Final Fantasy Tactics

When Final Fantasy Tactics first saw release in 1997, it broke ground for strategy role-playing games as it took players on a medieval epic through the kingdom of Ivalice.

When Final Fantasy Tactics first saw release in 1997, it broke ground for strategy role-playing games as it took players on a medieval epic through the kingdom of Ivalice. The kingdom is entrenched in a bloody civil war between the royal family of the land and a corrupt church attempting to racketeer power through the use of an ancient force.

Final Fantasy Tactics’ plot was a labyrinthine web of political intrigue, rife with double and triple-crossings, and fratricide (blood relations or otherwise). The game quickly earned an enormous fan base and to this day remains a crown jewel amid the strategy RPG genre.

Now, a decade, two consoles and dozens of Final Fantasy games later, Square Enix has seen fit to give Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) a high-resolution facelift by porting the masterpiece onto the PlayStation Portable.

The re-release, dubbed FFT: The War of the Lions, is essentially the same game, though it offers players new to FFT a more in-depth view of the game’s plot than did its predecessor, and gives veteran players new features to enjoy while revisiting a familiar story. Graphical enhancements abound and new story content alongside a reworked script translation make the update a worthwhile purchase.

To fairly review the updated version in contrast with its original, two of The Vanguard’s most esteemed gamers sat down to review them by playing in tandem. Handheld version in one player’s hand and a Dual Shock in the other’s, the games were compared for content, presentation and overall experience.

Meet the Players:

The Staunch (Robert Seitzinger): Decidedly more prone to console gaming, The Staunch is reticent to enjoy the updated version and its next-generation appeal.

The Progressive (Steve Haske): He is by no means a newcomer to FFT, though between the reviewers, he is far more enthused about the remake and has already devoted entire evenings to its portable glory.


The Staunch says:

The remake’s graphics are prettier, the newly included cut scenes are mind-blowing and the sound is cleaner than before. It does get irritating to play the update on PSP, however, as the handheld’s layout forces you to watch the game take place between your hands. The feel of a controller in your hand directing characters on a TV screen is far more conducive to strategy gaming. Some graphical lag occurs during spell casting and is downright agitating. Magic-favoring users will not appreciate the slow progression of battle if they’ve already experienced the butter-smooth animations of the console edition.

The Progressive says:

For FFT veterans, The War of the Lions remake has everything you loved about the original, and then some. Both aurally and graphically the remake is a hell of a lot cleaner, and it features a new widescreen presentation. The addition of several artistically expressive, gorgeous cut-scenes is reason enough to revisit Ivalice, even for those well traveled through its monasteries and royal courts. Tragically, occasional slowdown during some of game’s new “magicks” hamper the speed of battles and the PSP is, as always, a little hard on the hands. But all in all, minor cramping is a small price to pay for such sterling game play.


The Staunch says:

In terms of base storyline, the game didn’t change a great deal, but the reworked script, now told in an almost-Elizabethan tone, drove me up a goddamn wall. The War of the Lions’ prose and turns of phrase are an Olde English lover’s wet dream come true, but if flowery polemic in an arcane tone bother and distract you as a gamer, you’ll come to hate the dialogue. The remake’s increased depth is nice but not worth the cost of smooth reading and character plausibility–even the youthful peasants of this game spit discourse at the level of a college graduate.

Similarly, the job classes that determine a character’s talents in battle have all been renamed to reflect the Olde English vibe of the update, and the majority of these changes are distracting for gamers with a soft spot for the original, given that little has changed regarding the execution of job class skills.

The Progressive says:

The War of the Lions chronicles roughly the same Zodiac Brave Story as the first FFT, but does so with a level of panache and dramatic flair not present in the original. Two additional job classes and expanded story scenes are icing on the cake, but the real treat here is the game’s fantastic new translation, now scripted in a wonderfully affected Olde English style. The original’s story was often marred by piss-poor, anachronistic dialogue, leaving the plot’s numerous complications, as well as many of the characters’ motives, relatively unclear. The new translation not only fixes these confusions, but breathes new life into everyone from the lowest brigand to the most powerful of dukes and cardinals–you’ll naught wish things were else wise hereafter.

The Bottom Line

The Staunch says:

The challenge of the first FFT was steep in appropriate places and light in others, which struck a superb balance between the action of a turn-based battle and tactical preparation during down time. Though the semantics of combat in the original were revolutionary for their day, they weren’t without flaws. It would have been nice to see more updating effort spent on the battle mechanics, instead of rewording the script, job classes and skills.

The console version is where my heart lies. The update is appreciated, but my hopes were set higher.

The Progressive says:

The difficulty of game play in both the original and remake is about the same, while the extra flourishes given in The War of the Lions create the most telling, complete version of both game and story. The inexplicable slowdown is unfortunate, but hardly catastrophic to the game’s overall playability.

Ultimately however, the myriad changes develop The War of the Lions into a much richer, fuller experience. The original still has merit for nostalgia’s sake, but the high-quality production values, slick visuals and new additions to the PSP version make it a must-buy for new and old FFT fans alike.