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Final Fantasy Tactics Review

Final Fantasy Tactics originally came out on the Sony Playstation in January 1998. Tactics is a tactical strategy RPG developed by Squaresoft. It was one of the many inspired games released in the wake of Final Fantasy VII's success. Drawing inspiration from Square's Bahamut Lagoon and Nintendo's Fire Emblem series, Final Fantasy Tactics is a great game with interesting gameplay and a very compelling story.

Tactics takes place in the land of Ivalice, also prominently featured in Square games like Final Fantasy XII and Vagrant Story. We follow the story of a Ramza Beoulve, the youngest member of one of the land's leading noble houses. The king of Ivalice has recently died following the final resolution of a conflict known as the Fifty Years War. Because the king's successor is a mere infant, there is tension brewing over the choice of regent. Some favor a Prince Larg, of the White Lion, while others prefer Prince Goltana, of the Black Lion. As both of these nobles have a legitimate claim to the throne, there is much passion and chaos erupting over who will rule, and conflict is once again brewing...

The character graphics of Tactics have been described as "noseless wonders" a cute and accurate description of the art style. The multitude of characters are almost chibi in their appearance, but very mature in their mannerisms, motivations, and speech. Because a great deal of this game is spent on isometric battlefields, they must be expressive and full of detail. I am happy to report that there are quite a lot of different types of scenery, from townships to deserts to grasslands, all distinct and pleasant looking.

Due to great amount of time you spend in battle in this game, the many different abilities, spells, and item effects should complement the battle visually. And they do. From the tiny potion animation to the very elaborate Bahamut Summon, FF Tactics is well drawn with dynamic animation and graphics.

Music is the work of Masaharu Iwata & Hitoshi Sakimoto. In the early days of the Playstation, music was rather low quality, almost 32x midi-like. It took the efforts of Squaresoft and others to bring out the quality of the sound chip in their projects like SaGa Frontier and Final Fantasy Tactics. Tactics' music also makes use of a synthesizer specialist in order to better create the feel of orchestration that the composers aimed for. The music is not only higher quality; it has better fidelity and definition, if you will. What results is a superlative score full of memorable pieces. These include Apoplexy, The Chapel, and Back Fire.

It also should be mentioned that due to the nature of this game (non-stop battles pretty much) the music had to be composed in such a way to make it easy to listen to even after 30 minutes or longer of battling. I'm happy to report that the composers succeeded admirably.

Final Fantasy Tactics' gameplay involves logistics and strategies, tactics if you will... You select a party of 5-6 characters and face opposing armies or group of monsters. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, the character must move into the range of their enemies for attacks to succeed. For every successful action, attack based, stat buffer or suchlike, you gain experience. This works much like any other RPG, gain enough and you level up, increasing your stats. A little difference is that it is a constant 100 XP to the next level. Successful actions also give you job points which you use to learn abilities. Combined with job levels that unlock new and potentially more powerful jobs, these abilities allow the player to create interesting fighters. You can make a fighter who knows black magic, a ninja who can jump and lots more. It is similar to Final Fantasy V's class system, but more flexible in that being proficient in assigned abilities doesn't require job mastering. A fighter is not inherently weak with black magic as in FFV, just not as powerful as a black mage. Again, increasing your character level with a particular job will increase certain stats, furthering your variable player setup.

There are quite a lot of different jobs to use, with some being a curiosity at best and others almost game-breaking, and in the case of some special characters, definitely game-breaking. There is also the system of faith and bravery, which I am not sure how they work. It was said best when someone reported that you don't ever need to mess with either faith or bravery to beat the game. It really only plays into how abilities for certain jobs work.

Challenge is pretty varied. Some parts of the game are brutally difficult, either because the enemy has a real advantage, or because it is easy to lose the battle, be it through certain characters dying. Because the AI controls these characters, expect to see a lot of game over's. It is piss poor design, as their AI is moronic.

Challenge in other areas is mostly up to your job choices. Ramza has powerful abilities that serve him well throughout the game. Monks and Ninjas generally make the game more manageable. This is why challenge can be a hard area to gauge. I think it is best said that Final Fantasy Tactics is as difficult as you want to make it. It should also be said that the age-old level-grinding trick is no solution to difficult areas, as enemies level up with you.

Replay value is really based on the type of gamer you are. While it is true that there are innumerable amount of ways to play this game, it doesn't mean that you may feel the need to play it more often. I first played in 2004 and again for this review, so there will are. I think the game's great story almost works against it when it comes to replay. It is quite compelling and will make the player want to remember the game (thus not playing it again for a while) long after they have finished it. It is almost as if Final Fantasy Tactics stays with you.

In summation, Final Fantasy Tactics tries out a new type of genre for Final Fantasy, and succeeds rather well. It should be said that the "Tactics" aspect of this is a bit misleading, due to the way in which you can build your characters. If you use the right combinations, very little tactics or strategy is necessary to win battles, unlike say the Fire Emblem or Shining Force series, this game's genre predecessors. Final Fantasy Tactics is really more like a different take on Final Fantasy than an evolution of the Turn Based Strategy genre. But it is a very enjoyable mod of Final Fantasy.

- Ugly Bob

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