Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Genre:
    • Strategy
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • SCEA
  • Released:
    • JP 06/20/1997
    • US 01/28/1998
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/08/2013.

Final Fantasy Tactics is a tactical role-playing game developed by Square and originally released for the Sony PlayStation in 1998. It's a spin-off from the Final Fantasy series, featuring a type of gameplay that's vastly different from its peers. If you've played Tactics Ogre, then you'll spot plenty of similarities in this game. That's because many members from the team that developed Tactics Ogre also worked on Final Fantasy Tactics. Tactics Ogre was developed by a company called Quest in 1995, and a lot of the key members left Quest to join Square in that same year. Quest was purchased by Square in 2002, so both companies eventually merged. Anyway, back to Final Fantasy Tactics. This game is like a combination of Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy V in gameplay mechanics and story. It's a match made in heaven. Sadly, the game's release was greatly overshadowed by the vast popularity of Final Fantasy VII. It's a shame, because Final Fantasy Tactics is arguably one of the best Final Fantasy games, despite being a spin-off.

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This game's plot is pretty sophisticated even when compared to the likes of Final Fantasy VII and VIII. It never gets overly convoluted, though. The game is set in medieval times with knights, mages, and all that other stuff. However, the game focuses on political matters between different kingdoms and nations, instead of dungeons and dragons. The story is seen through the perspective of a historical scholar who's trying to uncover the truth about past events that were covered up by the powers of the time. This scholar investigates a man named Ramza Beoulve, whose exploits seem to have been lost in the hype of the great hero, Delita Heiral. Even though Delita went down in history as a legendary hero, Ramza is the protagonist of this tale. Final Fantasy Tactics is set in Ivalice, which was in the process of recovering from a five decade war with a kingdom called Ordalia. The death of Ordalia's ruler, King Omdoria, caused intense talks of inheritance to spring about. There were multiple heirs to the throne, with different powers backing each one, usually for their own ulterior motives. This sparked a new conflict known as the Lion War, in which various powers use many unsavory methods to secure the throne. Ramza and Delita get swept up in the Lion War due to circumstances that are beyond their control. If you like plot twists, then you're going to love Final Fantasy Tactics. The potential for surprise betrayals, secret assassinations, and other tropes are endless.

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Ramza and Delita were childhood friends, even though Ramza was a noble of house Beoulve and Delita was a mere commoner. The two didn't see the world in terms of social class, but everyone else in Final Fantasy Tactics did. Nobles would treat commoners like subhuman cattle and commoners wanted to rise up against the nobility in bloodthirsty revenge. And this is on top of all the shadowy conspiracies taking place within the nobility and royalty. Ramza and Delita were knights that spent much of their time hunting down commoners who formed resistance groups. The two main characters often wondered if they were doing the right thing. Final Fantasy Tactics does the mind blowing concept of not painting the world in black and white. Rather, it sort of paints it in black and black. The game never really picks sides, as neither the nobles nor the commoners are shown in a positive light. Commoners all want to put Ramza's head on a stake, despite his efforts to show them compassion, and nobles treat Delita poorly even though he was adopted into the house of Beoulve. Both sides have a total disregard for humanity when dealing with the opposite, exposing the ills of mankind. Ramza and Delita react differently to these unfavorable circumstances, and this causes their paths to split up later in the game. There's some great character development here, as Ramza and Delita change throughout their journey, causing their ironclad friendship to crumble. It's interesting to watch two best friends end up as enemies on the battlefield. Final Fantasy Tactics has a powerful story that actually affects the main characters in a profound manner, something that few video games have accomplished even today.

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You can't explore a world map, towns, or anything. All you get is a map screen where you select your destination and set up your troops. While this is a big departure for the Final Fantasy series, it's standard fare for tactical RPGs. Story battles usually start immediately upon selecting an uncleared spot on the map, though it's also possible to encounter random battles by moving over cleared spots. Once inside a battle, you'll need to place your troops on the field and then you're good to go. Battles in Final Fantasy Tactics are presented in an isometric perspective, though the battlefields are rendered in full 3D. All units, ally and enemy alike, are rendered as 2D sprites. Visually, the polygonal environments in Final Fantasy Tactics look atrocious, but the 2D sprites and artwork all look good. Anyway, units in Final Fantasy Tactics take turns moving on a grid. Turn order is based on each character's speed stat, and every unit has a movement radius. Melee attacks require that you move a unit close to an enemy unit, but there are various long-range attacks, like bows and magic, that cut down on the amount of movement required. Magic takes extra turns to charge, which means you need to carefully plan things out before casting spells. Units that get attacked from behind have absolutely no chance of blocking the attack, but attacking a unit from the sides or the front means there's a good chance the attack will be blocked. The battles in Final Fantasy Tactics are a lot more strategic than in other games in the series, though they're a bit slow at times.

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Fans of Final Fantasy V should rejoice, because Final Fantasy Tactics brings back the famous job class system from that game. This is arguably the best iteration of the job system in the entire series, as it's been greatly expanded upon from Final Fantasy V. Characters may change jobs any time outside of a battle, and every job has abilities, equipment, and stats unique to it. New abilities are learned by getting enough Job Points in battle, though it's not automatic. You have to enter the ability screen outside a battle to pick which abilities you'd like to learn. It's like a store where you buy abilities with the JP you've accumulated. This is very convenient, because it allows you to avoid unwanted abilities and save up for the good stuff. In addition to character levels, there are also job levels. A character's level determines their stats, but a job level helps in unlocking additional jobs. You start the game out with a small number of jobs, and in order to get more, you have to level each of those jobs up. Leveling up the physical attacking jobs like Knight will unlock more physical jobs, whereas leveling up the magic jobs tends to lead to more advanced magic classes. Some of the advanced jobs you get later on are incredibly awesome, like the Lancer and Calculator. Lancers are the Dragoons from previous Final Fantasy games, which enable them to jump onto almost any opponent on the field. Calculators, on the other hand, are a wild card. They cast spells that effect all units on the battlefield, friend or foe, depending on the calculation of various stats. There are so many jobs in this game, and they are so awesome.

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Abilities are divided into four different categories: Action Abilities, Reaction Abilities, Support Abilities, and Move Abilities. Action Abilities are the main battle commands of a particular job, like the spells a wizard casts or the combat skills a warrior uses. Reaction Abilities are abilities that trigger whenever your characters are attacked, like the ability to counterattack. Support Abilities are things that are always active, like life regeneration. Move Abilities effect a character's mobility, allowing them to bypass certain hazards, float, teleport, or simply extend their movement radius. The real kicker to the job system is that you can combine abilities from different jobs. A Knight can use the offensive magic from a Black Mage, or an Archer can use healing spells from a White Mage. Abilities from any category may be combined with any job, so you can use abilities from one job to cover the weaknesses of another. For example, Knights have a small movement radius, but that can be remedied by giving them an ability that enhances mobility. You can even do crazy things like give mages the ability to equip heavy armor that a Knight normally uses. Different setups greatly alter the outcome of battle, so it pays to experiment as much as possible. No matter how many times you play this game, there's always something new to learn in terms of strategies. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. This is way, way better than the ability system in Final Fantasy V, as it's been expanded a hundredfold. Countless hours can be spent staring at the abilities screen, coming up with the best combination. Final Fantasy Tactics has some of the best character customization out of any game ever.

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Final Fantasy Tactics has a great plot, good character development, deep mechanics, endless customization, and fun fights. It's a game that really should get more credit for what it does, because it does so many things exceedingly well. The flaws are few and far between, but it does suffer from a poor localization that can make the already complex plot even more difficult to comprehend, and the graphics aren't terribly good. Final Fantasy Tactics is up there with the best in the series, despite being a spin-off. It's definitely one of the best tactical RPGs out there. If you like the tactical RPG genre and haven't played Final Fantasy Tactics, then you should definitely give it a try. It's also a good introduction to the genre for those of you who have never played a tactical RPG.

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