Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)
You Are: Ramza Beoulve, youngest son of Balbanes Beoulve, hero of the Fifty Year War.
Your Goal Is: Hoo boy, it's complicated. 8-)
General System: FFT is a strategy RPG, meaning you spend no time at all walking around and exploring, and lots of time in battles and menus. However, it's not as grand-scale as e.g. Ogre Battle, so it's a lot more personal and more RPG-like. The world map is exactly that - a map, and your character simply moves from place to place on it by selecting a spot. Random battles may occur over some areas, and there's a slough of towns with shops, pubs, fur shops to cash in your monster furs, and recruitment offices.
You have a party capacity of 16 (though only 5 can be in battle at once), consisting of story characters, generic characters, and/or captured monsters. Your human characters can be one of 19 generic classes (story characters have special ones too), each of which have their own set of abilities. Speaking of abilities, there are four types: Action (stuff to do), Reaction (what happens when you're hit), Support (always on) and Movement (activated when you move). You learn new abilities by gaining JP, which you get by doing actions in battle. When you have enough JP, you open up new classes. You also gain EXP by taking actions; the higher the level of your opponent, the more EXP you get. Your enemies level up with you, though, so the 100 EXP required to reach the next level generally takes the same amount of time.
Your characters' HP, MP, etc. are determined by their job class and equipment. (Equipping armor raises HP and MP... no, doesn't make much sense, but it's true.) You have a lot of freedom in your menu workings, which have a ton of shortcuts and a multitude of great options, allowing you to sort by many different factors, to instantly see who has what equipped, etc. There's also a fully-equipped tutorial, and a "Brave Story" section which allows you to instantly see descriptions of characters and events, and even to replay any event that's already happened!
There's also "propositions", which allow you to send off three unused generic characters on missions, where they get JP, money, and possibly discover new lands or find treasures, neither of which have any use in the main game. Unfortunately, they get no EXP by doing this, so they aren't all that useful, to tell the truth.
Battle System: FFT is a "three-and-a-half"-dimensional system. Your characters can move in 3D space, but you can also see the order of turns at any time. Your five or so units (characters or monsters) can be up against one to nine enemies. Each unit gets to move once and do a single action per turn, until its "charge time" is up and its next turn occurs. Units' move and jump ranges are limited, so there's a lot of strategy involved in where you place your pieces and what you do with them. Spells take a while to charge, but can affect various ranges, so sometimes you have to actually count squares to see how far away you can get from mages or arrows. The sheer variety of moves and status effects is astounding (though never really overwhelming), and there are many ways to best any given battle. One great feature is that you can instantly see how much damage a given move will have and the percent chance it will succeed.
When characters die, a little countdown appears above their head. If it turns to 0, the character is gone for good, and turns into a treasure chest or a crystal (the latter allows you to learn a single ability from the dead character, or restore your HP/MP to full if you walk over it). Enemies do the same thing. If Ramza turns into a crystal, it's game over. This means that reviving characters is of highest necessity, and often in difficult battles you'll find yourself scooting all over the place to keep everyone alive. Each battle generally takes between 5 and 25 minutes to complete.
Graphics: The battlegrounds are pretty blocky, but the character sprites are expressive if not particularly big. Although not that immersive, I don't think it ruins the mood.
Music: Orchestral magic. The music really brings out the mood of the game, whether it's the twenty or so battle themes, creepy bad guy themes, or lilting character themes. The instruments don't sound that great, but many tunes are a pleasure to listen to.
Story: Both the best and worst part of the game. The plot is intricate, deep, and not a little confusing, full of intrigues, double- and triple-crosses, and wars, which is why the Brave Story menu is so useful. Unfortunately, both the plot and the Brave Story are full of some of the worst translations I've ever seen. Names are spelled differently in different areas, descriptions are confusing, lines sound stilted at best and often sound as if the person saying them doesn't speak English. It's not absolutely awful, but it detracts from the experience a lot. The characters themselves aren't very well fleshed out for the most part, but there are so many of them and their relationships are so twisted that it actually doesn't matter much.
Challenge: Generally medium, but some battles are fiendishly hard.
Length: About 60 hours; I've clocked 90 in one play-through when trying to finish all the side quests.
My Thoughts: FFT remains the single most challenging game I've ever played - and by that I don't mean hard, I mean challenging. The enemy AI is excellent, and will capitalize on its strengths and your weaknesses. You really have to plan out your moves carefully, and sometimes you'll have to spend an hour leveling up just to learn an ability or unlock a class to make the next battle easier (simply raising levels won't help, since the enemies raise levels with you!). The story is wonderful, though presented badly, and really keeps you interested in what's happening, so most battles actually feel like they mean something. The side quests are fun for the most part, and you can just spend hours and hours tinkering with your battle setup, capturing monsters, learning new abilities and mixing and matching job classes. The graphics and music do look and sound dated, which is a downside, but it's still highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 9.0/10