"FFT's storyline is on-par with every other RPG in existence. "
I'd be surprised if there was a single RPG-gamer who hasn't heard of the Final Fantasy series. It's one of the longest-running videogame series' to date, and it's also one of the most loved. The amount of hype that has become infamous for every single one of Square's releases is surprisingly not nearly as present in FFT as in the other games. Sure, you're likely to have heard a fair deal about this game, but I didn't really know what it was until it actually game out. Other than Mystic Quest, FFT is the first FF title to be named after something other than a number. When I found out that the latest in Square's beloved series was a strategy-RPG, based on a completely new concept for Final Fantasy games, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was familiar with strategy-RPG's of the sort, but I'd never played one, and I never really planned to. If it weren't for the Final Fantasy name on the cover, I would probably have just passed-up FFT, and I'm sure glad that I didn't.
Those familiar with Vandal Hearts and Tactics Ogre will have a good idea of how FFT plays. The actual ''gameplay'' is made up entirely of battles. Sure, there are little story-sequences and cutscenes in-between, but you only actually control the battles, and the items you buy and equip. You never actually get to move a character around by using the d-pad--You'll only move around your characters during battle, using a turn-based, grid-oriented battle system. You control a party of warriors, who you basically choose yourself, through the game's ingenious job system. During battle, you and the enemy party take turns moving your characters in a ''3D'' arena. The reason I say ''3D'' is because it's only 3D in the sense that there are rises and declines in altitude, etc. Your characters can really only move on the surface.
Now, if none of this sounds like an RPG to you yet, let me explain. First of all, your characters all gain levels from battle. Once a character earns enough experience points, he/she will gain a level. You will also be able to buy and equip your own weapons and armor for your party members. You'll go from town to town, seeing what they have in stock. In this sense, the game is very much like an RPG. Of course, the world map is a simple picture with dot-to-dots leading to locations, a la Super Mario World. Another factor which contributes to the game's RPG-feel is the presence of magic, items and even summon spells (like FF7). All of the game's many different character classes feature their own skills and abilities. Whether it be a Samurai, a Black Mage, a White Mage, a Squire, a Knight, an Archer or any of the game's other classes, they all have their own pros, cons and specialties.
The job system truly is well-made and interesting. You can hire characters ''from-scratch'' at towns, in the form of squires. After they have gained levels to a certain point, you can pick their first character class. From here, you'll have many choices as to what to do with them, where to put their skill poionts, etc... It's all very simple, yet deep enough to keep you trying to get all the character classes. FFT borrows elements from the Final Fantasy series, Vandal Hearts, Tactics Ogre, and other strategy-RPG's. The end-result is a game which plays absolutely near-perfection.
While FFT is one of the best games I've ever played, it's also one of the most difficult. Anyone who hasn't played a game of this genre before will have a little trouble getting used to it. The game's battles are long and require some true strategic-thought. After a character dies, you have a mere three-turns to bring it back to life before it disappears for good. Lose one of the game's main characters and the battle is over. In most battles, you will be outnumbered, maybe even sometimes by two to one, or more. Of course, the challenge just adds to the experience. There were times when I just wanted to smash my playstation with a baseball bat, but when I finally completed this incredibly challenging game, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. This is the reward for having such a difficult game, and it's well-worth it.
Final Fantasy Tactics' graphics are simple yet effective. The battlefields are 3D, and the battlers are 2D. The sprites are well-detailed and nicely designed, as are the hand-drawn character portraits which appear during dialogue. The game contains both introductory and ending cutscenes which aren't bad, but aren't really anything fancy, either. There are no real flaws in the graphics, as they are crisp, colorful, stylish and interesting to look at. However, they aren't by any means flashy, either. The largest issue with FFT's graphics are the very primitive animations. Honestly, some of the stuff here can be compared to Game Boy and Super Nintendo animation, and that just isn't good. For example, in one scene, a character stabs another character, and this all happens in about four frames of animation. In-game spells and animations look rather simplistic, and, while effective, aren't all that appealing. Nonetheless, FFT handles the graphics well, for this style of game, and I have no major complaints.
From beginning to end, Final Fantasy Tactics takes about 35 hours to complete. However, this game time is very flexible, because the game is relatively non-linear, and many sidequests and optional tasks will open up for you, especially late in the game. It took me about 57 hours to complete NEARLY all of the game, and unlock MOST of the secrets. I'm guessing I could've spent at least 5 more hours on it, had I been so inclined. Square didn't short-change ius with the quality of the sidequests, either. You'll have a chance to embark on several fun journeys, one of which includes finding and recruiting Clound from FF7! (Aeris makes an appearance, too.) These little bonuses not only add to the game's length, but make it far more enjoyable. Expect to be playing FFT for quite some time, and enjoying every minute of it.
RPG's, particularly those made by Square, are infamous for their sweeping, epic soundtracks and musical scores. I am very glad to say that FFT doesn't by any means change this standard. From the battle busic to the symphonic overtures, everything here is classic Final Fantasy goodness; nothing less. However, I think it's safe to say that the sound effects could have used some work. The really generic, midi-quality scream you hear when a character dies is just pathetic, as are the usual ''thumping'' sounds of battle. It's not a major issue, but I would've liked Square to put more effort into the sound effects of the game, because they do matter, in some ways.
FFT's storyline is on-par with every other RPG in existence. The many plot twists and turns shape a complicated political conspiracy. The stellar storytelling is backed by deep, believable characters who you'll actually care about. Like a good book, FFT has good dialogue and script most of the time. Throughout the duration of the game, you'll be constantly fooled by fake-villains and allies, and even inter-family conflicts. Without ruining anything for you, I'll just say, the characters who appear to be your allies in the beginning probably won't be by the end. Any fan of a good, medieval rollercoaster of a storyline will be sure to love FFT. Oh, and did I mention it's quite sinister?
Square's first stray from its usual RPG formula surpassed my expectations in every way possible. The complex job system, the simple-yet-effective graphics, the well-spun, universally-themed storyline... It all just added up to create one of the most satisfying games I've ever played. The steep difficulty and unusual game style are a couple of reasons why gamers may be warded off by this colossal title, but it's my guess that most people will have no problem with loving this game.
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)
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