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   Final Fantasy Tactics - Reader Retroview  

I Got a Good Feeling!
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy-Medium
COMPLETION TIME
25-75 Hours
OVERALL

4.5/5

Rating definitions 

   There had been tactical RPGs for many years before Square decided to try to make its own. Then it finally did, the result was Final Fantasy Tactics, an excellent tactical RPG that expands the job system of FFV and mixes it with a good deal of strategy, tactics, nostalgia, and excellent AI. In addition to the tactical battles the player will find throughout the game are a number of sidequests and treasure hunting/exploring missions. Through gathering treasure and finding locations from previous Final Fantasy games, Tactics pays tribute to those that came before it.

   Tactic's battle system is very well done due to the need for both strategy and tactics to defeat the surprisingly cunning AI. Before battle, players must balance their class and secondary skill set as well as their reaction, support, and movement abilities. Reaction abilities range from counter attacks to increase evasion, support from boosted attack or defense to quick casting times, and movement from a simple mobility bonus to gathering mp as the character walks. Equipment also plays a role in strategy as simply equipping the strongest material will often remove certain tactical opportunities. For example, by equipping a weak armor that absorbs holy and using a Calculator to flood the battlefield with holy will result in allies being healed while enemies take severe damage. Battles themselves are fought in a slightly modified ATB system where characters are able to act a number of times based on their speed. Speed bars do not fill in real time like in other Final Fantasy games though, only between turns. Characters gain a time bonus on their next turn if they wait rather than acting and moving in the same turn as well. Spells have splash areas and charge times, as do some other abilities. Since there isn't a defense statistic, the common tactical RPG problem of heroes becoming too powerful is avoided. There are a massive number of possibilities making Tactic's battle systems one of the best to appear in any RPG.

Tactical battles at their best Tactical battles at their best

   While most battles aren't likely to cause much trouble, there are a few that appear later on which have a good chance of catching players off guard. Even these more difficult battles can generally be remedied with a balanced party and careful tactics. Random battles increase in power along with your level, giving them a fairly linear difficulty curve. The AI is very good and offers enough of a challenge to keep battles from getting boring, but not enough to make the game frustrating in the slightest unless the player forgets to revive a party member within a few turns resulting in permanent death.

   Of course, the excellent battle system can only take the game so far, and even excellent games such as Tactics have their flaws. This game has some of the worst localization ever. The main story is filled with plenty of mistakes as it is, but should the player try to wade through the tutorial or complete some of the missions they will be subjected to dialog that doesn't flow well or barely even resembles English grammar. To make things worse, Tactics suffers from a poor interface and without a legible tutorial it can be difficult to figure out how to perform certain actions. Luckily none of these problems are enough to ruin the game, but they are very annoying at times.

   Tactics borrows the basic tactical engine from the many tactical RPGs that came before it and a great deal of ideas from previous Final Fantasy games. On the other hand, the plot is somewhat original and there are several original features that have been implemented very well, especially the large number of new class skills. Overall Tactics is slightly above average in originality despite borrowing as much as it does.

I have no idea what the real name of this attack is... I have no idea what the real name of this attack is...

   Tactics features an intricate plot that, though marred by poor localization, is excellent overall. There are a great deal of twists and turns and plenty of character development. Once certain characters join the main party, they are rarely heard from again unless brought into certain key battles where they will say a few lines. This is most likely due to the fact that characters can die once they have joined which would mess up the plot had they been used in later events. In addition to normal in-game dialog, much can be found out about the world through bar rumors and the ever-changing character bios page. These subtle updates show the world and important characters that the main character never even meets, as well as those he has, evolve as the story progresses. Combined with the excellent main plot, these subtle details give Tactics one of the best stories to appear in an RPG. There are a good deal of sidequests and hidden characters as well.

   There are four chapters in Tactics, though the fourth one is many times longer than any other. It isn't too difficult to avoid random battles and there are only about fifty or so story battles resulting in a play time of about twenty-five hours. There are many sidequests to be found, however, especially in chapter four. These can double or even triple the length of the game.

   As players will be spending a very large amount of time in battle, one would hope that there would be good battle music. Thankfully, Tactics features a very large variety of battle themes which blend in very well with the intended mood and often reflect the game's central music theme as well. Battle tracks aren't repeated often either as there are even several random battle tracks. This does a very good job of keeping the music from becoming repetitive. In addition to excellent music, Tactics has a large variety of sound effects which fit the game perfectly.

   While the visuals found within the game aren't especially impressive, they are still good. Spells and abilities look like they should without wasting ridiculous amount of time on needless animations. The art style is less realistic than other Final Fantasy games resembling an anime style. Whether that is better or worse is a matter of personal taste. Tactics has some FMVs as well, but not nearly as many as FFVII. They are still a nice touch though. Overall, visuals are above average.

   Tactics features one of the best battle systems and stories I have ever seen. It also features excellent music, good visuals, and is reasonably original. The only thing that detracts from the game is poor interaction which prevents me from giving Tactics a perfect score. It comes close though, and is certainly worth playing. The quote "I got a good feeling!" says it best, I highly recommend it especially to Final Fantasy and tactical RPG fans.

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