Hello, fellow mortals. I regret failing to update yesterday, but I was quite busy! Besides the DS retrospectives I’ve been writing up each day, I also spent last night writing and revising my Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together review. I’ve been going back and forth on the score all week, but finally I decided that there’s nothing I would change about this game. If that’s not the definition of top marks, what is?
There’s no such thing as a perfect game, of course, and A+ isn’t a perfect score. It just means I can’t think of anything it’s lacking, any way in which it’s failing. It’s a remake that improves on the original and officially dethrones Metroid: Zero Mission and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride as the ultimate expression of what a remake can be.
My one disappointment with Tactics Ogre isn’t with the game itself, but with the reaction of a handful of very, very vocal fans of the original who feel compelled to roam around the web explaining to everyone why this remake is complete garbage. Every major gaming forum I frequent has at least one “super fan” who doesn’t see an opportunity here to encourage everyone to give this revision of their favorite game a shot and improve its chances of not being the last-ever Ogre game, but rather an opening to explain why it’s a worthless, watered-down desecration of all that they love and believe in. Yeah, I know, true fandom is all about working against your best interests, but it’s frustrating to watch.
The crux of many of these complaints revolves around the CHARIOT tarot system, which lets you rewind battles by up to 50 moves and try alternate strategies. It’s a little like having a built-in emulator save state, and yeah, it makes battles a lot easier to win. But it’s not a compulsory feature, and the game cheerfully tracks how many times you use the CHARIOT menu to tweak battles in your favor. It is, essentially, a dynamic difficulty setting; rather than taking a rigid, arbitrary approach to multiple difficulty levels, Tactics Ogre is fairly challenging by any standard and gives less experienced or confident players an out when they end up in over their heads.
It’s easy to abuse CHARIOT, sure; I embarked on the game using it to rewind when I made dumb, trivial mistakes in battle. Singeing my hero’s head with a misaimed fireball, trying to plink a too-high enemy with an arrow, that sort of thing. After a little while, though, I realized I was just being lazy and frivolous, which was no substitute for playing the game. I resolved to stop rewinding for stupid errors, sucking up my friendly fire incidents with grim acceptance and setting my jaw with the determination not to screw up on dopey, simply things.
The CHARIOT system still came in handy when battles went horribly wrong, though. Jumping back a few dozen turns let me take another stab at a mission without having to start over entirely from the beginning — not a frivolous cheat, but rather a time-saving convenience to spare the trouble of a reset and restart. When a single battle can take an hour (looking over my stats, it looks like my fights averaged out to about 43 minutes apiece), I can’t complain about developers having the courtesy to shave half an hour of redundancy off my screw-ups. And it’s occasionally possible to get into a situation so dire that no amount of CHARIOTing will save your butt. But ultimately, it’s a minor feature that can easily be ignored. Kind of like how you’re not obligated to grind for levels and gear at every step in a standard RPG. If something’s not fun, why do it? Play a game your own damn way, whatever that may be.
Anyway, the point is, I guess, that… because I like Tactics Ogre I… don’t really like Tactics Ogre? I don’t know, this sort of thing is still confusing to me even after all these years.