Playthrough: The War of the Lions Revisited

The Starlight Megaphone is pleased to present our Autumn 2010 feature: The Lion Wars Revisisted, a Final Fantasy Tactics playthrough.

Final Fantasy Tactics Box Art

Released in Japan in 1997, and America in early 1998, Final Fantasy Tactics was not an overnight success. Many fans of the core games in the Final Fantasy franchise were initially confused by the party members refusing to line up on the right side of the screen with helpful, blue-coloured menus beneath them. Then, there was the strangely chess-like gameplay. And, of course, the translation, so garbled at times that it earned its own name: Daravonese.

The success of Final Fantasy Tactics only came with time, and soon fans around the world began to sing its praises. A PSP release in 2007, subtitled “The War of the Lions” after the game’s historical setting, sought to address the translation issues. In this regard success was immediately to hand. The new translation was universally applauded, as were the new cutscenes, voice acting, and scenarios added to the original game.

Seeking to bring the game to an even wider audience, Square Enix ensured that the original PS1 version of Final Fantasy Tactics was released via the Playstation Network in 2009. At E3 2010, an upcoming iOS release of the PSP version of the game was also announced. Today, Final Fantasy Tactics has spawned several spin-off games on Nintendo portable systems. It marks the first inception of the world of Ivalice, destined to become a cornerstone of core Final Fantasy series games such as Final Fantasy XII. By any estimation, it was a landmark title.

This is the first week our our playthrough, which will wrap up on Halloween. Use the comments thread to discuss where you are, strategies for battles, observations and comparisons between the different versions of the game, and your opinions about how things have changed in strategy RPGs since the original release thirteen years ago.

So, now we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone on a search for the ‘truth’. Come with us as we revisit The War of the Lions!


  1. I started playing last night. I’m going to be playing the PSX version, because I hate to ask someone to borrow their PSP.
    I did find a copy of the remade script, which I will read in lieu of the in-game text, because I really do want to understand the frigging story for once. :P

    I’m just working on levelling jobs and stuff. Must have my bard, dancer, and samurai. <3

  2. Im starting this the second i get my PSP back from my friend who is using it to play KH BBS

  3. I’ll definitely be playing some of this game. Not sure if I’ll continue my save on War of the Lions which has most of the jobs unlocked and all the sidequests done bar Midlight’s Deep as well as the full story done or restart on a new file.

    I’m kind of tempted to do a playthrough where I go through getting all the Treasure Hunter(Move-Find?) items…although that means being constantly in front of a guide, not too convenient if I want to play it at uni or on the train or whatever.
    Can you get items this way that you can’t get in other ways? I’m just trying to think what I need for 100% on the game.

  4. @Berserk: I think the only unique item you get from Move-Find that you cannot get in any other way is Cloud’s Buster Sword.

    There are quite a few items that you can only get by stealing them, though. The Genji equipment from Marquis Elmdor, for example. Just a warning: some of that stuff can be incredibly difficult/frustrating to get.

  5. @Caspius – what the fuck have you played that’s harder than this?

    I’mma see if I can get my friend to play along with us, he loves FFT too.

  6. The combined greatness of FFT and FF7 in the later 90’s, and the subsequent decline in quality of RPGs (in my opinion) over the next several years led me to leave the genre alone for the past decade… until recently when I picked up a little game called Disgaea, which is not only a reminder of the chess-like depth of thinking & planning that Final Fantasy Tactics introduced, but it has also opened up the possibility that these games can be absolutely, over-the-top ridiculous, instead of profoundly ponderous or merely whimsical. Besides that, FFT was definitely one of the greatest artistic and conceptual achievements from one of the best video game developers ever. Can you think of any predecessors that perhaps inspired that game in either the story or the mechanics?

  7. You’re not the only one mate, plenty of JRPG fans have been unhappy with this decade.

    -I think you will find that Tactics Ogre inspired both narrative and mechanics, as it is Matsuno’s spiritual predecessor to FFT, and as luck would have it Matsuno himself is currently working on a PSP remake of Tactics Ogre, so it will soon be consumable in updated form.

  8. I remember playing this for the first time back when it came out. I hadn’t played FFV or any of the FFs with more explicit Job Systems (just 4 & 6 which don’t offer any real Job customization). I had one hell of a time until I realized you didn’t need the ‘Equip Shield’ sort of abilities learned in order to equip the items. It also got a lot easier once I figured out the corner a weak enemy and cheese them to get lots of Job Points trick.

    @Caspius, You guys never mentioned it in the Month of X, but I was reading a list article on 1up today and nearly peed myself laughing when I saw them mention FFX’s last battle. The music for it is hilariously terrible.

    Also, the Move-Find thing is needed to get Zodiac stones or something, I think? (From that optional dark dungeon hell-hole?)

    @Moenki, if you’ve got a Nintendo DS check out SMT: Devil Survivor. I’m playing through it now and find it to be rather enjoyable.

  9. I definitely will join in on this. I haven’t played FFT in 6-7 years, and this will give me the perfect excuse to give one of my favorite PSX games another go.

    From what I remember of Move-Find Item, most of the equipment that you dig up isn’t completely missable, but there are some items that don’t turn up in the shops until a few battles later, so it helps you save money and have that better gear just a little bit sooner. And as Caspius pointed out with Elmdor, most of the game’s later bosses have equipment thats only attainable by stealing it from them.
    Move-Find Item is a necessity in the Deep Dungeon, I think its the only way to progress floors and avoid traps. And I think the faith stat played a role in whether the items retrieved from there were something special, or just a phoenix down.

    I never did get around to playing the PSP version, but the misspellings, bad grammar and translation issues with the PSX game never really bothered me enough to force my hand. I never had any problems following the plot and events.

    Oh, and the music. LOVE IT! :D

  10. Thank you, @Sillicon: I’ve heard that one before, and as my only played example of the series was Ogre Battle, I didn’t think that it would be that close, but taking one look at Tactics Ogre I can agree wholeheartedly, and definitely want to play it. Let’s also remember that Matsuno’s next game was Vagrant Story, which while being its own thing-in-itself, also had excellent storytelling through a well-done script and scenario, and had a unique strategy. And, @evil, I’m also playing that as well now, and it is very nice (although nice might not be the best word for it). But the subject is FFT, and I have a couple more questions: I know many people knock this game and FF7 for having basically bad grammar, but can’t we get over that and just appreciate the hilarity some of those moments brought? Also, did any one find the challenge/levelling that stealing special equipment from difficult bosses in deep dungeons was enjoyable and/or worth it?

  11. FFT’s translation actually gave me a lot of trouble, probably because the story was already so complex. FFVII of the other hand I just don’t get. VII’s translation was like a very good first draft, it did not hinder my understanding of the story, and it didn’t stunt characterisation, it just occasionally looked a little untidy. IMO, most people just complain about it because it’s so fashionable to call FFVII and awful game these days.

  12. Generally I never had problems understanding FFT’s translation. But I also didn’t have trouble understanding the storyline of FFVII.

    Perhaps it’s something (Foster’s) they’re putting in the water in Australia. ;)

  13. Also, I’d argue that the Fire Emblem games are, in general, harder than FFT. I also think that Ogre Tactics is as well.

    In all of FFT, there are only a handful of fights that are genuinely difficult. Even the Wiegraf battle is easily won with a simple combination of Yell and Accumulate.

  14. @Caspius: People’s names kept changing, and dialogue was an incomprehensible mess …

  15. FFVII had typos on the black screen right after Aeris (Aerith!?!?) dies. It was just plain sloppy. I guess like a first-draft like SiliconNoob suggests? :-P I’m not going to derail this into a FFVII plot discussion, but in such discussions you’ll find damned near everyone has some mistaken ideas about what’s going on. Or the discussion brings up points that people then need clarified. That probably has more to do with the plot itself being a convoluted mess than the translation.

    But I digress.

    FFT’s plot didn’t really explain the secret “actually evil” antagonists, as opposed to the public “political intrigue” villains that Matsuno so loves. WTF was Belias? There’s these rocks that have demons or something in them that are evil because…demons are evil? I guess? So let’s kill God?! Or something?

    FFT’s lack of sidequest style exploration really made the overall plot more difficult to follow I think. The whole “there’s no walking around towns!!!” complaint can be shallow, but I think there can be some legitimacy to it as well. Usually in RPGs you would walk around and talk to everyone. In FFT they “streamlined” that, but didn’t add enough info to the way they simplified it.

    Anyway, I’ve gotta go out for a bit, but I’ll try to dust off my copy and give FFT another run through later tonight.

  16. @SN: Whose names kept changing? I can think of a few examples where people were occasionally referred to by their names or titles (Cid is a good example), but it was never something that was totally unintelligible. I played through the original translation of FFT at the beginning of this year, start to finish, and really did not encounter anything at all that left me goggling as to what was going on.

    If you are that dead-set against the original PS1 translation, play the PSP version. You have a PSP, so use it.

  17. I can’t remember, I played it about five years ago. I am just left with a vague recollection of a garbled mess.

    And like I said the other night, I’m not playing it again until I can do so on iPad.

  18. I think Ovelia’s name changed to “Ophelia” at some point… I know it was her, I just don’t quite remember what the error was. Its pretty messy pverall and downright bad at points, but I was so into the plot I just overlooked it at the time. Things like that have come a long way since then, so a new perspective will be nice.

    All of the battles at Riovanes were a nightmare. Yell/Accumulate was the only way I got through Wiegraf too, I don’t think there are many other ways to get through that, since Lightning Stab would usually have you dead in 2 turns. I felt kind of cheap getting through that battle that way and want to try another method this time.

    Speaking of “cheap”, it’s pretty easy to farm XP and JP by beating on your own party FF2 style.

    Some of the Fire Emblems are easier than others, playing through it while keeping everyone alive is tougher than FFT due to all the restarts it inevitably requires. FFT is still one of the tougher SRPGs overall though. Vandal Hearts, Suikoden Tactics, the Disgaea series and its cousins, and FFTA were all significantly easier than FFT.

  19. Sony’s localization efforts really were unforgivable during the late 90’s.

    I also remember FFT being rather difficult, but then I’m no TRPG player …

  20. I played the PSOne version back in the day and it wasn’t too bad. But the PSP version either had the difficulty ramped up or I was having an off month, because it was hard as fuck the last time I played it. I mean, multiple play-throughs of grinding the non-story missions just to level up enough to beat the story missions.

    And as far as “does Lane have time to grind his face through this bullshit?” The answer is no, because someone just got himself a beta key for the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer. And I know you motherfuckers want to know all about me stabbing the fuck out of some Templars.

  21. @Lane: I very much wish to hear about your templar-stabbing exploits! I just played through AC1 and 2 about a month ago, and it got my pretty excited for Brotherhood.

    RE: Difficulty – I’ve only played through FFT twice (once on the PS1, once on the PSP a year or two ago), but I honestly can’t remember any of the boss battles being particularly difficult. I’m pretty grind-happy, though, and for some reason FFT is exactly my balance of levelup/effort (on my PSP playthrough, I was level 99 before the end of act 2).

  22. Why the fucking fuck aren’t there any spears to be had in the first part of the game? I NEED TO LEVEL A LANCER you bitches.
    I find some of the early battles to be a bit hard. This may be because Algus and Delita are retarded ass-monkeys with terrible AIs.
    I’ve watched Caspius play through the game without doing any side leveling, just the story battles. Very impressive.
    I love Dancer. Wheee! twirl Best advice anyone ever gave me about anything in life was Lusi telling me to always have a Bard and a Dancer.
    New translation is so much better … :)

  23. Started my new game last night. Got into a random battle just before Dorter… had Ramza yelling a lot to boost XP/JP, only to get careless and have him get killed near the end of the battle. One of the hurt enemies had retreated quite far away and I wasn’t able to get to him to finish the battle before Ramza crystallized, which happened really fast since his speed was boosted. And of course my chemist hadn’t “learned” how to use a phoenix down yet. Just a lot of dumbass mistakes on my part. Hadn’t saved yet at all, so here’s to a fresh start tonight!

    I really don’t like the AI controlled characters. The thing about them that bothers me the most is when they steal enemy crystals and treasure chests. I have to actively block them off so my own controllable characters can take the crystals and learn free abilities, and depending on the battle that isn’t always feasible.

    My favorite class is a fully levelled Calculator…they’re completely useless until all of their parameters are purchased but once they are, they’re practically unstoppable.

  24. @Gin: If anything, that should be proof of what I am talking about! FFT is easy!

    (Also, I am something of an FFT god, so others may find it a little more difficult, but not by much I should think.)

  25. @DefChaos – I hate when that happens. :(

    I just started Chapter 2. Yay. Gonna have TG Cid soon and then I will be unstoppable!

    I liked Chapter 1, ’cause it has Algus in it. He’s such a jerk …

  26. @Gin: Algus is awesome. Seriously one of my favourite characters in FFT.

    The updated version brings him back later on in the storyline for a story battle. It’s particularly awesome in every way.

  27. @BM: It was a combination of having a 40 minute commute had having 40 minutes be pretty much exactly how long I want to do random battles at a time before it gets boring :D

  28. I’ll probably start it again, if I can get this whole “putting my PSP games onto the memory stick so I don’t have to use UMD’s” thing figured out.

  29. This game would be so much better if you could turn off (or at least speed up) all walking animations.

  30. @SN: I don’t know. That was an option in Disgaea 3. When I turned them off, I found it very disconcerting. I prefer to see them walk, personally.

  31. I’d just like it to be faster; lose the walking animations, add intelligent touch controls, and then that would eliminate most of the ponderous tedium of battles.

  32. LOL, I’ll just be happy if they just implement proper pointer controls, knowing them they’ll just throw in a virtual d-pad … in which case they can kiss my patronage good bye.

  33. I looked for a way to speed up walking animations too. Disgaea just goes at a much quicker pace in general, even without turning off attack animations.

    Im almost done with chapter 1. I struggled a bit at Dorter, but its been smooth sailing ever since I got my party members into some better classes. Ramza makes a great monk; if he accumulates a couple of times, he can one shot many of the enemies with wave fist even without grinding.

    Haste is a great spell, even without 100% success rate.

    So, Algus has another scene later on in the game on the PSP version? I always thought it was just a different translation, I didn’t know that entirely new scenes were added, or I would have picked up the PSP version a long time ago.

  34. @DefChaos: Disgaea seems to move at a quicker pace, but honestly with the combos and lengthy attack animations that start occuring later on, I think it is an even worse offender.

    And yes, there are several new scenes and battles which were added, in addition to new characters, new cutscenes, voice acting, and a new job class (Dark Knight). It is significantly more robust than the original in terms of additional content–but nothing is added that significant affects the main story, so you aren’t missing key details by playing the PS1 version.

    That said, the PSP version’s translation alone is so good as to be worth the purchase. But being able to get Balthier and make Dark Knights are both awesome additions, too.

    And the cutscenes are just awesome. I mean, really. For the cheapo price of the PSP version, everyone should have it.

  35. Yeah, I don’t buy ports very often as I have a hard enough time as it is picking up all of the new releases that I want. Clearly though I just missed the boat on this one, like you said it’s cheap so there’s no reason not to snag a copy at this point.

    Although some of the later attack animations in Disgaea are pretty excessive, it just seems like the battles go by a bit quicker, even with having up to 10 active characters as opposed to the 5-6 in FFT. Plus being able to execute everyone’s actions at once helps speed things along.

    Generally speaking though, Disgaea is a series more about leveling up and buying better equipment if a battle is too tough. That’s not the case in FFT at all, each party member’s job and secondary skills really need to be thought out. An extra 5 levels and a better sword won’t help you win if your strategy isn’t any good.

    I just got Agrias for good, about to head to Lionel Castle, which I remember being pretty tough. Still have Ramza as a monk, with my generics as ninja, summoner, calculator, samurai.

  36. I really hate the way the game kinda cockblocks you in terms of job classes. It’s like … sure, you can be awesome and unlock cool classes fairly early … but ooooh snap, we can’t give you a bow yet, or a spear, or a Samurai sword …

    Stupid jerk game.

    I dunno what class to make Ramza. Ninja are cool, because they can hit twice, which really helps later when enemies get better at dodging. But the Samurai has more useful abilities. :(

  37. Finally I can participate in a playthrough!

    Right now I just got to chapter 3. I leveled up a lot during the first chapter and pretty much blew through the second. Right now I have Ramza as a ninja as well as two others. I typically give them Monk secondary abilities (chakra, aura blast, shockwave and Brawler ). My other 2 are white mage and a black mage with chemist abilities and throw items.

    One thing I’ve noticed with the game that while it is cool you have full access to acquiring all of the classes from the beginning, once I’m done getting the base classes that I want, when I return to the story missions- they are way too easy. In the random battles the enemies level with you, but in the story missions they are at a set level. Thats kind of disappointing to me, because the story missions are a lot more fun, and would be more so if they scaled to your level.

    Granted it is my fault for trying to get ninjas before the end of the first chapter, but I think the game would be more fun if the challenge met you half way during the story missions if you do choose to go for the more advanced classes early on.

  38. Finally had some time this week to play: completed chapter 1 and have Ramza as a knight with his special Squire subjob. My other party members at the moment are a Ninja, an Orator, and a Bard & Dancer.

    For those having difficulty, Monks are incredibly powerful in the first two chapters when paired with the Squire subjob. Using Focus (Accumulate, in the original) will have a massive increase on your attacks, because of the way damage for the Monk attacks are calculated.

    In the first two chapters, many battles are easier to win if you hold back and draw the enemies to you. Then, surround one enemy and cut him to pieces before moving on to the next. Four attack characters and one dedicated healer can generally see you through anything with this approach if you are patient.

    However, that tactic becomes less viable later on in the game with the arrival of Summoners and other long-range characters.

    Absolutely vital to any levelling up is the early acquisition of the JP Boost (Gained JP Up) skill from Squire. I also recommend Battle Boots and Move +1 (also from Squire). Finally, Focus (Accumulate) is a fine way to ramp up damage and earn JP on turns when you can’t do anything else.

    Hope these tips help out people who are relatively new to FFT, or who are having difficulty. :)

  39. Another ability I use that is really useful is the chemists auto-potion. Later when you can buy hi potions and x potions, sell off all your lower grade potions so when the reaction ability takes effect you will be healing 70 or 150 hp as opposed to 30. It can really help out with the weigraf battle or any battle where the enemies can do a lot of damage to some of your not so high in defense classes.

  40. Auto Potion gets me through a number of the harder fights in the game. The Wiegraf battle almost necessitates it, and it is dead useful against Gafgarion during the escape from Lionel.

  41. Can I get a show of hands for which version people are playing?

    Original PS1 disc
    PSN release on the PS3/PSP
    War of the Lions PSP release

  42. Original PS1 disc here.

    I just finished my playthrough a bit ago, just under the 30 hr mark, at level 36. My party for the last 2 chapters was Ramza, Mustadio (chemist), priest (secondary skill was calulator), lancer, ninja (eventually replaced by Orlandu). I skipped the events with Cloud, Beowulf and Worker 8 this time, so I finished pretty quickly.

    –Using Orlandu almost feels like cheating, but I just couldnn’t help it.

    –Calculators are dead weight during a fight, as they do no damage, and are slow as hell. I died probably 5 times at the execution grounds since it was basically a 8 vs 4 fight. After that, I got the rest of the JP by sending him out on side jobs. It’s a pain, but it’s really worth it. Sometimes it’s hard to find a combo that doesn’t hit a party member, but the fact that you get to cast Holy/Flare/Reraise/etc. instantaneously anywhere on the map for no MP more than makes up for everything else.

    –I almost screwed myself for the Wiegraf fight. I had auto potion on Ramza, but forgot to learn X-Potion, and only had 15 Hi-Potions on hand for the fight. I barely made it through that.

    –The fight on the roof of Riovanes was infuriating. Rafa was killed before I was able to do anything at all 4 times. The only “strategy” that worked was bringing in weaker party members, so Elmdor’s….servants attacked them instead of Rafa. The fight against them at Limberry gave me trouble too.

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