Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Onion Knight
Dark Knight
Luso
Balthier

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 actualy 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:

Onion Knight: LachrymoseLet’s start with the useless one. You need a Level 6 Squire and Chemist to unlock it. For those of you who are familiar with the Onion Knight from previous FF instalments, you know what to expect. Sporting its typical bulbous plumed helmet and puffy outfit, this job is useless in its raw form. It can equip anything–to the extent that male Onion Knights can even equip female-exclusive gear–, but has bad stats and no abilities to its name. What’s worse, they don’t gain any EXP from regular combat. So how do you level it then? With a lot of jumping through hoops. Each two jobs a character masters gains them one level as an Onion Knight. So to get it to Level 8, which is where it becomes worthwhile, a character would need to master 14 (!) jobs. But that’s not all. Since the Onion Knight can’t gain EXP in combat, the only way to level it up to take advantage of its amazing Level 8 stat gains is…to use the Wild Boar’s Bequeath Bacon ability. Considering the effort required to even obtain a single Wild Boar, this is, frankly, just taking the piss. Oh, and one more thing. As its predecessors in the series, the Onion Knight becomes even more powerful by equipping the exclusive Onion gear…which is only available via multiplayer. Basically, unless you’re a masochist, stay very far away from this job.

Dark Knight: ShadowedA much more interesting addition than its veggie counterpart, the Dark Knight basically looks like a Black Mage in black armour (which is especially cute with the female characters’ braids). While it has the average mobility and speed of a Knight, it also has the highest attack power of any generic job. It can equip heavy armour, robes, swords, knight swords, axes, flails and fell swords, which are only available via multiplayer, but aren’t a big loss. Its Action Ability is called Darkness and includes Crushing Blow, which can inflict Stop; Abyssal Blade, which damages multiple targets depending on their proximity to the user at the cost of 20% of the user’s HP; and Sanguine Sword, which drains HP from a target. The other perk of this job is that it allows female characters to learn Move+3 as a Movement Ability (male characters get Jump+3 instead). It also has a Support Ability called Vehemence, which increases the effectiveness of attacks and healing abilities by 50%, but also increases damage received by 50%. Risky, but potentially devastating. Of course, it all comes at a price: the Dark Knight is a royal pain to unlock. Not only do you need Level 8 as a Geomancer, Dragoon, Samurai and Ninja, you also need to master Knight and Black Mage…AND kill 20 enemies with the character in question (i.e. have them turn into crystals/chests). Honestly, by the time you do all this, your characters will probably be powerful enough to plough through most enemies with ease, so is it really worth it? I’m not sure. On the other hand, if you intend to try out multiplayer, then raising a couple of Dark Knights will definitely be a good investment.

And if that weren’t enough, WotL also introduces 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.

Luso: OutsiderThe most peculiar thing about this brown-haired and blue-eyed lad (never mind the concept art) is that, at the time when WotL came out, FFTA2, of which Luso is the hero…hadn’t even been released in Europe yet. So it’s not even fan-service, but shameless advertising for a game which turned out to be mediocre at best. Heck, Luso isn’t even optional: you will run into him in a storyline event in Chapter III, being chased by a pack of angry Behemoths (grab one for yourself!) in Zeklaus Desert. Ramza helps him, he says he’s been separated from his friends…and then decides to join the party for lack of anything better to do. Um, ok. And that’s as far as the game addresses his issues or acknowledges his presence. Luso’s unique job is Game Hunter, and it’s basically a clone of Ramza’s Squire with slightly better MP growth. Its Huntcraft job ability includes the exact same skills as Mettle, and it can also learn Ultima by surviving it. Mettle isn’t so useful that you’d need two copies of it, unless perhaps you’re trying to raise a character’s Bravery faster. The only real difference between Game Hunter and Ramza’s Squire is that it has an innate Poach trait, which can save you an ability slot if needed. Other than that, there’s nothing special or interesting about Luso. Except perhaps for his godawful outfit. He’s a Cancer.

Balthier: AnachronisticAs much as I despise the idea of cameos, Balthier is one of my favourite characters ever, so I tend to regard his presence in this game with more indulgence than Cloud’s or Luso’s. It also helps that he’s clearly the best cameo of the three. For those who have no idea who this is, he’s one of the characters of FFXII, which takes place in Ivalice several centuries before FFT. The dashing sandy-haired and brown-eyed sky pirate has somehow found himself transported in time while looting the Cache of Glabados (this will make sense if you’ve played FFXII). Why Fran (his partner) wasn’t affected is anybody’s guess, but Balthier is now trying to locate the Cache in this version of Ivalice, presumably to see if he can return to his own time. This has led him to be branded a heretic, just like Ramza. He can be recruited in Chapter IV via a Tavern rumour in Gariland, where some bounty hunters set up a trap for him. Balthier’s unique job is, of course, Sky Pirate and his Piracy job ability basically combines Mustadio’s skills with those of a Thief. Add to that the fact that he’s as fast as a Ninja, stronger than a Thief, and that his stealing abilities have a better chance of success, and poor Musty’s pretty much reduced to warming the bench for the rest of the game, regardless of the fact that he’s probably Balthier’s distant descendant (c.f. their last names). Piracy even includes a great unique ability called Barrage, which unleashes four unblockable attacks at ½ of normal power. Really, you can’t go wrong with Balthier, even though he’s no Cid or Reis. Heck, he even comes with a unique gun and armour equipped. He’s a Leo.

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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