Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and the PSP version of Breath of Fire 3 are on their way to the Wii U and PSN respectively, giving JRPG fans a chance to finally revisit them while reopening the debate on their relative merits.
The arrival of Final Fantasy Tactics on the Wii U tomorrow will mark its first appearance since its initial release on the Game Boy Advance back in 2003. As for Breath of Fire 3, this will be the first appearance of any sort for the PSP version in North America. Up until now, North American fans have only had access to the original PlayStation version.
Both have their merits and drawbacks. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of one of the genre's most beloved entries; and while it was in some ways ambitious, it brought with it some problematic additions. Judges, for all their significance in Final Fantasy XII, were frustrating in their application of arbitrary rules. There were also those who objected to Advance's new storybook fantasy world, which was a big departure from the grim and gritty politics of the original.
Still, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has plenty to recommend it. The Jobs system returns intact, and the story is more interesting than it first appears in the way that it addresses escapism. Having missed out on the original when it first came out, I really enjoyed Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which was a solid gateway to the series and the tactics genre in general.
Breath of Fire 3, meanwhile, is a port of the original PlayStation game. Originally released in 2006, it wound up being rejected by Sony Computer Entertainment America and never making it to North America. For hardcore fans of the series, that left the European release as the only alternative. With Breath of Fire 3 come to North America in February, though, importing the original - or buying the PS1 version - will no longer be necessary.
Compared to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Breath of Fire 3 is a much more traditional JRPG, which should appeal to the purists looking for a classic old-school experience. Its main conceit is that the protagonist, Ryu, is a dragon capable of taking a variety of forms, which are available via "Dragon Genes." It's not exactly groundbreaking, but for those looking for a bit of JRPG comfort food, it doesn't need to be. Alas, the port has an issue with loading times, which slows the action considerably. Still, it's an interesting alternative in an already strong lineup of PSP and Vita RPGs that can be played on PlayStation TV.
In the meantime, the long-delayed release of Breath of Fire 3 PSP in North America opens the door for other RPGs that were localized for Europe but never made it across the Atlantic. Tales of Eternia is one such RPG. Eternia received solid reviews back in the day, and its attractive 2D art still holds up well today. Like Breath of Fire 3, it would be a welcome addition to the Vita and PlayStation TV.
Regardless, downloadable platforms like PSN and the Wii U Virtual Console aren't perfect, but they're still a great way to revisit older games that you may have missed the first time around. And in the case of Breath of Fire 3, it offers an avenue for unreleased games to finally make their way to North America. Hopefully there will be more to come.