“How valuable is a ‘freedom’ you didn’t earn yourself? The moment ‘pride’ is lost, ‘freedom’ is also lost!! You lost your freedom when you lost your pride and confidence!! ‘Equality’s’ not something you’re given. It’s something you fight for!” —Ramza Beoulve
Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy Tactics is another game that meant a lot to me when I was younger, and one that I still have fond nostalgia of. I bought it kind of on a whim back in high school, entirely because some of my friends said it was an awesome game. And I figured since it’s a Final Fantasy title, it stands a decent chance of being good.
To this day, I think Tactics has the best story of any Final Fantasy game ever made. The lead character is Ramza Beoulve, youngest son of a recently deceased noble, who is trying to find his place in a war between corrupt noble houses. And with the great houses fighting each other, Ramza and his teammates are the only ones who can uncover the evil forces working behind the scenes from within the aristocracy and the church. It’s a story of civil war, deceit, betrayal, manipulation, murder, class warfare, violence, and demons. The story is filled with plots within plots and betrayals within betrayals that would have most Harkonnens taking notes. The key issue I have with the story is the ambiguous—and disappointingly unsatisfying—ending and epilogue.
The game-play for Tactics is unlike any other Final Fantasy title. It’s essentially the Final Fantasy V character customization, the FF VI character abilities, and the FF VII timed battle system combined with the combat system from your standard table-top RPGs. Each battlefield is based on a grid system, where character actions depend on movement speed, cover and reach rules, elevation and terrain modifiers. Rather than the turn-based system from early Final Fantasy games, the frequency by which characters act is determined by a speed stat, which allows characters with higher speeds to act more often.
While I still think the fact that the characters ‘walk’ while standing in place on the battle screen looks kind of silly, the battle tactics and character customization make the game are unlike anything found in any other Final Fantasy game. It was because of this, I suppose, that it took us so long to get a feel for the game, and even longer to really master it.
Recently, feeling nostalgic, I was looking online at the game’s artwork for the various character classes for the game and analyzing the armor and combat outfits. With nothing to lose, I decided to offer commentary on the artwork for the female characters. I’m only focusing on the regular soldiers, however, not the lead characters with speaking parts. (Though at some point in the future I think I’d like to write a blog post on Holy Knight Agrias Oaks.)
In alphabetical order (click images for larger):
Archer: Aside from the conspicuous lack of a quiver, the archer’s outfit doesn’t look overly out of place. As a non-melee character, she’s supposed to stay out of the action anyway, and thus has no real need for heavy armor. Her chest is protected by a strap-on leather breastplate, giving her heart and lungs decent protection from arrow attacks, though from this angle we can’t see how much of her torso it covers. Her short dress offers decent mobility, though I feel like it should cover more.
Gloves are thick and heavy—perhaps unnecessarily so; while I like the protection they provide from enemy weapons, as well as from her bowstring, I worry that gloves so large might impede her marksmanship. Her boots also seem on the heavy-side, but at least they’re loose for good flexibility and should provide her legs with decent protection. I assume the loops on the sides of her boots are places to carry arrows, unstrung bows, and crossbows, though this seems a silly place to keep them.
While I’m not crazy about the fact that the much of our archer’s arms are bare, I tend not to subtract much from these since wounds to these tend not to be fatal.
Overall grade: B+
Chemist: As another non-melee class, it makes sense that the chemist not need heavy armor. I suspect that “chemist” is actually short for “alchemist,” as characters who take this class are in charge of distributing various potions to heal allies and remove status ailments. In a sense, I guess you could call her a “field-medic.”
Her most obvious accessory is the massive satchel at her waist, arranged in front for quick access with either hand. Her dress is multiple layers, loose for unimpaired movement. Conceivably, the looseness in the sleeves might also allow our pretty chemist to hide vials and potions up her sleeves for quick access, allowing them to just fall into her hands. On top of protecting from alchemical spills, I suspect her apron could be an additional hiding place for quick access to extra potions.
Her shawl likely serves the two-fold purpose of keeping her hair out of the way of her alchemy and something to tie over her face when working with potion ingredients. Her gloves, though not readily visible, are thick leather to protect from potentially hazardous potion ingredients or even broken glass. Shoes are light leather, almost moccasin-like, offering durability and protection while allowing her to quickly get potions to injured or poisoned teammates.
Overall grade: A
Dancer: It took me a while to decide if I should even include the dancer class in this discussion. It’s kind of a bizarre class that doesn’t really mix well with other classes’ skills and abilities. Her job is to de-buff nearby enemies while she dances, affecting their HP, MP, speed, courage, etc. The trouble is that while she’s dancing, she can’t attack, cast spells, use potions, etc. To do so causes her to stop the dance, ending her effect on them.
I don’t, on any level, consider the dancer’s outfit to be combat-ready attire. It offers pretty much no armor or other form of protection. Even if her outfit is made from durable material (unlikely) it leaves her midriff completely exposed, putting her at the mercy of her foes’ swords and arrows. And gut injuries of any kind are extremely painful.
The only redeeming quality I find is that it does look like something a dancer would wear to distract others—but on stage, not on a battlefield full of enemies with spears and bows and arrows.
Overall grade: D
Geomancer: I remember the geomancer class being a confusing one to play, as most of her abilities depended on where she or her target were standing as to whether or not she could use them. If I remember, my brothers and I tended to level a geomancer strictly for her movement bonuses over certain terrain.
Preferring swords and axes, the geomancer technically counts as a melee character. As such, I’m not sure her outfit does the job. Her long leather coat covers everything important, but doesn’t look to be all that thick or hard to protect from blows during heavy, up-close combat. I like the hood, for possible protection from the elements. And her gloves look to be a light leather for sword- or axe-play.
Her legs are bare, which doesn’t lose her a lot of points (though I hope she’s wearing conservative underwear), but should be noted as a design flaw as it exposes them to enemy attacks. I’m fairly impressed with her boots, however; they look to be of thick leather for protection from attacks but look to be flexible for movement over different terrains.
Overall grade: B-
Knight: Here we come to the first of our heavy-melee character classes. The knight is kind of an interesting class, as most of her abilities focus on wrecking her opponents’ stats by cleaving their weapons and armor. Her own armor seems to be centered on her torso, though it’s difficult to confirm, as her dress obscures whatever armor protects her stomach, waist, and legs.
The chest plate looks good, curved outward to deflect blows away from her body. Based on the bulges under her cloak, her shoulder-pieces are good sized, keeping those joints intact. Arms are covered by plated armor with large elbow pads and leather gloves for heavy swordplay. Her legs are similarly protected by plated boots.
I’m not sure what her dress is made from, though I suspect that it functions like a feminized quilted hauberk, suitably protecting her skinny fame. I like, too, that it hangs loosely around her, allowing for additional mobility and wide fighting stances. Her cloak offers protection against the elements and opportunities for cool poses when the wind blows. Her baldric holds the sheath for her knife and likely a sheath for her longsword. All in all, this comes across as an effective adventuring ensemble.
Overall grade: A+
Lancer: The lancer (aka: dragoon or dragon knight) is possibly the #2 heavy-melee class after the knight. It’s an interesting class, where the soldier is able to leap high in the air, landing on and sticking her target with a spear then jumping back—from farther and farther distances as the dragoon levels up.
I’m mostly impressed with the lancer’s armor, thought there’s a few minor things that bug me. The plate armor all looks good, protecting our dragon knight’s head, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and joints. The extra plating on her forearms looks like it could act as a shield in its own right.
The two parts that give me trouble are the dress and the helmet’s “ears.” My issue with the ears is the same issue I have with horns on viking helmets: they’re an unnecessary protrusion. They’re a potential target to knock the dragoon’s helmet around, possibly injuring her neck, or as something for an enemy to grab onto, jerking her head down for a stab to the face. My issue with her dress has less to do with protectiveness than it does her class abilities—I feel like it might, no, does, interfere with her jumping. With its narrowness, I would expect it to prevent her from bending her knees or moving her legs very far apart to prep for a jump or to land effectively when descending upon her foe.
Overall grade: B
Mediator: Also known as the “orator,” the mediator is an unusual class in that she uses speeches to influence the battle. Her speeches allow her to inspire allies, calm or tame enemy creatures, and confuse or intimidate enemy soldiers. In addition, her speeches can convince enemies to defect to her side.
It makes sense, then, that she would prefer a flamboyant costume that sticks out amid the battle. I’d say her funky headdress accomplishes this. And, as she’s not intended as a melee character, she’s free to wear flashy robes with a split in the side of her dress. Her cloak as well should function for flamboyancy as well as protect her from the elements and even enemy attacks. Her light, calf-length boots should also help her stay out of the thick of the fighting allowing her to continue to taunt her foes from a distance.
Overall grade: A-
Monk: The monk is a hand-to-hand fighter and martial-artist who uses various moves and strikes to hit enemies multiple times or strike multiple enemies at once. I’ll admit that the monk’s outfit baffles me somewhat, however. I feel like there is way too much protection at her arms and legs, and virtually none for the rest of her body.
As an unarmed combat specialist, it makes sense that the monk would go without armor, preferring to dodge and evade enemy arrows and melee strikes. And as someone who strikes primarily with her arms and legs, it makes sense that she’d have extra armor and padding at her fists, elbows, knees, and feet. But I worry that the bulkiness of the boots and gloves would negate her evasion strategies. As much as I like how this outfit looks and how badass her haircut is, I’m afraid I can’t give her high marks for this ensemble.
Overall grade: C
Continued in part 2…
All images are property of Squaresoft.