Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions Review
The Final Fantasy Series has been a legendary series when it comes to traditional RPGs since its original version was released in the late 80s(early 90s for the US). In 1998 Square Enix brought the Final Fantasy series to the strategy world in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics for the playstation with high praise. Now 10 years later the game has been remade for the playstation portable in the form of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions.
The story of FFT is very complex, it deals with class struggle, civil war, heroism, and power. It’s a truly fascinating story that will make you want to complete it to see the end result. To be more specific the game takes place in the kingdom of Ivalice, a country who has just ended its war with its neighboring kingdom Ordalia, which was dubbed the “Fifty Years’ War”(because it lasted fifty years). In Final Fantasy Tactics the game revolves around a new war, named “The War of the Lions” (which is why this psp remake uses it as a subtitle), a conflict started due to the death of King Ondorria. The heir to the throne, Prince Orinus, is only an infant, so now the two who are the most qualified to run the country are fighting to see who gets the power. Loyalists of the crown chose Duke Larg of Gallionne as their candidate, while nobles prefer their candidate Duke Goltanna of Zeltennia. Both served as Generals in the Fifty Years’ War under the banner of White Lion and Black Lion respectively (Thus the name the war of the lions). Each of these Dukes command an army of knights, larg commanding the “Order of the Northern Sky”, with Goltanna commanding the “Order of the Southern Sky”.
The main character in the game is Ramza Beoulve (Although like many RPGs in the 90s, you can change the name to whatever you like). He is part of a legendary house of Knights, is the youngest of 4 brothers and also has a sister. Ramza and his sister Alma, were born from a different mother than the 3 elder brothers, (who are all well accomplished high ranking knights). There are many, and I mean many other story characters but to go into each one would make this review way too long, and ruin some plot twists in the game. One thing you learn right away though is that this story is told by a historian, many many years after the events of the game take place, which tells you absolutely nothing about what will happen.
The gameplay of Final fantasy tactics is that of a strategy Rpg. In this game your turn is based on speed, not a player turn and enemy turn as other games do. The character you can use may move, attack, use items and skills. However one annoyance with the system is that once you move, you cannot undo the move, so if you misjudged the distance for a technique and you needed to be closer, tough luck (but you can attack and then move if you wish). There are many aspects of the gameplay that are dependent on the Job system(I’ll talk about that later, its very deep). Like many games of this genre, damage can be increased or decreased depending on which side of the opening your attacking. For example attacking the back will deal the most damage and has a higher chance of hitting, vice versa attacking the front does the opposite.
One very important aspect of this game, is death. Unlike games like Disgaea where you can revive after battle, or Jeanne D’arc where allies are automatically revived, the death system in final fantasy tactics is very strict. Upon death of an ally character a countdown of turns is listed above their head, if they are not revived(via spell or item) they will literally “die” and you will loose the character forever. the only exception to this are guest characters who will not get a timer upon death. Another aspect is the skill system, a character must use its job skill system, with a sub job (can’t think of a better word), as reaction command, a support command, with armor, weapons and accessories. There is also a multiplayer aspect of the game that works via Ad Roc (meaning the person has to be there near you) I should warn the learning curve can be steep, I suggest reading the tutorial, especially if you are new to this genre of games.
The job system, a system so deep, so complex, it needed its own section. In this game once meeting requirements, a character can switch jobs at any time. As mentioned in the gameplay section Skill sets may be equipped. For example a Knight has to have his knight skills, but can also use the skills of any other job the character has. Now, upon attacking, healing and killing allies and enemies, you will gain experience and SP. Experience goes toward your level(obviously) while sp goes toward your job. Sp will allow your class to level up(which is needed to obtain other jobs) as well as “buy” new skills. When first gaining a job, you are given no techniques but a few SP points to spend to unlock them. As you use the class you gain more sp and can get more techniques. There are a total of 8 levels for each Job, and other than getting new jobs, the levels mean nothing.
Now here comes the complex part, by unlocking a support or reaction command for a job, it can be used with any other job. If I unlock wear heavy armor from a knight, and then become a monk, the previously weak armored monk now has the strong armor of a knight. The single weaponed knight can use the ninja’s dual wield ability to use 2 weapons. The combinations are endless and it is hard to find a useless combination. Many many times you will deal with sucky classes to unlock a certain class to use one of its ability to use with a different class. Me for example went to ninja(which are awesome btw) to get dual Wielding. The ninja is powerful but has weak armor, so while using the ninja i can use the knight’s Equip heavy armor skill to give it a boost. Once unlocking the dark knight( an exclusive job for the psp version along with the onion knight) i had a job that could use the best weapons in the game, the best armor, AND use 2 of those weapons at the same time. You can easily get sidetracked from the game’s story to grind Sp/experience so you can get a nice job combination to use for the game. Like i said, this system is complex and deep, BUT its only as deep and complex as you want it to be, its not necessary to do what i did with the job system, but it certainly helps.
The 2D graphics of the game work well, keeping the feeling of the original, just sharper and clearer. Where the game really shines is the new CG cutscenes that demonstrates the original art that gets lost in the sprites used in the game. The Music and sound effects in the game are top notch. The voice overs, while rare, are truly well done.
Final Fantasy Tactics: the War of the Lions is one of the greatest strategy games of all time. Its fun, addictive and extremely well done, very few games compare to the polish of this masterpiece.