Years ago, when I was first feeling out the Final Fantasy series, I gave this game a shot. I figured since I had dabbled in Fire Emblem in the past and made reasonably quick work of Final Fantasies IX and X, I could handle this thing no problem. I was filtered at Dorter Trade City. Between the dense writing and the galaxy-brained progression systems (and the lack of easy explanation of them), I found myself completely repelled by the experience. I turned right the hell around and played a different game. Another time. Apparently early 2022 was that Another Time, and this time I sat down and pored over resources online, figured out the best approach, and I started again in earnest. I beat Dorter first try.
The confidence that encounter gave me propelled through the rest of the game, and I'm so glad it did because Final Fantasy Tactics, particularly the War of the Lions edition, is one of the most worthwhile experiences I think you can have with video games. If you can hang with it. The game is genuinely uninviting. It speaks in flowery, dense language. It employs layers of character progression that distract you from the fact that you're going to want to focus on a tight group of 4 characters anyway. It's more like a classic Final Fantasy in this regard than a typical tactical RPG.
It's antiquated in a lot of ways and makes some baffling design decisions but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the most characterful RPGs I've ever played in part because of all those things. This thing has a fucking personality, and it puts you in some shitty situations, but it also turns around and goes "yeah you're cool" three quarters through and gives you an insanely powerful character to help you blow through the story. Its mechanical climax is different than its story climax and it feels confident in that. I dunno, man. It just rules.
And on the story. It's incredible how this unassuming 25 year old tactics spinoff with little cartoon guys is by far and away one of the very best stories ever told in the medium of video games. War of the Lions is very capable on the writing level, and it knows it. The only comparison I can think of is to Yuji Horii's works but even then, there's a different character to what Matsuno has done here that is just absolutely intoxicating to me.
I'm spellbound by this thing. I'll be thinking about Ramza and Delita for years to come. I want to play everything else Yasumi Matsuno has ever had hands on. I'm a fan for life. This thing is fucked up and weird, but it's magical. Games like this don't come around very often. I'm glad it happened at all.
Reviewed on Apr 21, 2022