Monday, September 12, 2011

Why Final Fantasy Tactics is Awesome

Pixelated men riding pixelated chickens? I'm so there.

The first time I saw Final Fantasy Tactics, I was visiting my stepmothers family. Her brother had just bought a couple of new games and asked me if I wanted to check them out.

He popped in the disk for Final Fantasy Tactics and started up a new game. After the game went on about how history is written by the victors of war, it asked him for his name and birthday.

Then, it started. Little sprites marched in time, waiting for their turn so that they could go and beat up other little sprites. I still remember the first thing he said, "Man, they look like little children." Then he turned it off and put in Resident Evil 2.

Yes, I gave myself the right birthday. 
He also let me take the disk home that afternoon.

Final Fantasy Tactics is one of those games I come back to every once in a while, like several of the games in the series, but it's definitely one that is different every single time. This is mostly due to the intricate battle system, that is simple enough to work with, but rewarding for those who dive in and fiddle around with it. (Just like your first time -Ed) 
The first few rounds are important for buffing, I like to let the enemy come to me. 

Battles are played out on a 3D isometric field, where units are placed and wait for their orders according to a Charge Time meter, which fills up depending on their speed. You can affect the flow of turns by using different techniques, so it's not entirely turn-based, and placement of units is important to avoid being pummeled to death by enemies, since they do more damage if they attack you from the side or behind. (Just like...never mind - Ed) 

Thats only half of the game though, the other half is in the setup of your units. Like a lot of Tactics games, FFT has a class based system, where each class specializes in different areas. Wizards are long range magic users, Priests heal and buff units and Knights are close range fighters who can destroy enemy equipment. Each character though, can change jobs between battle depending on what they have unlocked.

Mike never was able to unlock the Ninja class.
Heres where it gets interesting though, skills that a unit learns can be still be used provided that you assign them beforehand. What this means basically, is that you can turn a Knight into a Wizard, and still have access to the skills he had as a Knight. You wouldn't actually want to do that, but it's in trying out different combinations that you make the best units. 

Look at all these classes. LOOK AT THEM!
One particular example that springs to mind is my hero unit for my last playthrough. He was a squire for his base class, with battle skill as his secondary. But! He also had Two Swords from the Ninja class as his support ability, which meant that when he countered (A reaction ability from the Monk class) he would hit TWO TIMES. (I can see the eyes of your readers glaze over, talk about something else - Ed) 

But what about the narrative, I hear you ask. FFT is set in Ivalice, the setting for quite a few Final Fantasies, in a time known as the Lion War. The main story takes place seemingly in the background of this huge medieval war, with various plots, backstabs and demonic influences. I will admit, a lot of it went over my head the first time I played through, but now that I'm older it kinda reminds me of Game of Thrones, in terms of political complexity. 

You play as Ramza, who grows through the story from a young idealistic cadet to a hero of the war, but is remembered in history as a heretic and traitor. Through the game you learn how this happens, and of course, that history is written by those who win. Or at least, backstab enough people so that no one is alive who knows you're a bad guy. 

Tonight, we dine in Hell! 
There are a lot of characters in FFT, but enough memorable ones to keep you interested. Ramza of course, is a solid piece of character development, but there is also his best friend Delita, who kind of takes the "ends justifies the means" route. Even during my third playthrough though, there were a couple of times when I had to look up who someone was.

It's raining shards of Ice, Hallelujah...

Graphically, the game does look somewhat dated. Okay, it looks really dated. But the majority of the game is made up of sprites, with a lot of pretty painstaking animation for some of the cutscenes. In that sense, it still holds out. The spell effects are also pretty, with lots of glow and sparks. The sound is also top notch, with appropriate music for battles, and sound effects (particularly the death cry units make when they die) that have lodged themselves in my brain.

Warpin' time back to 1998. 

I'm going to be honest, I partly look at this game through rose colored glasses. It was the first videogame I actually started copying art from. I can do the first four battles blindfolded because for one entire long weekend it was all my friend Ryan and I would play, because we didn't have a memory card and the fourth battle is a fucking bitch to finish.

But it's also so very, very solid. I seem to learn something new about it every time I play through (Like that lightning spells become more powerful in the rain, or that when choosing a healer, make sure their zodiac sign is compatible with your attacking units).

There's a reason that it has attained cult classic status, and also why when they remade it for PSP they didn't just port it over, but added beautiful cel-shaded cutscenes with voiceovers.

It might not be everyones cup of tea, but FFT definitely deserves it's place in the series, and it's earned in the blood of a hundred slain enemies and spells rained down from the heavens.

1 comment:

Blog do Barbosa said...

Nice article man! I played this game on my old Playstation too, but never finished the game. Now I'm playing the PSP version and for me it's the best version to be played today, because u can play everywere and anytime and most of battles are quick. See ya!