As I realized I’m celebrating eight years or so of friendship with one of my close friends [Matt], I thought back to where we spent most of our time building said friendship. That was of course, on the Internet, because I have all the social graces of a angry badger in a washing machine. There were a few places: Heroes of Chaos [website built around Warring States Japan], simRTK [similar site, but Late-Han China], and a few other places. One of those was built around Final Fantasy Tactics, one of my absolutely favorite games of all time. The large part of our early friendship was around FFT, and so I figured, today I’d think about what made Tactics so special. Turn-based strategy games weren’t new or special at this point. There had been quite a few, from Shining Force, Fire Emblem, and a host of other RPGs. That wasn’t what made it stand out. First, was the story. Outside of Breath of Fire 2, it was probably the RPG I was exposed to that had the most to do with religion. The Church of Glabados featured heavily in the grand scheme of things, and you fight a God at the end. You have a host of factions seeking the Zodiac Stones, each with their own goals, whether it’s to resurrect the Zodiac Braves [legendary heroes], to drag the world into darkness and chaos, or whatever ludicrous plan they may have.
The job/class system was unique, even if Final Fantasy 5 before it had the definitive class system. But to get those, you merely had to progress the story. Tactics utilized class requirements, such as Dancer: Lancer 4, Geomancer 4 [Female only], or Mime: Squire 8, Chemist 8, Geomancer 4, Lancer 4, Mediator 4, Summoner 4. You only gain JP [Job Points] from hitting enemies, and even more for the killing blow. But the game levels with you [at least, random encounters do] so it can be ill-advised to spend too much time grinding out classes in the beginning, because you won’t have the equipment to make them really shine straightaway. Sure, it’ll make story battles much much easier, but the rest of the time you’re going to hate yourself. I know I did. There are so many aspects to combat, that I won’t spend a lot of time on it. But it was ground breaking. What depth on the map you were on mattered, what direction you were facing vs. what direction the enemy faced. . .team composition, using or not using the Guest Characters/Special Characters [some of them were kind of busted. RE: Thunder God Cidolfus Orlandeau]. Hell, you could even use Cloud from Final Fantasy VII! This is a game you can rush through, but nobody [and I mean nobody!] would advise that! As far as I’m aware, it’s never had a true sequel, but a remake, and then there’s the “Advance” series, which I hate so very much. The Judges made me want to tear my teeth out one by one. But it’s a gripping, compelling story, there are so many different ways to approach the game. And there have even been mods for it, to make the game more accessible to new players, or to make the game a fresh new kind of Hell. If you haven’t tried it, it’s available on PSX, PSP/Vita, Android/Apple products, and so many places. It’s not hard to get, and if you love strategy RPGs, but haven’t played it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need to jump into the world of Ivalice and experience the definitive tactical RPG. Religious zealots, betrayal, choices between family and the common man. A fall from grace, and catastrophe; rising from the ashes of defeat, and doing titanic battle with everything from the aristocracy to deities. It’s really got it all.