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Final Fantasy Tactics - Retroview

Experience the Zodiac Brave Story

By: Phillipe Richer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 8
   Plot 10
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

40-50 hours

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Final Fantasy Tactics
 

   The announcement of a Final Fantasy Tactics sequel came with a sigh of relief. It was relief across the vast lands filled with hardcore RPGamers who had been praying for this moment to come. It's easy to understand how a game such as FFT took a large place in people's hearts. Not only does it provide one of the best and most in-depth gameplay in a TRPG, it also delivers one of the best soundtracks ever and a touching story which shall never be forgotten.

   The land of Ivalice has been ravaged by the catastrophes of battle during the 50 year war. Now the king has passed away, leaving his wife and his 2 year-old son, and a successor to the throne has to be named. Another war, this time opposing two respected generals, lord Larg and prince Goltana, has erupted to decide who will become ruler of this great land. A hero named Delita emerged from this battle, but you will embark on a journey of truth-seeking told by Alazam Durai, a record keeper. This war will be forever remembered as the "Lion War".

   Thrusting you into the action from the get-go, FFT is an action-packed and greatly strategic TRPG. Characters can move around the battlefield and use an action or even the other way around, adding a great deal of strategy. Characters act according to their speed stat on both teams. You may attack and use items immediately, but casting spells require a bit more planning. When you cast a spell, you may choose to either target an area or a specific character. Each spell has its own casting speed and careful planning is the only way to avoid being hit by your own spells if an enemy moves close by.


Lock and Load!
Lock and Load!  

   There are many, many stats which determine a character's ability. Aside from the obvious physical and magical offense, there's also a whole slew of evade percentages coming from your weapon, shield, armor or accessory. There are no defensive values per se, as armor is used to determine the HP and MP bar. The amount of damage a character can receive is based on his or her brave and faith statistic. A person with more bravery deals greater damage, incurs less himself, and is generally better suited for physical warfare. Faith on the other hand is used to evaluate how much magical damage is dealt or suffered. There are a couple abilities which allow you to raise or diminish faith and brave temporarily and permanently. There's also the matter of the 12 zodiac signs which have to be taken into account when determining damage. Of course, your little noggin' will do none of those things as the computer calculates everything itself.

   When a character faints (getting killed) a counter beginning at 3 will appear above his head. Every time one of his turn comes along the number decreases and if you don't revive him before the counter reaches 0 the character leaves behind either one of his ability or a treasure chest to be picked up by another combatant. The greatest thing about FFT is unarguably the job system. Every character has to pursue a job, be it a common or exclusive one. By performing actions in battle the character gains not only EXP but also JP, or Job Points. Each job has 8 levels and many abilities attached to it. By acquire enough JP you can learn abilities which you can then use in battle or as passive elements. You can "equip" two action abilities related to previously obtained jobs - one reaction ability, one support ability and one movement ability. The awesome thing about this is that you can fully customize a character to suit your taste. You can have a powerful mage using jumping abilities like a lancer would or even equip a gun on a swift ninja capable to summon creatures. The possibilities are endless which provokes a great deal of FFT's appeal. There are 20 different jobs plus the ones exclusive to certain characters for a total of more than 400 abilities. You may also recruit beasts to lend a hand in battle.

   The interface is a model of simplicity and commodity. Rearranging your troops, items, weapons and everything else can be done effortlessly. Abilities are easy to find and easy to equip as everything is practically perfect. But the real meat of it is the help window which pops-up to give you more information about either the terrain, abilities, items or just about anything else. It's a marvelous addition to an already flawless setup.

   The soundtrack is a collaboration effort between Masahara Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto. FFT was the game that allowed Sakimoto-san to come out of the dark and place him among the great composers, for just reasons. It's one of the most eloquent soundtracks to date, hands down. His very particular style, including the use of bagpipes, harmonious harps and a masterful control of the synthesizer suits the atmosphere of the game perfectly. It's an enchanting piece of work from beginning to end. You will never want to turn the sound down since every composition is uplifting and raises the already enthralling atmosphere of the plot. Once again, the ending piece serves as your reward for completing this amazing game.


The pickings are slim...for now.
The pickings are slim...for now.  

   Sound-wise it's another marvel. Just hearing that clashing sound of a sword hitting a shield will make you jump from your seat. Spells and abilities alike always seem to have the exact matching sound. You can taste the huge production values on that part. Long before the 50 year war, even before Ivalice was unified, the 7 countries of the land waged war for domination. The young king of Murond used an ancient incantation to summon a powerful demon. Soon, the demon became uncontrollable. Twelve heroes gathered and vanquished the evil forces. That story, handed down from every generation, became known as the Zodiac Brave Story. If you've read my previous reviews you may have noticed that I place a lot of emphasis on the plot, which is to me the most important aspect of the game. Well, FFT ranks very high on the list of great plots. The huge cast of characters, the innumerable plot twists and the strong script create a memorable story like no other. It's an amazing adventure filled with friendship, dilemmas and a lot of betrayal. There are so many things to take into account that you'll be obliged to take a peek at the thorough character and event glossary included in the game. You may get more info about everything and even re-watch every cut-scene. It's an absolutely marvelous idea.

FFT's localization is one of the most talked about. Not because it's incredible (or incredibly bad), it's because there are so many typos and so many weird expression which have been impregnated in gamers' minds forever. Phrases such as "I had a good feeling" contributed to FFT's fame. However, if you look past the 100 or so typos and the weird little sentences, you'll find a very good script and very casual dialogues in the main plot. While the character portraits don't show expression, the text is still good enough to make you grasp the emotion of the characters. You also have to take into account the giant amount of text that comes with all those help options and the huge quick manual. It still hurts the eyes to see so many bad typos though, and coming from Square, it's strictly unforgivable.

While it was released quite some time ago, in the winter of 1997 to be precise, the visuals still look great. Landscapes are big, imaginative and enchanting. Every battle has its own feel thanks in particular to its distinct location. Characters are very pretty also. The sprites make up every usual body part, except for the nose which is non-existent. Spells and special skills are very dazzling, composed of very vibrant ice, lightning and fire effects. Timeless visuals abound.


Can you taste the music?
Can you taste the music?  

Clocking in at about 40-50 hours, FFT is just the right length to give you the time to enjoy both the plot and the varied gameplay options. Someone who liked his first playthrough will most likely play the game 3, 4 or even 5 times. Just asked around and you'll realize that the number of people who played it 10 times or more isn't unusual at all. It's charming on every font, and once again, the incredible customization gives FFT a lot of appeal.

In conclusion, Final Fantasy Tactics shines on almost every aspects. The Zodiac Brave Story is an amazing tale and the game is by far the most complete and perhaps best tactical RPG available, another masterpiece brought to us by Square. It doesn't please me to see the sequel on a low-class system such as the GBA, but it's still better than nothing.





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