Final Fantasy Tactics - Retroview

What Religious Connotations..?


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 7
   Plot 10
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Very Hard
   Time to Complete

40-75 hours


Title Screen

   Final Fantasy Tactics has become the sleeper hit RPG of all time. Go through all the RPGamer staff bios, you'll see it listed time and again as one of the favorites. Look at all the reviews and you'll find that not a single person hated it. And now that it's been out for so long (three years, about), nary a copy can be found for sale. It deserves it's rank as the creme-de-la-creme of the Tactical RPG sub-genre; especially when Tactics Ogre is its' only real competetor to date (Hoshigami soon, too). I would generally attest that - although not the best game ever made - it has a style and plot that defines all others to come after it and a charm unlike anything else ever seen.

   Although it is highly complicated and will involve countless hours of practice (and a good helping of luck...) to master, the battle system of Final Fantasy Tactics might be the best ever designed. It takes one part Final Fantasy V, one part Final Fantasy VI, and one part Tactics Ogre and smashes them together to make a wonderful collage of mayhem.

   Although it doesn't take a brilliant military mind to win the game, it certainly makes the job easier. A good portion of the time, you are outnumbered, outmatched, underleveled, and just all-around outdone in combat. The 3D battle maps consist of the various terrains we see on Earth and contain the various hazards inherent to that type of ground. If you've ever played Final Fantasy V, you'll know the basic logistics of the character 'Job' system... Essentially, each character can be any type of hero (Black Mage, White Mage, Dragoon, Samurai, Ninja, Calculator, etc....) as long as they conform to a few preset standards/requirements.

   Battles are won by moving your units around the map to interact with the environment that allows them to harness their abilities so that you can whip up on your foes. I know already that this doesn't sound really very sensical of a description but in order to really understand the various nuances of each character class, how the abilites work, what the areas-of-effect for spells are, and such, you really do need to play the game.

Prelude To Legend Of Mana
Prelude To Legend Of Mana 

   Menus in the game only mean trouble. Every button can be used for a different purpose inside the interface screens, and SquareSoft hides a few things in strange places. All I can really say is that you need to try everything, no matter how odd it might seem. There are about fifty different things you can do to customize each character, so it'll be a major factor in your game play hours, how well you use the system.

   Although not composed - or even produced - by Nobuo Uematsu, I was highly impressed with the soundtrack to this Final Fantasy spinoff. It has a good amount of red booking in the FMV cutscenes and the general PSX synth music is very well composed... I've often caught myself wondering if the dual composing team spent time in Ireland and Scotland because of all the Celtic overtones to the songs. Sound effects are well presented and make logical sense; nothing to drag the epicness of the game down any.

   The plot is the one reason I can almost see for a certain group of people to really hate the game. I'm not about to spoil it for anyone but the title of this review does have some bearing on the storyline. To sum up things so that you're not totally left in the dark...
The Fifty Years War has just ended with the death of Balbanes Beoulve - your father. Harkening to his last words, you have done well in your time at the military academy beside your best friend Delita Hyral... After a long quest that made him the king of the Omdolia/Atkascha Kingdom (depending on which interpretation of the text you prefer) and had you declared a heretic and anarchist, the world all but forgot about you. In the distant future, papers concerning your exploits have at last been brought to surface and the question about the 'truth' of history has been posed... Will you help explain your story..?

Have At You!
Have At You! 

   A pretty hefty number of people have been heard to say that the translation of FFT is atrocious. Now... Far be it from me to argue with the popular dictum, but I failed to notice any lack of quality in the games' textual contents. I was able to understand the story and decipher what each consecutive move that needed to be made was by reading dialogue. I can't recall any really blatant spelling or grammar errors (what game doesn't have some, though?), and to top it off, the characters act fairly realistically from my perspective... It might just be me that sees things that way, so you'll have to decide for yourself.

   Here's the kicker of this game... There are some battles that are just intrinsically hard. No matter how well prepared you think you are, or what types of equipment you have, you can accidentally save somewhere and become trapped. If this is the case and you've only bothered to save the game in one place on a memory card, then you're doomed to restart the game. Granted, this kind of non-gentle persuasion doesn't really help the replay value except in the technical sense, I've played the game through twice in the last year. The battle system is just a boatload of fun to play around in - and trying to max out a Wizard/Summoner is a lot of work if you're just playing the game through without taking time to level up (which even I will admit is very necessary in this one...).

   I'll only say one thing about the graphics of FFT; I have never seen another game that blended 2D and 3D so well in all my life. It's like taking a real-to-life location, converting it to 3D blocks, and having all your character sprites show multiple faces even though they are obviously 2D. I applaud you, SquareSoft!  ::clap, clap::

I Told You The Map Was Upside Down!
I Told You The Map Was Upside Down! 

   As I mentioned before, there are parts of the game that require a very certain set of skills. If you don't have them, there simply isn't any way to win. Most of the boss battles, as well as a few of the final dungeon stages have this trouble. If you always make sure to highly diversify your units, keep them all on the same level (or there abouts), and make sure Ramza is a Master Knight/Monk/Squire/Ninja, then your life will be a lot easier.

   Time is objective when each battle can take in upwards of 20 minutes to fight. That combined with all the leveling and job mastering that you'll need to do, can keep you busy for weeks.

   I really enjoyed FFT, even if it was sold on its' name alone in the beginning. But - unlike the mass destruction caused by Mystic Quest - FFT pulls that off nicely and even makes me think that FFVIII might - in point of fact - turn out to be okay as a Final Fantasy, afterall.

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