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How a Remake Should Be Done

  • May 16, 2011
For those of you not caught up to speed on your video game history: Tactics Ogre is pretty much the game that established the Tactical Strategy RPG (or SRPG).  It was originally released in Japan for the Super Famicom in 1995 where it became a huge success.  The Americas never saw the game until 1998.  The game itself was created and pushed forward by a man named Yasumi Matsuno who would later go to Square and develop a little gem called Final Fantasy Tactics.  For those who have played Final Fantasy Tactics, then Tactics Ogre is something you'll fall into quite easily... and have to learn from at the same time.  Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is fully remastered and revamped, but for those who began with Final Fantasy Tactics as their introduction... or any other SRPG for that matter, it's a rude awakening.  Tactics Ogre is by no means an easy game, and even more so will require the utmost patience.  Long story short, if you're new to the Tactical RPG... Tactics Ogre is not where you should start.

As is typical with Yasumi Matsuno themed games: You control a youth caught up in the political turmoil of two struggling factions.  In Tactics Ogre you play as Denam in the Kingdom of Valeria.  Years after King Dorgalua united the Kingdom of Valeria, the region has found itself falling into chaos after his passing.  Different people want to rule, and a small faction called the Black Knights are out to take over through means that are unorthadoxed.  Denam, his sister Catuia and Vyce come from a small town and get caught up in the conflict.  And as the story progresses they see that anyone will do anything for power.  The story consists of betrayal, power and greed.  All of which actually blends together to create a grand story and a sweeping narrative. 

One thing that should be taken into consideration with the story, however, is that it's much more about Valeria than it is about the characters who inhabit it.  You'll meet characters who play a role in the story, but you won't learn too much about them without reading their bios.  Likewise, a lot of characters get a cursory glance until their role is a fulfilled.  This is typical of Strategy RPGs in particular because you often have a party that ranges to HUGE amounts of characters.  Tactics Ogre lets you wonder the world with a party of 50 characters.  You'll send anywhere from 5 to 12 in battle at a time, and sometimes you'll have a guest.

On the other hand, Valeria does have a pulse.  Every location has a history and much you can read about it.  The world which Tactics Ogre takes place in really comes alive.  The illusion keeps up even more when you see the characters speak.  They speak in a manner that can really draw you in.  The story is told rather well through the dialog sequences.  And the story even gets deeper because there are certain moments where the choices you make effect the outcome of the story.  There are three different paths to take through Tactics Ogre.  Likewise, this will also make a difference in who you can recruit into your party and who you can't.  If you go down one path you may end up recruiting certain characters.  If you go down another path, though, you may find that particular character as an enemy instead of an ally.  Likewise, you'll also find yourself in battles where a "Guest" character appears.  If you save him/her then they'll join you easily.  On the other hand, if you don't, they'll be gone forever.  Yes, Tactics Ogre can have important story characters die before their time. 

Getting into the actual battling, however, is where Tactics Ogre showcases it's complexity.  Final Fantasy Tactics was, for the most part, a relatively simple game to take advantage of.  Newcomers found it a challenge but once you got into the groove, the game became ridiculously easy thanks to how it was designed for you to take advantage of situations.  In short, the end result in Final Fantasy Tactics boiled down to who could hit harder and faster... you or your enemy.  The same simplicity does not apply to Tactics Ogre.  Each battle lets you send in 5 to 12 characters.  Each battle then takes place on a grid based map where you have an objective to meet (which is usually either taking down the enemy commander, vanquishing all enemies or protecting a certain character).  You'll march across the field, attacking the bad guys. 

One of the things that has often separated Tactics Ogre from the pack of SRPGs is that it is a turn based affair.  Most Strategy RPGs tend to do "Phases" where all of your characters attack and then all of the enemies attack and you trade back and forth.  Many current Strategy RPGs do this.  Jeanne D'arc, the Disgaea series, Valkyria Chronicles and even the slightly younger Tactics Ogre: The Knights of Lodis, all do their battles in phases.  Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together doesn't do this.  Rather each character on the battlefield has RT which determines when they attack.  In the end you're likely to be trading blows.  This actually makes it challenging because instead of preparing for the next phase, you now have to be preparing for your next turn and how it could impact things in the future.  Tactics Ogre is also not an easy game.  Your enemy units will take a lot of advantage of you.  They'll routinely attack weaker characters, they'll constantly hammer them with status effects and they will take advantage of just about any terrible situation you get yourself into.

Perhaps Square-Enix was feeling kind this time around, however, because one of the newest editions to the PSP version of the game is the Chariot Tarot which lets you rewind the clock back a few turns to do something different.  Say you set things up poorly in a battle, you'll be able to rewind time and do it again.  This doesn't make the game any easier as you may find yourself in a position in which things actually get worse rather than better.  Likewise, you can also only rewind fifty turns.  And while that sounds like a lot, you have to keep in mind that you'll be repeating your enemies turns as well... and that battles in Tactics Ogre can last up to an hour if you don't plan your cards right.

Like Final Fantasy Tactics there is also a job system at play.  Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics, it's a lot more restrictive (more on that in a minute).  You can change classes by using class marks.  As you might've guessed classes can differ siginificantly.  You'll begin with the basics such as Knights, Sorcerers and the like, but before long you'll be able to use better classes such as White Knights or Witch's.  Each class has its own set of abilities you can learn and a set of spells you can teach to that class (if they can cast magic).  You can teach them abilities that increase strength and defense, or help to build up their expertise with a specific weapon.  Building up their expertise with weapons is helpful because you can then unleash special finishing moves with them by expending Techincal Points.  You can also use TP to perform special abilities granted to each class (provided you learn them). 

You may recall that in Final Fantasy Tactics you could mix and match abilities.  You could say, learn a particular Black Magic spell and then have your overpowered knight casting those spells.  Tactics Ogre restricts this.  To a point.  You can learn as many spells as you want, but they'll be restricted based on what class can cast them.  A Cleric, for example, can learn divine magic.  Healing spells.  Teach these to your Cleric and he or she will master them.  If you change that Cleric to a Sorcerer (or Sorceress) they CAN'T use divine magic because that class can't cast those spells.  If two classes can learn the same spell, however, you'll only have to teach your character that spell once.  It can seem a little restricting, especially for those jumping in from the experiences of such games as Final Fantasy Tactics.  Tactics Ogre makes sure that each class does what they're supposed to.  That doesn't mean they can't be made better.  It's only to say that you're going to have a hard time turning a spell caster into a melee brute.

We're only beginning the scratch the surface of Tactics Ogre.  The depth of Tactics Ogre may take a long time for some players to learn.  Job classes aren't the only thing that can have a big impact on battle.  Just about everything does.  How far you walk versus whether or not you decide to attack all have an impact on your turn.  As does your equipment.  But more than that has an effect on battle.  When you enter battles the weather may make a difference in your accuracy.  If it's raining heavy then your accuracy will be lower (until you rank up whatever weapon you're using).  But the biggest influence is the terrain.  And the battle maps are designed in such a way that using the same strategy over and over again won't always work.  You'll fight on all kinds of terrain.  From simple grass to fighting in water that will lower your movements, to fighting in poison marshes.  But you may find yourself fighting in maps better suited for archers and spell casters and then fight on a map that's not well suited for them.  There's also a meticulous nature to battling as well.  Spells, for example, have a specific means of hitting.  If a character happens to be standing in the way of a missile based spell, they'll be affected rather than your target.  How high the terrain is also makes a difference.  Characters can only jump so high and fall so far.  It can be a lot to take in, especially because so many other Tactical RPGs aren't so meticulous about it.  Tactics Ogre can take a while to learn because of all this.  It can feel like a lot to take in but once you get through the first couple of missions, a lot of this becomes easy to grasp and understand.  The game also helps you along by not dumping this all on you at once.  It introduces many of these mechanics progressively as it picks up in difficulty.  And the game has a complete database to learn it all.

There are some big differences between the Super Famicom and Playstation versions.  The most obvious is, of course, the graphical capacity.  The sprites are the same, but smoothed over, but the environments have been given an obvious face lift.  They aren't the most powerful for the PSP, but the much more smooth textures are a big step up from the 16-bit that you saw previously.  The menus are easier to navigate and the interface is a lot better as a whole. 

There are HUGE gameplay differences as well.  The difficulty has been streamlined.  I talked earlier about how Tactics Ogre was a difficult game, but the Super Famicom and Playstation versions were much harder since characters could only carry one item and your stats weren't as big.  Also, when characters went down in battle it could be a pain in the ass to revive them because the item to revive them was so rare.  But here you can buy them in shops and come across them easier.  Also, when characters go down the punishment isn't harsh.  In the original game if you didn't revive them in a battle they were gone forever.  Here, you have a countdown timer similar to Final Fantasy Tactics.  If you don't revive them before the timer expires they'll die, but they've also got three lives before they're gone forever.  It makes managing a lot easier and it also reduces the risks of losing allies in battle.

The other major difference is how experience works.  In the original game, each time you hit an enemy you gained experience points (and an MVP character was granted a bonus level up).  There are two big difference to experience.  The first is that all experience is rewarded at the end of the battle and divided amongst all those who partook, with the lowest level characters getting the most.  The second is that it is the class and not the character that levels.  There is a great upside and a great downside to this.  It CAN cut the grinding down.  If all your knights are level 21 and you get a new recruit, you can turn him into a Level 21 Knight.  On the other hand when you get new classes they often start at level 1 and you have to raise them again. 

Perhaps the most fantastic upgrade was by far the music.  The score was good to begin with, but here's it's been completely remastered and for the most part it sounds epic.  With tracks also having extensions.  From the opening title to the closing credits the score is nothing short of lovely.  It is some of the best music you'll hear on the PSP. 

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together doesn't stop there.  The game is enormous.  The main campaign itself will take roughly 40 hours to complete.  But there are also three different variations of the campaign that lead to different endings and conclusions and also lead to you recruiting different characters.  Because of this there is replay value.  But on top of those 40 hours, the game also has TONS of sidequests.  This means your playthrough could take anywhere from 40 hours to well over 100 to do everything. 

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together improves on it's original in every conceivable way.  This is pretty much how a remake should be done.  It's not just revamped graphics and sound, but fixing all the gameplay issues that came with the original game and improving on them and making sure to make the game more accessible.  There can be a lot of micromanagement and moments where you'll have to grind, but for the most part Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is just about everything you could want in an SRPG.  If you're a fan of Final Fantasy Tactics especially, you should own this game. 

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May 24, 2011
excellent review. I barely remember the first game, so I appreciate your subtle comparisons to it. You are a master of the joystick, my friend.
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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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The creators of FINAL FANTASY TACTICS bring you the next evolution in TACTICS games from Square Enix in TACTICS OGRE: Let Us Cling Together! A dream team lead by Yasumi Matsuno has reunited to bring a perfect vision of their lost tale of political intrigue, conquest, and rebellion to vivid life. Experience an epic story where your choices determine the fate of the Walister Resistance. Order TACTICS OGRE: Let Us Cling Together today!
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