|Coming Soon > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||Final Fantasy Tactics|
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|Distributor:||Sony (SCEA)||1 Player|
|Game Type:||RPG||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||July 1998||Standard Joypad|
Setting the Scene
Hot on the heels of Squaresoft's magnum opus RPG title, Final Fantasy VII, comes Final Fantasy Tactics. This time we are given an RPG / strategy style game to delve into that has more in common with Vandal Hearts than its namesake. While this game has very little to do with the Final Fantasy VII game there are a few memorable characters from that game that can be discovered if one is patient and thorough enough. As the story goes, it seems that many years ago a war erupted within the quiet land of Ivalice. This war lasted for 50 years, until finally both sides laid down their arms and decided to get on with their lives. Unfortunately the war ended up destroying the economy and exhausting the resources...as time progressed the situation continued to deteriorate. The lords of the six ruling families united in an effort to balance back to the land, but one-year after the 50-year war, Ivalice's Princess Ovelia was abducted. A war ensued between two rival factions; one family known as the "White Lions" and the other the "Black Lions". Thus begun the historic "Lion War". According to historical records a young hero named Delita because famous for the suppression of the Lion War. There was also another young man involved...one that none of the history books reveal. His name is Ramza, and it's up to you to set the history books straight and allow the true story to be told...
Final Fantasy Tactics is a strategy - role playing adventure game. You get to lead a squad of would be hero's on a magical journey to rescue a kidnapped princess and restore peace and order to the land of Ivalice.
The graphics in FFT are of the sprite-based variety and blended liberally with that wonderful Square magic. The characters and environments are extremely colorful and complex, complementing the storyline marvelously. The characters in the game are of the squat deformed variety, meanly that they are not very well represented or convincing as "real" people, but instead possess that "cuteness" factor. Regardless, you should have no problem making out one from another, except of course if you have several characters with the same job type on your unit. They tend to look exactly alike and you will need to remember those characters individual names to know one from the other. This can get a bit annoying at first but once you get used to it, everything clicks into place. The animation is decent, a bit above what you might expect from a game of this type. The background environments in the game are superb and creative. It seems that each location was crafted with the intent to accurately present this complex world. Each area is very different from the next, yet they all flow seamlessly into the other. All of the screens can be rotated a full 360 degrees in either direction and can also be zoomed in or out and tilted. This is a good thing, because otherwise many of your characters would end up hidden behind an obstacle of some sort. The effects of the spells are pretty well done in the game as well. As you progress in the game and learn some of the more potent spells, the effects can become downright impressive. You also have some pretty nice lighting effects for stuff like attacks and special items. I should also mention the CG opening...it's gorgeous and done up in typical Square fashion. Overall, the graphics are a cut above for this style game. Yep I've seen better to be sure, but these are pleasing to the eye and set the stage just fine in my book.
Sounds and Effects
What Square RPG style game would be complete without a grandiose musical score and hard hitting realistic sound effects. Final Fantasy Tactics is certainly not the exception. With a sweeping, ethereal musical score that is capable of evoking all sorts of emotions from the player, the soundtrack in this game really hits home and fits in perfectly with the environments. Each location has it's own unique score that commands attention when appropriate, yet can be smooth as silk depending upon where you are in the story. The music features searing highs, and if you are lucky enough to have your Playstation wired to a sub woofer, rock bottom lows that will rattle your windows to be sure. The sound effects are creative and abundant. Excellent sword clashes abound as well as all other types of weapons that are featured in this game. Jumping into a murky swamp will elicit a slimy splashing sound, using magical spells such as lightning brought found not only the electrical sound, but the crispy bang at the end of it's execution....you should get the picture, the sound effects are superb.
The gameplay elements in Final Fantasy Tactic are quite elaborate, both from a strategic point of view and a difficulty perspective. This is really not a game for beginners of this genre. After going through the entire configuration menus, selecting and naming your initial party, you are dropped right into your first skirmish. The computer plays out most of the battle in this initial fight. This gives you an opportunity to watch how a battle takes place and to learn a few tricks before entering into an actual melee. During this battle the stories plot begins and you get your first real glimpse into the lives of the characters you will be playing and fighting for throughout the game. As you move through the game the story progresses and you become more and more involved with the outcome of this sad little world. Strategically the game is played out on an imaginary grid. You can move your troops independently a certain number of squares or blocks each turn. The range of movement for each character is determined by a vast number of factors. For instance, a weapon / armor heavy knight may only be able to move two or three spaces at a time while a wizard or priest may be able to move five or more. The terrain also plays a huge part in the numbers of moves one can make. In addition to moving and placing your party strategically during a round, characters also have their own attack range depending on their weapons or abilities. An archer will have a large attack range spanning many blocks while a knight will only have an attack range of one block in any direction. Of course the amount of damage a close range attack can do is often more than a longer range attack...unless of course you have a few potent magical cast attacks at the ready. Sound interesting? Well, it is...very much so in fact, but also maddeningly hard. I was five or six hours into the game before I realized that there was a sub, sub menu for changing character attributes and adding new abilities. Of course all of this was mainly my fault...I should have broken out the instruction manual hours ago and actually taken the time to read it before delving into this game...live and learn. Word to the wise...read the book. The status screen is your entry point into the characters. The amount of options and information you have here is almost staggering. You can view and track you parties hit, magic and experience points as well as the units name, brave and faith points. You can also view your unit's zodiac sign. The unit's sign plays a large part in how effective they are against another unit and their zodiac sign. Of course you just have to play and log the outcome of various battles before you start to see a pattern and realize which opponent your sign is most effective against. Oh, there's more...there is also your unit's ability to move and jump as well as the individual weapon power and attack capabilities. You can also choose which hand to place a particular weapon in, the type of armor for your feet, body and head and various accessories that you can wear. The status menu actually consists of several sub menu's (doh!) that are laid out quite logically once you get through them and become comfortable with all of the options that you are presented with. One of the most unique aspects of this game is the fact that you can teach your characters new jobs. As you progress through the game and encounter more and more foes, you gain job points. These points can then be applied to any number of "jobs" that can then be fitted to a character. Your starting job in the game is a Squire. A job is actually a type of character attribute...and there are many to choose from. A few that I will mention here are Summoner, Wizard, Mediator, Monk, Priest and Knight. Each job has several characteristics that go along with it. For instance, a Wizard could have a Command of Black Magic, a Typical Ability of Bolt (lightning spell) and a Rod for a Weapon. These are just examples, you can actually outfit each characters with a number of abilities...your call! Okay, now that your all set, you have the ultimate team all decked out...it's time to do battle. As you progress through FFT you are presented with a World Map. It's from here that you select where you want your party to travel to next, often following a clue from one of the townsfolk. As you move from place to place you will randomly encounter battles. Some battles are key to moving the storyline along while others are just an excuse to gain additional character points. Before each battle you are dropped into a formation screen. It's here that you will determine where you want you characters to start out in the battle. A typical formation may be to place the Knights up front (short range attack capabilities), a priest somewhere off to the side (to heal your other characters) and archers and wizards in the rear (long range attack capabilities). Success will depend on how your unit is outfitted, the experience of the unit, it's zodiac sign and your overall capability to guide them around the playing field. Actually I am making that sound too simple. There are actually hundreds or other "little" things that will play a factor in the outcome as well. Terrain can play a pretty big strategic part in how you attack. For instance, you can move a character to a ledge or hill that is directly over an opponent. Striking from this vantagepoint will often cripple your foe more quickly than attacking on level ground. Also, attacking from behind or on the side of the enemy also inflicts more damage than attacking from the front. All of this is guided by a system Square calls the Active Turn Menu. Basically this system lets you known when and whose turn it is to go. From this menu you can move, act (attack), wait, get a status and select the mode of battle (manual, Fight for Life, Protect Allies, Save Fading Life and Run Like a Rabbit!). To enable all of this to occur, there is a little something called the Charge Time. During battles each Unit's ability to perform actions is determined by this Charge Time. Some charge quicker than others do so it's to your advantage to pay close attention to this variable. At the start of each battle you are given the condition for victory. Once the condition has been met you can progress to the next area in the game. Most of the time the condition for victory is to just slaughter your opponents...which is just fine with me, but sometimes you must rescue someone before that character is killed by the enemies. Another word of advice...save often! There is actually a lot more to the actual battles, I really just skimmed over the highlights. The amount of options and strategic elements that are placed at your fingertips give you an enormous amount of control over the outcome of each battle and really allow you to personalize each and every encounter. Oh, there is also a sizable amount of creatures that you will encounter, each with their own skills...one of which is the not so loveable Chocobo...boy what a pain in the ass they are until you learn how to master them. To round out the game, there will also be towns that you will visit where you will gain information, be able to purchase items, armor and weapons or recruit a new soldier. The amount of items, weaponry and armor that you can obtain is, as you might suspect, also quite numerous. As I stated earlier in the review, this is not a game that I would recommend to beginners. The sheer number of options alone could make FFT quite intimidating to a novice. Ah, but give this little gem the time it requires to perfect it and you will be rewarded with a moving and complex storyline and gameplay that is second to none in the strategy / RPG genre. Overall I would say that if you think you might be interested in this type of game you may want to try out Vandal Hearts first...it's a much easier introduction into this style of gameplay. With that caution said, I can't recommend Final Fantasy Tactics highly enough for those of you that thrive on a good strategic war style game. This one really delivers the goods.
Value for Money
After you get over this titles considerable learning curve, you can really begin to settle in and appreciate the game for what it is...a wonderfully crafted story! It's like reading a good book, you just can't put it down. I guarantee that once you get hooked, a damn good portion of your time will be spent playing this game. It's good for at least 30+ hours of gameplay and depending on how many of the secrets you choose to try and find, probably a good deal longer than that. Yeah, it's worth every penny.
Fantasy Tactics is a completely engrossing strategy / RPG style game.
After getting over the rather huge learning curve that this title has,
you can really settle in and begin to enjoy all that this game has to
The graphics are very good for a game of this type and the sound effects and music are top notch, but the real catch is the story and immersive gameplay elements. Once you start playing the game really hooks you and starts reeling you into the war torn world of Ivalice. You feel that overwhelming need to continue further into the game to progress the storyline.
I certainly would not recommend this game to someone just starting out in the strategy / RPG world, but for intermediate and advanced players of this genre you can't go wrong here. Just make sure you have plenty of time on your hands...