Final Fantasy Tactics- Review

Have You Tortured Your Thieves Today?

By: Castomel

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 9
   Plot 10
   Localization 1
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

30-55 hours


Title Screen

  Snow is what comes to mind most when I think of Final Fantasy Tactics. I bought it on the snowiest day of 1998, right in the middle of a huge series of blizzards which resulted in Toronto's crackpot mayor calling in the army to save his poor, freezing behind from the horrors of winter(you know, because all those tanks are much better than ploughs for getting rid of snow).. I also played a fair bit of it while home on snow days from school, and actually, during the summer, I failed to play it very much at all, strange when you consider this game took me 2 years of intermittent play to finish. So really, this is a winter game as far as I'm concerned(whatever that's worth). It's also quite a bit of fun, once its glaring deficiencies are set aside.

Final Fantasy Tactics IS about battles; as a TRPG, you could hardly expect it to be otherwise. As such, the battle system bears a great deal of importance. Happily enough, it doesn't disappoint in most regards. Using a tile-based system to govern movement and range, the battles are quite in-depth, and can often take upwards of 20 minutes to complete if you don't play your cards right. Essentially, you take the role of Ramza Beoulve, illegitimate son extraordinaire of the Beoulve family. Something's afoot in the kingdom, and before long, Ramza's hip-deep in trouble. Fortunately, he's pretty handy with a sword... or spear... or dictionary, should you choose to equip it. This variety is made possible by the job system, which is executed at its best in Final Fantasy Tactics. Ramza ends up surrounded by an impressive variety of up to fifteen other characters, a mix of NPCs turned playable and mercenaries that can be hired in any town. With the variety of jobs that exist(calculator, anyone?), there is no shortage to the combinations that can be used in a fighting party(a maximum of five in any one party is the standard).

 With such an emphasis on the fighting and by extension the job system, it would make sense to have a good system of menus. This is largely the case; however, navigating through the sea of menus is sometimes a bit of a pain. Micromanagement is key; in order for characters to become truly viable, a great deal of time needs to be spent tweaking their various abilities. The menus, while not bad, can sometimes be a bit of a chore, and pressing the wrong button can take you off down an annoying tangent series of screens. Still, there are no glaring defects here, aside from occasional bad translation.

The fit is tight, but the price was right!
Stole his voice... Stole his nose, too!  

   The music in Final Fantasy Tactics is adequate. There are a number of decent tracks, but nothing really stands out all that much. That said, there's nothing awful about it; really, this is just an average effort. Sound effects are about on par with other Square games; okay, but nothing to write home about. All around, the sound exudes plainness.

Final Fantasy Tactics is a bit of a departure from other games bearing the Final Fantasy name. Pretty much the only similarity is that name, as well as a number of characters that have their roots in previous Final Fantasy games(there's even some direct cameo action here and there, and a number of the items are immediately recognizable from earlier entries in the series). Overall, in that respect, it succeeds admirably in its originality. On the other hand, as a TRPG, it does have some shared elements with other games, as is only to be expected; there's only so many ways you can do things in this type of game. Overall, however, it provides quite a refreshing gameplay experience.

The plot is really what makes this game, aside from the fighting, which it is largely an excuse for. The storyline is deep, containing many twists, and deucedly difficult to follow in some parts as a result of the translation. This problem aside, however, the plot is a great mix of the dark and mysterious with medieval political and religious intrigue, which combine to create what is arguably one of the better plots ever seen in an RPG.

 So really, there hasn't been all that much wrong with this game yet, right? Well, this is where that trend leaves off rather abruptly. To put it more bluntly, Square dropped the ball on the localization like a sack of lead. "A gang of tortured thieves is trying to sneak into town!" "Off course!" and, my personal favorite, "They've become comfortably numb!" Okay... this last isn't bad english, but it is direct plagiarism. When you add to this a series of entirely nonsensical quotes which can be obtained just by clicking on the character's profile, a thoroughly awful tutorial, a special item system even more useless than the one in Chrono Cross, awful dialogue, brutal incoherence that threatens to send the plot flying into tiny pieces in a couple of places, an introduction that leaves you wondering just what time period you're playing in, and.. and... AAAAAAAAAAGHH! WHY?? This was the worst localization ever! Well.. one of the worst, at any rate. There's not much more that can be said here; just try and work around it.

I'm gonna set fire to this here bomb.  It's a REALLY stupid idea!
Black mage prepares to lay down the smack  

   This game has excellent replay value by virtue of the sheer number of combinations of characters that are possible. With over 15 job classes, a player can mix and match blissfully until their thumbs fall off. The plot isn't really the source of the replay value here; though worth playing through again just to try and fathom exactly what some things meant is perhaps a useful exercise, but really, the gameplay is the main reason for playing through this again. And again.

Sprites on a 2-d background are the going medium in terms of the graphics, and while some of the spell effects are pretty(and accompanied by mindless blathering on the part of the spellcaster- "Life's cool breeze- refresh! Cure!"???- Ugh.) the graphics in FFT are modest. This is not to say they look bad; merely that in terms of its contemporaries, it could have looked nicer. The FMV was actually quite good for its time, however, and overall this game looked fairly decent.

Final Fantasy Tactics can be difficult in parts, particularly if your party doesn't happen to contain just the right mix of characters. For some battles, brawn is ideal; in others, some range and magic might be in your best interests. In either case, having the wrong group can spell instant doom, and sometimes it just takes more than one try to complete a fight.

Strangely enough, I don't remember this battle at all...
Scenic fighting  

Finishing Final Fantasy Tactics is a task likely to take somewhere between 30 and 55 hours, depending on how big a fan of micromanagement you are. Given the fact that this is one of the underlying purposes of the game, you'd better at least have a passing interest in it, because you'll quickly grow bored if you don't.

Final Fantasy Tactics is a game definitely worth playing. Once you get past the horrible, horrible translation, and the occasionally confounding system of menus, the hours of enjoyment this game will provide are well worth the trouble of finding it; this is a bit of a problem today, because Square issued only a limited number of copies in North America, and it is naturally out of circulation now. If you do happen to find it in a used game store somewhere, however, be sure to get it; it's worth your trouble, and hey, it might even become a collectible some day. All capitalistic intentions aside, however, the game is worthwhile as a game, and that's the most important thing of all.

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