Final Fantasy Tactics

released on Jun 20, 1997

Lead epic battles in a new FINAL FANTASY world. Betrayal and darker dealings await in Squaresoft's game of war. Fight hundreds of battles across dangerous 3D terrain as an ancient blood feud awakens a deadlier foe.

Reviews View More

I'm a big fan of action games, in fact that's about the only type of game I really enjoy playing whereas I can't for the life of me get into RPGs. Yet I adore Final Fantasy Tactics and its clones. There's a reason for that that seems to have flown under people's radar and it's Final Fantasy Tactics being an action game in tactics form. In fact there isn't much tactics going on in FFT, 99% of the time you'll give orders based on instincts and feeling rather than thought. There's a real tactile quality to FFT and it comes from multiple sources: the aesthetics, the small maps and rosters, the "kill or be killed" approach to combat, the powerful spells and abilities, the customization and the grounded and gritty narrative elements.
Where other TRPGs feel like glorified puzzle games, FFT likes getting into the thick of it and channel the pugilistic qualities of the battles it illustrates, it's very compelling in that regard, and while it is a simpler and more straightforward game compared to many other TRPGs from that era, I think it works to its advantage. To me it does anyway.

Once it was confirmed that the Nintendo 64 would continue to use cartridge-based games instead of the increasingly popular (and significantly cheaper) CDs, it was the turning point that signaled a mass developer exodus from the company that was previously considered the default in video games. One of the most notable splits-and one of the most infamous-was SquareSoft, the company responsible for many NES & SNES renowned series. The team behind Chrono Trigger, the Mana series, and of course, Final Fantasy, was looking for a new home for its next installment in the already iconic franchise. With 3D gaming on the rise, the CD-based Sony Playstation, already a console with a considerable installed base, was the obvious choice. And so, in 1997, less than a year after their final SNES release, Final Fantasy VII released on the PS1. And after that, the floodgates would open; Square would go on to develop over half a dozen for the system in that year alone. And FF7 wasn't the only landmark title; only a few months later, they would release another soon-to-be-iconic game for the system.
Final Fantasy Tactics was one of the first true spinoffs of the legendary series, and it's an impressive first effort to say the least. Produced by Square newcomer Yasumi Matsuno, it was essentially a spiritual successor to the Ogre Battle series. It was stated that the desire for FFT was to create a strategy RPG with an emphasis on class warfare, and by all metrics, it's impossible to call it anything but a tremendous success. The Final Fantasy series is no stranger to convoluted stories and difficult to follow overarching narratives, but while the main series has about as many hits as misses, Tactics is easily one of the best of the franchise. It can't be understated what a feat it is to create a multi-layered, complex, and intricately woven narrative that both keeps the player guessing and also remains easy enough to follow. Deception, double crossing, and secret plots are aplenty here, and it's one of the best games for political intrigue even to this day. Heavily inspired by The War of the Roses, noble families clash while the meager are caught in the crossfire. Class-based struggle is at the heart of FFT, and so much of its dialogue and themes ring truer than ever today, ensuring its status as an eternally relevant game.
And, if you'll pardon the pun, class-based warfare is also what makes this game so fun to play. Each character has 19 potential classes (or jobs) to choose from, including many FF favorites, and they can operate with the skills of a secondary as well. This makes the game incredibly diverse; there's an incredible amount of variety to how you'll plan your squad, what skills you'll give them, and how you might adapt during a potentially difficult battle. This is by no means an easy game, especially for first timers, so you're encouraged to mix and match, try new things, and find a strategy that works for you. It should be said that this game does have a bit of trouble balancing difficulty, as there are quite a few difficulty spikes that seem to have been made with grinding in mind; only playing the story missions will likely leave you quite a bit underleveled at a few times in the story. Grinding is nothing new for the FF series, but it's more palatable in a quick random encounter than it is in a tactics-based game, where each battle can take 5 to 10 minutes. (There might be a few too many battles in the game as it is.)
That being said, the great thing about FFT is that it allows for such a degree of tactical expression that, with the right strategy, every battle feels winnable. Coming up against a difficult battle, losing, and finding an alternative method to win is a truly satisfying feeling, and Tactics is well packed with moments like these. But while it is possible to win any battle with any squad setup, it would be unfair to call them balanced. There are some skills-particularly Math Skills, and the main character's unique skill-which seem purposely made to break the game in your favor. This kind of takes away from the difficulty and thrill of the late game, and leaves the player with an unfortunate choice of intentionally limiting themselves or breezing by most end game battles.
Even still, balancing issues were no stranger to the late 90s, and even with them in mind, Final Fantasy Tactics is a marvelous game, and one of the most interesting tactical RPGs ever made. It's gameplay is enthralling, often encouraging a feeling of "just one more battle, one more try." And it's a testament to its story that despite the mostly excellent strategy, it's the narrative that remains FFT's most compelling and memorable aspect. For fans of medieval intrigue and royal conspiracies, it's an obvious choice. But whether it's the gameplay or narrative that sucks you in, you'll come away with a vast enjoyment of both. And, just like the story of Ramza, Tactics is a reminder that history is always worth revisiting.

This game would be perfect if the difficulty was redone I think. Battles have huge difficulty spikes and trying new jobs is very hard. That said, the music and storytelling and sprite animation all combine together to make an incredible world. The only Ogre Battle game with chocobos.

The original playstation version has a horrible translation. This turned out to be one of my favorite stories in video games when I went back and watched the War of the Lions versions of the dialogue and cinematics on youtube. That version is almost a perfect game.
My only complaint is that its not a perfect tactics game. It has a lot of interesting ideas and is one of the most fun tactics games, but the exp system just begs to be cheesed and I found myself enforcing artificial rules to not abuse the mechanics to keep the challenge fun.

Lightning in a bottle that Squenix have never managed to recapture ever since. A must-play for the PS1/PSP.

I'm not big on tactics games, but this is good.