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Final Fantasy Tactics - Review

"Is the truth only what we can see?"

By: Paws


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 7
   Plot 9
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Extremely Variable
   Time to Complete

50-90 hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Intro Screen

    Final Fantasy Tactics, though it didn't have an 'official' number, is by all accounts one of the most enjoyed of the FF games, even if it's sometimes touted as 'not technically up to snuff' with the others in the series. Though it's circulation was incredibly limited, those who stumbled upon this treasure, as I did, must have shared similar exhaltant feelings when they first popped it into their PSX (or reasonable facsimile thereof) and were entranced by the gripping story, the kooky graphics, and the pure customization of the game.

   The battle system is something old and something new. Items, spells, and the like are all standard fare FF/Square variety. You may, in a turn, do an action, move, and/or do nothing. You may do any combination of them (move, do nothing; act, do nothing; move, act; act, move), and you will use them in different combinations. The battlefield is a square divided into a grid, and each action has a range in 'squares'. For example, a character with a move of 4 may move 4 squares in any combination of directions, and an attack which launches 5 spaces vertically will create a line of attack in front and behind the character. While most battles' directives are to defeat all the enemies, some are to defeat one person/creature only, and others are to save a certain person/creature. The HP and MP systems are still used. When characters on the battlefield go to 0 HP, they collapse. A small counter of 3 or 2 will then appear over their head. When this counter ticks past 0 (it ticks down one when their turn would have passed), their body becomes a crystal or a treasure chest. You may use an item or magic to raise them just as any other FF, you now just have a limited time and require an item skill to do it.

   Out of battle, everything is basically a menu system. Unlike the other final fantasy games where the overworld map is a place to wander anyhow anywhere, in FFT the overworld map is constantly in use.

Odds
Even though the odds may look grim, through strategy one may prevail.  
No longer do you wander aimlessly but followed structured paths between 2 points. Points where you stop can be either towns (which you may chose to 'enter' through a menu), dungeons (which you *may* get attacked in), or neutral points which you cannot get attacked on but do not offer the menu as a town does. All of your party organization is done off of a menu which can be accessed any time your party stands on a point, any point, through a subset of about 7 or 8 menus. The game offers some interesting menu options such as a 'playback' opportunity (required to see *all* the scenes in the game), and biographies of every character who is/was important to the story. This is a very handy feature considering the game has around 60 major characters and frequent deaths.

   Once you go deeper into 'formation', the fun really starts. There is where you hand out 'JP', the stuff that you gain when you successfully perform an action along with EXP. Each job has different skills in up to 5 different categories which you may choose to learn. Simple things in beginners' jobs such as throwing a stone will cost only a little JP, 70 (which can probably be gained in 4-5 actions), while the bigaft summon spells like Bahamut will require a whopping 1200. To 'Master' a class (you get a cool little star to go beside it), you must have brought the job up to level 8 (JP accumulates towards levels as well as accumulates towards new abilities), and have bought each ability with your JP supply. Note pretty much the only job you can master before level 8 is Squire. Once you've reaches level 8 in the job, the level goes no higher, but you may still gain JP in that job. Good thing, considering the chemist needs almost 5000 JP to master! You mainly accrue your JP through your current job, but you can also earn 'secondary JP' from your party members - for example, if Ramza is a squire and I am a monk, when I earn JP as a monk, so does Ramza, about 1 JP for every 5 of mine. This way people can pick up skills before they change into the job, making the transition much smoother. When a human enemy dies in battle and becomes a crystal, some of their job abilities transfer to the crystal. Whoever picks up the crystal, if they haven't already learned all the abilities, can pick up those not learned. The most I've learned is 5 at once, which were all summons, so it pays off to wait till human enemies crystalize. The treasure chests they drop also contain items they were wearing, which are generally better than yours. So it pays off to let enemy humans crystalize. Your other option is to get a mediator to invite them to your party disarm all their items. Sneaky sneaky >:).

   Music and sound are literally average. Nothing really sets them apart from any other game, yet there is nothing to say they really stink. Personally I'm more likely to turn on a CD than listen to the in-game music, but boss fights (ie, Zodiac fights) and during lightning storms, I love the sound effects. Plus, nothing beats the sound of a Chocobo dying (the darn birds heal themselves almost faster than you can damage!).


Femmes
Female characters play a key role in certain jobs.  
   Originality tips both ways on the scale but ends up well over positive in the end. Though it is a Final Fantasy and therefore carries over a lot of the same old things (job classes, spells, many enemies, etc), the story and the play of the game is very unique. The ATB system has the 'a' of active taken out, but the 'ct' meter strikes of a very similar system. Plus, the job system itself has so many different choices combinations and strategies that each fight is slightly different, adding a whole new spectrum to the game. No longer will you have one person doing the same tired thing over and over again, but you can modify their actions by their jobs and every time they are brought into battle they are as a new character. It is exciting to try different things and brings me back to play the game again and again.

   The plot is very well written. Unlike most games which start incredibly slowly, the diverse past that precludes the game is introduced well both within the game and as a small trailerish movie before the game starts. With a minimum of FMVs, the plot is followed smoothly from point to point, the only stopping point being when you the player stop to level up or to do a side quest or a job. Plot can be a slow or as fast as *you* choose, therefore the game never gets dull and you're never left waiting - except when the suspense is part of the game ;) Though you start out basically clueless of what is to come, the storyline unfolds in an extremely realistic and well-planned way, and unique and unprecendented twists sent more than one shiver down my spine or my jaw dropping to the floor. Without spoiling, in all honesty I can say I *never* expected the final antagonist to be who they were. It blew my mind, and I had to sit down and think about it for several hours after the game. It made me crave to come back for more, but left enough explained I didn't feel left out. Very few games have captured me in such awe, and I doubt many more ever will.

   The localization, unfortunately, was pretty much a joke. Bad names abound (such as 'Cuar' rather than 'Cougar'. Who proofed this and how much did they have to drink?), and they're really easy to spot. They even brought over bad mistakes from previous games (such as 'Gabbledegack'). While this doesn't necessarily detract from the game, it does show that this was a thrown together effort. The game really deserved better. Small grammar mistakes here and there within the text bubbles can occasionally confound; I read over most the first time, simply filling in what felt best for me. Though the games doesn't suffer as horribly from the translations as, say, Suikoden 2 may, it does give the game an overall shoddy feel.


Theme
Don't let the religious theme turn you off.  

   The graphics are very well done considering this game was released almost 3 years ago. The characters have an anime-like feel which makes sense in the war-fantasy setting. Though characters lack noses, they have a large amount of body language. It's a pity their faces don't have any expressive value, as they do come up in speech bubbles, but this isn't a Working Designs game, so one has to settle with well-done faces that don't say much. Many different poses and colors show status everything from status change to magics, and the colors used are a mix of light and dark and fit the mood and plot to a 't'. Minor use of some background FMV is introduced, and though it really is minor (perhaps 3 or 4 instances total), it may have been a stepping stone for later FFs to have more developed FMVs. A 3/4 3D view was my preferred angle in battle (it can be shifted several ways as well as tilted and zoomed in on/out of), and the map was a fluffly looking 2.5D. While these graphics didn't blow my mind (after all, I didn't play this till 1.5 years after its release), they were very satisfying in their depth.

    The difficulty of FFT is, as said above, *extremely* variant. If you try to rush through and go from plot point to plot point you're going to be overpowered by classes you can't reach yet and enemies which have better job skills than you do. It's doable, just incredibly hard. Plus whom you have in your party also will increase or decrease your difficulty level. More than half of your party as non-warrior classes and you'll find you're going to spend a lot of time healing or defending. Too many warriors and there won't be enough healing and magic to go around. Plus you also have to balance those with ranged versus those with melee attacks. If you rush through, the time taken refining your strategies is also lost. So, relax, already, and expect to spend a good hunk of time honing those skills.

   The replay value of this game is incredibly high, simply because of the customizeability of the job systems and the fact that character building makes all the difference whether the game is extremely difficult or something you could do in your sleep. With so many different jobs, each combination makes a totally different party and requires whole new sets of strategy: too many magic users and you're going to run into trouble with knights, not enough healers and your guys will toast, Too many archers and your party will be helpless in melee range. You have to learn how to balance and counter balance for each situation.

    Which brings us to the amount of time it takes to complete. The first time through, experiementing and level building, I was literally *shocked* to realize Ramza had hit level 99.

Summon
Of *course* there's Bahamut!  
That's something I literally had never done before (but have several times since). I ended up clocking a good 100 hours, if not more, before deciding it was time to restart. Not including the side quests, I don't think anyone could or would want to beat this game in under 40 hours. If you have, congradulations, but I feel you've probably gipped yourself.

    In closing, Final Fantasy Tactics will always have a special place on my shelf, even if it doesn't on yours. While the game does have some drawbacks, it is this reviewer's opinion the good points outweigh the bad. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, good luck finding it. If you do have it, be kind and lend it to someone who has yet to have their eyes opened. Just goes to show you, you don't need noses for an awesome game.





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