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Final Fantasy Tactics (PlayStation) artwork

Final Fantasy Tactics (PlayStation) review


"[STORY] "



[STORY]

The Fifty Year War has not passed in the mind of Ivalice's people when King Omdolia dies after a long battle with a fever sickness. Although Queen Ruvelia was in charge of most of the policy-making, a male regent would need to be appointed to care fo rthe king's young heir, Orinas. Whoever would get the position would also be, in effect, the interim ruler of Ivalice up until the prince became of age.

Prince Larg, ruler of the kingdom of Gallione, makes a bid for the position since he's the queen's cousin. However, he is not alone. Prince Goltana, the ruler of Zeltennia, also makes it known that he wishes to be Orinas' caretaker. Through the Senate, a bitter debate is held. The struggle for power continues on throughout the game.

Ramza Beoulve is the son of the much-acclaimed swordsman Balbanes, hero of the Fifty Year War and a Heavenly Knight. Ramza's best friend is Delita Hyral, a man born into a lower-class family and sheltered under the eaves of the Beoulve's influential name. During the early stages of the game, Delita comes to loathe the nobility or, rather, becomes aware of the stance on those "below them." He is thought to have died, as well.

Now, as Ramza has fallen out with his family, he travels as a mercenary-for-hire, along with Gaff Gafgarion and Agrias Oaks. While on assignment to guard the Princess Ovelia, Delita turns up and kidnaps her. He wears the insignia of the black lion, Goltana's family crest. Ramza knows that his friend is alive, but questions what he is doing as a knight in the Zeltennian army...

Throughout the game, Ramza aims to find out the real motives behind Delita and to stop an even more sinister plot involving the land's most prominant rulers and figures. Delita, on the other hand, works towards self-serving goals, and takes a path that Ramza cannot morally follow. The final chapter of the game (4th) culminates in Ivalice's government and religious system being turned upside-down, at the hands of both of the men.

[GAMEPLAY]

Final Fantasy Tactics offers a strategic battlefield concept for random and storyline skirmishes, with turn-based action for the enemy and ally units. Characters traverse across a variety of different landscapes--such as rivers, castle walls, reservoirs, and volcanoes--to battle with their foes. Each action gives the unit experience (EXP) and job points (JP) which can go towards stat increases and new abilities, respectfully.

The battlefield itself is like a grid-like, sectioned-off area where all units move in accordance to their move statistic. The playing map is also 3-D and can be rotated, so this adds to the multi-dimensional feel of the game.

The player can have sixteen total units, counting special characters and guests. Special characters, like Ramza (and others) have skills unique to them, which they can use with great finesse. All other characters are considered "generic", meaning they have no special attributes and have only regular classes available to them. These generic characters can be gotten by visiting the town soldiers' office and hiring them or by inviting enemy units during battle and giving them a spot in your party afterwards.

At maximum, a character can equip a weapon, another weapon or shield, armor, a helmet, and an accessory. This adds to the strategic element of the game. By mixing and matching, a unit can conquer with ease. Skills such as Blade Grasp, Abandon, and Two Swords are fan favorites for their facilities. In addition to equipment, a character can have five ability slots as well: a primary and secondary skillset, a reaction and support skill, and a movement ability. These affect battles only. THe way these are chosen and organized can lead to disaster or victory on the battlefield. Strengths and weaknesses need to be taken into consideration to harness the character's talents.

If the reader finds this overwhelming and complicated, that's good; it can be very hard to understand. However, once the basics are noted and the tutorial has been perused, the game isn't quite so difficult to comprehend. The battle aspects are only intimidating if time isn't spent trying to adjust to them.

In comparison to other games, Final Fantasy Tactics functions along the same lines as the Ogre Battle series. Stylistically, the games are much the same.

[GRAPHICS]

Although unimportant in most people's eyes, Final Fantasy Tactics does not boast the graphical technology that was available at the time. Bitmap images and isometric battle zones are abound but, thankfully, it's extremely easy to forget about those when you're carried away in the plans of attacking and defending.

The graphics do not impair the gameplay, and that is the only time I can think when they would actually matter. Battles run like clockwork even without flashy FMV scenes which would, in my opinion, only hamper the game's fluency and inherent ability to make the player form strategies. Scenery may change for the different battles, but the level of expertise put forth does not. You won't be unimpressed with the graphics unless you were expecting the game to have absolutely stunning visuals.

That being said, the game does present two amazing FMV sequences, one at the start and one at the game's finish. In between, the cutscenes that advance the plot are on par with the battlefield graphics.

The world map is simply that: a map. Towns, random battle locations, and landmarks are denoted by dots and the character (Ramza) moves along roads to traverse Ivalice. Cities cannot be walked around in freely (at all, ever); instead, menus pop up that let the character shop, visit bars, fur shops, and even enter storyline battles (when applicable).

Overall, the graphics are very suitable for the game. Advancements in technology may have been better on the eye, but would have been superfluous with respect to the game's strong points. The plot, cutscenes, and battles all give the player a bird's-eye view into Ivalice's workings and are pulled off without a hitch.

[MUSIC]

While the majority of the themes come during skirmishes, the music does not disappoint. The tracks are suitable as both background music for violent conflicts and airy cutscene tracks. The tunes aren't the type to get annoying, but the chances of someone wanting to hear them outside of battle are very slim. That being said, there are diamonds in the rough which are always fun to listen to. Tracks like "Antidote" and "Decisive" are definately walkman-worthy.

So, are there any disappointing tracks? To me, no. Each tune fits the situation it's given. There are no pitiful attempts at reprisals or throwaway tracks that are used incorrectly in situations. Other Final fantasy games have better, more orchestrated selections, but don't count FFT's soundtrack out. The music within is very beautiful and atmospheric, and deserving of whatever praise it gets.

[PLOT ADVANCEMENT]

Final Fantasy Tactics is fairly unique in that the game is from the aspect of one person. Things that are learned elsewhere are not automatically registered as truth in the entire land and to everyone as some games would have it. Ramza Beoulve's opinion and knwoledge are what fuels the plot advancement.

The game is divided into four chapters, each chronicling a decisive and significant part of Ramza's actions in the game. While Ramza is advancing the story, the tales of what is happening simultaneously elsewhere is told in cutscenes. While Ramza does not know what is going on, the player does. This cultivates much interest and intrigue in the game's plot as well as continued game-playing.

Plot twists are very frequent and exciting, and never do they fail to deliver. Each one is non-contradictory to the characters' main interests, and each one curbs the game's outcome towards the final climax. The game is spiced with the right amounts of drama and seriousness. Everything is fitting, as well. There are no random hilarious moments that make no sense (bar sidequests); there are no characters that are thrown in there for comic relief.

When you play this game, you'll quickly find that the plot is not the same, cookie-cutter plot that other in-series games have given you. For one, besides wild speculation, the game is devoid of teen romance that has plagued contemporary games; until the end, the game has no clear-cut puppetmaster who wants to destroy everything. Even when the game tells you who is perpetrating evil actions, there is always the chance that there is someone else standing in the shadows who is doing something far more sinister.

[CHARACTERS]

All are varied and have personalities all their own. Although you may come to love and hate a few of 'em (like most games), they all play a part in the plot at some point. Some have ties to the character's past, some are in the inner workings of the plots, some are innocent bystanders, some are searching for the truth.

When you meet a new character or are introduced to a name through the news and rumors, that person is catalogued into the Brave Story, a handy guide that tells information about that person. It's updated as the plot and characters change, so checking it often cna add insight into motives and actions.

I'd be lying if I said there was a character I absolutely hated. Oftentimes, you have to play through the game another time (or more!) to fully grasp their train of thought, and that can radically change your opinion of them. The cast in this game is diversified and it's well worth it.

A qualm that some people have with the game's cast is that some are only worthwhile at certain points. For instance, Mustadio, should you choose to add him into your party, won't be very major in any upcoming situations. I s'pose that's because he becomes optional after his part in the story is complete, and that goes the same for other special characters.

[SIDEQUESTS]

Surprisingly, for all the game throws at you, this is probably the weakest point. Propositions are side deals that net you small gil amounts and useless treasures, and are only viable as outlets into the inner world of Ivalician cultuer. Finding secret characters is ver worthwhile, but isn't of very long duration (last chapter only).

Deep Dungeon is an abandoned lighthouse off the coast of Warjilis, and that is probably one of the more constructive sidequests to pursue. You can find rare weapons, equipment, and items hidden below traps (four per level). However, the area is completely dark and only can be lit up when someone crystallizes. At the bottom, you find one of Gariland's legends coveting something very valuable (but ultimately useless to you).

The game is plenty involving without sidequests, but it would have been nice to see more featured. For someone who's content with the game as it is, I can appreciate the effort because I like to see the minute details that the game offers. Yet, I can't help but wonder how much the game could have been elevated itself if the sidequests were more abundant and useful.

[OTHER PROS AND CONS]

+ Plot rolls along well
+ Enemy AI doesn't hand you victories
+ Animal allies offer fun variants to battle
+ Storyline battles are not bland
+ Plotline is driven by the realism of the characters

- Translation errors botch the speech scenes occasionally
- Sidequests are fulfilling only to a small degree
- The character Orlandu makes the game too easy (:P)

[THE VERDICT™]

The game is a hallmark for the strategy RPG genre. Not only does it feature a complex and enrapturing plot, but it does not deviate from its roots in seriousness. The characters echo those of the real world, the situations are on scale with those in reality. This game is both a portrait of history and what is to come.

It's my favorite game of all time for the reasons I've stated. The only qualms that I have that would have any real bearing on my decision are the translation issues. After reading what someone translated from the Japanese version of the game, my eyes were opened to whole new possibilites and thoughts. It's really a shame that a few scenes could make that much difference in the player's thoughts, but at the same time, it's nice to see the game's connectivity that strong.

So, on that note, I give my final standings for each category:

Story - 10/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 8/10 (I shouldn't even factor this in, really)
Music - 9/10
Plot Advancement - 10/10
Sidequests - 7/10

Total - 54/60 = 91% Satisfaction rate

The Verdict: Such an enthralling game that the faults are easily smoothed over.

Rating: 9/10

shotgunnova's avatar
Community review by shotgunnova (January 19, 2007)

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