Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Yes, the TRUE king of SRPGs is back. You heard us, Disgaea franchise...
In every genre there is typically one or two games that stand out most from the crowd, demanding admiration and becoming the pinnacle of its class. Forum-goers will make threads detailing the splendor of these titles, and more still will mark it on some mental list of gaming greats that will stand every test of time. For strategy RPGs, there are certainly plenty to pick from that display these qualities. Yet no matter the scenario, if the discussion is about SRPGs one game that is sure to come up is Final Fantasy Tactics.
From legendary game designer Yasumi Matsuno, it is no surprise the game had all the fundamentals in place; after all, he practically helmed the genre with his landmark videogame Ogre Battle. It had excellent sprite work for the era, a compelling job class system and an absolutely brilliant soundtrack. Most importantly, it required plenty of strategy to survive the battles with all your men still alive. This fantastic formula combined to create a genuine classic, and it remains so to this day. So when SquareEnix announced it was going to do a greatly enhanced port of Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP, the hardcore gaming community was abuzz. What could they add to make this title even better than it already was?
While Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions includes many changes and improvements on the original, the Japanese release received some criticism over the fact that it contained a substantial increase in slowdown from the PS1 version. On top of this, the music suffered from a major downgrade making the soundtrack lack the depth of sound from the old release. With a system that is so much more powerful like PSP, it is understandably frustrating when an enhanced port is plagued by such issues. With this in mind, the good news is that for the US release the slowdown issue has been worked on, and though it's not entirely eliminated it is much closer to the PSX game now in this regard. But with the good comes the bad, and unfortunately it seems the music did not similarly receive the treatment it required.
Even though FFT had received so much praise over the years, it nonetheless had some significant flaws that often became the center of jokes. Chief among these faults was the translation, which was notoriously awful and filled with unintentionally hilarious dialogue. Perhaps, then, the best news of the US release of Final Fantasy Tactics is that the game has been given a huge re-translation. Tom Slattery, who previously had worked on the re-translations for Final Fantasy V and VI Advance, is again working his magic to create an experience that is both more interesting, and easier to understand. Here he creates a dialogue style similar to Alexander Smith's work on Final Fantasy XII, which attempts an almost Shakespearean flow of conversation. While at times the writing can be a bit over-the-top and melodramatic, by and large it is a massive improvement that has been requested by fans for years. Even names and locations have been reworked; Hokuten knights become Order of the Northern Sky, Igros Castle is converted to Eagrose.
Personally, if that was all they did I would already have been sold. But SquareEnix has a bunch of other goodies in store for fans as well. Beautifully rendered CG cutscenes inhabit the game, retaining Akihiko Yoshida's phenomenal art style with a storybook shading look to the proceedings. There is a 16:9 ratio now as well, which makes everything look that much more vibrant. The Onion Knight and Dark Knight classes have been added to mix things up, which gives the game even more variety than it already had. There are also several new characters and the storylines surrounding them. One of them is Luso, a monster hunter, who comes from the as yet unreleased Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for the Nintendo DS. More amusingly, Balthier of FFXII fame is included and plays a "significant role" in the storyline. Like Cloud from the PSOne version of the game, these cameos provide interesting fanservice for anyone who has followed the franchise.
Finally, the developers have added an entirely new multiplayer mode to The War of the Lions, which allows both co-op and competitive play. Versus play in particular has an interesting twist that has you laying traps for your opponent, and after a set number of rounds the person who has the most HP left wins. You're rewarded with an item that you can use in the normal game to help you gain an advantage.
With this laundry list of enhancements, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is ready to captivate gamers once more. Look for it on store shelves October 9.