9

Best tactical RPG ever returns with an exciting and respectful revamp.

My relationship with Tactics Ogre was tempestuous: I tried the game on the SNES system (ahhh… my boyhood), but the Japanese language blocked me early in the game. For years I regretted I could not play the title, when a miracle occurred. Tactics Ogre was converted for PSOne and finally translated in a more intelligible language.
Finally I could see how splendid the game was, though the PSOne conversion suffers some trouble like the long loading time. Unfortunately a memory card incident wiped out my data causing me an heart attack. For personal reasons I could not restart the game and left any hope to see its end… until now.

Square-Enix showed again her love to me publishing a revamp for PSP not only virtually free from trouble and issues, but full of extra contents and features able to update and refine a game experience already on the top of the category.

Though its 15 and more years old Tactics Ogre get some features able to put it above the wonderful first episode of Final Fantasy Tactics. Starting from the plot, unbelievable mature and detailed for a game born in 1995 with main and side characters splendidly characterized, among an incredible twist of events, alliances, betrayal… and a couple of old fashioned massacres.
You could object that a similar political setting is typical of countless turn-based strategy games, and somewhat similar to Final Fantasy Tactics self, but need to remember that Tactics Ogre is, more or less, the progenitor of this entire genre. Moreover the maturity of the plot and the liberty of decision offered to the main character make pale the thousand of teen-aged fantasies of the last years games, including the plot-disappointing two episodes of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
Your character will be often called to pick critical choices in the game; choices that can't be reduced to the dualisms "wrong-right" or "good-evil".
Simply, it's a war and could not be won without dirty some hands. However, while the final goal of the game is clear (unify the island of Valeria and put an end to the war) the way you achieve it will be your choice: either acting like a demon incarnate or like an honorable warrior. Critical choices will guide you among the several branches of the plot. Really is difficult imagine a game so rich of contents at that time. Each minimal choice can later have recoils on the plot with changes often pretty substantial like the recruitable characters, friend and enemies. One fitting example is the Vyce character (beware: minor spoiler incoming) changing by our choice from a kind ranger to a fierce assassin. However the background story of the game will not disappoint until the end and the player will be eager to explore other plot possibilities. This last point will be extremely accessible thanks to a great invention of the programmers: The Chariot System… but I will talk later of it.

Is on the battlefield that Tactics Ogre catch up stratospheric caps. Characters movements are turn based on their agility, without different phases for ally and enemies. Battlefields will run in the classical chess grid model, but differently from other similar games Tactics Ogre requires a more tactical approach to the battle. This is due to several factors including the moderate resistance to damage of the characters and the greater number of playable characters on a battlefield. Differently from several others game, Final Fantasy Tactics included, in Tactics Ogre you could control allied parties framed up to twelve characters at once. Adding that enemies are generally slightly higher in number than your party and the presence of some NPC and we'll have mass quarrels with even thirty characters. Those features and the obviously large battlefield require to host the frag will guide the player to mature an approach pretty different from the tank strategies workable in this genre. On the contrary, even send a perfectly developed alone against three or more enemies could easily end in a crushing defeat. At the same time is obligatory protect and heal often the weaker or less heavy equipped characters since the A.I. is pretty unforgiving and likes concentrate all fire on a singular character at once.
Talking about equipment the game is extremely various allowing the player to satisfy every template whim he dreams, adding even the several classes of fighters deployable on the battle field. Each class come with specific strong and weak points together with equipment restrictions, but there are for all tastes. Pretty interesting even a crafting system able to empower normal items and the skill system for each classes. Unfortunately both system are powerful but less ductile than others similar games, especially for the crafting. The skill are purchasable spending point gained in battle and comprehend either passive enhancements either special attacks and features. First of all you will need to buy skills slot for your characters. Skill slots can seem numerous, but soon you will desire more and more being forced to left out from your templates very nice skills. This underlines the lack of ductility of the system: lack partially wanted in my opinion.
In the beginning, differently from Final Fantasy Tactics, here we can't create crossed class characters. If you wish to change a Knight into a Ninja you could forget his precedent features and skills must restart character development from the beginning. Then each class can however undertake different templates. While you can surely create a mage able to cast spells from three elements at once, you'll soon realize that so the character will result weaker than normal. Same for beastmasters, a class able to fight effectively beasts or dragons, but overall weak if both ways are attempted taking from other useful skills.
Generally is more useful specialize each character in a specific way; after all no one forbids you to have two mages at once on the battlefield with different elemental specialization. Similarly a warrior could be skilled against human characters and another against undead, beast, reptilian or more.

Technically speaking the game was not graphically revamped. the graphical look is almost the same of the original including some perspective flaws already present in 1995.
First of start complaining leave me say that a complete restyling maybe will have distorted the core of the game and deluded old times fans, and in my opinion should was pretty unjustified. Graphic representation is on 16-bit level, but don't forget that the game born on a SNES, so…
Instead are pretty welcomed the new graphical effects for spells and special attacks: nothing out of the ordinary, but clean and nice to view adding some color to the battles. Others pleasant additions are the music, now more clear, and the spoken summary at the beginning of each chapters.

But the more awesome new feature added is surely the genial Chariot System, a real brilliant but obvious solutions worthy of Cristoforo Colombo's egg.
I already talked about the several plot branches and choices the game offers altering more or less substantially the story of characters. Normally we are used to the "New Game+" option allowing a player to restart saving level and equipments in order to proceed smoothly to other plot branches. The Chariot system pass over this giving the possibility (always after a game completion) to move the party among critical point of the plot simply with some buttons pressure. Just I already said, it's simple but really awesome considering how much contents Tactics Ogre can still offer after one or two completions. Thanks to this revolutionary feature it will be possible at least explore every inch of the game without be forced to start from beginning every time.

Final Line
Square-Enix showed to the rest of the world like a porting of a old game must be done. Leaving aside useless interventions though implementing few but vital improvements able to exalt the game without distort its core.
Only doubts remaining concern the appeal of the game for modern players. Accessibility of the title was improved, but is still aimed to hardcore players, same for the visual aspects of the game. Those who are looking for a more modern and accessible game maybe should address to the equally immortal and beautiful Final Fantasy Tactics taking into account that Tactics Ogre on PSP is however the best version of the best tactical RPG ever created.
In my opinion a mandatory purchase.

Final Score: 9

Discussion

0 comments