RPG Gems: Final Fantasy Tactics

By Patrick Molloy on December 20, 2011, 10:31AM EDT

Final Fantasy Tactics is considered a classic by many, but by the new millennium it was in dire need of an upgrade. Classic PlayStation games were hard on the eyes during the PlayStation 2 era, but outside of a select few like Valkyrie Profile, they were positively unplayable on high-definition televisions. And that went double for Tactics, which eventually got so pixelated that even the text was unreadable at certain points.

Thankfully, Square Enix heard our cries for help, and responded with an excellent PSP port. In the process, the graphics weren't given much of a facelift, but that didn't really matter. The pristine visuals were improvement enough, making the classic tactical experience bearable while adding some lovely cutscenes to the mix. Oh, and War of the Lions had the added benefit of being readable! And when I say readable, I don't mean, "Now the text is legible." I mean that the original game had such an awful localization that most people couldn't even begin to comprehend the plot. How could they when FFT was filled with gems like, "I didn't think the God made holy stones but... more evil... Well... Lucavi made them to land in this world..."

Even now, I have only a vague idea of what poor Ramza was trying to talk about. Believe it or not, there was a pretty good story hidden under text like that, it just took War of the Lions to help bring it out. The surprisingly mature story is full of political intrigue and tragic characters, standing apart from its own sequel as well as other Japanese fare with older, more complex characters. It's a trait that carried over to Final Fantasy XII, and both games are the better for it.

In the meantime, Tactics keeps the classic gameplay of the original PSOne game completely intact, with the secret being that it makes full use of the franchise's trademark Job system. It proves a perfect fit for the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics, the AP earned in missions providing the perfect catalyst to play one more mission. And with missions being relatively bite-sized, it's easy to plow through a load of them on work breaks and the occasional bus ride.

In many ways, Tactics proves itself a game that was always meant to be a portable experience, ensuring that the experience's depth never overwhelms as it is broken down to bite-sized chunk for easy consumption over a long car ride. It also proves itself an ideal fit for the PlayStation Portable, as demonstrated by the positively gorgeous cut scenes that accompany the introduction and other events. All that, and barely noticeable load times (at least, barely noticeable from what I remember).

Tactics ends up being something of a curiosity, because it's not a direct port, but neither is it a flat-out remake. Rather, I tend to think of it as a homecoming of sorts, an end to the game's wanderings. Several years after its original release on the PSOne, I can't imagine playing it anywhere other than the PSP.

So why do I recommend it? As one of the three best strategy RPGs on the PSP, Jeanne D'Arc and Disgaea Portable being the other two, there's really no reason that Final Fantasy Tactics shouldn't be in your collection. With the original being next to impossible to play in this day and age, picking up War of the Lions should be a given.

Tactics proves itself most at home as a portable game, soaking up dozens of hours with its quick and easy missions and deep character customization. And the remake throws in quite a few extras as well, making use of the PSP's extra power to offer some incredibly stylish cut scenes while offering new characters and other goodies.

All that's beside the point though. All you really need to know is that the original Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the best games ever made. If you go out to buy a PSP (but who knows why you would in this day and age), don't forget to pick this game up while you're out. For SRPG fans, and even those who are relatively unfamiliar with the genre, it may just be the most essential PSP RPG of all time!

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