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Final Fantasy Tactics - Staff Review

Who Scribbled on the Painting???

By: Rob "Scarmiglion" Parton


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 6
   Plot 9
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

30-60 hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Final Fantasy Tactics
 

   When I first heard news about a tactical RPG based on the Final Fantasy series, I didn't know what to think. Was it wrong to cross the series away for its home? If the did, was it going to work? The answer is yes, but it's like jumping the Grand Canyon.

   Final Fantasy uses a simple (but cool) chessboard approach to battles. As each character's (or unit's) turn comes around, you can choose to move them, do an action, or both. This lets the player choose their own tactics in battle, without being overburdened. You can have up to five characters in battle, which lets you organize better, and spread out the units better. There are quirks, however. I would have liked to be able to completely control the camera angle on the battlefield, instead of four directions, and 2 upper angles. There are times when walls and other terrain stop you from being able to see everything on the battlefield.

   The control interface is completely menu driven. This may be great for some RPGamers, but a bane for others. The menus are well done, and if you have doubts over what a command does, help is just a [Select] away. For most choices, you have a last chance to cancel your command, so players can feel at ease that they won't make a huge mistake.


Setting up for the battle
Setting up for the battle  

   In my personal opinion, the music and sound effects in this game are near top-notch. Some RPGamers may have a qualm that the game uses more MIDI based music than actual orchestration, as there are a few tracks that have a "clanging" feel to them. However, the tracks are excellently composed, and almost always fit the scene. The sound effects seem to go back to older Final Fantasy games for their root. Spells have a Final Fantasy 4 or 5 sound to them, which brought back memories for me. For those gamers who have enhanced sound hardware (speakers, etc.), they are in for a treat. Some of the spells, (specifically Summon spells), will literally rock the house while you play.

   Design-wise, Final Fantasy Tactics isn't a breed in itself. When comparing to some other games released approximately at the same time (Vandal Hearts, Tactics Ogre, etc.), they all seem to have the same generic gameplay. As well, most of the design concepts (such as jobs), originate from Final Fantasy 3 (Japanese), and Final Fantasy 5. This leaves far less to the imagination of RPGamers who have played the predecessors.

   What Final Fantasy Tactics excels in is its plot. Like all of its predecessors, Tactics has an excellent story, which is executed very well. There are significant plot twists, and the final quarter of the game really ties the whole game up. As many RPGamers know, Tactics became well known for its religious controversy. This plot element, as well as others, really shows how controversy can be the best advertising.

   One thing that tarnishes this game. Believe me, it tarnishes it darn well. Final Fantasy Tactics has the WORST localization (translation) I have ever encountered. Obvious spelling errors (Lich/Rich within moments of each other), and horrid grammar (like the now infamous "I had a good feeling!"), are all over the place in the game, and I mean EVERYWHERE. This game could have been near perfect in my opinion. The translation of this game really blew that idea out of the water.


I love reaping the rewards of battle
I love reaping the rewards of battle  

   Even with its problems, this game has excellent replay. Why? Because unless you're a "Power Gamer", your party will always change. It's all a matter of how you feel. An Army of Archers? Maybe you're out for a challenge, and use a clan of Black Mages! In Final Fantasy Tactics, all of these, and more, are easily possible. With the power of secondary, counter, movement, and miscellaneous abilities, you'll never have to use the same party all the time. What I find greatest about this game is, with the exception of a few battles, the game's difficulty is completely dependant on how you build you party and battle formations.

The game's visuals are well done. Final Fantasy Tactics uses a "sprite on 3D" approach. This brings problems in some cases, but most spells are not sprite based. The spells are VERY nice to watch. The only exception to this are Summon spells. The developers used sprites to show off the actual creature. Some summons, such as Bahamut, would have looked far better if sprites hadn't been used.

In closing, Final Fantasy Tactics could have been a great work of art, but it is smudged with some large imperfections. Hopefully, Square will learn from their mistakes, and bring RPGamers everywhere a sequel to be proud of.





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