GameSpite Quarterly 2, #7: Final Fantasy Tactics

7. Final Fantasy Tactics
I’ve always been a little sad that Final Fantasy III and V didn’t arrive in the U.S. until well after Tactics, because as much as I enjoyed the game (playing through it twice in a row and all that) the added context would have made it even better. I think I’m going to blame my jumbled-up Final Fantasy history as the culprit behind this article being the weakest entry I submitted for GSQ2.

27 thoughts on “GameSpite Quarterly 2, #7: Final Fantasy Tactics

  1. I feel like FFTactics is still the pinnacle of the series’ take on the Job System. The subsequent Advance games kept most of it the same, but severely hampered it with limiting certain jobs to certain races, and the like, the second even more so as it spread out each possible class role (or sometimes even single ability type) into its own class, meaning that none had the versatility of a single job in the original FFT.

    FFXI I felt was disappointing in its regression to the FF3/FF5 method of starting classes, unlocked classes and essentially hidden classes you needed to do quests to unlock. An FFTactics Job Ring means that even putting hours into a job you don’t really want to use feels like you’re making progress on your character as a whole, as it can help unlock other classes as well as the bog-standard ability share.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned the PSP remake, because it’s certainly the definitive version.

    I love this game to death, but I still feel it’s deeply flawed. People rag on FFII because of the way skill levels work (leading the player to, say, hit your own teammates to raise their defense), and even though it’s not close to that at all, the most efficient way to level in FFT is to keep an enemy alive and then just attack/heal away at your own party.

    That kind of grinding wouldn’t be necessary if the game’s difficulty weren’t so damn uneven. The last half of the game is a complete joke, especially when you get Cid, and using brute force with a small army of leveled ninjas and dragoons works wonders. But the first half of the game requires some serious grinding (either to gain abilities or open up jobs, or both), and it really takes you out of the game’s story.

    Not that the story is anything special. Anyone who tells you they enjoy the PS1 version’s story is lying, because it doesn’t make any damn sense. The PSP version improved the translation, but the story is still a mess of betrayals and ‘political intrigue’ that pile up and pile up to the point of ridiculousness.

    Still, I love playing this game. Probably because, like you guys said, the job system is pretty much as great here as it ever will be. Can you imagine what a perfect game FFXII would be, with its tighter storyline and likable characters, if it had used the job system instead of that worthless license board?

    Hmm. Better not to think about these things.

  3. Oh, how I wish the PSP version didn’t have awful slowdown and bad sound…

    When are we going to get something from Matsuno again? Preferably something that he has more control over than something like, well, FFXII.

  4. Oh right, the “international version.” That never went international.

    Parish, over the years you have opened my fanboy eyes and given me reasons to hate SE. This is one of those times.

  5. Keeping the enemy alive to train in FFT? Yes. Attacking + Healing yourself? No. We all know the training up combination is Yell/Tailwind on all party members loads of times, and then Accumulate/Focus (or Guts/Mettle) with them. No-one gets hurt, you get 10 turns for the enemy’s every one, and because it’s a Squire ability, you get 40-60 JP for doing it each time by the end of the game.

    Also, the plot made sense in the PS1 and more sense in the PSP version. It’s a long plot, lots of things happen, but it’s not particularly convoluted or complex. It’s the equivalent of what, two Robert Jordan books in politickin’ action?

  6. Wait, there was a “decrease” in difficulty between Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics? Meaning Ogre was harder? I’ve never played Ogre, so I’m genuinely curious. Because FFT is pretty hard; certainly harder than any other Final Fantasy, and it requires wayyy more grinding. Until you get Cid– then it’s nearly the easiest.

  7. I actually played FFTA first, then FFT, then FFV. My appreciation of the job system is understandably messed up, and I actually like the way that they’re divided between races in FFTA the best. Also, I was a lot younger and had the patience for convoluted systems at the time.

  8. The division of classes between races serves no real purpose other than to make sure your party is made up of a mix of races (diversity ho!), and to limit your customisation options. I couldn’t have a badass Paladin/Dragoon, for instance, because no race had access to both. Essentially, I found it unnecessarily limiting for mere cosmetic affect.

  9. Sure, but I liked having a mix of races. When I finally played FFT, I was bored by the cast of humans (and extremely limited monsters). I didn’t associate SRPGs with complex stories, so FFT just came off as unnecessarily complex. Also, I’m not sure if this is actually the case, but I remember FFTA as being a lot faster than FFT.

    I never finished FFT, but to be fair I never finished Shining Force, Disgaea or Tactics Ogre either. I keep trying to like SRPGs, but FFTA was the only one that hit the sweet spot for me. In other games in the genre I always get to a point where I lose some big battle, then find that I’ve painted myself into a corner because I’m underleveled or my class makeup is wrong. Once I get to a point where I have to grind (whether its my own fault or not), I completely lose interest.

  10. Tactics Ogre was waaaaaay harder than FFT. For one thing, the levels of all enemies (including story battles) were keyed to the level of the most advanced character in your party, and usually you’d only have one or two characters that far along — so most bad guys were 4-5 levels ahead of most of your party, in a game where a single level made a massive difference in survivability. Secondly, the ability to revive characters was practically nonexistent for most of the game, so you had to make sure you didn’t lose anyone. And finally, there were several multi-battle setpieces similar to Riovanes Castle, but without saves or healing between each battle. Brutal, brutal stuff.

  11. Honestly, after your first time or two through the game, FFT shouldn’t require any grinding at all. Levels matter very little… learning the right abilities and choosing the right jobs is far more important, and picking up enemy crystals to save JP helps a good deal. I only fought 2 random battles throughout my entire play through of the PSP port, and those were just to bring a new recruit up to speed. There are usually tactical ways out of just about any dire situation, too, regardless of how poorly you’ve chosen your abilities.

    But I suppose that’s kind of beside the point… most games get easier as you learn the system.

    Tactics Ogre, though, isn’t affected by your own knowledge nearly as much, because levels and stats are very important and enemies scale to your highest party member’s level (by +2, usually).

    On the subject of the race system in FFTA… I hate it, personally. It does nothing but stifle the otherwise awesome customization of the series’ job system. I wouldn’t mind so much if, say, humans could be any job, but didn’t necessarily perform as well as the other races in those jobs.

  12. So basically we need an “End Class Racism” campaign for FFTA3/whatever they’ll do with the franchise from here on out.

  13. I’m never sure how highly I should rate FFT, even though it’s one of my favorites. The job system is Final Fantasy at its best, but the actual gameplay is tedious and kind of awkward.

  14. its funny; in fft, the grind is my favorite part. i love playing random battles and trying out strategies and class combos. It’s to the point that i only advance the game when i’ve exhausted all possibilities in each tier.

  15. I wouldn’t say grinding in FFT was great, but it was such that random battles were actually… enjoyable? Few games can make that claim. Except when those damn high-level Chocobos showed up. Man, a party full of quick birds with huge movement that can one-shot you.

  16. TO: I don’t find it more difficult as just kind of a flawed design. Level is everything, but the main character has the invite command, which works surprisingly well, so you’re hugely rewarded for just recruiting from those enemies who have a few levels on you, constantly swapping old characters out. But yeah.

    FFTA: I actually like the “Class Racism” bit, as it promotes actual variety of classes, instead of all-ninja parties. I also dig that they embraced knockback to the extent that you can plan around it, ditching the casting time which made high level magic worthless, and I even actually liked the judges (at least when they don’t start punishing critical hits and being charmed). The tonal disparity I’m still not over, even with the band-aid that is FF12, and I’m iffy on the whole learning skills from hats and shoes angle.

  17. My favorite thing about FFT is how the game is set up to teach you how use use (and abuse) the job system in conjunction with the items. Super Metroid has good examples of enemies showing you how to get through a certain passageway and FFT does something similar within the confines of a TRPG. Well, I guess it has an in-game tutorial that explains the basics but it doesn’t present things to you the way the enemies do. It’s kinda sad that the TRPG genre has moved towards less freedom and experimentation(FFTA2) and vacuous grindathons(Disgaea).

  18. FFTA2 took the limiting-freedom so far as to decide which abilities you’d learn when – removing basically the entire reason training up was so fun in the original Tactics. Couple that with the castrated classes, and limited choice of them, and the game was left with very, very little of what made the first game so engaging.
    I’ve all but lost hope for SquareEnix’s continuing forays into the Job Class system.

  19. Admittedly I had a lot more free time in the days I played FFT for the first time (yay unemployment?), but I spent a LOT of time on random battles as well. Every now and then you’d get a crazy collection of chocobos or monks or samurai that really kept you on your toes!

    I thought Cid’s entry was well-timed–by the time he joined my party 65 hours in, I was getting tired of things and just wanted to see the end. He made that quick and painless.

    FFT remains one of my favorite games ever, maybe because it was my first strategy RPG. The music and job system didn’t hurt, either.

  20. That’s interesting about Tactics Ogre. Sounds like they took most of those difficult features out for Ogre Battle 64. In that game, reviving just takes a bit of gold; the enemies’ levels are fixed; and though you can’t really grind, levels aren’t nearly as important as equipment.

    From what little I played of it, the SNES Ogre Battle was pretty hard, too.

  21. Yeah, Ogre Tactics was a spinoff rather than a sequel to Ogre Battle, so it’s less of them ‘taking out’ features for Ogre Battle 64 as them never being intended for the main series to begin with.

  22. thunder… Thunder… ThunderGod! Cid!!!

    FFT is one of my favorite games and I could probably talk about it for hours. My preferred survival strategy was a war attrition heavily skewed in my favor with Abandon + mantle accessories. Or Ribbon + Chantage (with Maintenance as needed).

    I do agree that it’s a good game but not without its flaws. As a player I never did like the Faith system or the vulnerability you had when using abilites with charge times. Because of that near the end of the game I usually just gave my magic users Draw Out or Elemental. Or I just used physical attackers with Punch Art, Battle Skill or Throw.

    Also, I didn’t like the design or implementation of some classes’ action abilities and felt that a different design would have made the game better/more fun:
    Archer – practically useless
    Lancer – incredibly useful, incredibly redundant
    Calculator – powerful, but difficult to use (I consider this more of an interface issue)
    Ninja – some skills introduced annoying risk of destroying rare items
    Geomancer – good but restrictive and some of the skills had severely limited use
    Heaven/Hell Knight – do I really need to say any more?

    Another thing I hated was all of the freaking animals having Counter. That’s what made playing the first chapter such a pain.

    I did enjoy inviting other humans into my party but I generally just did that to take their equipment then kick ’em to ye olde curbe.

    “Admittedly I had a lot more free time in the days I played FFT for the first time (yay unemployment?), but I spent a LOT of time on random battles as well. Every now and then you’d get a crazy collection of chocobos or monks or samurai that really kept you on your toes!” Or a bunch of high-level hydras and dragons. I have yet to beat that battle. The grog hill all-monk battle is kind of a pain in the ass thanks to Revive + Chakra + Earth Slash + Wave Fist. The way I found to win that fight was with one or more characters with Math Skill (but not as Calculators) using Stop and/or Don’t Act while wearing items to prevent those statuses.

    “I wouldn’t say grinding in FFT was great, but it was such that random battles were actually… enjoyable? Few games can make that claim. Except when those damn high-level Chocobos showed up. Man, a party full of quick birds with huge movement that can one-shot you.” I agree. F-ing choco meteor.

    “And finally, there were several multi-battle setpieces similar to Riovanes Castle, but without saves or healing between each battle. Brutal, brutal stuff.” F-ing Riovanes Castle. The Underground Library was kind of a pain too but not quite as bad. Speaking of annoying battles there’s a good shot of one of them in the article – the battle in the city at the start of Chapter 2. Walking uphill in a narrow corridor with archers and wizards at the top – no fun. I’m glad I have Agrias and Gafgarion for that battle.

    “Keeping the enemy alive to train in FFT? Yes. Attacking + Healing yourself? No.” If you don’t want to waste resources you could just heal yourself with the chakra skill. Or you could use battle skill to break the enemy into impotent, quivering little piles of goo. Or if you just wanted the skills you could use the page down glitch trick.

    “From what little I played of it, the SNES Ogre Battle was pretty hard, too.” I had Ogre Battle and never found it all that hard. Just very tedious. 2-3 hours to play a single stage with no way to save in the middle. But I was younger then and had more free time. But I still only ever played through the whole game once. As a self-amusing aside: “Remember the Alamoot! Remember Shulamana!”

  23. Love FFT! I think I played that game more than any other PSX game. FFT, CSotN & MGS were the 3 games that I would keep coming back to again and again. Shame that I never did get into the Gameboy Advance versions (or is it Gameboy Advance & NDS?) Also the PSP version was a nice addition :)

  24. Yeah, GBA and DS. They’re not really games in the same vein, besides a similar (but far more limited) job ring system, and the Tactics gameplay. The story, setting (despite supposedly being the same), characters, tone, aesthetics, etc, are all far removed from what made a lot of us love FFT in the first place.

  25. This article makes me miss Yasumi Mitsuno’s games with a tearjerking passion. I hope the rumors of a Mistwalker collaboration are true, as they would make me pretty happy.

  26. Wait, what? FFT does not require any grinding, nor do levels matter much (equipment and skills are FAR more important). Even the first time around, I considered the first two battles (excluding the introductory battle at Orbonne) the hardest. Once you have access to a variety of jobs, skills, and equipment, the game’s difficulty just falls to pieces.

    This is not to say that Final Fantasy Tactics isn’t one of my favorite games, of any genre or era.

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