Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions Review

An interesting factoid about Square-Enix’s world-famous Final Fantasy series is that the basic premise for most of the games revolves around an in-depth job system– but it took Western players years to realize the importance of the games’ job classes, because early Final Fantasy releases and localizations downplayed the importance of these jobs. Around the world, adults are still going to bed every night without understanding the function of a Geomancer. That is tragic.

Fortunately, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is a class-heavy Final Fantasy game that carefully introduces and outlines the job classes that make Final Fantasy unique. Oh, and it’s a darn good turn-based strategy game, of course.

Fight using menus, the deadliest weapons of all.

The original Final Fantasy Tactics hit the PlayStation in 1997, and its complex story, deep gameplay, and orchestrated soundtrack made the N64′s offerings at the time look that much more childish. War of the Lions, released for the PlayStation Portable in 2007 is a loving remake of the original game. Now War of the Lions is available on the App Store for a whopping $15.99. Let’s strike up a drum roll for the big question: do you want to drop such a hefty chunk of change on a four-year-old game that you can almost certainly buy for less on the PSP/PlayStation Network?

Anticlimactic answer: It really depends on what you want.

(“Awww!”)

The App Store is not short on turn-based strategy games, but War of the Lions is still the best of the genre. There’s a reason why the Final Fantasy Tactics series commands a dedicated following even though there are few releases to speak of. War of the Lions has a multi-layered story that’s steeped in politics, war, and betrayal. Its battle system isn’t too hard to grasp, but takes years to master. There are over twenty job classes– plus some unlockables– which means you can play through the game a hundred different ways. If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, War of the Lions is not a title you’ll discard after one playthrough.

The mythical creature who forgot her pants.

The game is pretty, too. The now-famous Final Fantasy Tactics character art prevails, and the game’s protagonist has no nose (“How does he smell?” “Just terrible!”). The gameplay is dotted with lovely hand-drawn cinemas that are a treat to behold if you’re old enough to recall the comparatively primitive rendered movie that opened the original PlayStation game. The music is soul-stirring, and the English voice acting won’t make you blush and search frantically for the volume control.

Essentially, you need to ask yourself how badly you want a good turn-based strategy game for your iPhone or iPod Touch. You have to say to yourself, “Yes, I want it. I $15.99 want it.” If that’s the case, go for it, and bless your soul.

Good answer.

If you’re still hesitant, know that your apprehension is not baseless. War of the Lions suffers its share of problems, most of which center around the game’s conversion to the iPhone. There are touch-screen controls, of course, which come with all the problems you’d expect from a tile-based strategy RPG that’s running on a too-small screen. Watch in despair as your Chemist throws a valuable potion where it does not need to go. Clench your teeth in frustration when the game informs you for the upteenth time that the tile you want to move your character to is out of range, because your big dumb finger keeps poking a millimeter away from where you actually want him to go.

War of the Lions for the PSP came under fire for suffering slowdown. Supposedly Square-Enix ironed out those instances of slowdown, but there is still plenty to go around in the iPhone adaptation of the game. What’s more, reaction time feels slow, at least on a 3GS (note: There’s no 3G support). When you tap on the screen to input a command, the response feels less than instantaneous.

Verdict? If your access to the PlayStation family of systems is limited and you’re dying for a good turn-based strategy game, Final Fantasy: War of the Lions is a must-buy. If, however, you own a PSP and aren’t broken up over forfeiting the convenience of a great strategy game on your iPhone, jump on your Chocobo and ride away.

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