Final Fantasy VI Advance
by Polly

Once upon a time in a tiny little mining town, during the midst of a technological revolution, a special little green-haired girl decided to pay a visit. She brought a couple of friends, and they brought their toys. Together, the three played happily throughout the town, showing as many residents they could the joys of their big and shiny metal playthings. One by one, the villagers found themselves amazed and delighted witnessing such whimsy. The playful little scamps eventually found themselves deep inside a freshly dug mine shaft where they met Santa Claus and ate Rice Krispy Treats. There was tea too! From that evening onward, the three would visit that very same mine shaft to eat Rice Krispy Treats and drink tea with Santa Claus. Until Santa died of lupus.

And that's how it all began. Not really.

Like it matters, though. At this point I think everyone might just know (be it the Squa[REDACTED]s who never fucking shut up about anything Final Fantasy related, or whether you've already played it yourself) that Final Fantasy VI (FFIII for us old-school, better than you gamers) is quite simply one of the greatest games to come out of the 16-bit era. After the almost completely abysmal Final Fantasy V, Square really had nowhere else to go but up. And up they went, creating one of the most memorable and epic adventures known to gaming.

Lovely World of Colors
Final Fantasy VI's graphics in the 16-bit era were nothing short amazing. There was nothing out there even close to this game's graphical style. The cartooney and vividly colored tilesets and monsters of the previous games were fun enough, but this game's art direction took a totally different turn, opting for a much more mature and detailed look. It's a style that really helped make combat and the story seem more serious than they may have with brighter and less detailed graphics. Character sprites are still super-deformed and only take up one tile, but there's so much charm and personality packed into each one that helps give them a life of their own. Enemy monster combat graphics were amazingly detailed giving them that ferocious look they definitely needed. Some of the end-game stuff here is just fabulous. The spell effects were completely fucking "wow" as well...

And ain't shit changed here either, son. The GBA does a great job at handling everything this game throws at it. Some of the darker tones seem to have been lightened up a bit (like I've noticed in a lot of games) for the sake of the GBA'ers out there stuck on the original system or the SP, but it's hardly any reason to knock the presentation. Sprites, enemies, and all the special attack animations are exactly as you remember them, losing none of their original flare aside from the odd slowdown hiccup here or there when other effects are in place (like a wavy effect over an extremely humid background).

They even managed to get a decent reperesentation of Mode-7 graphics working for world map travel and airship flight. It does seem a little wonky at first and does feel a bit sluggish, but they get big points for actually working it out and keeping it as faithful to the original game as they could.

Oooooooh Ma-riiiii-aaaaaa
As you may have guessed, Final Fantasy VI also has what some would call one of the most revered and recognized soundtracks in a videogame. It truly is some of Uematsu's best work. It was on a level of epic that games just didn't get to at that time.

This is definitely one of the biggest areas of criticism from most old-school players. It is true that the GBA doesn't have the kind of sound processing that the SNES had and so some tunes do lose a lot of their original sheen here, but don't listen to those who would say that the soundtrack is completely butchered. All of the original tunes are reproduced here as faithfully as they could be, with only a few casualties. The biggest problem is percussion and the lack of reverb (which the SNES did with a second sound chip). The percussion in a lot of the tunes is just too loud and doesn't mix well with the melodies sometimes. The missing reverb means that some of the melodies end up sounding more videogamey than they do orchestra-ey. I like inventing words.

The bottom line on the music: The only tunes that really suffer here are the main combat theme (which you'll just get used to since you hear it so often), the Mount Kolts theme, Techno de Chocobo (it's fucking HORRIBLE), and the overworld theme for the second half of the game just doesn't sound right. That may just be me though. Oh and the opera scene sounds better here too. Suck it, fanboys.

Most of the original sound effects have made the leap to the GBA as well, with only a few substitutions which manage to fill the shoes of the originals just fine.

Me n' My Woolsey
All fans of old-school Square-dom know who Ted Woolsey is. He's the mastermind that handled the translations for a lot of our favorite games, with this game being no exception. He gets a lot of shit for the job he did on this game, but I'd say for a guy who had only one month to translate the entire fucking game (and even scrapping what he had halfway through), and having to work within Nintendo's strict as hell guidelines back then, he did a hell of a job. In fact, I think his translation gave the game a bit more character than it originally had (I say this after having played a few other translations that were for the most part boring.)

The confirmation of a "new" translation hit the scene only a couple weeks before the game's release and that got a lot of lips flappin. Well, they weren't flapping for much. Much to my surprise (and delight I might add) this translation is really just a heavy re-touching up of Woolsey's original translation, smoothing out the errors he made and returning a lot of items and spells to their original names. From what I gather, the translation is still somewhat censored (in the original Relm was quite the potty mouth), but there's really nothing here that reeks of "blasphemy." A few of Woolsey's original lines that have almost become a staple of the game ("son of a submariner") were changed, but eh.

The only real drawback is that with all the new (well old) spell, Esper, item, and enemy names here, getting some stuff doine (such as Gau's Rages) might take a little re-learning. Other than that, it's an extremely well-done re-write.

So, What Else?
Well for starters, how about bugfixes? Those are pretty cool, huh? Did you know that on the SNES original, the Evade stat meant NOTHING! It was completely bugged and didn't provide your characters with any kind of evasive ability whatsoever. Well that's fixed now! Relm's Sketching ability no longer has the ability to completely fuck up your saves either. It doesn't make her anymore useful, however. A few other doodads here and there were fixed as well, such as the old Vanish/Doom trick which let you win almost every battle in the game with ease. It still works on monsters who don't have absoulte immunity to the Instant Death status though, so have fun.

Of course we're also given the staples of the Final Fantasy Advance series with an in-depth Bestiary and a music player that you can unlock once you finish the game. There's the new content which includes some new gear for your characters to find in a couple new unlockable locales, four new espers, and some new and incredibly difficult boss encounters you can hunt down to try and stretch that playtime out a bit more.

So, what's not to like? It's basically just "Final Fantasy VI+" with some slightly downgraded audio and some new content. If you're a fan of the original and have a portable, I honestly see no reason not to own this game. It's the best re-release we've seen of the game since the original. What, you telling me you'd rather play that PlayStation garbage? Just go get this shit.

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