Final Fantasy Tactics - Reader Review

Best RPG of 1998

By Brad Cunningham

Review Breakdown
   Battle System8.5
   Replay Value10.0
   Time to Complete60-80 hours 

    Forget the graphics (aside from great FMV) and sad translation errors, Final Fantasy Tactics is the best RPG game on Playstation, with Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears running in second. With great plot and characters, fair graphics, cool gameplay, a killer soundtrack, and a challenging strategy-based battles, Final Fantasy Tactics serves as a shining example to other RPGs still in the making.

    First is the gameplay. It is hard to figure out the battle system at first, but fortunately a tutorial study is made for you to use at the title screen. When you think you are ready, and after a few battles, you are hooked. The enemies, though there aren't many varieties, are each unique in their own way through status and weaponry. With this in mind you have to decide who in your party must fight who, and some you may be extremely overmatched, but winning becomes your main focus. This is strategy, and that is what makes RPGs so enduring, trying to figure out how to win. This deep involvement with the actions of your characters makes this game so fun, which in turn makes the replay value skyrocket.

    The battle system revives one of the battle systems used in other Final Fantasy games, the job system. You start out with everyone in the basics, Squire or Chemist. From there with gained experience you experiment with new jobs for your party and the special skills that come with them. So you have to choose if your character should be a physical fighter or a magic one. There are lots of jobs and you are able to have a character use many skills from other jobs, like having an archer be able to use black magic. This process of building your own Dream Team takes time, but with each new skill you learn, you just don't want to stop there.

    The plot and characters are the most enduring factor of this game. It starts out nicely by saying that this story takes place in the distant past and that you are now going to "travel" to that time to see what happened at this historical event. While most RPGs tell of how a modern world is going to explore the past (which I think is starting to get old), this one actually takes place in this strange world, where the past is actually real. This world is full of kingdoms and monarchs, knights and thieves, goblins and the undead, with corruption in all authority figures. Wait! Did I say goblins and knights?

    Even though there are no elves and dwarves of the J.R.R. Tolkien books and other RPGs which most of us want back, it does have many of these enduring elements we desire. In all of this worldly evil and corruption, we find ourselves living the life of one of the last righteous people left, Razma.

    Tactics also takes out the overused cliché of boy meets girl, they fall in love and get "married" at the end. Here we see the intimate relationship of brother and sister and how they both love and depend on one another. It was very convincing. Even the one love relationship you anticipate to work out between Delita and Ovelia hits the rocks.

    As for individual characters, you couldn't ask for a better cast. Razma is a cool mix between Fei of Xenogears who seeks peaceful solutions but a Cloud at heart, who won't hesitate to fight if necessary. Delita has better depth, who at first is righteous but when faced with tragedy we see it eat out his heart and turn him into what he wants to destroy, brought about by heartbreak and thirst of vengeance. Ovelia characterizes someone who lives in false identity, and how she responds to being used and in search of someone to lean on. Each character is intriguing and very real. This enhances the plot ten times over!

    The actual graphics may look discouraging, but do not fear! They interact with their surroundings much better than the 3-D polygon figures of FF VII, and most of the environments from buildings inside and out, mountains, rivers, and caves, each one is captivating. This is only topped by the killer soundtrack.

    The music in this game is sensational, giving moods and realism to glances into the past, the big battles, and the nobility of the knights. Only one battle music piece gets old for its repetitiveness, but this is my favorite soundtrack of an RPG on Playstation, which you will find yourself whistling on the way to work or school. (only Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI are above.)

    Even aside from the mainstream plot, the sidequests are great. The quest of the Holy Dragon with the famous Beowulf of Norse Mythology to the Deep Dungeon containing rare weapons and items, they don't get annoying but continue to draw you even further into this mysterious land of magic and intrigue. Being able to send characters on mini-quests at the bars get it even further upon their return hoping they've found some ancient treasure and then reading about what they actually saw.

    Overall, this is the best game Square has put out in a long time. Although the grammar mistakes of plain typos and translation errors may annoy you, don't let that keep you from playing the best game on Playstation. I never get tired of it, and plan to enjoy it for years to come (time permitting that is). So, before we all upgrade to Dreamcast or Playstation 2 depending on who has the better games, go out to your video store and buy Final Fantasy Tactics. You won't be disappointed. I guarantee it.

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