Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: UMD
Released: US 10/09/07
Japan 05/10/07
Official Site: English Site

Editor's Choice Award
What's this?
Graphics: 80%
Sound: 85%
Gameplay: 99%
Control: 85%
Story: 94%
Overall: 91%
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Ashton Liu
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Ashton Liu

Sword in hand, a warrior clutches stone to breast

A decade ago, shortly after the tremendous success that Final Fantasy VII brought Square Enix, the stalwart company decided that it was time to introduce an entry in its flagship series separate from the main franchise. They released a game that would utilize the series' established roots as a foundation for its departure from the Final Fantasy formula that had, until then, been the standard in all its entries. To this end, they contracted the developers of the Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre games as well as Yasumi Matsuno in order to create this game, and it came to be titled Final Fantasy Tactics. Perhaps not the most innovative name, but to be cliché, it's not prudent to judge a book by its cover, because while the game's title may evoke feelings of ennui, the game itself does anything but. Those who missed it the first time, or were simply not around for its debut can now experience what they've been missing out on, as Square Enix has seen fit to port it to the PSP as Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.

In sword etched he his fading memories

Final Fantasy Tactics begins with the Ivalician historian Arazlam introducing the history of his country to the player, describing an era of chaos and war that had its violence halted by Delita Heiral. However, the story of Final Fantasy Tactics truly revolves around another young man named Ramza Beoulve and his role in this era of unrest. As the game opens, the player is thrust in medias res in an attempt on Princess Ovelia's life by knights of an unknown lord. With this, the princess' bodyguards as well as hired mercenaries (with Ramza in tow) strike back at them, only to have Ovelia kidnapped at the last second by Delita. So begins the greatest story told by any game bearing the Final Fantasy moniker: a story of politics and intrigue, of lies and deception, of a power struggle of two regents in a war torn country, and of two young men who rise up in order to stem the violence and restore peace to their homeland. This is the story of Final Fantasy Tactics.

Those who played the original game ten years ago will remember distinctly that the locallization of the game was rather spotty at best. Lines such as "I got a good feeling!" and a copious amount of English littered the translation, and as a result the strong narrative lost some of its impact. As such, the first thing Square Enix set out to do with this newly created port for the PSP was to right that wrong - and right it they have. The game's narrative is now expertly translated, and bears a script that rivals the excellence in games such as Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII.

Being a PlayStation game originally, Final Fantasy Tactics can't help but look rather outdated in comparison to games that take even the slightest bit of advantage of the PSP's hardware. Not to say that the game is ugly; in fact, it is quite the opposite. The 3D isometric maps are detailed and colorful, each battlefield is completely unique and different from the ones prior to it, and the character sprites are large and colorful, with a large amount of different sprites for controllable characters, enemies, and NPCs. The newly added cel shaded CG movies are a sight to behold, with smooth animation bringing to life the rather unorthodox artsyle.

Aurally, however, Final Fantasy Tactics more than stands the test of time, with the soundtrack still remaining epic and riveting a decade after its original composition. Each piece of music is incredibly composed, especially many of the battle themes, each one is dramatic and powerful while still remaining aurally unique to each other. Likewise, the newly added voiceovers during the animated CG scenes in the game is excellently acted; while lacking in quantity, the quality is decidedly not wanting, and it adds yet another excellent facet to the already impressive narrative. Unfortunately, the aural masterpiece of Final Fantasy Tactics' soundtrack has been tarnished by sound issues. There is a lack of reverb and echoing effects cause the music to sound much worse than in its original incarnation, and while this has somewhat of a negligible effect on the music, the sound effects in the game aren't so lucky. For example, the blowing of wind is now accompanied with a low beeping sound, and many sound effects now sound rather bizarre and unnatural because of the sound issues.

In stone, his tempered skill

The meat of the game, the gameplay, is where Final Fantasy Tactics truly shines. Battles consist of the tried-and-true SRPG formula - 3/4 isometric battlefields with the player characters fighting a tactical battle against the enemy. It's in the character customization where the game has the distinct Final Fantasy feel. Every action taken during battle rewards the character with experience and JP. Experience increases the character's level when accumulated to 100, and JP can be used to learn new spells and abilities, and therein lies the brilliance and depth present in Final Fantasy Tactics' gameplay. The game boasts a humongous number of unlockable jobs, which can be accessed by increasing a character's proficiency in certain jobs. Each job boasts a specific and unique action command. Knights, for example, can destroy enemies' equipments and stats, while Archers can concentrate their strength into a single, well-aimed shot.

In addition to this level of customization, characters can also learn reaction abilities (actions taken when they are the recipient of certain attacks), support abilities (supplementary traits to increase damage dealt or survivability), and movement abilities (increases movement range or activates a specific effect upon movement). Each character can have two action abilities (one of which is dictated by their currently selected job), one reaction ability, one support ability, and one movement ability. What makes character customization so deep and enjoyable, however, is the sheer amount of abilities available for players to utilize. Certain ability and equipment combinations also combine to create powerful fighters: equipping Magic Attack Boost on a Mystic with a Pole equipped as a weapon, for example, will not only increase the potency of his or her magical spells, but will also increase his or her normal attack damage, since damage from poles are calculated by the equipped character's magic attack value.

Characters also have a large amount of differentiating traits, such as: a zodiac sign (which determines compatibility with certain other signs), Bravery (which affects physical skills and attacks), Faith (affecting Magical skills and attacks), and even gender. Each of these adds another layer of complexity to the already deep strategic gameplay elements. With hundreds of items, many of which are hidden, and an uncountable amount of optional battles, Final Fantasy Tactics can easily offer over a hundred hours of playtime for perfectionists. Even now, fifty hours into my tenth overall playthrough of the game, I've still not yet uncovered everything the game has to offer.

Square Enix was apparently unsatisfied in the amount of content the game had to offer, because on top of adding two new unlockable jobs and two extra characters, they also added a large handful of new items, attainable only through the extra modes Square Enix has introduced in the PSP incarnation. The new modes consist of Melee and Rendezvous, both of which require another PSP and a copy of the game to access. In the former, two players can pit their hand-picked team of warriors against each other to test who has the better strategic ability, while in the latter the two players can cooperate in order to accomplish a common mission. At the end of each session of Melee or Rendezvous, players are awarded with items based on how well they've done, with better performance yielding more powerful items.

By sword attested, by stone revealed

War of the Lions offers a generous helping of gameplay, amounting to well over a hundred hours for those passionate enough to try and discover everything hidden within the game. While the main game takes around 30 to 40 hours to beat, the extra missions, battles, treasures, and items to be found within the game are numerous, not to mention the large number of jobs that can be unlocked, some of which require absurdly high prerequisites in order to be used.

Not all is perfect with the game though, as there are a few chinks in Final Fantasy Tactics' well molded armor. One is the aforementioned sound issues described at length earlier in the review. Another, however, lies in the slowdown within the game. While not game-breaking, War of the Lions does have a noticeable amount of slowdown, such that anybody who has played the original game will immediately notice it. It's especially noticeable during the somewhat lengthier spell/ability effects, as the sound effects for said effects were created without slowdown in mind. As a result, the graphics and sound effects sometimes fall out of sync due to this slowdown. While the problem in no way ruins the game, it casts a rather poor light on Square Enix, as being the gargantuan developer that they are, it is difficult to believe that such simplistic optimization problems couldn't easily be fixed with a bit of tweaking and debugging on their part.

Their tale can now be told

Minor flaws aside, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions offers up everything an avid RPG devotee could want, and more. Even though the game is now a decade old, time has not dulled the experience it offers one bit. On the contrary, with the new, more powerful localization accompanying the extra content added to an already strong plot and complex gameplay elements, Final Fantasy Tactics not only lives up to the test of time, it passes with flying colors. With vibrant visuals, excellent music and voice acting, a deep and complex gameplay system, and one of the best storylines ever to grace a RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is one of the few must-have titles on the PSP, not only for the RPG aficionado, but for any gamer in general.


© 2007 Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

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