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A.P.I Review: Final Fantasy Tactics
Developer: Squaresoft OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
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 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 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'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 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
and learn.  Word to the 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'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 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 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'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.
GRAPHICS: 17/20 Final 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 offer.

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...
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 18/20


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