Upon its release, Final Fantasy Tactics received an unusual criticism even by today's standards: The story was too complex. Imagine that–too many names and places. Too much lore and depth. On top of that, Tactics had little romantic intrigue; no "rabu-rabu" in a Final Fantasy game?! Whaaaaa...? However, for RPG fans who did not mind a little, you know–thinking and reading–this was a welcome change. Needless to say, rumors of Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance percolated the interest of Tactics' many die-hard fans.
What we received was not necessarily bad, as much as it was a surprise. By comparison, Advance was a downgrade. Not only were its ties to the original Tactics loose at best, it lacked anything resembling complexity and depth. Of course, thanks to the tried-and-true job class system, some fans looked past its comparative flaws and enjoyed a good romp of strategy RPG gameplay. Others were less forgiving and still left wanting. In fact, Tactics has enjoyed an underground fanbase that created its own sequels, side-stories, and entirely different worlds using what Squaresoft gave us near the turn of the millennium.
Although I adore quality fan-made content, nothing compares to Yasumi Matsuno-made content. Some might argue that we should leave perfection alone. Others would say that Tactics tied up all of its loose ends and offered satisfying closure. I contend that a world was born and that child is waiting to be nurtured so that it can grow up good and strong. Did J.R.R. Tolkien stop after The Hobbit? And what if he did? The world he spawned thereafter would never be realized and the 20th century world of literature would be severely lacking, albeit unknowingly. To deprive the still-young gaming industry a vibrant, continuous world like Ivalice is criminal.
Still, people may not be persuaded. "But, Bob, the world of Ivalice is expanding. Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII are key examples." To this, I say that although these games technically take place in Ivalice, their worlds seem to exist almost parallel to one another, sharing very few connections. Is it too late? Of course not. A time-line can still be constructed, technological and magical development explained, and so on. All of Matsuno's games share a similar art style, depth of storytelling (save the Tactics Advance series), and its own races independent of the Final Fantasy series. Allow me to make some suggestions for prospective sequels, prequels, and side-stories.
First, just take a look at the map of Ivalice. Not only is that not a world map, it is not even an island. Its physical borders are relatively unknown and its neighbors across the seas are equally unknown. We know of Ordalia to the east and Romanda across the Larner Channel to the northwest, but that is the extent of our information. This alone offers multitudinous possibilities. For side-stories, we could witness an on-going war east of Ivalice with unsatisfied citizens of Zeltennia immigrating to Ordalia. And what of the plague in Romanda? Was it really a plague, or a cover-up related to the Zodiac stones? Clearly, the possibilities are endless.
What about the Fifty Years' War? Although the information offered to us was just enough to whet our appetites, there is enough here to warrant a prequel. Just look at the cast! Balbanes, T.G. Cid, Wiegraf, Beowulf, Gafgarion, Elmdor, and so much more. Need I say more? With bare-bone details setting the stage, anything could happen during this grisly war that killed Balbanes and left Cid jaded. Also, even though the results of the war are known, what went on behind-the-scenes that stimulated Ivalice's surrender is yet unknown. And, as we all remember, history is written by the victors.
Finally, what of sequels? Fans frothing at the mouth for a sequel have ruminated out loud about a continuation of Ramza's story, and, while that is all well and good, I am more interested in Olan's story and the Durai family line. What happened with the Durai Papers? Did Olan put up a fight before being captured and executed? This may be unlikely, but Tactics strongly hints to us that Alazlam is a descendent of Olan 400 years after the events of Tactics. Why did he fight so hard to uncover the truth? Did he somehow know about what was in the papers? Did he doubt his ancestor's guilt as a heretic, or the Church's reasons for executing Olan? Perhaps the Durai family fought for the truth over those 400 years. Nevertheless, much can be said over the span of four centuries.
Although I clearly hold a bias toward a prequel or sidestory to the original Final Fantasy Tactics, I share the thoughts and feelings of those who create their own content: Just give me something! Matsuno is 45 years old with lead design experience. Not only could he pioneer a Tolkien-esque world in the video game industry, but he is young enough to create a massive amount of content. Do not misunderstand me: I am terrified of a shoddy sequel boasting only tongue-in-cheek references and repetitious storytelling. However, Matsuno has a fantastic track record with Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII under his belt, and if these games are any indication of what Ivalice can become, the lack of a true continuation of Tactics' story is unfathomable.