Final Fantasy Tactics (PlayStation) Review

By Albert Lichi 20.06.2017

Review for Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation

In 1998, Yasumi Matsuno's tactical masterpiece hit the West like the fist of an angry god. This Final Fantasy strategy game spin-off would be considered the best Final Fantasy game if it had a number in its title. Square was going dark, as Final Fantasy Tactics is easily the most mature game the company has ever made, covering such heavy themes as classism, civics, war, genocide, religion and corruption. What was a landmark in console strategy games is still used as a model for most strategy RPGs since. Cubed3 examines the first Ivalice story, 20 years on from its original PlayStation debut.

Final Fantasy Tactics is the great Shakespearean epic about two cadets of different classes, and how a war changes their perspectives. Ramza Beoulve, an idealistic upper-class youth destined for damnation, and Delita Heiral, a low-born squire who becomes a Nietzsche-esque fallen hero. This is a horrible story about great men falling and rising, becoming the demons they fight against (both literally and figuratively), and having to choose loyalties between one's own faith and family.

There are so many heavy themes, with gut-wrenching scenes of betrayal and tense conversations with characters making revelations about themselves. The narrative is utterly immaculate, and in spite of grammatical and spelling errors from the localisation, the story, drama and characters are so absorbing that it can be easy to overlook them. There is never a dull moment in this game; never a boring scene or a battle without purpose.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation

There are so many high points that span years in the world of Ivalice, and the engrossing setting makes everything feel very believable. Matsuno created such a palpable world that RPG fans around the world still obsess over to this day that Square Enix kept it alive long after Final Fantasy Tactics came out, with games such as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Tactics A2, Vagrant Story, and even the twelfth mainline Final Fantasy being set in the same universe.

The job class system as seen in Final Fantasy games of the past made a triumphant return here. At the time when Final Fantasy Tactics came out, Final Fantasy V was the last time a job system was used as a means for character building. With Tactics, the scope of the job system had been vastly expanded now that units could be strategically moved on a 3D map, with varying elevations and parameters. Characters can have a multitude of variables for creative gamers to craft a seemingly endless amount of builds. Not only could a unit have a main class, but previously learned abilities can be integrated for all kinds of outrageous combinations.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation

A very clever player could create a character that could utterly breaks the game with the right build and appropriate equipment, but that really was a huge part of the charm of Final Fantasy Tactics. It is a strategy game that allowed so much freedom and creativity that kept people coming back to see what else they can make. It is one of the reasons why the later games that were inspired by Tactics are not held in as high regard because the job system was so much more rigid.

Akihiko Yoshida's art is the face of the Ivalice Alliance franchise. His particular pen work that etches texture the way only he can gives Final Fantasy Tactics such an iconic visual flair. This was some of the best sprite art that Square did in the 1990s. Each sprite bursts with personality and has a wide range of animations, and are meticulously designed. Compounded with Hitoshi Sakimoto's truly epic music, the feel of Tactics is unmistakable and so definitive. Seriously, the music for Final Fantasy Tactics is by far the greatest video game soundtrack of all time. It hits so many crescendos, rises and sweeps, all while maintaining a sense of the medieval period. It is rich, with such a distinctive atmosphere that can make long battles still feel exciting. Even Sakimoto's future works on the subsequent spin-offs never quite reached the epic grandiosity of the sublime majesty of this game's music.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation

It's difficult to find a flaw in Final Fantasy Tactics. At its worst, it has some balancing issues in some areas, such as a couple of unfair encounters that happen midway through that can result in a game over right in the beginning should the game's RNG feel like playing dirty. Some multi-stage encounters that offer a save option between fights can lock the game from ever being completed if the team just is not powerful enough. It can be extremely discouraging for a Tactics neophyte to make it to the end of Chapter Two, only to not be able to beat the fiendish Wiegraf and be trapped forever in a game file that won't let them out of it, and realising the entire game would have to be replayed.

Final Fantasy Tactics is available on many platforms these days. There is an enhanced port that is available on PSP, which is playable on PS Vita and PSTV, but, sadly, the bonus jobs, accurate retranslation, and extra content is just not good enough to make up for the dreadful performance. The original Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation is the best version in regards to playability. It runs smoothly and still has the classic 90s era charm in the translation. Thankfully, Square Enix recognises that the original PlayStation version is the best one and has also made it available on PSN for PS3, PS Vita and PSTV for $9.99.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy Tactics on PlayStation

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

Final Fantasy Tactics achieves the greatest compliment that a strategy RPG from 1998 can achieve: the story and characters are still as engrossing as they were, and the gameplay is still unbelievably addictive. Explaining Final Fantasy Tactics just won't do it justice. This is one of the few games that treats the player like an adult and respects their intelligence in both its narrative and gameplay. Anybody who seeks a substantial story with real drama really must play Final Fantasy Tactics.

Developer

Squaresoft

Publisher

SCEA

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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