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Editorial - A Tactically Disappointing Fantasy

Joshua CarpenterJoshua Carpenter RPGamer StaffRPGamer Staff
For the first installment of Josh's PSP Backlog Quest, he tackles Final Fantasy Tactics. Truly a beloved classic that nonetheless causes headaches for first time players.

[Editorial]

Comments

  • ClixClix Former Listmaster Full Members
    edited February 2018
    Oh thank God, I am not alone.

    I played FFT for the first time when the PSP port came out some ten years ago. Outside of the story, I utterly hated it. I was (and still am) a Fire Emblem nut, so I expected to love this game, but every single game play design decision pissed me off. Hell, one other point of contention for me was the utter lies that was the rate of success percentages. In FE, anything over 60% is relatively likely to work. In FFT, anything less than 85% was guaranteed failure, unless it was the enemy who had guaranteed success on anything above 35%.

    Also, this game is an utter slog to grind through, but the game is not designed for grinding. In late Ch 2, only one map is available to grind on prior to the first Lucavi battle. I spent hours grinding on that map alone. It was horrible. Hell, I am amazed that I even finished the game, let alone put in over 100 hours (the clock stops at 99:60:60 for some reason).
  • BudaiBudai Paladin Full Members
    I think the amount of playable characters per map is pretty limiting compared to most other strategy rpgs.
  • Joshua CarpenterJoshua Carpenter RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    Budai wrote: »
    I think the amount of playable characters per map is pretty limiting compared to most other strategy rpgs.

    It certainly feels limiting compared to most modern SRPGs, but from what I've played of the older console generations, it doesn't seem out of the norm for that era. Heck, there are still plenty of smaller scale SRPGs getting released, though they do tend to be the budget tier of the market.
  • MacstormMacstorm Ysy St. Administrators
    My story is similar to Clix's, though I played it originally on PS1. I was coming to it as a Shining Force nut, so the job system was a letdown and the limited party size was annoying. I HATED it. When I replayed it again on PSP, I appreciated it more because I knew it wasn't going to be what I wanted, so that helped. That said, it still sits in the middle of my rankings, not towards the top at all.
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
    Twitter @FinalMacstorm
  • smoosmoo Full Members
    I came here to post that I had the opposite experience as the author.. When I played FFT originally 20 years ago or so I really liked it and only heard of Tactics Ogre later. So I picked up a used copy of Tactics Ogre eventually and just could not get into it, I probably only played it a few times and moved on to something else.

    Now remembering all this today I was thinking maybe I should give TO another shot, I dug around my old piles of stuff and behold - a GBA copy of Tactics Ogre--the Knight of Lodis? Heh, so I didn't even get the right TO game, but this one is still supposed to be pretty good so I'll try it and see
  • Joshua CarpenterJoshua Carpenter RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    Clix wrote: »
    Oh thank God, I am not alone.
    It's always nice to see that you aren't the only person that doesn't like something. I've heard so many people say "I don't like strategy RPGs, except for Final Fantasy Tactics" that hyped up what I was expecting when I finally got around to playing this and I was incredibly disappointed.


    smoo wrote: »
    I came here to post that I had the opposite experience as the author.. When I played FFT originally 20 years ago or so I really liked it and only heard of Tactics Ogre later. So I picked up a used copy of Tactics Ogre eventually and just could not get into it, I probably only played it a few times and moved on to something else.

    Now remembering all this today I was thinking maybe I should give TO another shot, I dug around my old piles of stuff and behold - a GBA copy of Tactics Ogre--the Knight of Lodis? Heh, so I didn't even get the right TO game, but this one is still supposed to be pretty good so I'll try it and see

    You are already the second person who has told me that they liked FFT and didn't get along with TO. It's possible that my interest in the Balkans (which Matsuno used as a basis for writing the TO universe) gets me over some of the issues it still has and I'm just not a huge Final Fantasy fan so maybe that helps other people get over the arcane issues with FFT? I still think TO: Let us Cling Together is much friendlier than War of the Lions; being able to cancel actions combined with the ability to roll back time makes things much easier, but it's still a pretty complicated game. It must not have been too bad, because I checked my save file from 6 years ago or so and I ignored all of the optional tutorials in TO when I played it. I don't remember anymore how much of the systems were explained during play.
  • BudaiBudai Paladin Full Members
    edited February 2018
    jscarpe wrote: »
    Budai wrote: »
    I think the amount of playable characters per map is pretty limiting compared to most other strategy rpgs.

    It certainly feels limiting compared to most modern SRPGs, but from what I've played of the older console generations, it doesn't seem out of the norm for that era. Heck, there are still plenty of smaller scale SRPGs getting released, though they do tend to be the budget tier of the market.

    I can think of shining force, the ogre games, vandal hearts. Those were pre ff tactics and offered a bigger roster per map. Fire emblem wasn’t being localized yet. Maybe there out there but I can’t think of one.

    Edit- squares own front mission was pre fft, and I can’t remember, but I think it was also limited in comparison.
  • ClixClix Former Listmaster Full Members
    Probably the biggest difference between the over quality of FFT's and Tactics Ogre's PSP versions is the presence of Matsuno himself. The War of the Lions was a botched enhance port with only the localization team really trying. Let Us Cling Together was overseen by Matsuno, despite his departure from SE. He actually set about fixing/updating the game, hence its higher quality standard.
  • Joshua CarpenterJoshua Carpenter RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    edited February 2018
    Budai wrote: »
    jscarpe wrote: »
    Budai wrote: »
    I think the amount of playable characters per map is pretty limiting compared to most other strategy rpgs.

    It certainly feels limiting compared to most modern SRPGs, but from what I've played of the older console generations, it doesn't seem out of the norm for that era. Heck, there are still plenty of smaller scale SRPGs getting released, though they do tend to be the budget tier of the market.

    I can think of shining force, the ogre games, vandal hearts. Those were pre ff tactics and offered a bigger roster per map. Fire emblem wasn’t being localized yet. Maybe there out there but I can’t think of one.

    Edit- squares own front mission was pre fft, and I can’t remember, but I think it was also limited in comparison.

    I know I had a couple of other games in my head besides Sakura Taisen when I wrote that this morning, but for the life of me I can’t remember what I was thinking of. I respectfully concede the point since my memory is failing me Budai :)
  • BudaiBudai Paladin Full Members
    edited February 2018
    jscarpe wrote: »
    Budai wrote: »
    jscarpe wrote: »
    Budai wrote: »
    I think the amount of playable characters per map is pretty limiting compared to most other strategy rpgs.

    It certainly feels limiting compared to most modern SRPGs, but from what I've played of the older console generations, it doesn't seem out of the norm for that era. Heck, there are still plenty of smaller scale SRPGs getting released, though they do tend to be the budget tier of the market.

    I can think of shining force, the ogre games, vandal hearts. Those were pre ff tactics and offered a bigger roster per map. Fire emblem wasn’t being localized yet. Maybe there out there but I can’t think of one.

    Edit- squares own front mission was pre fft, and I can’t remember, but I think it was also limited in comparison.

    I know I had a couple of other games in my head besides Sakura Taisen when I wrote that this morning, but for the life of me I can’t remember what I was thinking of. I respectfully concede the point since my memory is failing me Budai :)

    Well to be fair, there were a ton of Japanese sjrpgs we never got, so both points have some merit. I would guess there are many with similar small roster sizes, like front mission. It just seems there would be more of them released in America pre tactics, but there really wasn’t. Dragon force was a popular one for Saturn that I haven’t had the fortune to play.
  • watcherwatcher Veteran RPGamer Full Members
    Saying a PS1 game looks bad is like saying old people are ugly.

    Playing a port known for technical issues is never the way to go, especially for a game that old.

    The original was a good game for it's time, but few games age well. I wouldn't replay it without knowing the JP glitch so that I don't have to grind.
  • OrophinOrophin New Member Full Members
    I'm probably one of those weird few people that preferred the original PS1 version over the PSP game, mostly because I didn't like the "Ye Olde English" localization of the PSP version. (the localization was broken English in a lot of places in the PS1 version, but I still related better to it)

    I think it's tough for mostly anyone to go back and play a 20 year old game for the first time that they have no prior ties to. They just don't age well. I got FFT when it first came out on PS1 because I was looking for something to fill the gap of the Shining Force games that I played. Not quite the same mechanically, but it was a TRPG with the Final Fantasy name slapped on it, so mission accomplished for me.

    The game was far from perfect. It reminded me of FF2 a bit where smacking around your own characters was usually one of the better ways of getting JP to level up your jobs. Non-unique characters were mostly useless except for doing the jobs in the bars just for completion's sake (well, they did open up some side areas as well) since unique characters such as TG Cid, Beowulf, etc had abilities on their base job that were just hard to justify not bringing into battle.

    I dumped several hundreds of hours between multiple playthroughs of this game, so I guess I can say I liked it, despite its flaws. I never played Tactics Ogre, so I might be in a similar situation as the author of the article where if it doesn't grab me quickly, I'd probably abandon it within an hour or two.
  • Joshua CarpenterJoshua Carpenter RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    watcher wrote: »
    Saying a PS1 game looks bad is like saying old people are ugly.

    Playing a port known for technical issues is never the way to go, especially for a game that old.

    The original was a good game for it's time, but few games age well. I wouldn't replay it without knowing the JP glitch so that I don't have to grind.

    Like I said, I don't think PS1 games hold up that well graphically in general, but it didn't help that Square just stretched the battle maps to fit the PSP instead of modifying the engine to support widescreen and, as to the technical issues, my gripe is that these issues weren't ironed out with the PSP port. Square had this opportunity to improve the game and they just chose to rest on their laurels.

    Also, there are plenty of older games that don't hold up to modern standards of gameplay and storytelling, but other times I've gone back and played earlier games that are so revered I've at least gotten what people see in it even if they weren't me favorite. However, I think the DS ports of Dragon Quest games hold up really well today; the DS version of Dragon Quest V is one of my favorite games so that combined with the PSP version of Tactics Ogre shows that Square is capable of putting out great, playable versions of older games that would hold up today. Unfortunately, if you took the Final Fantasy name off FFT and put it out today, without changes, I think it would be ripped apart for all the flaws.

    That's the thing, for a game that gets tossed around as the best SRPG of all time, FFT just doesn't live up to that sort of hype. There may be some interesting ideas and a good story hiding in there, but it's stuck behind some frustrating design. For a game I've heard such praise for, I just didn't expect to be so disappointed by the way it played. Maybe Square can bring back Matsuno again and bring a definitive version to modern platforms. I'd love to play that.
  • ClixClix Former Listmaster Full Members
    I think the problem is what does and doesn't age well in game design is not always obvious at the time of release. Some games do hold up well without much revising. Others just don't. FFT is by no means the only highly revered classic with this problem. On a more topical note, the Secret of Mana remake only helps highlight some of the original game issues that previously seem to have been ignored. Conversely, crappy PS1 and mobile/Steam ports aside, Chrono Trigger is still pretty good and does still warrant its classic status.
  • DarkRPGMasterDarkRPGMaster A Witness to Destruction Moderators
    Clix wrote: »
    Hell, one other point of contention for me was the utter lies that was the rate of success percentages. In FE, anything over 60% is relatively likely to work. In FFT, anything less than 85% was guaranteed failure, unless it was the enemy who had guaranteed success on anything above 35%.
    That's just RNG. Do you know how many times I've died in FE because the enemy always got that 1% crit or the 99% success rate failed on me? Too many to count. It's about the same for FFT. RNG will either bless you or absolutely destroy you, and it's not a design flaw, it's literally luck.
    "Yes, because apparently blindly jumping headfirst into a firefight without a grasp on the situation or any combat experience is a sign of genius these days."
  • LordGolbezLordGolbez Member Full Members
    Nah. The rates on FFT are definitely wrong, but it's not as harsh as indicated. I've definitely gotten hits with below 50% even. However, it's true that if you have only an 85% hit rate, you'll miss much more than 15% of the time. It's not even within any kind of reasonable standard deviation. It's just an incorrect number.
    The Tea and Biscuits Brigade offers you tea and biscuits.
  • PanzerAzelSaturnPanzerAzelSaturn New Member Full Members
    It is definitely nice to read something I agree with, especially when my opinion is so far outside the norm. I have never been able to figure out why this game is so well liked, even appearing at number 1 on many lists of the best games ever?!? I always figured that people who felt that way never played another strategy game and were really impressed by the idea of tactical gameplay?

    But my main issue has always been that there really is nothing tactical in these games. The battle party is small enough that some standard turn based RPG's have as many characters in battle at once (Suikoden for example). I came into this game having played pretty much all of the Shining Force titles (6 of them), a few Fire Emblem games, numerous PC tactical games (MOM, HOMM, AOW, etc.), Warsong/Langrisser, Tactics Ogre, etc. These are games where you have, generally, 12 or (many) more characters under your control. There are bottlenecks to defend and all sorts of terrain to take advantage of. Especially in Fire Emblem, there is no grinding and resource management is very important. Shining Force 3 and the many of the Fire emblem games have weapon triangles, some games have racial/alignment bonuses, Shining Force has weapon levels, AOW has defensive structures, etc. Many of these other games have real story based characters with personality that I much prefer to blank slates that exist just to play with the class system. If I am going to play a game that is all about enjoying the class system, it's 100% an Ogre Battle game for me.

    At any rate, with so few characters in battle and so little strategy, leveling up is the way to beat the game. Since each story battle has a difficulty jump that is higher than the number of levels you get in battle you have to grind on random encounters to make it through the story. The point of a strategy game is that the difficulty should come through planning and good battle field tactics, not through gaining levels in random battles. I was near the end of the game when I quit. The final battle sequence included enemies that were all 10+ levels above my characters and I just didn't feel like grinding until I became competitive. The very poorly told story certainly was not incentive enough.

    Since playing FFT I have played many more strategy RPG's. I have found that I like almost all of them more than FFT, even a lot of lower budget/average games, like Kartia, Vandal Hearts, Eternal Poison, Stella Deus, etc. The only other "strategy" games I don't like are the NIS games, like Disgaea. For exactly the same reasons. I did play through the GBA FFT game, and while it was certainly an improvement in some ways, the story was almost unbearable to suffer through. TO GBA was much better than FFT GBA. I'm not a huge TO fan or anything as they still suffer from a pretty significant lack of tactical elements, but the stories and gameplay and overall atmosphere are much better for me.

    I understand that there are very different tastes when it comes to videogames and the various genres, but I will always believe that FFT is objectively not a very good game. So it does annoy me a bit to see it on best games lists so often. One thing I will give it, it does have great music. But so do many better strategy RPG's!

    I didn't really mention graphics, because how a game looks isn't all that important to me, but I have to agree with this editorial. The game does look pretty terrible. I also don't believe it was because it's a product of its time. Shining Force 3 came out in 97/98 and is very clear, colorful, and (IMO) attractive. The Genesis SF games were beautiful 2D games. Tactics Ogre on the SNES looks a lot better to my eyes than FFT on PS1. FFT is very smeary and bland to look at overall. I think maybe they used polygons instead of 2D like TO, but I'm not able to see any way the game benefitted from polygons anyway. At least SFIII allows you 360 camera rotation as well as 3 zoom levels. As I recall FFT allows 45 degree rotations? It's been awhile since I played, so my memory is a little fuzzy. I'm also not a fan of the isometric directions, where up on the control pad is either up and left or up and right. Maybe the PSP version fixed that with the analog thingie (can't bring myself to call it a stick)?

    I know my opinion is unpopular. I just wanted to hop on and support one of the few people online willing to look at this game critically despite it's special place in the hearts of so many gamers. Hey, I like a lot of "bad" games too :)
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