Author’s Note: This review was originally published on January 23rd, 2008. Like other reviews of the time, it features “witty” taglines for each section.
The first SRPG I ever played was Final Fantasy Tactics for the PS1. Needless to say, I was lead into the genre in a good way. However, due to my ignorance and youth, I constantly compared other SRPGs to this Squaresoft legend. I am not ashamed to admit that I was a hard-core Final Fantasy Tactics fan-boy. Luckily, as time went on, I realized the truth: FFT is not the best SRPG in the market, nor is it the pinnacle of the genre. Now, does this mean I disdained the remade for the PSP version called Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions? Absolutely not. The only difference is that I played this PSP title with new ideals and values. I was still able to enjoy this deep, intricate, and addicting SRPG, but I am fully able to realize the numerous flaws in the game. While some things have been improved from the PS1 version, other things still needed a good fixing.
Involved in Ivalice.
Final Fantasy Tactics has a story with so much history and depth; it would take way too long to describe all of the background information. So, I will begin when we meet our hero, Ramza Beoulve, after The 50 Year War in the land of Ivalice. A mercenary for hire from the established house of Beoulve, Ramza has been given the duty to protect Princess Ovelia from a band of rogues. After Ramza and his team fight off an assault, Princess Ovelia gets captured by Delita Heiral, a long-time friend of Ramza who was thought to be dead. Delita is alive, and Ramza soon gets swept up in a tale of intrigue and virtue, of legends and facts, and of good and evil.
While the introduction to the story sounds a bit unoriginal, the way it develops is excellent. Many people complained about the plot complications and the language used in the PS1 version, and how it was hard to understand. The PSP port of FFT was rewritten to make things a bit more clear, plus you have the ability to recheck old story events. The way the English language was used made you feel as though you were in the Dark Ages. Often times, this was interesting. Other times, I felt I had to carefully scrutinize the dialogue sequences. It all depends on the person talking, and the event going on.
However, when someone is talking, you will most likely be interested in what they have to say. This is because you have a cast of exciting characters who join you and a cast of devious villains who will fight against you. FFT is one of those rare games in which you loathe the ideals and values of some of the villains, and feel the pain of the protagonists. Things like that are what make FFT such an interesting tale. These characters and villains, plus the world they live in, help give FFT an excellent setting. For those who have already played the game on the PS1, you will be able to witness a few new scenes and new characters made exclusively for the PSP.
Graphics of Old, Cut Scenes of New.
The look of Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP may seem a bit dated to some. This is because the graphics are an exact copy of how they looked in the PS1 version. To me, this was a good thing. Not only did the game have an interesting artistic style, but the 2D sprites were able to express emotions and feelings just as well as 3D characters. Basically, the graphics were just as good as they were back in the day for their purposes. All of the spells, battlefields, towns, and weather effects look the way they did back in the day. However, this may turn off the people who desired a new look for the game. Luckily, they have added a plethora of exciting and beautifully animated cut scenes. Regardless of what you are watching, FFT is a graphical masterpiece. Some may consider the sprites out of date, but not me.
Unfortunately, the battles suffer from extreme slow down. Attacking, executing magic and everything in-between will cause the game to lag. There is no way to get rid of this problem, either. At the start of the game, it almost made me stop playing the game entirely. I did get used to the lag, but it is a problem that should have been fixed during beta testing.
Acts of an Orchestra.
Like the graphical presentation, the sound track of the PSP version of FFT is the exact same. While you will hear new songs during the animated sequences, the music was not reworked or remixed. Luckily, the tracks still sound as awesome as they did back on the PS1. Also, the cut scenes were fully voiced with credible actors. To add some sense of realism to the setting, characters speak with European accents. One unfortunate problem with the game comes with the sound. No different than the graphics and music, the sound is the exact same as it was on the PS1. When someone is hit with a sword, it sounds more like ripping construction paper. When someone gets hit with an ice spell, you will hear a sound similar to that of falling silverware. The sounds are not bad, per se, they are out of date.
The Life of a Warrior.
FFT progresses in ways you see in most SRPGs. You move Ramza from location to location on a large map of Ivalice. When you move him to a red spot, the story advances and a battle with certain conditions ensues. When he is moved to a green spot, you might enter a random battle that has no relevance to the story. Finally, moving to a blue spot allows you to enter a town. In town you can shop for gear for your team, head to a warrior’s guild to find a new mercenary, or go to a bar to hear rumors. Also, going to a bar later in the game will allow you to run errands. Doing these errands can grant you huge bonuses in money and job points, and they also allow you to discover hidden treasures. The more successful you are at errand running, the higher your rating will go up.
New to the PSP version is the addition of Melee and Rendezvous battles. In a melee fight, you and a friend can fight each other without having to worry about losing your characters. In a rendezvous battle, you and a friend can join forces to fulfill certain objectives. Doing both of these multiplayer battles allows you to find new items and treasures. However, I never bothered to participate in either of the two types of multiplayer battles so I am unable to judge their fun factor and their rewards.
Pimp my Character!
While on the world map, you have access to various menus. Besides having a full tutorial of the game’s mechanics, options, character profiles, and story events, you can customize your party as you see fit. Final Fantasy Tactics has the amazing job system. With over 15 jobs (and two new jobs just for the PSP), each with their own special abilities, it should be duly noted that mastering FFT will take many hours. For those who have played games like Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy V, this system will seem familiar to you. The game begins with you having only two jobs: squire and chemist. As you level up certain jobs, you will unlock new jobs. These include the monk, the knight, the black mage, the time mage, the thief, the ninja, the mathematician, and so much more. No matter the job you are using for your character, you can customize him or her with abilities that you learned from other jobs. The possibilities are endless.
Acquiring these abilities comes from using the job points you gained in battle. Obviously, the better the ability, the more JP you will have to save up. Certain classes take far longer to master than others. Also, there are a few abilities that are downright useless in battle. This, in turn, makes certain jobs have more worth than others. Stat growth is different for each job, so it is important to have a balanced party. Not to mention, some of the jobs can take the entire course of the game to unlock.
Besides the job system, FFT implements brave points and faith points. A character with high bravery means they will remain strong in their attacks. If bravery gets lowered too much, the character will turn into a chicken and not participate in battle. A character with high faith means magic will be extremely potent. The lower the faith, the less effective a magic spell. Finally, FFT uses the signs of the zodiac to have use in battle. In real life, certain signs are compatible with others. The game takes this idea to the next level. Characters who are of compatible signs will be great allies. If these same allies are of the least compatible sign of the enemy, then damage and success will be greater.
The job system and all it has to offer may seem harrowing to newcomers. When this is added to the brave, faith, and zodiac systems, it becomes clear the FFT is not to be taken lightly. Level grinding will help those who are struggling with some of the mechanics, but true SRPG tacticians will use careful customization and planning. This all begins in the customization menu.
When you enter a battle, you have to chose your team and place them on a choice of squares. In most story battles, you will have to make room for a guest character that has relevance to the story in some way. After you have determined the battle participants, the fight will begin. Your victory conditions will be displayed at the start of the battle. Usually, this means you have to finish off every enemy. Other times, you may have to defeat a certain character or protect an ally from harm.
Speed determines the order of turns. When your character’s CT gauge reaches 100, it is their turn to act. The less stuff they do, the sooner their turn will come up again. Besides moving around the isometric battle field, you can attack, use the abilities of your current job, use the abilities you equipped from a different job, and/or wait. Certain attacks like powerful spells and skills take time to charge. Thus, if you plan on using a potent attack spell, you have to be sure that the enemy’s turn is not coming up soon and it moves away from the range. Furthermore, certain spells can hit your allies and heal your enemies. This is why it is important to master the CT gauge and move your characters around accordingly. The same goes for weapons that attack from two squares away. In fact, you can turn on your allies and attack them as much as you want.
However, I recommend not doing this unless you know the battle is just about over and you want some extra experience points and job points. When a character’s HP reaches zero, they are KO’d. However, after a certain amount of time, a character will turn into a treasure chest or a crystal. This means that the character has disappeared from battle. If this happens to your ally, you will never see him or her again. Moving to a treasure chest will give you an item that the character had equipped. A crystal will allow you to restore your HP and MP, or learn an ability that the character knew.
Battles can range from very easy to insanely difficult, and can take either five minutes or a half hour. Ramza’s level will determine the difficulty of the non-story battles, which are usually the more difficult of the two types of battles. If Ramza is level 50, but the rest of the party is below or above 50, the enemies will be around Ramza’s level 50. No matter the battle, a victory comes only with proper preparation. Again, level grinding and certain ability spamming with the right characters can make the challenge drop significantly. However, the die-hard strategy players will use all the mechanics the game has to offer.
Days Come and Gone.
The new features added to the PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics, plus all of the original content will give players many hours of game play. If you want everything the game has to offer, and I mean every side-quest, secret character, and piece of excellent equipment, then you will have around 80 hours of game play. Since this is a portable game, I advise you to bring your back up battery and a charger. This title is addictive and will keep you coming back for more.
Returning to Ivalice.
I often come across as the anti-Final Fantasy Tactics type, but this is not the case. Like other SRPGs, I enjoy many things about FFT, and dislike other things about it. For those who enjoyed the game from years ago, chances are you will enjoy a return-trip to Ivalice due to the game’s new features and movies. If you have not played the game on the PS1, then you will be in for a real treat. However, the learning curve of the game’s mechanics and the sometimes difficult battles can turn away novice SRPG players. Also, the awful, inexcusable slow down will turn away those who lack patience. Regardless, I highly recommend Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. It has a plethora of customization options, an engaging tale, and exciting battles. To this day, it is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. I will disagree with that statement, but I will say it is a fun game.