Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions - Staff Review  

Not Lion Down
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
40-60 Hours
+ Wonderful, new script translation.
+ Huge selection of jobs and characters.
+ Amazing cutscenes and voice acting.
- Limit of five characters in combat.
- The lag. The lag. The lag.
- Awkward implementation of new jobs.
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   Nearly ten years from the release of the original Final Fantasy Tactics for the PlayStation, a new version of the decade-old title hits the portable front in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for Sony's PSP. At its core, this release is the same as the original, though a few changes help to make War of the Lions seem new and improved. Featuring new playable characters, two new jobs, beautiful cutscenes, quality voice acting, and a wonderful new translation, everything should add up to a masterful experience, right? Almost. A few issues plague this latest version's rise to perfection.

   The original Final Fantasy Tactics was both lauded and chided for its story. While the plot was deep and engrossing, the shoddy translation made the game's dialogue an incomprehensible mess. War of the Lions follows the path Final Fantasy XII took by retranslating the game's entire dialogue into British English. The net result is a epic adventure with political and religious overtones. The main source of character development is spent on the protagonist, Ramza, and his childhood-friend-turned-war-hero Delita. Delita is actually a much deeper character than that, as he is a low class commoner who was raised alongside the noble-born Ramza. After being betrayed by the nobles that raised him (other than Ramza), Delita casts off his commoner status and aims to change the world. The result is really quite amazing, with the exception of the game's ending, which really does little to wrap things up. Some of the playable characters that join the party are developed slightly via side quests and cutscenes, but for the most part can be ignored in the game's grand scheme. For those who were unable to decipher the PlayStation version's script, the epic story can now be easily understood. The two new playable cameo characters join the party after a brief cutscene and battle, but sadly, they bring nothing new to the table. Overall, the story of War of the Lions can hardly be faulted for not crafting something new and original when the new translation makes the entire game seem completely new.

   Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is a classic tactical RPG with a focus on its extensive job system. Each jobs offers a variety of action, reaction, support, and movement abilities. These abilities each require a certain amount of job points in order to learn. Job points are gained when a character performs a successful action in combat. With a huge selection of jobs, each with an ample supply of abilities, creating a dominating party is only a matter of patience. While this system is deep, allowing for a myriad of customization options, not everything about the job system is balanced. Some jobs are only useful for a couple of key abilities. Story characters join with their own specialized class in place of the Squire base class. Many of these characters are useless when compared to the generic recruitable characters that are available, and a select few are so powerful that they skew the game's difficulty down greatly. Final Fantasy Tactics's battle system is highly adaptable with an assortment of statistics to manipulate. The game's most glaring weaknesses are in the lack of usefulness in all of this offered variety. Players can have a huge party of characters, but are limited to a maximum of five characters during combat. These complaints are minor, hardly a disincentive to gamers, but are frustrating.

Dark Alley Don't Walk Alone at Night

   The area of interaction is where Final Fantasy Tactics meets with some hesitancy. The game's focus on abilities requires a good bit of micromanagement, as players will be going back into the party roster after most battles to access new jobs or unlock new abilities. While the customization aspect of this is one of the game's biggest strengths, the sheer amount of options available along with the time required to dive into all of them can be overwhelming. During combat, characters are stuck after being moved, so players have no option of canceling an action after moving a character to see if an attack will work. This will often lead to a character being in the wrong position and unable to perform their intended action. The biggest offender is the loading times and slowdown that occurs throughout the game. General loading, though present, is not the worst issue. Instead the slowdown that happens during combat when casting a spell or using a skill is a major problem. It is ridiculous for such an issue to be found in a newer version of a game, especially since it did not exist in the original PlayStation version.

   Most of the graphics of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions are the same as the original version. Only a handful of new cutscenes have been produced for the PlayStation Portable, but all of these new scenes are visually masterful and fully voiced with quality voice actors. Sadly, they are few and far between, with the majority of the game's plot being told via traditional sprite-based dialogue. Much as the graphics remain mostly unchanged, the soundtrack is still the classic compositions of Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto. Their work remains untouched, which does no harm, as the soundtrack was good initially, but the lack of any updates is somewhat disappointing.

   Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions offers a new experience from the PlayStation version with the highlight being the new translation and cutscenes. That is not where the new additions end though, as the game also features two new characters making cameos from other Final Fantasy titles, two new job classes, and local-area multiplayer. The two new playable characters, Luso from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and Balthier from Final Fantasy XII, are a nice addition. Luso is almost a carbon copy of Ramza, so he really offers very little in terms of originality. Balthier is much more versatile having all of Mustadio's ranged abilities along with some his own unique actions for thievery.

New Jobs Could Be Better

   The new jobs are also a nice addition, but are horribly implemented. The Dark Knight job has some very unique and powerful skills, but requires mastering two polar opposite jobs, Black Mage and Knight, along with getting Samurai, Ninja, Geomancer, and Dragoon to job level eight. However, that's not all, as players must also kill and crystallize twenty enemies with the character that will unlock the job. While these requirements are not impossible, they are quite extreme considering the Dark Knight job isn't a necessity. The second job, the Onion Knight, is easier to unlock, requiring only a level six Chemist and Squire. This job can equip any piece of equipment; however, they have no abilities. For every two jobs mastered, the Onion Knight's job level will increase raising their stats, but that is all. Further troubling is the fact that Onion Knights gain no experience upon attacking. Overall, the concept of adding the jobs is a nice thought, but basically pointless.

   Multiplayer is a nice addition, but like so many other portable games, it is only available for local-area play. For those lucky enough to have someone to play with, the multiplayer missions can garner some nice items for use in the story mode. It does help to pad the 40+ hour game length, and the new items can help to make the game a bit easier. With the right combination of jobs, abilities, items, and characters, Final Fantasy Tactics is not overly difficult, though it can seem that way at the start. The initial few battles can be rough for those inexperienced with tactical RPGs, but should offer little trouble to veterans, especially once characters gain levels and new abilities.

   Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is a great game, especially for those who have not played the original. This version, despite its flaws, is much superior to the PlayStation release due the new translation alone. If the game had been touched up a tad more by making sure that the slowdown was non-existent, having better implementations of the new jobs classes, and featuring more of the glorious cutscenes, this would be a true masterpiece. As the game stands now, it's solid, but could have been much better.

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