Final Fantasy Tactics
Release Date: January 28, 1998
Platform Played On: PS1
2018 Placement: #13 (-9)
What It Is:
The game that put tactical/strategy RPGs on the map for a lot of people, Final Fantasy Tactics was Squaresoft’s foray into a different style of RPG with their tent-pole series name. It brought in some typical Final Fantasy ideas like job classes and summons and the like but instead you found yourself in a grid-based combat scenario where positioning was just as important as attacking.
The main character is Ramza and the backdrop is a political nightmare in Ivalice. The story is deep and involves a lot of warring parties, along with the eventual typical god that wants to destroy everything showing up by the end. Ramza fights against his own family and his best friend in an intriguing drama that has so many layers it’s hard to follow if you’re expecting a light and breezy JRPG. The later War of the Lions remake helped with the translation to make it a little easier, though. Also, Cloud shows up if you do all the complicated stuff to unlock him. So yay!
Why It’s Important To Me:
This game was the one that got me into strategy RPGs as a genre. Final Fantasy Tactics was so good I ate up whatever I could on the Playstation after playing through it for the first time. Even though I was young and a lot of the story and themes passed over my head when I initially played, boy was it cool to climb up on top of a roof and fling a stone at an unsuspecting enemy. And boy did you do a lot of that before you got to the cool classes.
Everything about this game ended up being classic, from the tactical battle layer to the job system to the sprite work to the musical themes. The story is absolutely one for the ages as the dual tragedies of Ramza and Delita and how they intertwine over the course of the game is just fantastic. This game sat in my top 10 for a long, long time and paved the way for many other of my favorites within the genre. Even today, FFT is what I use as a baseline when deciding whether a new SRPG is worth it. The customizable jobs and cool characters will always live on in my heart as what every game in this genre should aspire to be.
My Strongest Memory:
Well, I’ll first take the obvious one: the Wiegraf/Elmdor back-to-back fight. Yes, it’s the one everyone remembers and for good reason. It’s balls hard. First you duel Wiegraf by yourself as Ramza, then you fight his Lucavi transformation, and then you end up on the roof after finding Elmdor and his two minions. The fight themselves are tough, to the point that it’s possible for Elmdor to make you lose the fight before you even have a chance to move your characters if you haven’t leveled up or are just plain unlucky. It’s a hell of a sequence but also so satisfying every time you make that hurdle in subsequent playthroughs.
But my other strongest memory is the character of Mustadio. For whatever reason, he just oozed coolness to me as a kid. He brings a gun to a knife fight and he’s just so damn awesome about it. His introduction where he jumps on the wall to get away from his pursuers is burned into my brain even though it’s fairly simple in both nature and dialogue. He’s always been my favorite, and now two decades on as I’m playing FFXIV I picked up the Machinist class for my character in Mustadio’s honor. He’ll always be one of my faves.
Why It’s #22:
If I was making an influential game list or even games that influenced my own taste, FFT would be a top 10 and probably even top 5. Even if it’s dropped to just outside the top 20, it still hangs out at the top of my lists and will always do so because of how much I adore the game and how easily I can fall back into “maybe I should play the entirety of FFT again” fugue states. If only it was rereleased on a current generation platform and made even easier to play. Hmmmm.