What makes Final Fantasy Tactics so special?

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The classic tactical RPG turns 25 today!

If someone is referring to a game-changing RPG released by Square in 1997, it’s generally safe to assume they’re talking about the beloved Final Fantasy 7. Whereas FF7 is obviously an amazing game and deserves the accolades it receives, it often eclipses an equally groundbreaking and beloved RPG released the same year: Final Fantasy tactics. Celebrates 25 yearse birthday today, Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the strongest entries in Square Enix’s catalog and one of the most important games in Final Fantasy the story.

fans of Final Fantasy Tactics are fierce and loyal, and the intense dedication people have for the game is impressive, even for a Final Fantasy game. Despite the lack of sales and widespread fan base that the main series Final Fantasy games have, the game makes up for it by being exceptionally meaningful to many who have played it. Perhaps in part because of its cult status and popularity, the game has carved out an incredibly special place for itself in the hearts of many.

From gameplay to story, here are three of the main reasons why Final Fantasy Tactics fans love him so much.

Balancing personalization and identity

Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy games have an interesting history with character customization. In some games – such as Final Fantasy 4 Where VII – each character has a separate, defined job with clearly different abilities. In others – like Final Fantasy 3 Where V – any character can be completely customized and played almost any way, the only real differences being aesthetics and limit breaks. Both of these approaches come with risks: the first may seem overly limiting, but the second can make characters feel like clones and rob them of a distinct sense of gameplay or personality.

Walk in Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the first games to truly revolutionize by Final Fantasy employment system. As Final Fantasy 3 Where V, any character can learn abilities from any job. However, most of the main characters also have access to specialized work that no one else does. While anyone can be a monk or a geomancer, only Agrias can be a holy knight and only Meliadoul can be a divine knight.

This system allows for extremely deep customization: everyone can choose 3 different passive abilities and 2 sets of active abilities, each of which can come from a completely different job. Because there are 18 jobs available to everyone (and two gender-specific jobs), the freedom of “anyone can be anything” from Final Fantasy 3 Where V is always present. However, since some characters also have access to their unique special jobs, they still maintain a distinctive playstyle that is unmistakably unique to them, even though you can customize them with abilities from as many general jobs as possible. The distinctive character of Final Fantasy VI and the flexibility of Final Fantasy V are both present, allowing for a “best of both worlds” system that even newer Final Fantasy games still struggle to replicate.

The personal is political

Ramza and Delita in a church in Final Fantasy Tactics.  Caption: Delita saying
Image: Square Enix

The story of Final Fantasy Tactics centers on two childhood best friends, Ramza and Delita. Ramza is a nobleman and Delita is a commoner, but they became close friends after Delita’s parents died and he was taken in by Ramza’s family. They eventually grow apart from each other and each follow a different path as they struggle to find a sense of peace, justice and meaning in a country torn apart by war and corruption.

The game has a strong class consciousness and is acutely aware of how structural discrimination and privilege can cause friction in personal relationships. Delita and Ramza’s friendship is constantly challenged when classism from the outside world seeps into their relationship. It is impossible to understand interpersonal relationships in history without understanding how these relationships are structured and influenced by larger social structures.

The game undertakes a massive world-building project on the scale of game of thrones, build a huge story about war, poverty, politics and religious corruption. However, unlike something like game of thrones’ huge ensemble cast, this story grounds all of these political and religious complexities through the story of two friends and how they come apart. Although there is a huge cast of wonderful characters, Ramza’s friendship with Delita provides the narrative line, showing how the whole story of a huge and complex world can be told through the story of two people and their relationship with each other.

Challenge against cheese

Another major problem that RPGs often face is the issue of challenge. Because RPGs are so often story-driven, it’s important to keep them accessible to people who primarily want to see the story; however, many people also play it for the gameplay and can quickly lose interest if the gameplay isn’t engaging or challenging. While many games take it easy and simply add difficulty levels or let players earn experience points until they are mastered, Final Fantasy Tactics takes a particularly unique output.

Final Fantasy Tactics is challenging in a way that many JRPGs at the time weren’t. Some battles can seem downright impossible, and the game was a huge challenge for people unaccustomed to its difficulty level. Unlike other RPGs, enemies in random encounters scale with player level, so a simple grind is also out of the question.

However, there are very specific mechanisms in Final Fantasy Tactics which can be exploited to make it ridiculously easy. If their Speed ​​stat is high enough, characters can get multiple turns in a row, so aggressively spamming Speed ​​buffs while running from danger until you’re fast enough to get multiple turns in a row can make battles more difficult. more difficult child’s play. The calculator class can also be easily manipulated to master, and an entire character is designed to almost break the game.

What makes this approach more compelling than just grinding or lowering the difficulty level is that players still need to figure out how to operate the mechanics before they can start moving around the game more easily. Final Fantasy Tactics is a game that rewards people for paying attention, and players who notice these exploits (or check out walkthroughs) are rewarded with the option of a tactically easier game: as long as you’re willing to do the work to learn how the game works, you can go through it regardless of your actual skills.

Final Fantasy Tactics does not punish players for struggling in level or skill, nor does it allow anyone to walk around the game on easy mode. Rather, the game rewards players who take the time to learn and understand how its mechanics work; once you’ve done your research, you can work your way through the rest with a calculator even if you’ve never developed the skills to make solid tactical choices. And for those who want a serious challenge, they don’t have to select some kind of “hard mode” but can simply choose to avoid these techniques.

Choose mechanics that are easy to use, but require learning How? ‘Or’ What exploit, is something Square would explore again with Final Fantasy VIII junction system (another game that punishes you for grinding by resizing enemy levels). It is interesting to see how Final Fantasy Tactics found a unique answer to the question of RPG difficulty by forcing players to interact with the gameplay in depth, even if the purpose of this interaction is to make the game easier.

There are so many reasons why fans love Final Fantasy Tactics which is difficult to summarize in a single article. The game has one of the most nuanced and complex storylines and world-building in gaming history, and the intricacies of its religious and political dynamics give George RR Martin a run for his money. The gameplay is also compelling, enjoyable and fun. This article lists just three of the many reasons why, even at 25 years old, the game is still a masterpiece.

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