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Retro Review: Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1)

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Final Fantasy Tactics has been out for a while now, but I finally decided to toss out some of my own thoughts on the game. I must admit, while this game is easily in my top three favorites of all time, it really is not for everyone. The turn-based combat is slow compared to most of the games that are out today. Anyone looking for a fast-paced, high-action experience would do best to search elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a game that requires building a strategy, planning attacks, and creating your own team from a mixture of classes, you really cannot go wrong with Final Fantasy Tactics.

One of the things that stood out to me more than anything when I first began to play this game was the graphics. The characters are not the normal blocky polygonal messes that most games were producing around the time, but very well animated sprites. The characters all have a very interesting, almost cartoony look, but at the same time don’t make you feel like you are playing a little kid’s game.

For me, it was a welcomed difference from games that try to create incredibly realistic or menacing characters and fail miserably. The battlefields are created with polygons, but still look sharp and incredibly detailed. This allows for the camera to be rotated and zoomed (though limitedly), in order to allow you a better view of the battlefield. Even the menus and fonts are all appealing. Graphically the game has few if any flaws and is still one of the best looking games because it is simple and colorful, but does not feel at all cheap.

The sounds used in Final Fantasy Tactics are all pretty basic, but still wonderful. The music compliments the battles and cut-scenes perfectly and never feels out of place. The attacks and spells are nothing unexpected or amazing, but that fit very well into the game. The voices of characters and monsters are limited to death cries. While there are only three of these cries (male, female, and monster) they never feel repetitive or old.

The controls for the game are very simple, but they may take a while to master because the game is a little complex at first. I highly recommend taking advantage of the tutorial portion of the game that is offered. It really does not take that long to go through and it will save you unneeded hassle later on.

Now, as for the depth of the game play, it is where this game shines for me. I do not like going into details on the story during a review, I think that ruins the experience, but I will say that it is very interesting and complete with twists and turns. One possible downside is that if you play like I did, you may run around and enter battles for so long that you forget where exactly you are in the story. You can reference a history of sorts at any time when you are in the main world map, so that can help get you back on track.

The game itself provides you with numerous classes (or jobs as the game refers to them) to level up and apply to your character. These jobs include soldiers, knights, black mages, white mages, time mages, thieves, summoners, and many more. There are easily over 500 abilities to gain between all of the jobs and countless ways to build your party. Probably my favorite aspect is that every character gets a main job and then the option to add the abilities of a second job to use in battle. This means that you could have a knight who also casts black magic or a summoner who can also steal.

Most battles allow you to include five party members, so your overall team can be anything from a traditional party of knights and mages to an all samurai group. I was sad when I learned that the recent spin-offs of this game limited certain classes to certain species of characters and made it impossible to mix jobs like lancers and thieves. However, in Final Fantasy Tactics there are no limits to your party creation. Also, these spin-offs include “laws” which do things like state that you cannot use magic in a certain battle. This made me angry, because it makes some of your party useless. Luckily, this game had it right from the start. There are no “laws” to follow. You can set up whatever strategy you would like to in order to win battle. I can begin to describe the number of different parties I have created and tried out.

The battles are mostly just “defeat all enemies” with a few protection quests mixed in. Combat involves moving your character and selecting to attack, use an item, or cast a spell. You can also wait which means you make no move or action, but your character then comes up quicker in the turn mix. This is helpful if you want an enemy to move up so you can attack them, but do not want to move yourself. You can lure enemies into traps with a clever use of the wait feature. The characters use the traditional HP and MP bars and every action yields experience to level up your character and job points to level up your job and purchase new abilities. Defeated characters and enemies have three turns to be revived or for the battle to be won or they die. The lame thing about this is that if one of your characters dies (not the main one, because then it is game over) they are gone for good. I ended up resetting when this happened, which can be annoying if it happens too much. It sounds pretty involved, but after a few battles it all makes sense.

Another major plus is that you can walk around the map and engage in random battles with enemies who level up with you. This means that if you get stuck at a part in the story that you are not high enough of a level to handle, you can train up as much as you like without worrying that you will have to grind on enemies with low experience rewards for hours just to move on. The balance to this is that you have to move on in the story to get access to better weapons and weapons for new jobs that you have unlocked (you unlock jobs by leveling up other jobs or a combination of other jobs). The main story encounters, which are red dots on the world map, are set in terms of enemy levels, so if you train too much the fight will be incredibly easy.

Overall, the game is amazing if you do not mind the slower turn-based style. I have spent hours just entering random fights, leveling up my party, getting new jobs, and earning enough job-points to purchase a new skill. A minor complaint is that your overall party size is capped at sixteen, so if you want to keep all of the special characters they offer you, you will have to give up a few of your regular characters. The cool thing about regular characters is that their appearance changes with their main job, while special characters always look the same. That can get boring, so I always have regular characters so their looks fit their jobs and also because you can name regular characters anything you want. I think this game is one of the best ever made. If you love RPGs, I would say buy it. If you are a bit hesitant then rent it. I will say they that most of my friends who hated it their first time playing it, picked it back up later and fell in love. I say no matter what, it is worth trying out.

Final Fantasy Tactics is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Violence, Mild Language. This game can also be found on: GBA, DS, PSP,


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