As a huge fan of Yasumi Matsuno, I was excited to learn he was getting together with his old bosses at Square Enix to remake (not reboot as Matsuno stands by his creations rather than crying do-over) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together with the original team from Quest. And this coming the same month Vagrant Story finally hit the North American PSN! Perhaps March is National Matsuno Month in Japan! Maybe at Square Enix? No? Okay, well Game-Flush.com could dedicate March to him. Still no? Well it’s Matsuno Month for me, haters!
Since Final Fantasy Tactics is the spiritual successor to Tactics Ogre, I was eager to dive into the original world of Matsuno’s mind and discover the game that gave birth to one of the greatest epics in video game history. That said, for any of you not familiar with the Ogre Battle series and expecting another Final Fantasy Tactics, prepare to be disappointed. It’s not that Tactic Ogre isn’t a good game but it’s not the addictive journey that was FFT.
One area it’s impossible not to make comparisons is obviously the battle system. Like all Matsuno games there are so many factors to consider when battling, Harvard should award you a PhD in Mathematics if you can master them. To say Tactics Ogre is challenging is an understatement. You’ll want to throw your PSP in frustration when, attacking an enemy from the side, you get a 35% hit-rating for 19 damage when the unit has a total of 140 HP! Even if you do hit the enemy, there’s only four sides you can attack. You’ll never get him down in one turn, and you still have his nine or more friends to consider!
Increased unit numbers on the field, non-permanent deaths when the k.o.-counter reaches zero and even a tarot card which allows you to go back to any turn in the battle, all count for nothing. At times I found myself playing the same battle over and over for about two hours, pulling at my hair, trying not to fail in the first six turns. Maybe Teach should put his money where his mouth is and give this title a try since Tactic Ogre‘s only difficulty level is Frustrate the Hell out of You!
Sadly, there are a few things to bring your frustrations to an unnecessarily high level. For one, though there’s no charge time for magic (Final Fantasy Tactic‘s most aggravating feature), it shoots from the unit casting it, not the sky. The trouble is if one of your units is in the way, the game doesn’t register it. So even with a 100% hit-rating you may still throw a fireball into the back of a friend’s head. Other encumbrances like not being able to turn the camera are just obnoxious missing features that do the game no favours.
The class system is severely lacking in comparison to FFT‘s Job System. For one, classes can only be changed through licenses and certain licenses can only be found, not purchased, adding a whole new level of stress to the choice of what class your unit should be. And though you can customize the abilities of each unit, you cannot use abilities outside the unit’s class.
What’s more, classes, not units, level up. So if you get a new class when all of your other classes are around level 20, it’s essentially useless unless you can, by some miracle, get a unit with that class to survive ten or so battles to get its level where it needs to be. Worst of all, the classes are not as well defined as the Jobs of Final Fantasy Tactics. Where I was completely aware of why I would choose say a Knight over a Samurai, I’m still confused about the advantages of a Knight over a Berserker or a Warrior. A Knight can use Heal? Still, it’s not enough to make much of a difference.
The story is your typical Matsuno plot with everyone in the world being a potential traitorous enemy. It makes me think Mr. Matsuno must have some major trust issues to think up this stuff. Still the plot is not quite as good or engaging as that of the Lion War. Though it’s a vast improvement over the almost non-existent plot of Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen.
Where Tactics Ogre outshines Final Fantasy Tactics is your ability to change the course of events through your actions. At the end of each chapter you can make a choices which take you on different paths, each leading to a different ending. Where these choices seemed pointless in FFT, Tactics Ogre took real advantage of them, giving you an experience most games don’t offer. And with the use of the World Card (which allows you to go back to previous events–obtained after completing the game once), you can easily play through any of the game’s different paths.
The best part about this version are the visuals and soundtrack. Rather than porting one of the previous versions of Tactics Ogre to the PSP, the former Quest team improved the graphics of the original and created new menus, text and functions, essentially breathing new life into an old classic. Not to mention, any game touched by Akihiko Yoshida’s hands is, in my opinion, absolute gold visually. With the music being redone by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, and the text re-translated by the Kajiya Productions team of Joseph Reeder and Alexander O. Smith, how could you go wrong? This version should be called Tactics Ogre: The Dream-Team Edition.
Overall, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is a good play. Though it has its shortcomings, it’s a premium edition of an old, beloved game, handled the way most remakes should be executed (take notes all you publishers and developers). It’s certainly worth playing, especially for Matsuno and strategy-game fans, but it’s no Final Fantasy Tactics.
Game Play: 3/5
Replay Value: 4/5