Final Fantasy Tactics was originally an RTS RPG inspired by the director's cult classic Super Nintendo game, but his boss said "NOT THIS ONE!"

Final Fantasy Tactics prototype
(Image credit: Square Enix/Yasumi Matsuno)

Today, June 20, marks the 27th anniversary of Final Fantasy Tactics, and original director Yasumi Matsuno took the opportunity to share some images of the beloved strategy RPG in its original form.

In its earliest prototype, Final Fantasy Tactics was not turn-based - it would've been a real-time strategy RPG. Matsuno previously revealed this detail back in 2018 during a stream promoting a Final Fantasy 14 crossover, but now he's provided a much clearer look at the early plans for the game, complete with some of the most gorgeous pixel art I've ever seen.

"This is a sample image from early 1996," Matsuno says on Twitter (Google translated). "We had hoped to continue development with the aim of creating an RTS like 'Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen,' but unfortunately this was scrapped, and the game ended up being released in the form it is today. The strong jaggedness is due to the PlayStation's resolution at the time being 256x224." 

Before he moved to Square, Matsuno directed Ogre Battle at Quest Corporation - a studio which would, in turn, also end up absorbed by the Final Fantasy publisher. Ogre Battle is essentially a hybrid of RTS and RPG gameplay styles. You direct units in real time across a battle map, and when they encounter enemies, you'll go into an RPG-style fight screen. Characters all attack each other automatically, but you have a limited ability to direct your units' attacks and give them Tarot card-based buffs.

In English, Matsuno adds that this is "only a sample image for planning purposes. It was not actually developed on PlayStation. They are pseudo-game screens configured to actual specifications." It's unclear how far along this version of the game got, but it's easy to imagine how those Ogre Battle fight mechanics might've been implemented here.

So why did the game eventually switch to the turn-based SRPG that we ended up getting? Matsuno puts it pretty simply: "My boss said, 'NOT THIS ONE!'" It's tough to argue with the beloved classic that Final Fantasy Tactics eventually became, but I can't help but wonder what this version of the game might've looked like.

Does Matsuno have any regrets about the game's change of direction? "If I had to mention one thing," he says, "it would be the event scene as shown in the sample image. I wanted to make it that kind of performance."

Earlier this year, Matsuno suggested that Final Fantasy Tactics fans stop begging for a remake and give Unicorn Overlord their support instead, because "the market for tactical RPGs is small." 

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.