With us gamer chicks being as rare a commodity as we are, we deserve to be a little biased.
Its tale begins in non-chronological format – a rare move for Squaresoft – enabling the player to fully immerse himself into the storyline. Taking place in what appears to be medieval Ivalice, a young noble named Ramza Beoulve has seemingly joined a group of mercenaries, apparently disillusioned with nobility after the death of his childhood friend and commoner, Delita Hyral – when, lo and behold, out pops the walking departed and steals the princess from right under his judiciously-challenged grasp. Understandably, the young protagonist is at once pestered and ponderous, pointedly pontificating on the presently perplexing ploy.
The game then suddenly jumps to the beginning of what would eventually be called the “Great Lion War” and thereafter follows a linear storyline.
Ramza is an illegitimate member of the aristocratic House Beoulve and his father’s favorite child, whose death acts as the primary catalyst behind the game’s course of action. While initially intent on simply upholding his family name, Ramza eventually evolves into a stalwart symbol of justice and righteousness.
In a complex sequence of events involving the inherent corruption of the Church and ruling households, “Final Fantasy Tactics” spans several years and costume changes, all the while avoiding Square’s seemingly obligatory romantic angle.
While the game’s story is admittedly captivating, the absolute best – and most complex – part is the game-play. Like many strategy games, “Tactics’” battles are set on a field mildly resembling a chess board, though Heroclix enthusiasts are likely to claim closer distinction.
“Tactics” contains the option of 20 classes – 10 physical: the squire, knight, archer, samurai, monk, ninja, geomancer, dancer, lancer and thief; 9 magical: the chemist, priest, wizard, time mage, oracle, bard, calculator, summoner and mediator; and one special class: the mime, whose sole purpose is to copy the exact move conducted immediately beforehand. This may seem redundant and difficult to control, but can be extremely handy when coupled with big-hitters like summoners, monks and users of the ever-efficient Holy.
Although all characters begin as either a chemist or squire, each has the ability to climb the job ladder, as each class has certain prerequisites – with some of which are even gender based, as only females can become dancers and only males can become bards.
Four to five characters are allowed on the battlefield during most fights. Although special characters with unique abilities occasionally join your traveling troupe, a “Soldier Office” option exists for those who want to build their own army using the game’s intricate job system.
All characters are given the option to multi-class with up to two jobs, as well as a series of secondary abilities learned through various previous classes occupied that can be implemented at any point thereafter. With that said, however, certain class combinations seem almost ridiculously powerful. At higher levels, for instance, the monk, using the ninja’s “two swords” secondary ability, can deliver two consecutive blows ranging in the high hundreds, instantly killing most enemies.
The monk, alone, however, would encounter significant problems surviving a game such as this, as the presence of magic is often called. Although an impressive variety of combinations are effective, each gamer soon finds his favorite.
For those who secretly chase after side-quests, rather than coming-of-age storylines, those presented in “FFT” quickly take the “dung” out of bildungsroman. Each in-game city has its requisite bar, most of which generally serve as little more than rumor mills in the beginning, but eventually deliver an option called “Proposition.”
Each is nearly identical in summary and expected aftermath: with client-X requesting service-Y for N-days, additional information for which is available for Z-gil. Three regular soldiers are sent to investigate and usually return successful, with gil and job points in tow. This is a remarkable way to subvert class prerequisites, as I honestly can’t imagine anyone actually playing the borderline useless chemist for eight levels simply to have access to the mime. Propositions had have been invented quell impatience.
If Propositions exist to cater to the aggravated, then standard side-quests exist for those with a nostalgic heart, as they often enable to gamer to encounter Squaresoft stars of yesteryear, including the inimitable Cloud Strife. Yes, you can actually get Cloud on your team – again. And who said Square couldn’t market?
If nostalgia, boredom-aversion and interesting fiction aren’t enough, then the game’s zodiac-theme is sure to draw the rest in. The first question a gamer is asked is of his birth-date, which in turn dictates Ramza’s zodiac sign. Each character – playable and non – has a zodiac sign, as well. These often dictate the course of a battle and enable more advanced players to adequately plan success – and with the lead storyline focusing on the “Zodiac Braves,” little question is left of Square’s occult-like approach to the game.
But my prediction supersedes its inherent truth by parsecs: especially when caught off-guard, “Final Fantasy Tactics” tends to provide hours – if not days – of thought-provoking and highly addictive game play. It’s simply written in the stars.