I am eagerly awaiting this weeks release of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the PSP port of Yasumi Matsuno’s PS1 strategy RPG staple. Having looked forward to this release since word first came of the revisit, I thought I would relate my experience with another Matsuno masterpiece, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics was the brain child of Yasumi Matsuno, mastermind behind the Ogre games to which Tactics owes much of its style, substance and core gameplay mechanics. Matsuno left Tactics Ogre developer Quest in 1995 to join Square and his first task was creating the world of Ivalice and developing Final Fantasy Tactics using the skills he honed on the Tactics Ogre games.
Released in January of 1998, Final Fantasy Tactics came to North America only three months after Final Fantasy VII, just as that game was catching on like wildfire. For this reason Final Fantasy Tactics never gained the exposure or rabid following it should have at the time, but since its original release, Final Fantasy Tactics has achieved cult status and is counted among the best of the original PlayStation library.
The world that Matsuno created for Final Fantasy Tactics, Ivalice, has also lived on, albeit in a more official capacity. Two of Matsuno’s subsequent Square(Enix) games, the near perfect Vagrant Story and 2003’s Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, both had their stories unfold in the world of Ivalice.
Ivalice’s breadth and mythos were substantially expanded again in 2006, as it became the setting for Final Fantasy XII, a game littered with references and nods to Matsuno’s previous Ivalice titles. Unfortunately, Yasumi Matsuno left Square-Enix before the game was completed, leaving Ivalice and his legacy behind him.
His involvement in the PSP port of Let Us Cling Together, regardless of his level of control, is what has me most excited about the game. The fact that they invited Matsuno back for the rebirth of one of his greatest accomplishments legitimizes the project – a genuinely thoughtful effort to put the game into the hands of the current generation of gamers.
My formal introduction to the brilliance of Yasumi Matsuno came with Final Fantasy Tactics, which remains one of my favorite videogames ever, and one of the few games I ever became whole-heartedly obsessed with as an adult.
Final Fantasy Tactics devoured about three consecutive months of my life. I ate, slept and dreamed Final Fantasy Tactics. My discovery of the game came at the perfect time; it was the late summer/autumn of 2000, and I was in that joyous limbo between high school graduation and post secondary education, working a brain dead job at a pizza joint. My girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife and mother of my children) started her post secondary career and was almost wholly occupied with a full load of University classes and the trappings there-of. Needless to say I had an abundance of free time on my hands.
I still have my 170 hour (172 hours, 56 minutes, and 11 seconds to be precise) save file to prove my devotion. In an interesting footnote, I would not put more time into any game until I poured 223 hours into another epic masterpiece Matsuno was largely responsible for, the spectacular Final Fantasy XII.
I think it’s safe to say that I destroyed and dominated every aspect of Final Fantasy Tactics. I exploited every trick, maxed out every character, hidden and otherwise, and acquired or stole every rare item. I actually read, comprehended, and utilized the lengthy battle mechanics guide. I still have mathematical calculations scrawled in notebooks which I used to maximize the efficiency of my unbridled conquest of the game.
It’s important to note, that with a few exceptions I would not consider myself a completionist where RPGs are concerned. Save for Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 12, I have not put even close to that amount of time into another game. The next closest would be my Final Fantasy 10 save file which stands at 98 hours, a good portion of which was spent acquiring all the legendary weapons.
As I was playing Tactics that glorious summer/autumn a decade ago, I had stacks of paper and notes scattered all around the television in my bedroom. Eventually I got the idea to retype all the scraps and compile my methods and discoveries, as well as every other guide and trick sheet I found on the internet into what would become my most epic video game accomplishment to date: the “Tactics Bible”.
Now when I say that the Tactics Bible has everything in it, I mean everything. The steal guide, the Cloud guide, the entire battle mechanics guide, walk-through, Rafa/Malak guide, the level up/down guide… everything. This includes my own personal methods for completing each of the aforementioned tasks and detailed information of what to do and when – in order to maximize level grinding. All of this is crammed into a 4″ binder, arranged and organized by section.
I no longer have such insane amounts of time to devote to videogames. With a career, a wife, a 3 year old daughter, and a son due in early March I have precious little time to play videogames the way I played Final Fantasy Tactics.
But with that in mind, I think that’s why I look back so fondly on the time i spent with Final Fantasy Tactics, and why I am so excited for Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Those two games serve as a time machine, one through nostalgia and the other by nostalgic association, that have the ability to take me back to a time in my life when things were simpler. After all, escapism is the underlying reason why we all play videogames in the first place.