Ask any old-school lover of strategy RPGs to list their favorite games, and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Tactics will likely make an appearance. The classic tale of political intrigue, combined with a deep battle system resulted in a game that stands the test of time. After a PSP re-release with added features and a longer name (Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions) back in 2007, Final Fantasy Tactics moved to another portable system – the iPad tablet.
Of course, the big question many people have is: how effective was the transition to touch screen? Overall the game transitions very well to the iPad. Although there are a few minor flaws, the Final Fantasy Tactics gamers have grown to love is on the portable tablet in all its glory.
For those not familiar with the game, Final Fantasy Tactics tells the story of Ramza Beoluve, the unsung hero of the War of the Lions. The war is a large-scale clash between Duke Goltanna, the Black Lion, in the east, and Duke Larg, the Red Lion, in the west. These two forces clash with the objective of controlling the land of Ivalice. European history buffs may see a thinly-veiled retelling of “The War of the Roses” beginning to emerge. Allusions to the historical conflict appear throughout the game as Ramza embarks on his quest to not only end the fighting, but also unearth the unknown forces pulling the strings of both Dukes, and the supernatural “Illuminati Demons” they summon.
As for gameplay, the best part of this turn-based strategy game lies in its deep customization for the units you control. With the ability to change characters between almost two-dozen “job classes” with an equal mix of physical and magical-based abilities, players can develop their own unique strategy for conquering battles. With abilities that can be mixed and matched as the player sees fit, you could have any number of strange, yet powerful combinations. One unit could be a knight who can also cast magic to attack enemies from a distance. Alternatively an archer can alternate between raining down arrows on the enemy and healing wounded allies.
For those familiar with the game, it should be noted that this version is an almost direct port of the Playstation Portable (PSP) version. The new CGI cut-scenes with voice acting, script translation (no more sloppy translations like “I’m rescuing Agrias, geronimo!”), events, and battles all appear in this version. Unfortunately the robust multiplayer and rendezvous modes from the PSP version did not make the transition.
Despite the missing features, the iPad fixes the crippling slowdown that plagued the PSP version. Although a few select skills carry some minor delay, the game moves at a very crisp pace compared to its PSP counterpart. To accomplish this, the game code was tweaked to increase the game speed. Although this can result in occasional goofiness in certain skills (notably once lengthy summons appearing and disappearing in a flash) and cutscenes (people moving at lightning speed), the game play is not affected overall.
As for the touch-screen itself, it is functional. The controls take a little getting used to, and fortunately the tutorial has been greatly modified to demonstrate how to play the game with the new touch-based control scheme. It is a very good idea to play through the entire tutorial and practice with the touch screen before beginning the actual game, even for veterans familiar with the gameplay mechanics on an older version of the game.
In order to help navigate the chaotic battlefields, a zoom button and two different directional schemes can be toggled at will. The first directional scheme allows you to move the battlefield to a fixed point, while the second one allows you to rotate that fixed point. Both angles will be used to maintain an accurate view of the fighting. As for accuracy, the touch screen will generally pick up selections 95% of the time; when selecting squares on the battlefield, use a bird’s eye view as much as possible for best results. Selection can sometimes be a problem when dealing with characters in confined areas or with two elevation points (like an archway or staircase) though adjustable in-game battle options help selection issues here, and the tutorial recommends a few.
In addition to the occasional touch screen hiccup, the text and command boxes occasionally appear glitched. Commands are still functional, just nigh impossible to see within the jumbled mess. Fortunately if this ever happens, you can always save and quit, exit the app, and then reload your save. There are also rare moments where the game locks-up mid-battle when casting a spell – ironically time magic appears to be the most frequent offender. Fortunately the game has an excellent autosave feature, and even if the game boots you back to the title-screen, you are given an option to resume from right before the game locked up. The action that locked the game up will work upon trying again. Hopefully Square Enix will fix this in a future patch. Incidentally, you can also exit out of the app mid-battle and resume right where you left off thanks to this quicksave feature. The game even includes a helpful battery icon in the upper right that lets you know if the iPad battery is running low.
All that said – is the game worth getting? If you’ve never played the original Final Fantasy Tactics and are looking for a good strategy game, this classic is highly recommended. If you’ve played and enjoyed the original Final Fantasy Tactics but not the PSP version, there is enough new content to make another playthrough well worth it. PSP owners and those who have played War of the Lions on the PSP should stick to that version.
At $19 (as of this writing) War of the Lions is one of the more expensive iPad apps out there. Yet considering what you are paying for (a fully functional PSP game) both old and new school strategy fans deserve to give this classic a shot.