Final Fantasy Tactics - Reader Retroview

Bringing Back an Old Concept

By: Stewart Bishop

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 8
   Plot 9
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy - Medium
   Time to Complete

25-40 Hours


Title Screen

   Square's first crack at a tactical RPG is a complete success and although it is not an actual part of the 'series,' it is one of the better and more popular Final Fantasies released. With a large cast of characters, innovative battle system and a very twisting plot, it's not very hard to see why. Final Fantasy Tactics was a thrilling escape from the clutches of high-tech RPGs, headed by the release of the extremely popular Final Fantasy VII. Though it was only a mere shadow trailing lucky seven of the series, it had enough sparkle to garner a large RPG-loving group to it, and those who found it were very pleased.

   Final Fantasy Tactics brings back the basic character setup first introduced in Final Fantasy V. Each character has specific 'Jobs' that are available, which allows them to change from a Squire, to a Chemist, to a Knight, to an Archer, and so forth. Each of the Job classes have specific strengths and weaknesses that must be utilised to their max to get through the battles. Each Job class also has certain skills which must be 'purchased' with Job Points, which are gained on the battlefield during combat. The most important parts of a character setup are their Primary Job Skills and Secondary Job Skills. The Primary Job Skill cannot be changed and is entirely dependent on the Job you choose, i.e. a Chemist will always have 'Item' as the Primary Job Skill and Squires will always have 'Basic Skills' as the Primary Job Skill. The Secondary Job Skill allows for some diversity; it lets you use another Job's skills in addition to the Job that you currently are, so it is possible to have Knights using Black Magic or Black Wizards breaking armor with Battle Skills.

   Set on a 3/4 overhead view, the battlefield is similar to a grid matrix, where characters are placed on "Squares" of the terrain. Combat abilities are usually determined by range, where height also comes into play. Basic attacks can usually only be performed on a Square adjacent to a character, also limited by range, but equipping certain weapons, such as guns can obviously improves the range of your attack. Certain attacks also have a little field effect such as Stasis Sword and Lightning Stab; not only does it hit the Square you target, but also any other Squares that are adjacent to it, but is also usually limited by height, so you won't see a Stasis sword hitting 5 different people at 5 different elevations.

Don't Fall, Now
Don't Fall, Now  

   Final Fantasy Tactics is chock-full of menus, which can confuse and befuddle many newcomers to the game. You must use these menus to equip your characters, assign what characters to put into battle, organize your characters' skills, and many, many others. It is important to learn what all of these menus are, however, as knowing when a spell is about to be cast can make or break a battle. Fortunately, Square has included a very in-depth tutorial that will guide players step-by-step through the intricacies of tactical combat (the music they play during the tutorial ain't too shabby either).

   Speaking of the music, it's very well done. Being mainly all symphonic, it was quite easy to abuse the large amount of stringed instruments to set any mood, whether it be eerie, victorious or upbeat. Sound effects are also very good, from the sweet 'Critical Hit!' sound to the 'Clash' as a character guard's an opponent's blow with a shield.

   As original as many of these features may be, the fact still remains that the whole character setup was basically stolen straight out of Final Fantasy V and slapped into this game with many more extra skills. It is executed perfectly, however, as well as an interesting new type of plot that, at the time, seemed very original to me.

   The plot is excellent, with many twists along the way. Death works his magic here and it's backstabbers galore. This RPG truly has embraced the feel of war. Both sides of the story are also told, which leaves you to believe whether or not the actions your character takes are right or wrong. It is unfortunate that this title has received so many criticisms on the plot for having highly religious overtones. Nonetheless, the story is still remarkable and the character development is sharp, often leaving you muttering to yourself, "Why...? Why did you...?"

Chocobos Are Back...And Are They Ever Vicious
Chocobos Are Back, And Are They Ever Vicious  

   Replay value is very high, as it takes ages to collect and perfect ALL of your characters. Try mastering Ramza in every Job Class...Now try mastering your entire party in every Job Class. You've got a long journey ahead of you. Several sidequests and a large amount of items to be gained by poaching brings the gamer back for more. I only wish there were some sort of 'battling arena' so you could battle two memory cards against each other; I have many, many things to prove to people in terms of who the best character is.

The visuals are fairly bland; the spells and summons are nothing to gawk at; many spells are simply flames of color that just burst out from nowhere and assault the target, while the summons consist of flat drawings of creatures that cause the field to rotate as beams of light fire out from nowhere. It's actually quite annoying after a while, and sad that the (usually) most graphically intense spells are so plain. The battlegrounds aren't all too pretty either, being a completely 'square' field. It's also interesting to note that the characters have no noses. Why do they have no noses? I'm not quite sure, but the characters still look cool regardless.

Depending on how you approach the game, the difficulty will obviously vary. If you spend lots of time gathering skills and new job classes, you will succeed much easier than a person rushing through the game with a brigade of Squires and Chemists. Patience is needed in this strategic RPG, and it definitely shows.

Please, God, Help the Translators
Please, God, Help the Translators  

For a fairly old game (early 1998 in the US), Final Fantasy Tactics is incredible. It's brought joy to many hearts and a laugh to many, many more thanks to its 'interesting' translating. I applaud Squaresoft and heartily recommend this game to any player, whether it be a seasoned RPGamer or not.

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