Final Fantasy VI Advance - Staff Review  

Son of a... Sandworm?
by Jason Schreier

25-40 Hours


Rating definitions 

   When they decided to release Final Fantasy VI in North America, executives at Squaresoft felt like it would be too confusing to account for all of the games that didn't make it out of Japan, and consequently called the series' next installment Final Fantasy III. Unfortunately, they didn't foresee the inevitable confusion that would occur once non-Japanese gamers started hearing about the games in between what they knew as numbers II and III. On top of that, the translation for FFVI fell into the hands of a man named Ted Woolsey, who made some liberal decisions when it came to names and dialogue. Although a lot of people were happy with his translation and some of the infamous lines it produced–"son of a submariner," anyone?–many items and spells were inconsistent with the rest of the Final Fantasy series. To correct their mistakes and keep the games consistent, Square decided to take the most lucrative measure: remakes. Rounding off a series of these SNES to GBA ports comes Final Fantasy VI Advance, the latest and greatest redesign of the 16-bit Final Fantasy games.

   Now the question remains, is it a port or a remake? That's up to interpretation, but what Final Fantasy VI Advance does feature over its SNES counterpart is four new Espers, three new spells, two new dungeons, and one whole new translation. It keeps everything else, from graphics to plotline.

   Final Fantasy VI Advance controls much like a typical RPG, mostly because the original game set the standard for what typical RPGs have become. Combat uses the Active Time Battle system, a hybrid battle system pioneered by Final Fantasy IV that has players input commands as each character's turn bar fills up in real time. Each character has a unique special ability that's indicative of their class, which is now specifically labeled in the menu. Characters can also be improved using Espers, magical beings who have given their souls to serve the team by pouring their essences into stone called magicite. In addition to giving a character stat boosts if he or she levels up while the Esper is equipped, these fantastic creatures can teach magic spells to any character after the party amounts a given number of magic points, which are acquired after combat. Equipment is pretty standard, with four regular equipment slots for each character, as well as two slots for Relics, items that grant special bonuses, such as being able to equip two weapons at once or immunity to status effects. It would be nice if characters could equip more than two Relics, as players will accumulate so many by the end of the game that most remain unused in favor of the most powerful ones. However, the system allows an amount of customization that is unusual for RPGS, which is refreshing.

Oh hey there, Coliseum.  Yeah I'm bigger than you, but I'm gonna enter anyway Oh hey there, Coliseum. Yeah I'm bigger than you, but I'm gonna enter anyway

   For its time, Final Fantasy VI had stellar graphics; the world map is as close as the SNES could get to a 3-D perspective, and character sprites are detailed and beautiful, able to portray a strong range of emotion. Each city and dungeon has a unique aesthetic charm, and even cut scenes are executed quite well for a 2-D game. The music is also spectacular; pretty much every single track is lovely and memorable, particularly Aria di Mezzo Carattere which not only hauntingly filled the Opera House, but became the predecessor for Aeris' Theme in Final Fantasy VII. Although there are some quality issues that inevitably resulted from bringing 16-bit music to a handheld system, both the music and visuals are carried over nicely, and render Final Fantasy VI Advance's presentation as one of the best that the Game Boy Advance has to offer.

   Final Fantasy VI Advance can be difficult to players who aren't familiar with the original game, but many Esper, Relic, and equipment customizations are strong enough to allow the characters to mercilessly slaughter their opponents. It should also be noted that the game shifts gears completely at its halfway point, turning from a linear and story-based plot to a series of non-linear and optional exploration quests. Consequently, completion time is dependent on how long the characters spend exploring and completing the optional quests in the second half of the game. The two new dungeons and four new collectable Espers also add some playtime as well as increased difficulty to Final Fantasy VI Advance, which is always appreciated.

Terra: Terra: "Valigarmanda?! What does that even mean?! That's it, I'm joining the Empire"

   Because the translation in the original Final Fantasy VI had so many inconsistencies, players will find a drastic difference in the new version. Spell names like "Fire 2" and "Fire 3" have been changed to their more modern counterparts, "Fira" and "Firaga"; why these more obscure names have become the series' standard is an enigma. Items have also been retranslated to come closer to the original Japanese versions, as have Espers, giving the game ridiculous and pointless changes like "Tritoch" to "Valigarmanda." Thankfully, certain names have been left in Americanized form, such as Terra, Kefka, and Ultros; some memories are too holy for even Square-Enix to mess around with.

   Now the biggest and most controversial change comes in the form of the new dialogue and plot. Final Fantasy VI's story is nothing short of epic, and its cast of characters is varied, inimitable, and charming. Fortunately, Final Fantasy VI Advance both maintains the grandeur of the story and adds new spice to the characters, clearing up any confusion with the original translations. Although some of the original game's quirky lines have been edited or changed, new ones have been added, and much of the new dialogue enhances rather than detracts from the story.

   This new game can't really be called a remake with any sort of authority; it's a port with a few new features and some spiced-up dialogue. However, as the swan song of the Game Boy Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance is a special treat for everyone. From traditionalist old school gamers to new age RPG fans, just about anyone can experience the best Final Fantasy and one of the best RPGs of all time.

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