It is few gamers who fail to recognize the legacy that the Final Fantasy series has created. After decades of game time and appearances on a wide range of consoles, the Final Fantasy name is still one that brings instant respect. With a price tag of just $9.99, the newly released Playstation Network version of the 2007 game Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions gives Final Fantasy fans old and new the opportunity to play a widely respected Final Fantasy game without a hefty price tag. But can a game from 2007 stand up to the high expectations of gamers today, or are older games better left in the past?
The story behind Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is not a simple one. Fraught with political intrigue and the intricacies of war, it is oftentimes complicated to the point of confusion as you try to figure out all the characters and how they fit into the story. The two main characters are Delita and and Ramza, who have been close friends from childhood regardless of the fact that Ramza is highborn and Delita is not. The game takes place in the country of Ivalice, which has been torn asunder by a conflict known as the Fifty Years War.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is not a game that anyone can just pick up and play. The mechanics of growing and using your teams of characters are quite complex, and it would be difficult (if not impossible) to figure out what you are supposed to do by just playing. Their is quite a robust tutorial, but given the nature of the gameplay, it can be rather hard to follow at first, until you start to get an idea of how the game plays out. Fortunately, the way the tutorial is set up makes it simple to go back and double check things whenever you like, no matter where you have progressed to in the game. In addition to the complicated gameplay, the game is quite difficult straight from the beginning. Rather than giving you some very simple fights at the outset to help you build up experience for your characters, the game gives you initial fights that have multiple opponents who are quite challenging. The fighting difficulty does get better after you earn a bit of experience, though, so hang in there.
While you have a varying number of team members, you are only able to use a pre-set number of them during each fight, so each battle will begin with you choosing which characters will fight and placing them in position on the board. While it is quite tempting to just use your strongest characters for every battle, you will want to try to build a wide range of characters with various jobs, such as archers, knights, and mages. You will choose a job for each character, but some jobs won’t open up until you reach a certain level of a different job, so the jobs are something that will be changing and evolving throughout the game. You will also want to keep an eye on the equipment setup of all your characters. You will earn equipment through winning battles, and you can purchase it as well, and with a large number of characters it can be difficult to figure out which item will be best used on each character. To simplify this process, you can use the game’s “optimize” feature, which just gives you the best set-up for each of the characters.
As you win battles in the game, each of your characters are given job points, based upon how they perform in battle. These points can then be used to purchase new abilities. The job points are something you will be constantly checking and working, as they need to be applied to make your characters able to hold their own in battle. As I said, it is all rather complicated, but each character will need to spend the job points learning new abilities that you will be able to choose based on how many job points you have. You’ll then need to assign which ones you can use during battle. As you grow your characters, the difficulty level of the battles goes down considerably. One thing that dominates most battles, though, is the health of all your characters. In Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, if you lose a character, they are gone for good. You can learn techniques to revive characters, but they must be completed before a certain number of turns have passed, and you must have a character able to use them in play. On the flip side of this though, there is a benefit if an enemy character dies in battle, as they will leave behind a treasure chest of crystal that will give you new equipment or abilities, or restoration of health and magic.
The look and sound of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is quite impressive, and the five or so years since the original release have not dated it. The game is primarily played out in classic Final Fantasy style, with beautifully drawn cutscenes peppered throughout the game. Because the storyline is not a simple one, there is a lot of dialogue, but not so much that you begin to wonder if you are playing a game or watching a movie.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is a classic example of what a good series can be. By melding elements of the older Final Fantasy Tactics games we all know and love with crisp graphics, beautiful cutscenes, and an unpredictable storyline, Square Enix has given fans of the series the perfect blend of old and new. While gamers who are new to the series may find the initial difficulty to be a bit daunting, those who stick it out will find a challenging and entertaining game that, at $9.99 for a download, will not leave them disappointed. I give Final Fantasy Tactics: The WAr of the Lions an 8.5 out of 10, and recommend it any rpg fans who has yet to give it a try.