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  • Final Fantasy Tactics Retrospective

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    Sandwiched between the release of FFVII and FFVIII was one of the most addicting and wonderful spin-offs of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy Tactics is a hidden gem, taking on a look unlike any other series entry.  A 3D chess-inspired game, series fans were introduced to this strategic masterpiece. Since its conception, there has been a spin-off (and a sequel to that) and an enhanced port of the original for a whole new generation of gamers. Combined with an intriguing new battle design, a dark story, and classic RPG elements, this cult classic is definitely worth the time.


    Final Fantasy Tactics

    Plot:  Getting to know Ivalice

    Ivalice is in a state of unrest after the end of the

    . The world is struggling economically and the politics are in shambles. The recent death of the reigning king causes more unrest, as the only heir to succeed him is an infant.  From here, the kingdom splits into two different factions: Prince Goltana’s Black Lion, and Prince Larg’s White Lion. Both lay claim to presumed ‘heirs’ of the throne and are fighting to control the entire kingdom. This is the beginning of the Lion War. While this is the backdrop, the game is told by the historian Alazlam J. Durai as he recounts the story of an unknown fellow by the name of Ramza and how he shaped the kingdom.


    The story follows Ramza and his childhood friend, Delita. While they grow up together, time, certain events, and social class pry the two apart; they adopt two very different ideologies. While Delita, born a commoner, seeks to use and manipulate the upper class, Ramza – born into a prominent family – claims that justice and honor are the proper way of life, regardless of social class. The story follows Ramza as he is swept up in the events of the war, but amidst the espionage, assassinations, and social upheaval, our hero discovers a third player in the game after the discovery of a mysterious holy relic. There is a far more heinous plot afoot and as the senseless war rages on, it is unclear if Ivalice will survive.


    Cut Scene, War of the Lions

    Choosing a Side

    The basic plot of Final Fantasy Tactics is definitely on the darker side. Taking advantage of creative freedom, Square really took this story line to a deeper level.  While it is an intriguing story of political unrest, class struggle, and the darker side of human nature, it tends to get a little muddy. Also, at a certain point, particular important characters are almost completely dropped after they are permanently recruited (with one exception). Also, the translation is quite terrible – something that was fixed in the PSP update version.  On a whole, the characters are well thought out, but some are abandoned too quickly – but the plot is decent enough.


    An interesting side note about Ivalice is the fact that this will not be the last time this world is used by Square; in fact, Ivalice has been used for Final Fantasy XI, XII, and for Vagrant Story, another Square game.


    Ramza, Final Fantasy Tactics

    Game Play: Setting Up the Board

    Unlike other Final Fantasy games, players can’t explore the world map freely. Instead, there are specific map points that players navigate across. While some of these points are towns, others are wild landscapes where the party can encounter random battles. The map grows as the game progresses and players can revisit areas in order to build levels or discover treasure.


    While navigating the map screen, players can browse their inventory, arrange their party, check out statistics and read story or character lore.  At each town/city, there is an option to check out the bar to hear rumors, shop for equipment, or head to the soldier office. Specific towns also contain “Fur Shops” later in the game where players can collect items from ‘poached’ monsters. What players find or buy changes per town/city. Players can also visit the Solider Office to pick up new recruits.


    Final Fantasy Tactics, Propositions

    Parties: Job Classes and Recruitment

    Players control Ramza to start and several other party members. From the main menu, players can choose the job class for each character which allows for ultimate party customization. While players have access to basic classes, like Chemist and Squire, as party members level up, more classes become available. Some classes have particular requirements before they are unlocked. For instance, in order to unlock the Thief Job Class, a character must be at least a level 3 Archer.  There are 20 available classes for basic party members. The objective is to learn many different skills by switching classes, master each class, and use the skills to create the ultimate character. Of course, this is done by fighting battles for experience, job points, and gold.


    When customizing your party, it's important to take a good look at the stats.  A character’s Faith and Brave scores can have an effect on his or her spell power or physical attack. Also, his or her Zodiac Sign is an additional factor. There are many factors behind creating an unbeatable party, but that is part of the fun.


    In addition to Ramza and his party, players will encounter unique “guests” that will accompany the group for plot purposes.  These characters are computer controlled in battle and will not join the party outside scripted battles. Guests often have a unique sprite and job class, and some can be recruited later in the game. Once they are recruited, they can be controlled like the other members in your party.




    Equipping: Jobs, Skills, and Items


    When setting up a character, it’s important to start with the Job Class first; the class determines a character’s main ability and equipment. For example, Black Mages have the innate ability to cast Black magic spells (if they’ve been learned), but they can only equip mage equipment like staffs and robes. In addition to equipping a character with a class, players can also set up their characters with a secondary ability, a reaction, a support skill, and a movement skill.  Again, in order to equip these skills, a character must master them.


    Once the character skills are set, players can choose to optimize equipment, or add it manually. Each party member can equip a helmet, weapon, armor, boot and accessory. Some characters have the ability to equip a shield or use two-handed weapons. Equipment is dependent on character class, though some learned abilities can allow characters to equip items outside their class. For instance, a certain skill can allow magic users to equip a sword.  Equipping items can affect your party’s stats. While equipping armor can increase health, it may decrease magic. Equipment can also contain particular properties and stat boosts. It’s important to be careful with equipment; optimization may not be the ideal set-up.


    Job Classes


     Time to Battle


    When it comes time to actually

    , there are several possible objectives. The most common objective for plot battles/random battles is the defeat all possible enemies. Other objectives include activating switches, killing a specific enemy, or protecting an ally. Regardless of the objectives, once the goal is reached, the battle ends.


    At the onset of battle, players are allowed to choose the members they wish to take into battle and where to put them in the start. It is important to be tactical with character placement because certain formations may lead to total party elimination. Players can then choose to place 1-5 characters on the map, depending battle limitations. After the party is set, it is finally time to battle.Players take turns in a turn-based system, moving across a 3D map to meet their foes. Each character has a counter indicating his or her turn in battle. Once the counter reaches 100, that unit can move a certain number of spaces and perform an action.


    Character set-up comes into play during battles. The set-up a player chooses directly affects how each character will participate. While players control each character, the strengths and weaknesses of the party will be a factor in winning. In other words, the party set-up and level will determine how difficult a battle can be.  While enemies in plot battles have a fixed level, random encounters match Ramza’s level. Players can view the stats of their enemies and predict actions, but if a party member falls, that could lead to trouble. If players do not revive a character after three consecutive turns, that unit is permanently lost.  If that party member is Ramza, then it is game over.




    Something Extra – Side Quests and Hidden Gems


    Like most Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy Tactics has hidden side quests. Players can find unique characters, especially one of a certain ‘spikey haired’ variety, and there are many fun references back to previous series entries and folklore.  Players can tackle hidden dungeons for rare items; poach animals for specialty equipment, and attempt propositions for extra gold, experience, lost artifacts or hidden areas.


    Final Fantasy Tactics


    Getting a Handle on the Game


    There is a lot to grasp in Final Fantasy Tactics. There are many algorithms, set-ups, and trial and error aspects that can make anyone’s head spin. But once you get a handle on everything, it’s so much fun. There are so many ways to set up a party, different ways to approach each battle, and every play-through can be different.  If it is troublesome, the game has a tutorial, so no worries there. What’s great about this game is that it doesn’t hold your hand for very long; it throws players right into the action.


    Also, the lore is so in-depth and it is done in the proper way. There are many indexes players can read in order to get the full grasp of the story, but there is no real need to read it. The story, though muddy at points, explains itself fairly well. The index holds extra tidbits, fun to know, but not need to know. Top this game off with a catchy soundtrack and challenging battles, and it is one of the best in the franchise.


    While it doesn’t follow the basic formula, it is a spin-off. If you are a fan of Final Fantasy and would like a more tactical game, this is the one to pick up.  The enhanced version, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, fixes the translation issues, contains animated cut scenes, and few extra goodies to make it worthwhile. If you haven’t given it a shot, this game is a must for any collection.


    Tactics Art Works

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