Final Fantasy Tactics - Retroview

How To Speak Daravonese

By: Paul Koehler

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 5
   Plot 9
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

50-70 hours


Final Fantasy Tactics

   Every once in a while an aspiring writer, artist, or thinker will attempt to challenge the status quo by presenting controversial material. In 1998, Squaresoft broke into the TRPG market in North America with Final Fantasy Tactics - which did relatively well in sales in the wake of Final Fantasy VII. Tactics is not the first game to tackle with the issue of religion by far, but the weight of the Final Fantasy name helped carry the controversy. Aside from the plot and a now-legendary translation effort, the game still stands as a classic - with a wonderful score, excellent job system, and a decent challenge. Regardless, it stands as a fine example of a Tactical RPG - as the game chronicles the efforts of Ramza Beoluve and his companions in the Zodiac Brave Story.

   Before delving into the plot, no TRPG is complete without a well-rounded battle system, and FFT delivers this. Each battle is preceded with the opportunity to select members of a squad and place them in formation. Statistics are everything, and this gives players the opportunity to examine the capabilities of each character, their equipment, and their abilities before launching into action. Central to the game's battle system is CT (Charge Time), which helps determine the order of character actions. A character is allowed to move a certain amount of spaces and perform an action in each turn, but if they do both in the same turn - they will use up the entire CT gauge. Actions and movements by themselves would only use up part of the gauge - thereby getting their next turn sooner. Although most of the battles can be taken care of with relative ease and patient level-building, some particular fights are memorable for their challenges - which have actually forced some RPGamers to restart their games because of a lack of pre-planning. For some of the key events in the story, this raises the difficulty of the encounters dramatically.

Daravonese at its Finest
Daravonese at its Finest  

   To counteract this, FFT showcases a complex job system that remains one of the game's finest features. Characters select a job and earn ability points with each successful action used in battle. Those characters can then learn abilities related to that job by spending their earned skill points - and they also increase the level of their particular job class. Squires and Chemists are two of the basic jobs that serve as a starting point for most character development. Several advanced jobs, like the Bard and Ninja, provide special abilities that are useful throughout the game but can only be gained by using their class. Unique characters throughout the game (like Mustadio, the Engineer) have their own classes.

   Class changes, equipment management, and party formation can all be handled on the World Map - where a formation window shows detailed statistics of the party, characters, and their abilities between battles. The party is capped at a maximum of sixteen characters, and chances are likely that the player will only be dealing with their first attack squad on a regular basis. Nevertheless, item and equipment management is important, even in random battles (whose difficulty is determined by the strength of the party) - and the menus make it easy to optimize the party's equipment.

   While battling through Ivalice, RPGamers are treated to an excellent score, spearheaded by composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. Songs such as Desert Battle and Trisection are excellent examples of game music - even after repetitive listening, they never get old. Other tracks of special note are Apoplexy and Requiem. Sound effects are not on the same level of the score, but one of the most noteworthy ones used in the game was the scream.

   Screaming was often heard from the various people who were eliminated in the story, and the plot of the game remains one of its high points - Final Fantasy Tactics is an excellent tale of idealism, revenge, and betrayal. Players take the role of Ramza Beoluve, the son of a famous noble family that is torn apart by a succession struggle for the throne of the Kingdom of Ivalice. Though of noble birth, he realizes his privilege is to be used for something other than personal gain, and he attempts to do something about the conflict - but not before seeing friend and foe alike falling to each other.

Preparation for Battle
Preparation for Battle  

   While the plot focuses on issues of a grand scale, the localization team erred on a similar level. "Daravonese" is an occasionally-used term for badly translated text in games, and it gets its roots from Final Fantasy Tactics. Spelling errors are frequent, and grammar holes can be found even in the opening FMV sequence. Hopefully this will be corrected in a future re-release, but Tactics remains one of the worst localization efforts in recent history (and one of the most famous).

For a mid-life PlayStation game, the graphics are more than acceptable. The three demos which play if the game is left on the title screen are a nice addition, as well as the flashback sequences and the battlefields themselves. The only time visuals become a noticeable problem are with summon spells, as the battle animations are unnecessarily jarred and long - but for its time the game fared well with graphics.

All of these factors lead to one of the best TRPGs ever made for the PlayStation. While the game can be completed in less than 50 hours, there are several different side-quests that the party can do - including the hunt for Cloud Strife and the infamous Deep Dungeon. The game also helped open up the TRPG market to a larger audience through the Final Fantasy name, riding of the success of Final Fantasy VII in 1997.

Even four years after the release, this game still remains the subject of heavy debate, largely over the subject matter covered in the plot and its multiple allusions to religion. The game's controversy would be only overshadowed by the release of Xenogears. Nevertheless, Final Fantasy Tactics still remains a reference point in the history of TRPGs - and those who care to enjoy the game might pick up a few lines of Daravonese along the way.

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