained killing machines. Each race has specific jobs that they can master, usually ones not available to other races. Most of the old favorites from FFT have made the transition, with several new additions, and several tweaks. For example, the Dragoon is now no longer merely a mindless pogo stick bringing springy death to his enemies. Now the lizard like race that takes on this job can also learn the breath attacks of their dragon brethren. Of course, learning that ability requires you to have the proper weapon equipped. Taking a page from Final Fantasy 9's book, abilities are now learned through your equipment. Wearing the right items in battle will teach you the myriad of skills available to the characters of the game.
          Probably the biggest change up in the way these games work is the law/anti-law system. Although you may be roaming the countryside beating up people willy-nilly, John Law (Or- The lizard on the Chocobo, as they're affectionately called) won't let you do it unsupervised. What essentially happens is a certain action is outlawed for the length of the battle. This can be as simple as not stealing anything or not using swords, to as complicated as requiring you to do more than 100 points of damage or banning the use of color magic. The judge will penalize you for performing an outlawed action. As well (for the English version, at any rate), for every action that's outlawed there is an action (usually opposite) that's recommended. If you're not allowed to use swords, the Judge will give you a reward for using a staff. It's an interesting system, and adds some much needed depth and strategy to the game. Of course, it also adds a lot of frustration. Nothing's worse than picking your units for a battle only to find out they're completely impotent due to the days restrictions. Anti-Laws (cards that let you cancel a law for a battle) help out with this, but don't entirely alleviate it.
          The controls are fairly sensible, although there are a few things about the screen layout that cause odd control schemes. It took me an inordinately long time to figure out how to compare new equipment for stat changes, for example (Press the start button when you are looking at the item you want to put on). 4 out of 5

      Story and Drama: Here's what happens… you play Marche (or whatever you name him. He's the only nameable character in the game), the new kid in town. After a brief introduction to your friends, Mewt and Ritz, your town is suddenly and mysteriously changed into something entirely different… Seriously, where are these towns? In any case, you adventure about only to find that there are a host of exciting and wonderful things here. Fantastic allies await you. Ultimate powers, both arcane and martial are yours to command. So obviously you can't wait to get home… The story for this game is told in a very disjointed manner. Shortly after reaching this new world you are found and taken in by a small clan (what the various battle groups are called). You take on missions for your clan through a type of bulletin board system. What this means is that you end up just kind of happening upon the next story mission whenever you're done taking on random missions. A lot of times, the story missions don't even really have anything to do with the main story of the game; they're just random happenings that you're around for. What story is there is decent enough; though your mileage may vary. 2.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Well, on the down side - you have to unlock link cable play. All things considered, that's not that big a deal though. You unlock it fairly soon in the game and the time you don't have it is well spent learning how the game works. That way when you are able to link up, you aren't dead weight. I say 'dead weight' rather than 'overtaken' because this game makes the bold choice of only having cooperative play for link cable. Personally I'm all for it. Now when my über obsession-leveled troops go in against somebody who spends a normal amount of time playing video games, I can show off without driving them away. There are competitive link games, just not direct competition.
          If you ever played the first Final Fantasy Tactics game, you know that the myriad of job choices and combinations was enough to make it worth several plays. The same applies here. The addictive nature of all Final Fantasy games rears its ugly head, and "One More Battle" syndrome is in full effect. The mission structure of the story means that you can easily plug in a few random encounters without having to worry about what you're doing over again. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       The original Final Fantasy Tactics was a Playstation classic, and the 'Advanced' version is doing much the same for the Game Boy. The plethora of job choices, the general squad level tactics, and more over the feel of the Final Fantasy world, it all combines to make an incredibly fun game. Now granted, the story is a little on the weak side, and some may be annoyed at the FF9 ability system, but overall there's not nearly enough complaints to outweigh the fun of playing this game.

      The Good: Old school tactics flava' with enough new twists to make the whole thing feel fresh.

      The Bad: A story that leaves much to be desired, some nitpicky complaints about controller layout and wasted ability points

      The Overall Ugly: Whoever came up with the idea for those commercials needs to be shot… but whoever cast the chick that plays Ritz deserves a promotion…

      What it's Worth: The going price is fair.

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