GSQ6: Alas, poor Ivalice

Somehow this Game Developers Conference week has seemed much busier than in past years, and I’ve hardly been able to keep up with… well, with everything. Like posting here. I guess it’s because I actually try to socialize these days at events instead of just going home of an evening. I’m one of those people who finds that being at parties is tiring, uncomfortable, time-consuming, and really just a chore all around… but these days it’s the only way I ever get to talk to all the great people I used to work with on a daily basis. Diasporas are the worst.

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance takes me back to before I even knew those people. It launched about a month after I began working at 1UP, and I was too poor and busy at the time to buy and play it… so despite loving its predecessor deeply, I was only able to briefly borrow the site’s library copy. “Briefly” because it wasn’t nearly as compelling as I had hoped — not a bad game, but ultimately just kind of… boring. Clearly you folks don’t share my opinion, though, as FFTA made GameSpite Quarterly 6‘s reader-voted “most underappreciated games of all time” list! So here you go.

18 thoughts on “GSQ6: Alas, poor Ivalice

  1. I loved it. Definitely played it more than FFT, whatever that makes me. The Judges were absurd, though.

    Should probably play the DS sequel, but who has the time for these things? : ( I’D RATHER READ GAMESPITE.

    • Ritz’s story arc is pretty dumb but it perfectly illustrates how vapid the fantasy world the kids were trapped in was. So its dumb, but in a well thought out kind of way.

    • FFTA2 is better in that it tones down the judges, but worse in the way it ties class and skill progression to random drops. It’s infuriating to find your magic users in stasis for five hours because you can’t get the random bazaar items they need to advance to drop from fights. FFT was easily broken and FFTA was similarly fragile, but Square/Quest took the wrong approach to fixing A2.

  2. Every time I start to play FFTA, I lose interest after a few hours. Never have been able to place why. Not a bad game, just a little off the point of interest for me I guess.

    Every now and again, I do make another attempt. Maybe one of these days I’ll get far enough in to see the great appeal.

  3. I wanted to like FFTA, but I got bored. About 9 hours in, I realized that I was winning all of the battles without using any strategy. If I don’t need to use any strategy to win battles, then there’s no point in progressing my characters in the job system – why improve my strategic options when I’m easily winning already? That’s what I loved the most about FFT. I lost interest soon after that.

  4. Someone agrees with you, Jeremy! ‘Boring’ is the exact word I’d use to describe this game.

    Mike points out how the Judges can be subverted, but if the sum total of the affect on the gameplay is that you have to hem and haw on the world map until the right combination comes up, how is that good? “Oh, you just have to run around until it’s not annoying” is hardly better than the annoying rules in the first place.

    Most of what I remember from FFTA is the bloat. Ten thousand classes, like seven races, and so much redundancy. Seriously this game has a Soldier AND a Warrior AND a Fighter AND a Paladin AND a Defender AND a Gladiator? Why is that necessary? Bloat all the way down, to the pointless sidequests and map building. Everything in the game felt like more trouble than it was worth.

    Though I think Kupek exaggerates when he talks about strategy in FFT. There was no strategy in that game after the first chapter (except for maybe Weigraf, which was less strategy and more gaming the system). There were so many ways to break that game that it was almost impossible to avoid coming upon one by accident. My team of five lancers spent its entire time in the air during the last boss fight and never took a hit. Mantles gave such absurd avoidance percentages and Ninjas are always cool, so most of my team would have 95% chances to dodge thanks to Abandon. For the ones that didn’t, oh, well Samurais are totally sweet too, and what’s this, Blade Grasp? 30% chance to hit me even if I didn’t grind my Brave up?

    I mean, I love that game, but I never felt it required any more planning than FFTA.

    • i thought it was the lame duck of the Strategy RPG genre at the time it was released, especially when compared but other great games on the GBA of the genre that were already out, like Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis, and Zone Of the Enders Fist of Mars. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the FFTA myself, I played it a whole bunch and put in well over 100+ Hours, but what i think hurt FFTA for me was the whole judgement system which was lopsided, for example you couldn’t say use archers for the entire fight or loose all rewards for the fight, but the computer could use them all day long without penalty and snipe you to death causing you to loose many of your characters, and the training hours you spent on them. While the judgement system seems like something kind of cool for an extra bonus, it is never used for this purpose in the FFTA series, and at least in my mind what has been the thing keeping a good Strategy RPG from becoming a great Strategy RPG

      • Actually, in FFTA the enemy is beholden to the same laws as the player. If the Judge says no bows and they use bows they get carded. It wasn’t until the sequel, FFTA2, that the enemy didn’t need to pay attention to the laws anymore. And that was, indeed, very frustrating.

    • Creating those supposedly “broken” combinations in FFT requires strategy in and of itself.

      • The entire point of my final paragraph is that these broken set ups happen kind of automatically. I made five lancers because they’re totally sweet. Monks can do everything in the game and they’re like the second class you unlock. In fact, just about every physical class in the game aside from thieves and archers are practically an instant win button. Even knights get pretty crazy by the end of the game.

      • People who say FFT was “easily” broken didn’t get stuck at Riovannes on their first playthrough without any cool classes unlocked. :(

  5. If anything, FFTA should have made the much-coveted “underappreciated games of all time” list just for the tutorial snowball fight alone. I mean, what a great, clever way to begin one of these types of games!

    I happen to really like the fact that abilities were tied to weapons and armor; that sometimes, you didn’t always buy the in-store weapon that made your attack numbers go up the most. The various races, too, were a nice change of pace — rather than opting for an all human team, you had viera, bangaa, moogles, and nu mou that all had their own set of jobs and abilities (like moogle gunners in their cute little hats, shooting fools clear across the map).

    FFTA is a great game. Yeah, it’s sometimes a slow burn, but that quality is somewhat inherent to the genre.

  6. I didn’t care for FFTA’s gameplay, at least not that I can remember, but it was the change in plot and tone that made me truly loathe that game.

  7. I put 100 hours each into both this game and its sequel, so while I’m not blind to their flaws, I can’t hate them either.

    I also applaud Mike for not perpetuating that “Marche is the villain” meme, which has driven me right up the wall for years.

  8. I’m another one of those near-countless people that disliked the game based on the Judge System. Thank you for the article, I’m gonna go try the game yet-again. But this time knowing that eventually the judgement system can eventually become more manageable.

  9. I am actually currently going through a playthrough of FFTA. Trying to get all 300 missions for the bonus Judge Missions. When I first played this game I was playing through FFT really for the first time.

    I could see the merits in both, but I never thought the story in FFT was all that great. That is mainly due to the piss poor translation I, granted. So whenever people gush about it I can’t help but think “What story? There was a story in all that bad Engrish?” Again, this is mostly due to the bad translation.

    I do own a copy of WotL, I just haven’t had time to play through it as I have been way, way to busy with work. Though even the parts I have played, I guess I just don’t like the story since I do know what is going to happen (Same problem with my current FFTA playthrough), I just want to get into the action and start building up my party, learning abilites, and clearing classes.

    Oh, and for people that complain about not being able to break the system, Moogles->Juggler->Dagger&Smile. These are the calculators of FFTA.

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