In some ways, you just had to be there. Final Fantasy Tactics was not a new idea of a game, but it was somehow the freshest game play I had seen in a long time. When I first played, most of my friends avoided it. Its first couple of battles were somewhat complicated to get into. It did not appeal to straight Final Fantasy fans and, for some reason, was actually sort of ignored by tactics fans, including fans of its obvious parent: Tactics Ogre.
Not to mention it had one of the most glitch ridden translation ever belonging to a game not Zero "All your base" Wing. It pains me that I can't remember all the translation glitches, but I do recall Lich being "Rich".
Let's fast forward past those golden days of a PSX RPG boom. Eventually, people realized FFT was a treasure and it was brought back as a greatest hits (I have my original edition, and am quite proud of it). People began talking about a sequel. And then there was one, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. "Wow" I said.
I have put off playing it for a year or so, but finally decided to give it a spin. I guess part of me was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype, or that it would and I would become absorbed in it. Turns out neither of my predictions was correct. While I would classify it as one of my top 10 games on the Gameboy system (heck, probably even top 3-5), it is not a true child of the original game in much the same way the new Musahi is more a watered-down clone of the original instead of a real, viable extension.
FFTA has gotten rid of the span of classes. There are a ton of classes in FFTA, but most of them share very similar abilities. Many classes, outside of the basic ones, are race divided, which almost doesn't fit right in the game world.
Multiple hit-zones per target are gone, getting rid of the skill used to figure out whether or not to take out the arm or the legs first. There are now "aim" abilities that hit at specific areas, but it is not the same.
The job system has been changed to be based off of learning skills via weapons. Furthermore, you gain AP just for staying un-KO'ed during a battle. You can take weak characters into battle and keep them in the back.
Character death is gone for the most part. Imprisonment is the closest thing, but with the exception of the main character it is not permanent. And none of that nail-biting "3 turns til dead/dead" thing.
You cannot just hire new people, but people come up "sporadically" and ask to be hired. With the exeption of a Morphing class, it seems that allied monsters are gone (or I am an idiot who never figured it out).
In general, the story has toned down a lot of the nail biting factors. Battles end with Marche telling bad guys to be better. People get in battles for the fun of it because there is no real reason to be worried. A lot of the reasoning is more distinctly childish. And the bad guys seem to be weakened. At same level and outnumbered, my characters don't have much problem winning.
The most interesting, and sometimes infuriating thing, is the Judge system. There are a set of laws posted at the start of every battle, of the lines of "Don't use swords" or "Bonus points for using magic". If you break the law, you get penalized, ranging from loss of stats to loss of equipment to loss of gil to imprisonment. If you obey the "bonus" law, you get extra JP (also earned by killing enemies). The JP can then be used to perform combos or to summon a Totema for your character's race (after unlocking them later on).
It adds a CCG-esque strategy. If you rely on archers, for instance, you might find missiles banned. If you rely on mages, Magic might be bad. But it is something of a cheap strategy. I would rather see battles where laws made sense. For instance, fire magic might be banned in a forest or maybe certain cities have certain laws. The "random" combination just makes it seem even more artificial.
It actually gets annoying when the "Dmg2" (get it? "Damage to ...") shows up. For instance, Dmg2Humans means you get sent to jail for damaging humans. If you don't have an anti-law card, then you are screwed. Twice I had to turn my GB off and restart because it gave me a "Dmg2Animals forbidden" in a battle featuring nothing but animals. Techincally, countering doesn't trigger the law, but I don't want to sit around for over an hour, trying to entice animals to attack me so that I can counter.
My final verdict is that FFTA is fun, but I am still waiting for a real Final Fantasy Tactics 2.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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