I make it a habit every Easter to play this game. It just sorta happened. I first bought this game sometime around late March and would be in the thick of things around Easter. By now, I was a Final Fantasy veteran. I played Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. I heard good things about Tactics, but I wasn’t so sure about it.
Of course, I’ve had some dreams that convinced me:
Riding on a chocobo in an Arabic slum collecting bills and jewels.
Ramza, Ovelia, Agrais a monk and I walk along a grid with torrent waters and stepping stone rocks. Ramza and I heal others.
Next, a battle involving characters who I know as Zalbag and Dycedarg commences in the basement of a castle. They walk on the Final Fantasy Tactics grid board, freely into a dungeon room even downward. A male white mage priest fights a monster in a Miami beach house.
It was different.
It wasn’t in 3D, but then again neither were the other PlayStation Final Fantasy games. Those games had pre-rendered backgrounds with polygon characters. This game had an isometric view with 2D characters. But Final Fantasy Tactics wasn’t just another JRPG. It was a strategic role-playing game.
I had never played a strategy game before, and I was sure this game was going to be difficult. The long tutorial wasn’t reassuring either. This made the Junction tutorial seem like a children’s book. But I appreciated the hand holding. At the time, I thought I needed it, and something to boost my confidence. But all of these mechanics! I got by on intuition, but at the time I really doubted myself.
The first few stages were easy enough. Fighting bandits in a town took long on my first try. I kept moving characters where I didn’t want them to go. Other characters snuck up behind me because I started losing track of where they were. Some enemies jumped on the roof out of my reach. I couldn’t attack in the water. I couldn’t attack characters behind other characters. Already from the first battle, I knew this game had a ton of depth. And I had to learn it all right away.
The next battle, a random encounter on the field, had a mostly flat terrain. But those Chocobos and red panthers gave me a ton of problems. I got through with a few characters dead. And when I found out they disappeared forever on the field, I had to restart. You can restart in the game, but there’s no restart in war. I’m sure this was a theme of the war, something that Squall whined about but we never really saw. When it came to the battles, I was starting to get the hang of it. So what’s next?
The Dorter stage was rough. The best way to describe it would be like going to the Moon in Final Fantasy IV. Why was it so difficult? The Black Mages. But look snipers on the roof. No matter where I moved on the field, I was in the crossfires of some enemy. Either I had an arrow to the face, or some guy lit my pants on fire. Either way, it ended with my defeat. I probably had to restart this game over 20 times.
So I started to strategize in a new way. Sometimes, it’s about placement. But you go into battles blind. By the time you see your enemies, if too late. At this point, I needed job points, stronger armor, and heavy-hitting weapons. How could I gain more points? By hitting enemies and keeping them alive. I was torturing animals and humans to level up in war. Was it intentional? Well, it went along with the theme of abusing others to achieve your goals.
But most importantly, I just had to do it. I have to believe in myself.
All I needed was a bit of Faith. Final Fantasy Tactics is a game that gets easier as your progress through the game.
And then I got to the Wiegraf/Belius fight, and couldn’t go back…