Good day, Lusipurreans! I have been replaying Final Fantasy Tactics lately, and in the process, realized that the intended follow-up to the five part Final Fantasy Retrospective was never actually written! And so, several months later, I bring to Lusipurr.com readership a brief history into the Final Fantasy Tactics spinoff games.
Released for the original PlayStation in June 1997 in Japan and January 1998 in North America, Final Fantasy Tactics took the Final Fantasy model and the Tactics Ogre gameplay style and blended the two with great success. Tactics utilizes a job system that draws much from Final Fantasy V, though new jobs are unlocked by leveling old ones rather than by story progression. The story of Final Fantasy Tactics also deviates from the series’ formula; the focus is far more on the politics and people of Ivalice (the world in which the game is set) than on the fantastic elements typically explored by Final Fantasy main series entries. Final Fantasy Tactics tells the story of Ramza Beoulve, the youngest member of a long line of nobility, and his role in “The War of the Lions”. Ramza, his generic companions, and several special characters find themselves caught straight in the middle of scheming from several political groups as war overtakes Ivalice. Final Fantasy Tactics was not quite the commercial success the other entries on the PlayStation were, but among fans of the series, Tactics often holds just as special a place as most of the main Final Fantasy entries and, despite being an extremely easy game, is certainly an experience of the same caliber as the main series games.
Spurred on by the popularity of Final Fantasy Tactics among fans of the main series, Square Enix released a follow-up game, also set in Ivalice, this time for the Game Boy Advance. Released in 2003, the aptly named Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, while set in Ivalice, does not share any areas with its predecessor and adds several new races, many of which would see use in Final Fantasy XII. The star of Tactics Advance is a young Ramza-look-a-like named Marche Radiuju who along with his friends is sucked out of his ordinary school life and thrust into the fantasy world where the vast majority of the game takes place. After meeting a Moogle named Montblanc and taking over a clan of warriors, Marche then heads off on a quest to find his way back home, though his friends are much less receptive to the idea of returning to their unhappy home lives. The gameplay in Tactics Advance is a blend of the original Final Fantasy Tactics using an ability learning system from Final Fantasy IX, with one noteworthy addition. A frequently maligned law system within the game bans certain actions, elements, or behaviors during battles, with characters being penalized or even arrested and jailed for breaking these laws. Naturally, the A.I. almost never breaks the law, and bosses are immune to most of the penalties anyway. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was significantly less well-received than its predecessor; the law system was often cited as being unnecessarily restrictive. Additionally, the storyline was something of a mess, and the largely unlikable cast of characters made playing the game a less pleasant experience than the first Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, Square Enix’s follow-up to Tactics Advance, saw release on the Nintendo DS on October 2007 for Japan and June 2008 worldwide. Tactics A2 follows Luso Clemens, another schoolchild sucked into another different area of Ivalice, and his adventures throughout the Jylland region. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 uses the same weapon-based ability learning as its GBA counterpart, with similar requirements for unlocking new jobs for characters. The law system makes an unwelcome return, but is refined significantly. Rather than heavy penalty for disobeying the law and no real reward for obeying them, Tactics A2 rewards players for following the laws and will never remove someone from combat for simply casting “Fire”. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 was as a result generally more well-received than its predecessor; the game provided in many peoples’ experiences a much more refined and interesting experience than the lackluster GBA attempt. This reviewer must admit to never having played Tactics A2, so giving editorialized commentary proves somewhat difficult. Still, speaking to people who have played all three of the Tactics sub-series generally shows that the DS entry is a much better game than its disappointing GBA predecessor.
The history of the Final Fantasy Tactics games is a relatively short one. With only three entries as of April 2012, and no future games announced, there does not appear to be much future for Final Fantasy Tactics outside of horribly overpriced iOS ports. Still, for fans of SRPGs and the Final Fantasy main series games, these three games fill a unique niche among the dwindling JRPG crowd. What do you have to say about the Tactics games, readers? Have any of you played all three games? I have only personally played the first two, so I would like to hear from gamers who have played all of them. Even if you haven’t readers, comment and let me know what you think about Tactics and about Final Fantasy spinoffs in general! I look forward to discussing these games with you, my dear readers.