A true classic reborn on your PSP hand-held system--along with pleasant additions.
So with that bit out of the way, I'm pleased to inform you that I will be covering the key aspects of the actual game-play and the upgrades/improvements made from the original PSX version. I tried to explain the game mechanics in such a way that would both interest the readers who care about the intricacies of SRPGs, and, at the same time, not bore them to death with mind-numbing technicalities... although, I admit--there are some. NOTE: the "new additions" section includes a bit of my opinion, but for the most part, I tried to stay as objective as humanly possible.
This is a Strategy RPG (in case you weren't aware already) with a powerful story (which I won't speak of) and rich customization options. In essence, these options aren't extremely different from other games in the same genre. You will be able to change character classes, accumulate job points to purchase new techniques, and acquire Gil after winning battles (final fantasy currency) to purchase various equipment. If You're familiar with the SRPGs then what I mentioned above should seem like pretty basic stuff. But I assure you: War of the Lions does it better than most games in the SRPG genre. Period.
You may hold up to 24 characters in your overall party (including the main character); this is an improvement over the PSX version. You will have the option to recruit numerous unique characters though the natural course of the story and through optional side quests. All of these unique characters will come with their own unique primary classes and move sets. You will have the option to change any of your unique character's class to to a different class (such as knight, ninja, mage, etc.) New classes are unlocked by gaining set number of Job Points, which are accumulated along with experience points after every action, except for "move," that your character takes. ***To learn more about JP and classes, please refer to the official guide or FFT wiki***. These story characters, as you may have already guessed if you've played a SRPG before, are not the only characters you can recruit. At the beginning of the story, you will possess a small force of CUSTOM characters.These CUSTOM characters may also change classes and learn new skills like your unique characters, but what sets these CUSTOM characters apart is that once they change their class their whole appearance changes accordingly. If you so desire, you may recruit additional male or female CUSTOM characters from any non-hostile city. All CUSTOM characters start off at level 1 and you will be given the option to re-name them (NOTE: choose their names wisely, as you will not have a chance to rename them after you've made your decision). You may also kick out any unwanted members from your overall party, excluding the main character and various guests, who will "briefly" join you at certain intervals of your journey. Careful who you kick out though, as the forsaken character CANNOT, under any circumstances, be reenlisted.
The battles themselves are fairly straightforward: you select a set number of characters out of your entire party (5 characters for random battles and usually 4 for story-based ones) that you want to participate in battle and then use them to decimate your enemy. The battlefield itself is structured as a grid-system (just like in most other SRPGs) where you will have to navigate your characters along move-squares in vertical and horizontal directions in order to get within striking distance. Naturally, you may also use the move command to initiate various offensive or defensive tactics. For example, escaping if your character is critically wounded, luring in enemies (preferably with a character that has high evasion, like a Ninja), flanking, etc. etc. Each character has a limited amount of spaces he or she can move per turn, so make sure to take that bit into account when you're pondering about some kind of a strategy (NOTE: the move stat can be increased with the help of some abilities and/or equipment). There's also a Jump stat which indicates how high a certain character can climb a stage's terrain. It functions in a similar fashion to the Move stat, so explaining it would be somewhat redundant.
The battles/skirmishes are character turn-based. This means that the frequency of each character's turn (ally's or otherwise) depends on the character's individual speed stat. Some character classes are faster than others, like the Thief or Ninja, so keep that in mind when choosing your battle unit. To help you micro-manage the speed differential, you may pull up the "turn" window which illustrates the "turn sequence" for all existing characters on the battlefield, multiple turns into the future. This feature can help you time your magic (along with other tactical actions) with mathematical precision. As for the conclusion of the battle, there are several different conditions for victory (especially in story-related battles). Sometimes you will have eliminate all foes on the battlefield (either by incapacitation or by permanently inviting them to your side via the Orator Class' invitation ability), sometimes you'll have to protect someone, or sometimes you'll only need to kill a single foe to be victorious. But don't worry, you will always be prompted on your ultimate objective prior to every battle.
Overall, it's impossible to conclude that the PSP version received a total overhaul since its original release on the PSX. (i.e. the visuals are essentially the same (naturally, that same resolution looks cleaner on the smaller PSP screen) and the combat system is virtually unchanged), BUT there are a few excellent additions, beside the fact that you may now play this masterpiece on a hand-held.
The first of the changes that you'll notice are the beautiful, hand drawn, CG animations with stellar English voice over. These CG's are scarce throughout the story, but they do make the game feel more epic, as if it has come to life in the palm of your hands.
The second change is that the dialogue has been completely altered. Apparently, the Japanese-to-English translation was poorly done in the original PSX version, so the developers and writers decided to re-write the entire story, including the names of the skills and equipment, into a medieval-like style. This was also a pleasant change, as it brought you closer to the apparent time period in which the game takes place. However, this also means that you'll often find yourself scratching your head whilst trying to figure out the meaning behind some of the archaic terminology. It's nothing that dictionary.com can't fix…. I hope.
Third, a couple of familiar faces will join you on your adventures in The War of the Lions. If you're a final fantasy connoisseur then you'll quickly recognize their names: Balthier, the Sky pirate from FFXII; and Luso, the Game Hunter (and main character) from the recently released FFT advance 2 for the DS .Note: Balthier is a side-quest character, so in order to obtain him refer to the official game guide or an FAQ from gamefaqs.com.
Fourth, two new classes were introduced: the all-powerful Dark Knight, and the mysterious Onion Knight. I wouldn't want to spoil these character classes (nor anything else, for that matter), so you're just going to have to find out on your own of what they're are capable of. ****Expect to fall in love with the Dark knight class. You have been warned.**** Once again, you may refer to a guide if you're impatient.
And the last of these changes was the addition of an Ad hoc mode, which enables you and one of your friends to engage in ad-hoc-only missions, known as Rendezvous missions, or duke it out in the Melee mode to see who the true FFT champ is. *****NOTE: only two players may use the Ad hoc mode at the same time, and both MUST have their own PSP and a full copy of the game in order to participate (if that wasn't obvious enough). And please, try to stay on the "legal-side of things" to support the devs--even SquareEnix deserves that much.***** Now you may find yourself asking: "well that's fun and all… but where's the replay value in battling my friend over and over again after I already showcased my 'unstopabal gaemin' skillz'?" Trust me, there's definitely good reason for you to dish out the pain over and over... AND your friend will actually thank you for it. After the conclusion of each Melee (or Rendezvous) battle you will taken to a new screen where you will have to select a certain number closed treasure chests. Each chest contains either an item, weapon, armor or accessory. The number of how many chest you will get to open depends on whether you won or lost the match. In melee, the winner gets to open three chests and the loser gets to open one. So as you can see, even to the loser go the spoils. Furthermore, depending on the overall level of your party, you will sometimes stumble upon unique pieces of equipment that are only available via Melee or Rendezvous. The higher your overall level the rarer and more powerful the equipment. Also, all expendable items used/lost in an Ad hoc match are automatically replenished after the battle, and all of your fallen characters rejoin your party without a scratch. In other words, you may play as recklessly as you desire.
And that pretty much wraps it up.
Bottom line, whether you're a newcomer to the series or a hardened FFT veteran, this is definitely the game to add to your library.