Final Fantasy Tactics

A PlayStation review

Final Fantasy Tactics

It was 1995. Sony brought to us a whole new age of gaming via the PlayStation. Fortunately, it didn’t abandon itself to third-person, action adventures the way contemporary gaming has abandoned itself to first-person, action adventures; as if all video games today have to be Skyrim or Fallout.

Among other masterpieces, Final Fantasy Tactics was released to the PlayStation in 1998. This was the first strategy game a lot of people played, and it had a lot to offer. I think it sparked interest in the genre and helped to popularize it.

As a side note, I have to mention something I’ve mentioned before in game reviews, I don’t consider Ogre Battle a strategy game. I know a lot of people will debate that, and that’s fine. I may do an Ogre Battle review one day, but I don’t like playing that game, so we’ll see…

Anyway, Final Fantasy Tactics has an almost endless supply of features to offer, and I’ll try to delve into all of them, for better or worse.

Since FFT was the first strategy game most people played, a lot of gamers praised its unique design without knowing that it was actually an imitation of Tactics Ogre, a strategy game released by Atlus and a sequel to Ogre Battle. FFT was also praised for its class change system, which I’ll describe later, but that’s a system that was introduced in Final Fantasy 5 on the NES, or I should say the Famicom; FF5 wasn’t released to America until after FFT was released on Playstation. None of this, however, detracts from the masterpiece.

I play through FFT once every few years. I usually put in about a hundred hours every time I play it; there’s a lot of stuff to do, many challenges to accomplish, numerous items to acquire, and different ways to play by customizing the characters’ skill sets and equipment. The possibilities are very nearly endless.

The strategy aspect

No two battles are ever the same for a variety of reasons; the characters you bring to battle, their skills and equipment, the terrain, the enemies you’re fighting, the goal of the battle, and the list goes on. For instance, characters receive more damage from physical attacks if attacked from the rear. Obviously, it’s good to have your back to a wall, but what if there is no wall? You can have your back to a corpse because characters can’t stand on corpses, unless, of course, the attack coming from the rear is a long range attack.

The characters’ astrological sign also plays a role in the damage given or returned. It plays a role in the chance of landing a hit or avoiding one as well. You’ll never know which signs the enemies will bear, though, with some exceptions. If you’ve played the game before ,then you might have memorized the signs of the bosses.

Speaking of long range attacks; bows, crossbows, and guns can’t hit a target that’s less than two spaces away from the attacker, unless the attacker aims behind the target. Then, since the target is between the attacker and the aimed spot, the target receives a hit. There’s just a lot that can be done in a battle, which makes fighting really fun and interesting. The only other games wherein this can be accomplished are Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, and Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, but those games have fewer variables.

Some interesting things that can be done in an FFT battle are creating female ninjas with dance as a secondary skill set. Equip them with items that increase their speed. Have them all dance a damaging jig called wiznaibus. Each dancing ninja will deal about 12 to 20 damage to every enemy on the screen. Five dancing ninjas will subsequently deal 60 to 100 damage to every enemy every turn, and because of all the speed buffs, they’ll get almost two turns to the enemy’s one, but this depends on the enemies. This is not a tactic that will work in every battle, but it’s kind of fun to do every once in a while during a random battle against modest monsters.

There’s also a trick with calculators, a class of characters that can use math to cast spells. Five marching calculators can wreck an army by calculating a white spell called holy. I’m not crazy about calculators, but it’s just one more thing that can be achieved in this awesome game.

I also like giving characters with long range attacks knight skills. Knight skills can be used to weaken an enemy or break their equipment. A mediator, which is a character that equips a gun and uses talk skills to persuade enemies into inaction, can be very helpful by shooting the enemy’s equipment from a safe distance; break all of the enemy archers’ bows, and they’re useless.

Many strategy games have been released before FFT, but it seems to me that FFT is the strategy game that defined strategy. Games like Fire Emblem and Front Mission are great, and I do have to praise Front Mission 3, the best of that series in my opinion, for features similar to those of FFT.

Whenever I discuss retro games, I always complain about contemporary gaming; it’s all the same no matter the game or console. Whether it’s Fallout 76, Ark, or Halo 73 Special Edition Space Wars (not a real game), it’s the same BS.

Handheld consoles do offer some variety, but apart from the Switch, you can’t hook them up to a television; and while I like hand held consoles, like the 3DS, I think having to stare at that tiny screen for hours is a real problem; you get eye strain, head aches, your arms get tired of being in an awkward position. This could all be solved by an HDMI cable.

By the way, is there a reason Square Enix can’t release a Final Fantasy Tactics 2 on the PS5 that utilizes a similar game engine as the one used for FFT? The creators can utilize the graphical capabilities by making the little characters look like actual knights and wizards rather than anime style sprites, and they could even make each piece of equipment look unique on the characters. I just don’t get the fascination of first-person shooters or action adventure.

A true-to-life-looking, first person, action adventure is truly awesome, but a true-to-life-looking strategy game would be even cooler. Fire Emblem Path of Radiance on the Gamecube looks really cool, and I have to say I was unimpressed with the sequel, Radiant Dawn on the Wii since, theoretically, the Wii’s graphical capabilities were supposed to be an upgrade from its predecessor. But back to FFT….

I usually discuss a game’s good and bad features, but FFT is a masterpiece, so it has only what I consider “issues.” For instance, the story line is a little convoluted. The short version is that a secret sect of the church is inciting a world wide war in order to usurp power under the guise of ousting the corrupt nobility. At one point, an old priest comes across a hidden book, which denounces the church’s claim that Ajora was a saint. The book goes on to describe that Ajora was just a man and a spy for an opposing kingdom.

So, no one knows about this book for two reasons. One, it was written in a language that no one uses anymore. Two, the priest was working on translating this book, and he died before he could finish. He gives you the book during his last breaths, but somehow, an arms dealer working for the church knows this book exists, that you have it, and what it’s all about. This, naturally, comes to light right after you come into the book’s possession.

Another issue I have with the story is the holy stones, which are supposed to have been blessed by St. Ajora and handed out to heroes, hence the title of the story in the game; The Zodiac Brave Story. In reality, it seems as though the stones contain the power of the devil, Lucavi, and they corrupt those who carry them, turning those people into demons.

I thought the religion wasn’t real…

Anyway, at one point, the stone falls out from the pocket of a character after he gets killed. His sister is crying, and for no reason, the stone restores her brother’s life. It doesn’t make any sense.

If the stones contained a neutral power, which was an extension of the heart of the person who carried it, that’d be fine, but the stones never do anyone else any good; they just make more demons. Again, I thought Ajora was just a man, and the reason the church wanted the secret book destroyed was because it proved that the church was built on lies, but as you progress, it becomes evident that Lucavi is real, and, spoiler alert, Ajora is evil.

It really makes no sense whatsoever.

An issue I have that isn’t story related is the difficulty involved in poaching rare items. Thieves can obtain a skill called secret hunt. It allows the person employing the skill the ability to poach a monster. Instead of dying in the normal way, when killed by secret hunt, the monster turns into one of two items special to that monster; a dark behemoth, when poached, can turn into a wizard rod or a stone gun. The stone gun is the rare version of the poach, which basically means you’d have to poach about a hundred dark behemoths in order to assure that at least one of them will turn into a stone gun, and still there’s no assurance.

I once recruited a dark behemoth into my party because monsters reproduce. However, monsters all have three classes, and there’s no guarantee that a dark behemoth will spawn another dark behemoth; they’ll usually spawn a behemoth, and sometimes a king behemoth, but rarely ever a dark behemoth. This means that I had to run around for hours and hours and hours trying to spawn a second dark behemoth just to bring it into battle, and poach it, but as was mentioned, the chance of getting a stone gun for my efforts was all but null.

I’m all for exploring every feature a game has to offer, but getting that stone gun is much more difficult than it needs to be. I mean, this is just a game, and getting that gun doesn’t make a damn bit of difference; I just wanted it. This leads into another issue.

You only get 16 characters at a time. You can’t have any more than that, and if you collect all the possible characters, you won’t be able to keep very many monsters. Furthermore, you can only bring five characters into battle at a time. Considering all the possible classes, and class mixtures required to obtain new classes, and all the monsters, 16 characters is crap. Only bringing five into battle means you usually end up ignoring most of your crew anyway.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together allows you to keep something like 30 characters. It might be more, but it’s been a while since I’ve played it. I do recall that you can bring up to 10 characters into battle at a time, and Let Us Cling Together came out before FFT, as it was originally a Super Famicom release from 1995.

Fortunately, these issues don’t detract from the game. It’s visually stimulating, has awesome music, endless aspects to explore, and is overall just a really fun game to play. A lot of times, you’ll be messing around with everyone’s class; monk, time mage, summoner; and wonder how each will work best by simply engaging in random battles.

I don’t know if younger gamers have played FFT, or if they know this kind of game even exists. I know there’s a ton of indie games on Steam, and some of them are really cool-looking strategy games, but do they have the depth of Final Fantasy Tactics? There’s only one way to find out, you gotta’ try FFT. That’s my recommendation.

It’s a solid game that’s held up over the years. There was even a Final Fantasy Tactics on the GBA, but it was a totally different game.

Then, there was a remake on the PSP, as well as a remake of Let Us Cling Together, but I’ve already bitched about the drawback to handheld consoles, so I suggest buying a PS2 on Amazon—it is backwards compatible with the original PS and a much more durable console—buying a used copy of FFT, and enjoying one of the greatest games of the 90s.

Thanks for reading, and check out my other reviews on my video game reviews tab. Be sure to share this review, too. Maybe, some video game companies will get the hint about revitalizing retro gaming and make some new games that aren’t Skyrim or Fallout.

real time strategy
Aaron Dennis
Aaron Dennis
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Aaron Dennis

Creator of the Lokians SciFi series, The Adventures of Larson and Garrett, The Dragon of Time series, and more.

See all posts by Aaron Dennis