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Final Fantasy Tactics

A Playstation Tactical Strategy RPG

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"If William Shakespeare Made a Game..."

  • Sep 8, 2009
Rating:
+5
Final Fantasy Tactics first dropped down in January of 1998.  Shortly after the huge success of Final Fantasy VII on the original Playstation.  It seemed as though Final Fantasy Tactics would eventually fade into obscurity.  Despite dropping down in 1998, the beauty of Final Fantasy Tactics wasn't realized until a couple of years after its release.  It's not exactly a Tactical RPG I'd suggest if you're new to the genre.  For first timers it might take a moment to adjust.  But perhaps the real reason first timers should try a different Tactical RPG to get them started is not because of the complexity within Final Fantasy Tactics, but rather because of the games difficulty, which can be scathing for those unfamiliar with the genre... or unfamiliar with how Final Fantasy Tactics was intended to be played.

The story is labeled The Zodiac Brave Story.  It is told from the perspective of an old scholar who is relating the story to us as it is meant to be told.  You control it.  It is about a young lad named Ramza.  As Ramza you'll embark on an adventure filled with peril and political intrigue.  The story focuses on two kingdoms as they try and gain control of Ivalice.  Ramza is thrown into the mix after his foster father dies.  But what he discovers through the adventure is that there is something much bigger at work here.  And as Ramza uncovers the conspiracy you'll see there's a lot more to the story than just two houses trying to rule the land of Ivalice.

Final Fantasy Tactics may actually be remembered best for its story more so than anything else.  Of all the Final Fantasy games out there, Tactics probably has one of the most mature stories out there.  It doesn't get a whole lot of credit for character development.  While Ramza is an interesting character, and we get to see him grow throughout the story, none of the supporting cast of characters is quite as well developed.  The team which worked on Final Fantasy Tactics, headed by Yasumi Matsuno has never been quite that well known for creating memorable characters.  Yet for what it's worth, the game itself is quite memorable in spite of this. 

The second thing Tactics is remembered for a lot is battling in and of itself.  It's fairly traditional.  Those who played Tactics Ogre (all ten of you) will come to realize that battling is similar.  Instead of different "phases" as so many Tactical RPGs use, Final Fantasy Tactics is completely turn based.  This adds much more strategy to the mix.  Depending on a specific characters speed makes the difference on when they go into battle.  Each time one of your units has a turn you'll move him (or her) across the map a certain number of spaces.  After moving you can select an action and execute it.  Whether it be attacking normally, casting a spell or performing a special ability. 

If it was that simple, Final Fantasy Tactics would be no fun to play.  To add to the strategy and gameplay, Final Fantasy Tactics utilizes the job system.  This is really where Final Fantasy Tactics shines.  Of all the Final Fantasy Titles to use the job system, the Tactics games use it the best.  The first Final Fantasy Tactics in particular is incredible.  Every character has a set of jobs.  At first you'll begin with standard jobs such as Squire, Knight, White Mage, Black Mage etc.  Every action you take in battle gives you regular experience points and job points.  Job points are important.  Not just for leveling up each class, thus making them more powerful, but you'll need them to learn abilities.  As you gain job points they can be exchanged for abilities.  And there are a lot of abilities, unique to each job.  Every job has action abilities.  Knights for example, have attacks which can break pieces of armor or decrease enemy attributes.  Black Mages have black magic and white mages have white magic.  Every job has abilities like this.  But every job also has reaction abilities that let you do such things as counter attack your enemies, as well as abilities which help them in other ways such as how a Squire can learn Move+1 to give you an advantage in combat.  Upon learning these skills, you can start assigning them without having to use the job itself.  Thus, it's possible to have a Knight casting white magic, so long as you equip the White Magic action ability.  It's not possible to use all of these abilities at the same time.  So you can't have a Knight that uses White Magic, Black Magic and the Thiefs Steal ability all at the same time.  This forces you to choose which abilities you'll equip on specific characters as well as their job.  But the possibilities of what you can do are endless.  This is because as you learn abilities for each job... new ones become available.  Soon you'll have better jobs to choose from... such as Sage, Mystic and Geomancer.  And it's fun because you can mix and match abilities. 

It should also be known that each job boost specific statistics and doesn't boost others.  Knights, for example give you a boost in defense while Black Mages give you a boost in magic attack and magic defense.  This also plays into your strategy.  While it might seem great for a Knight to cast a Black Magic spell, you'll have to keep in mind that Knights aren't proficient with magic.  Also, while casting magic is incredible, keep in mind that each spell has to charge before it can be casted, and your enemies can move away before a spell is fully charged.  These are all parts of strategy.  Jobs also alter statistics.  Jobs like Knights have a lot HP, Attack and Defense.  Magic based jobs tend to be more focused on MP, Magic Attack and Magic Defense.  Jobs like Thieves and Ninjas are more agility based.

This is an important--and complex--aspect of Final Fantasy Tactics.  It's the jobs and the abilities your characters learn through these jobs that best boost a characters abilities.  You'll notice as you level up that only your HP and MP really increase.  In short, your level means very little in the grand scheme of things.  It's all about choosing the right job for the right situation, and having the right abilities.  This is also where the difficulty of Final Fantasy Tactics comes from.  Yasumi Mitsuno is well known for making games where grinding and raising your characters is important.  Final Fantasy Tactics is the best example.  Is Final Fantasy Tactics really THAT hard?  Not really.  As long as you remember that between missions you'll probably have to go back to specific maps and increase your job level and learn more abilities.  A lot of the reason people find Final Fantasy Tactics hard is because they think they can easily coax fro one story battle to the next.  This is especially the case with those who began with Final Fantasy VII... where you CAN do that.  But with Final Fantasy Tactics its a different story.  If you decide on heading out into every battle without so much as considering your abilities, or without taking an hour or so between battles to really grind, then yes, Final Fantasy Tactics is going to be hard.  Grinding isn't for everyone, unfortunately.  But ignoring this aspect of Final Fantasy Tactics will only cause frustration.  I've had many a friend get upset and nearly destroy their controllers because they complained about it being too hard.  It's not too difficult, though, they just didn't realize that there's grinding involved.

Of course, there will be moments when you'll need to spend a bit of time grinding that it may take you a while to get through the story itself.  There are only around 22 missions or so, but you'll find that it might take you 40-50 hours just to get through the story.  This isn't even including a multitude of sidequests that you'll be able to take.  This includes finding Cloud Strife, the main character from Final Fantasy VII. 

As you might expect from a Tactical RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics has a specific look about it.  Most of the enviornments are pretty good looking, though some of the maps are rather small.  It's not a bad game to look at, and while it's art design isn't as good as those games you find on the GBA or as Final Fantasy XII (which has amazing art direction) Final Fantasy Tactics still looks fairly good to this day.  Some may say that the sprites look a bit childish, but Final Fantasy Tactics is definitely not childish.  The story is very dark... and tragic.  The only problem with the story in the PS1 version may actually be some of the localization.  It's not great.  There are a lot of grammatical errors and some of it doesn't seem like it was translated well at all.  The game got a re-release on the PSP where the script flows much better... and the language is actually pretty good.  Not to mention there are more videos you can see in the PSP version that really help the story along, with some great voice acting.  On the other hand, the downside to the PSP version is that you might have to suffer through slowdown in the battles, as well as sound effects being off.  This problem isn't persistent in the PS1 version at all.  In a way, it really depends on what you want.  The story is much more coherent in the PSP version.  And while there's slowdown it isn't bad enough to actually hamper gameplay much.  But if you happen to be the impatient type, you might want to go with the PS1 version... provided you can find it.  

As for me, I recommend the PSP version for the sake of its story being better illustrated.  The language is also much more enticing and akin to the times the story takes place in.  The translation of the abilities is also much more spot on.

Final Fantasy is often well known for its music, and Final Fantasy Tactics is no exception.  It has some of the best music of any Final Fantasy.  The soundtrack may not be big enough as you'll hear the same old battle tunes time and time again, but they're wonderful tunes nonetheless. 

There's really nothing that holds Final Fantasy Tactics down.  The only real problem is that the cast of characters isn't that well developed at all.  On the other hand, everything in Final Fantasy Tactics works so well and even exceeds our expectations.  With how much you can mix and match this also means there are several different ways to play.  This also means that you'll be coming back to the game long after you've finished the majority of the quests.  Maybe even be motivated enough to play through it again.  And why not?  With such a good story and even better gameplay... it's worth a second playthrough.

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More Final Fantasy Tactics reviews
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Matsuno and crew really set the standard for all Japanese strategy games with this and Tactics Ogre, didn't they? Probably my personal favorite video game.
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Fantastic and meaty tactical RPG with a great soundtrack to boot. It was only barred by its lackluster translation(which was improved greatly in the PSP release)
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Great game, story is focused around political strife just like EVERY SRPG ever made, but it's very dark and well-written. One of the best stories in the FF series.
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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