Oct 8, 2007
Nine years ago Final Fantasy Tactics chronicled the life of Ramza Beoulve, one of the sons of the late king Balbanes, and his role in The Lion War. Today it does the same thing by keeping the core of the game the same, while carefully adding features that keep with the original tone.
There are a couple of new character classes, several beautiful cutscenes, the game is displayed in eye-catching widescreen (16:9) and just about every line of dialogue has been retranslated to give a generally clearer idea of what's going on. There's a good deal that's new, but the combat system, which is what most of the game is about, has been changed very little and still makes for one of the most challenging and most rewarding turn-based strategy experiences of any game ever.
That's right, ever. But the rewards come at a price: this game is hard - not to be attempted by the casual gamer. The fights take place on three-dimensional grids using up to five characters from your party as well as the occasional NPC ally to help out. The game lets you know how much damage your sword swings and lighting bolts will do before you confirm them and what the chances of success are going to be. Spells and powerful abilities are each learned individually and take longer amounts of time to cast. The catch is that your opponents are devilishly merciless and can learn all the same skills you can.
The key to victory is in the job system and having a well balanced party. Characters can learn up to 22 jobs (including the new Onion Knight and Dark Knight) by gaining levels in the appropriate areas. For example, after becoming a level three thief, the lancer job becomes available. Each job has its own set of abilities that are split into active, passive, counter, and movement based skills. None of the jobs are useless, and each has skills that, once learned, can be used after the character switches to another job. Your characters will start as lowly squires and chemists and eventually become powerful hybrids of more advanced classes. If you want a samurai that can fly, use two swords and revive himself after death, you can get him - it just might take awhile.
While there are almost limitless combat strategies, the plot is concrete and linear. FF Tactics isn't a game that allows you to choose your own path, folks. The story is being told to you - sit back and enjoy it, because it doesn't get any better than this. Powerful families are destroyed, friends kill each other, family members are murdered in front of each other and villains are given clear, non-insane motives but you kill them anyway.
As you progress through the game, the world map that charts your progress from battle to battle. There are a few added scenes that flesh out the characters and even a few brand new fights. The dialogue has been greatly improved. Fans of the first game will tell you that you could play through the whole thing two or three times before really getting it. Now it's much easier to follow. It's still complex, but much easier.
Our only complaint about the dialogue is the faux ye olde speake that didn't really exist before. Nobody said "Aye" in the PSone version and "akademy" wasn't spelled with a K. Frankly, we liked it more that way. Overall, the revamped dialogue is a big improvement, and we can forgive a few stupid lines if we get a better story out of it. There are also a handful of beautiful, cell-shaded cutscenes that have been added. Although there aren't many of them, we couldn't be happier with the way they turned out.
The two new character classes are both designed to be used after pumping some serious play time and leveling into the game, and you find most of their best equipment through the new multiplayer modes. They can be very powerful if you sink some time into them, and we like that they're high-end because it keeps the core of the game the same and adds some quest time if you feel like the thirty hours it takes to get through the central story isn't long enough. Multiplayer also adds some hours by letting you team up with a friend for challenges or pit your parties against each other. The thing is, it's ad-hoc only, so you'll need to find a buddy with a copy of the game around your level.
Is FF Tactics worth playing if you've never played the first one? Yes it is. And if you've already played it ten times on the PSone? Yes, it's worth it anyway. This is one of the most in-depth strategy games and touching RPGs ever made. The multiplayer and new classes aren't really necessary, but they're cool if you want to explore them. The PSP takes a classic and polishes it with new sound effects, animations and dialogue that really make this gem shine all these years. The only drawback is that it may be too time intensive or difficult for many gamers. Our advice is to suck it up and get this game anyway.