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Written by  :  Alkhanzel (3)
Written on  :  Aug 29, 2001
Platform  :  PlayStation
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Not perfect, but certainly a very fun game to play

The Good

Squaresoft is usually criticized for making their recent games very flashy, filled with fancy graphics and big movies, but lacking in gameplay. Tactics is a step away from that direction, with real solid gameplay and hours of fun, without the flash. Square has also succeeded in combining two genres -- roleplaying and strategy -- with good results. Getting into random battles and levelling up are important aspects of the game, but at the same time shear strength won't let you win all your battles; you need to really strategize and think about every move. I like that.

In a way, Tactics is like chess. And because of that, there are an infinite number of ways a battle can be fought. There is no secret or trick to beating any of the fights -- each time you battle, things are different. This makes replay value very high. It also breaks up the monotony of random battles. Each player, through their job, acts differently -- just like chess pieces. Some stand still and shoot at faraway targets, while others run around hacking with their swords or healing their comrades with magic. Using the job system to customize characters is quite rewarding, and gives you different people with different skills and abilities. It adds great depth to the game and, once again, ensures that no two battles are alike.

The graphics are quite aesthetically pleasing. You can visit grand castles, dense forests, dark caves, and other areas in full 3D. The terrain also affects battles, so fighting in a swamp presents different challenges than fighting in a village. This adds great depth to the game.

So, to sum everything up, I like the shear depth of the game, the innovation, and the high level of "fun-ness." Tactics is just a game that I keep going back to play, even when it beats me to the ground. It's fun. Really fun.

The Bad

Well, firstly, the graphics and sound in Tactics are pretty simple, almost a bit retro. I got used to them quickly, but they aren't exactly on par with other Final Fantasy titles, or many other PSX games for that matter. Don't expect many FMVs or orchestrated music tracks, because they don't exist. Even with the simple media, though, load times are occasionally long, which can get annoying.

The storyline is filled with as many cliches as possible, and can be quite confusing at times. Playing the game over again clears up the plot a bit, but it's still very cliche, and unoriginal. Dialogue sequences appear right in the middle of battles sometimes, and drudging through them can be rather boring if it's the fifth time you're fighting a particular battle, so you've read the dialogue four times already, and you don't feel like reading through it yet again. Which brings me to another point -- difficulty. Tactics is very difficult, oftentimes needlessly so. Beating a battle on your first try is pretty rare, and once I've been killed by Gafgarion or Wiegraf or some other shmuck eight times already, I really don't feel like going at him again. It certainly gets annoying. The difficulty level is enhanced by the fact that you're usually very outnumbered in every battle you face. It's often "four of you versus six of them" or "five of you versus nine of them." With the turn-based battles, this means that the enemy gets many more turns than you, and can crush you like a fly with shear numbers.

The job system is a good idea, but navigating through it can be difficult, confusing, and annoying. It's very hard to make a character with a broad array of abilities, because they can only use two job skills at a time, and have a very limited number of other slots to use the abilities they learned from their jobs. There is also a slight lack of balance. Magic users are useful, but are very easy to kill, so they often fall in battle before they become useful. The slow speed at which spells are cast also greatly hampers their use, and makes them even more prone to serious injury or death. I often find myself only putting knights and archers and such into battle, because other classes die so easily it's just not worth it.

To sum things up, there aren't really any major gameplay flaws, just lots of little things that really get annoying, and often frustrate me.

The Bottom Line

Hmmm, my 'con' review is longer than my 'pro' review. Don't let that fool you, though. I love Final Fantasy Tactics. It can be annoying and frustrating, but for some reason I always go back to it, to play it again. In some ways the difficulty actually enhances the gameplay, making me really want to beat that unbeatable battle.

Here's a three-word description: "frustrating but fun." If you can't handle frustration, don't go for Tactics. If you can handle being annoyed and frustrated to no end, you might be a candidate to play one of the coolest games ever made.

Final Fantasy Tactics is part of the 'Playstation Greatest Hits' collection, and with good cause. It combines innovative strategic gameplay with solid roleplaying goodness, providing countless hours of fun. That's the key word here: 'fun'. I often find myself wondering why I enjoy it, why I payed 25 hard-earned dollars for it. After all, my negative review really is longer than the positive review (above). Then I sit down, turn my Playstation on, and all doubt is erased from my mind.