I’ve owned the original Final Fantasy Tactics since it was released on the Sony PSX back in ’97 and the reworked War of the Lions version single-handedly forced me to purchase a PSP. I’m a huge fan, so it is easy to see why I was quite excited when Square Enix revealed quite some time ago that they were porting over their wildly popular Final Fantasy Tactics : The War of the Lions to the iPhone and iPad. It seems as though it was forever ago that they announced the title, but that doesn’t matter much now that we have it. Seeing as the game has been out in one iteration or another for over a decade, I won’t go into a full retelling of the plot—but for those unfamiliar:
In Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, the Kingdom of Ivalice has just ended a lengthy conflict (the Fifty Years’ War) with its neighbor, Ordalia. The game’s focal point is a conflict occurring due to the death of the Ivalician monarch, King Ondoria. The heir to the throne, Prince Orinus, is an infant who cannot rule. Therefore a regent must be chosen to rule in the prince’s place. Those loyal to the crown choose Duke Larg as their candidate to serve, while the nobles’ council backs Duke Goltanna. Each of these men served as distinguished generals in the Fifty Years’ War under the banner of the White Lion and Black Lion, respectively. Ramza, the main protagonist in the game, is thrust in the middle of the fray because of the ambitiousness of his elder brothers, particularly the decision of Zalbaag to have the younger sister of a childhood friend murdered.
FFT:TWotL is a turn-based strategy game. Each participant in battle is given a counter, and when that meter is full, it is their turn. This is somewhat different than traditional JRPG-type games where entire parties will go through their members before giving up control to the other side. Players must think at least a step ahead to ensure that they don’t leave one of their allies in a dire situation with a group of enemies whose counter meters just happen to come up at roughly the same time. That being said, it isn’t difficult to pick up and anyone with a slightly analytical disposition can fare well. A word of warning, however. Losing a battle will result in the player going back to where they last saved, rather than simply being able to restart the battle anew as if nothing had happened. Similarly, once an ally (or enemy for that matter) falls in battle, players/enemy comrades have three turns to get to them and revive them. By failing to do so, the character is lost from the game forever, leaving behind either a crystal to boost abilities, or a chest that contains an item. This is a useful trick to have against enemy NPCs, but quite frustrating if it happens to one of your allies that are sufficiently leveled-up and equipped.
Those familiar with the series will find nothing new added to FFT:TWotL, except for touch control that is. I have to admit, despite it starting to grow on me ever-so-slightly, I still feel as though it is much more cumbersome than to use a controller on the PSX or analog nub stick on the PSP. And while I’ll get into it a little more in depth with the graphical portion of this review, I have to admit that there are plenty of times where the control actually hinders gameplay. It doesn’t make it unplayable, but it can be quite frustrating when you’re trying to get the screen to do one thing and it does another or ignores you altogether. Are these nuisances enough to keep someone from buying? Hard to tell.
One glaring omission from this title is the PSP’s multiplayer mode. It’s a no-brainer, Square! If it was implemented into the puny PSP, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been included on the iPhone! Granted, this is something that can be added after the fact with an update, but it’s just insane to think that they didn’t plan for it all along. Who knows, maybe when the iPad version is released later (rumors peg it somewhere between late August and mid November), it’ll become a universal app that will support multiplayer then. Here’s to hoping!
What can I say? Graphically it’s an exact port of a game that is over four years old that was an exact graphical port of a game that was released ten years prior to that. Thankfully Square Enix decided to keep the wonderful cel-shaded cutscenes intact from the PSP version of TWotL. While this is one of those games that you play for the game itself and the engrossing storyline, I have to admit that I am disappointed that they chose to take all this time (2 years, if I correctly recall) porting the game over to iOS without upgrading anything. It doesn’t take advantage of the iPhone 4’s gorgeous retina display, and it will looks pretty hideous blown up on the iPad. Which brings me to the point I alluded to earlier. This game is not much fun to play on the iPhone’s smaller screen. Because it doesn’t take advantage of the retina display, when making a move on a congested map, players will have to either zoom in (causing pixelization), or constantly be rotating the battlefield (not fun).
Square Enix’s titles, especially the Final Fantasy ones are known industry-wide as some of the most beloved soundtracks ever created, and FFT: TWotL is no exception. The music has been faithfully reproduced and begs to be listened to through a pair of good headphones, not those crappy earbuds Apple ships with every iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad. Just hearing the opening orchestral movements transports me back nearly a decade and a half ago, when I first played the game at night after my newborn son had fallen asleep.
I love this game, but not this version of it. FFT and the subsequent TWotL releases are in my top-20 of all-time games, but this release that Square Enix has given us feels like a half-hearted attempt at best, and an outright money grab at worst. I don’t know if they simply didn’t have the funds to put into re-envisioning or at least refurbishing the title, but I’m disappointed. That being said, it still is an awesome game and the ability to be able to play it on the go with a device I already have with me everywhere (iPhone and iPad), warrants the price. Other users, particularly those who’ve played the other iterations of it before, must decide how much nostalgia and ultra-portability means to them.