Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Released 10 years after the original, this PSP remake of Final Fantasy Tactics made the game available on European shores and was a critical success. For good reason too, as it improved the original game in just about every way. Firstly, all former bugs Ch-ch-changeshave been successfully squished (e.g. the Oil status now works properly). Secondly, the English translation has been completely overhauled to be more medieval-sounding. While this makes some dialogue sound overblown to the point of cheesiness, it does fit the setting a lot better. I just have reservations on some of the naming changes, which I find a bit excessive. For instance, why turn Algus Sadalfas into Argath Thadalfus? I mean, it jutht thoundth like thomeone hath a bad lithp. Or Balbanes into Barbaneth. Or Zigolis Swamp into Tchigolith Fenlands. Or…but you get the idea.

NoselessGraphically, the developers made a bold choice in forgoing CGI, but instead introducing fully-voiced cel-shaded cutscenes respecting Akihiko Yoshida’s artwork. His noseless, trim-waisted characters may not be to everybody’s taste, but I like his style and find that this is a refreshing decision. I’m also happy that Agrias now has a voice.

Combat and gameplay have been significantly modified and updated. The  JP costs and job unlocking requirements in the original version were lowered from the Japanese version of the game, out of consideration for the lesser skills of poor Western gamers. They have now been restored, probably because the developers consider that we have finally caught up to Japanese players. I have to say, however, that this makes acquiring some of the skills (like Fly, which has gone from 1,000 JP to a whopping 5,000) distinctly more annoying. The difficulty of some storyline encounters, which had also been lowered for the original release, has also been restored. Cid’s and Meliadoul’s equipment-breaking skills have been modified to deal damage to non-human enemies as well, thus somewhat rehabilitating the poor girl. Rapha and Marach have had their abilities upgraded to hit 1-10 times instead of 1-6 and to be more accurate. This also applies to Reis’ Holy Breath. The combat incantations are gone, but summons and katana attacks now display the actual name of the attack, rather than the name of the summon or of the katana. The roster size has been increased, thus allowing you to recruit more characters and monsters at your Calendar changesleisure. What’s more, every generic character now has their own menu quote, just like the unique characters, which helps to give them a bit more personality. The calendar has also been modified to make things easier for people who have no clue about astrology: month names have been changed to Zodiac signs (thus, 1 Capricorn instead of 1 January).

SurpriseThere are extra storyline scenes to pad out the plot a bit more. Some characters also receive additional content, such as extra optional battles; there’s notably an extra battle for Agrias, in which Cid also has some dialogue, if he is present. Agrias also gets her own sidequest, for which it is imperative to: a) keep Alicia and Lavian in your party until Chapter IV, even if you don’t bother levelling them; b) keep Mustadio in your party, thus cementing his status as ‘gift-that-keeps-on-giving’; c) hoard up 500,000 gil (don’t worry, you won’t actually have to spend it all); and d) stop at a city on Agrias’ birthday (1 Cancer). Sound like a lot of hassle? Trust me, the reward is worth it.

Unlikely reunionBeowulf and Reis also get a whole new storyline arc, which involves Reis getting kidnapped. This was mainly introduced to let you obtain the Masamune and Genji gear, which can no longer be stolen from Marquis Elmdore in this version, but it does give the couple some welcome additional screentime for those who like them. Just one thing though: why can’t Reis, who is still one of the most powerful characters in the game, catch a break from being a walking damsel-in-distress cliché?

Know your teamAnd then there’s the stuff that’s brand new. Like the two multiplayer modes: Melee Mode and Rendezvous Mode. Common rules for both modes are that any inventory changes are temporary (meaning you can use consumables to your heart’s content: they’ll be restored after the fight). Similarly, no characters can die permanently. You can also earn JP, but not EXP from the fights. Some of the available rewards are unique and cannot be found in the main game. Melee Mode lets you pit your party against another player’s party in straight combat. You can pick almost any map you’ve already cleared, a time limit, an action limit, as well as choose to place traps and to allow or forbid Arithmeticks, depending on whether you feel they’re fair game or not. Rendezvous Mode allows you to team up with another player to complete a set of unique battles, some of which are significantly tougher than anything in the main game. As usual, I’ve not tried any of this stuff, but to give credit where it’s due, it looks rather well thought out for a multiplayer mode, and people who enjoy challenges will probably get their money’s worth here.

To capitalise on the introduction of multiplayer, WotL also introduces two new jobs, as well as two new characters. Unfortunately, they’re both cameos, like Cloud. And while they do have more reason for being there than he does (at least they both come from some version of Ivalice), they’re still blatant fan-service with no relation to the story and no good explanation for their presence, which still irks me. They even get their own introductory cinematics, a luxury that even Cloud doesn’t have, despite being a superstar by comparison.

Pigeon attack!Overall, this is a great remake. It made the game accessible to a wider audience, improved the existing content (although some people complain of reduced sound quality and slowdowns) and added more stuff for all tastes. I may not be a fan of the cameo fest, but it doesn’t actually have any impact on the main body of the game and doesn’t impair its overall quality, which is still top notch. If you’ve never played FFT before, get this version. If you have played it before, get it anyway.

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