Guest Author - James Shea
A remake of the hit game for the PS1, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions updates many of the little pieces of the original game in addition to carrying the game over to the Playstation Portable platform. It has been 10 years since the original's release; now the update brings it to a new generation.
As a refresher for those unfamiliar with the original game, Final Fantasy Tactics is a turn-based tactical game using many of the abilities and classes made familiar in the Final Fantasy series of games. The story takes place in the kingdom of Ivalice, where civil war has erupted following a great war against foreign enemies and the death of the old king. The main character, Ramza, must navigate these mazes of treachery and deceit to discover the true secret of the ancient prophecies that govern the kingdom.
The English translation to the original was notoriously bad, with such lines as "I got a good feeling!" and "Bracelet" used instead of "Breath" (as in, a Dragon's breath). The main thing done by the remake was the rewriting/retranslating of almost the entire script to be much more period-appropriate. For the most part this is a good thing, matching the epic, elegant scale of the story, though certain fan-favorite lines were lost ("Don't blame us! Blame yourself or God!" and "Surrender, or die in obscurity!" being two of those). Many names were also changed; besides the re-familiarization of characters (for fans who got used to the old names), the only other problem is the abundance of "th" sounds to replace "s" sounds ("Algus" becomes "Argath", like how "Aeris" from Final Fantasy 7 became "Aerith" in later games).
In certain scenes, illustrated cinematics were used to replace the game-engine cutscenes or CG cutscenes used in the old versions. These cinematics have a distinct art style and coloring scheme and are very well done. These scenes also have voice acting, which is done with English accents similar to much of Final Fantasy XII. Several new scenes are also inserted to either add backstory to the game or to establish a new character. On that note, two new characters from other Final Fantasy games are recruitable through the story (much like Cloud from FF7 was and still is): Balthier from FFXII and Luso from the upcoming FFT Advance 2. Two new classes are also obtainable for regular (IE non-unique) characters. Onion Knight is gained by gaining levels in the two basic classes (chemist and squire) while, on the other end, Dark Knight is gained by gaining a high level of classes in many specialized classes.
The War of the Lions also adds a multiplayer mode, accessible through ad-hoc wireless (the PSPs must be within range of each other; no online mode is available). Through this, two players can either fight head-to-head or work cooperatively on unique missions. Characters do not die permanently in this mode, but there are treasures that can be gained from it, including some unique equipment. While it isn't as developed as it could be, its addition is certainly welcomed.
Graphically, the game is the same. While the older sprites might seem dated, the smaller screen means that they seem more artistic than pixelated. The only troubling spot is major slowdown when spells are cast or abilities are used; this problem is recurring and noticeable, but such is only to be expected with the transition between systems.
Final Fantasy Tactics is still acclaimed as one of the best games of all time. With this remake, there were a lot of worries that the original formula would be watered down. Fortunately, this is definitely not the case; the additions are almost entirely good, and make for a much more serious, solid experience. This game has done a great service in many ways to this classic game, despite occasional troubles.