Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Ah yes, the pinnacle of the Tactics genre. Final Fantasy Tactics was a new spin on and old story, and one of the first non FF games to be made. It is also one of the best, as well as one of the toughest.
The story, if you can understand it, deals with Ramza Belouve and his coming of age, and to terms, with the political turmoil that surrounds his family, friends, allies, and country. Politics, murder, broken friendships and treachery are abroad in this massive story, and with so much stuff going on at once, it is hard to understand what is actually happening. I won't give away to much of the story for the 4 of you who haven't played this yet, but regardless, this one of the best Final Fantasy Games I have ever played, and probably ever will play for that matter. That being said, this is a hard game to play, a harder one to beat, and not for everyone.
Graphics- I'll be frank. The graphics are not that good, if you don't favor SNES looking sprites and spell effects on a quasi-3D world. The menus are also numerous and boring. On the good side, the graphics fit the storyline perfectly, like a Shakespeare tragedy or a Machiavellian story, with vibrant colors and great characters to boot. Plus the artwork on the characters is phenomenal.
Final Score- B
Gameplay- This game is one of the most complex and detailed ones I have seen in the history of video games. The story, which I mentioned above, just tips the iceberg, with the numerous plot twists and strange turns that occur during the long yet exciting narrative. What makes it even better is that it all stems from one simple question, What would you do if you were manipulated by those in power. A very provacative and even more so, deep question to answer. And in the end, you never get a full answer, as you have to draw your own conclusions to that question.It is interesting to see how the main characters act as well, and if you agree or disagree with their actions.
What also makes it complex is the job system. There is a deep customization system here, with 15 jobs of various classes. To get these jobs, you need get JP's or Job points, up. This is done by using moves in combat, from magic, to regular attacks, to special abilities. Each class, from the Monk, to the Samurai, to the Black Mage, to the Summoner, have distinct requirements, equipment, abilities, and looks about them. Just making a strong party is hard enough, and then after leveling them up, getting the limited number of JP for the abilities you want is tougher. Not only that, but you got to spend hours upon hours killing monsters, getting characters, buying equipment, and tweaking the characters to make the perfect army for yourself. You can also get lucky, for when you kill human opponents, your characters can sometimes gain abilities by walking over the crystals they turn into (you have 3 turns to revive characters, or else they are gone forever.)
A fun game indeed, but only for the timid. Honestly, most people would not like this part of the game. As it takes a while to get a good army going. But for me, this is the best part of the game. I could spend hours doing this, and never stop. Can you? That is the real question now isen't it?
Final Score- A
Sound- The background score is awesome, with orchestrated midi sound for each occasion, battles, cutscenes, death scenes, even the menus, are all done great. No voices though, and the text sounds and sound effects can get annoying after a while, though. But the music is top notch at least.
Final Score- B
Overall Score- Final Fantasy Tactics is a tough game to play, and even tougher to understand. It breaks almost every rule in making a easy to pick up game, yet despite all that, it is one of the best games ever made. Solid graphics and sound, a great, although confusing, story, and a deep customizable strategy system that would truely test the mettle of the most jaded RTS and RPG fan. This one is for the fans basically, and for me, it's just right.