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Hugh Likes Video Games: Final Fantasy Tactics

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Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Published by Square-Enix
Played on PS Vita

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The Skinny:The definitive version of the 1997 Classic that put tactical RPG’s on the map.

Final Fantasy Tactics isn’t the first isometric, turn-based tactical RPG, but it is a milestone in the sub-genre, and a breakthrough hit in The West that lead to the success of later games such as the Disgaea franchise. A stylistic follow up to developer Quest’s “Tactics Ogre,” both were directed by Yasumi Matsuno. FFT mixes the structure of Tactics Ogre with the Job System of Final Fantasy to create a highly-satisfying strategic game. And the depth of gameplay is perfectly set off by a complex, engaging fantasy story of power, betrayal, and warring houses.
Players are thrust into the boots of Ramza Beoulve, the youngest son of a minor but distinguished noble family. He gets caught up in a web of intrigue surround a set of mysterious, powerful artifacts during a civil war, forcing him to choose between protecting his family’s honor, and serving justice.
Twenty years later, Final Fantasy Tactics still holds up well. Its mix of highly-detailed 32-bit character sprites with 3D backgrounds works very well, and has a stylish quality. It doesn’t suffer from the same dated polygonal visuals the way contemporary games like Final Fantasy VII have. The original PSX release still has its flaws, though. The translation was spotty, and a few critical bugs in the game, including one that makes saved data unreadable, hamper play.
These were resolved in the 10th Anniversary PSP release, The War of the Lions. This feels like the definitive version, with a delightfully florid “Game of Thrones”-inflected translation, extra classes, new hidden characters, and animated cutscenes. The new cutscenes feel very much of their time, but the game plays and beautifully. The additions are all fun and do little to break the balance of the game. This is the most widely-available version, as the PSP port was carried over to the PS Vita store, and is available now for IOS and Android devices.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is the bar by which other tactical games are measured. If you haven’t played it, set aside fifty to one hundred hours of your time. It is well worth the investment.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Steamworld Heist

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Steamworld Heist
Published by Image & Form
Played on PS4/PS VIta

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The Skinny: Take command of a ragtag crew of space pirates in this surprising strategy RPG.

‘Steamworld Heist’ is an unusual choice for a follow up to indie studio Image & Form’s well-received exploratory platformer ‘Steamworld DIg.’ In this installment, the developers take their lighthearted steampunk aesthetic into new directions: Space, and the tactics genre.
The plot centers around Captain Piper Faraday as she rebuilds her crew and goes for scores in The Outskirts. When a gang of outlaws called the Scrappers start menacing innocent bots, Piper steps in to steal from the bandits, and get to the bottom of the strange occurrences in the Outskirts.
The series maintains much of the humor and aesthetic from Dig, and keeps a side-on perspective that makes navigation easy. Each enemy ship is a level, and levels can be replayed for better loot and experience. The combat system actually works very well. Each bot gets a set amount of movement, and can attack or perform unique actions. Shooting requires a steady aim, which adds some skill into the mix. Failure costs gallons, but doesn’t throw off the pace of the game, and isn’t too penalizing. Players can always go back and level up or try for better gear and try again.
With plenty to do and collect, and a well-rounded roster that grows over the course of the game, ‘Steamworld Heist’ is a pleasant and addictive little tactical adventure that does everything right. The game has a good length of about 25 hours. The writing is charming and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It gets my full recommendation.
‘Steamworld Heist’ is available from Steam, or for most Nintendo and Sony consoles.

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