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"Shana wishes Red Cloud luck. Oh sure, she won't let him go hunt down the Black Monster on moral principles, but he can attempt to beat the shit out of some guys he doesn't know for her amusement? Now that makes perfect sense to me - except not. Stupid Shana."
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Final Fantasy Tactics : Part 1
By Ryan
Posted 03.13.04
Pg. 1 : 2 : 3
Ah, the good old days. A band of rebels struggling to end conflict in their homeland. A colorful cast of cute sprite characters. A crafty old bastard named Cid. Job classes that take forever to master. Typos. Glitches. You get the idea. These are the stuff of dreams, the raw materials needed to craft an instant classic in gaming history. So, without further ado, I present Final Fantasy Tactics, or, "Square's Backup Plan in Case of Sinking Flagship."

My first experience with FFT this time around is truly a nostalgic one, as the "confirmation" button is the circle button and the "cancel" button is the X button, the exact opposite of all the normal most RPGs in the Playstation era. So, as I sat there on the title screen, mashing X and waiting in vain for something to happen, the screen went dark and the pregame show began. Joy!

The screen pans over a yellowed map covered with incomprehensible runic symbols and lines connecting the various points of interest. A black panel appears at the bottom of the screen and "The Kingdom of Ivalice; forever guarded by the twin headed lions and by the sun that shines upon them..." provides us with some setting. "A year after the defeat of the 50 Year War," the writing continues, slowly revealing a picture of a tattered white flag surrounded by various implements of death, "the King had died from a terminal illness earlier and the prince who succeed him was only 2 years old." As opposed to the Prince that succeeded him, I presume. Score one for the editors. Also, I am loving the specificity in the description of the King's death. A terminal illness causing death? How novel! The inclusion of such detail really helps to paint a beautiful and full story for all to enjoy.

 
Well, at least I won't have to look for symbolism.

Anyway, crimson clouds roll over the map and the flag as "This meant [the Prince's] guardian would actually reign in his stead as King" is thoughtfully (and correctly) spelled out for us. Then, the music kicks up the tempo and a large portrait of a noseless man in purple robes with a bowl and scissors 'once around the equator' haircut consumes the screen. "The Queen's elder brother Larg was designated as guardian but, fearing an oppressive reign from the Queen, [who is a woman and therefore unable to lead well enough on her own,] the parliament ousted the potential prince, appointing instead the King's cousin, Prince Goltana, as the guardian." During these words, Larg fades out of the picture and a fat, balding man in a fur-lined red suit takes his place. No, it isn't Santa Claus. He looks more sickly than jolly, anyway. He also has no nose. Hell, nobody has noses in this game. I guess Michael Jackson would fit right in, except for the whole Seymour thing he has going on as of late... Wait a minute, I've got it! We'll get Ralphie in here to do all the smelling we'll ever need! So he does have a purpose! Now I can finally get some sleep at night.

But I digress. Back at the top of the screen, Goltana fades back out, and we are treated to a wide-screen view of the map from earlier as we learn that "Prince Goltana and Prince Larg are both respected generals who proved themselves in the 50 Year War." The Princes both materialize onscreen, along with a rotating sword covered in blue orbs that serves as a "visually appealing" way to separate the portraits from each other. "Prince Goltana had the support of the powerful Nobles but..." appears onscreen as Goltana's picture is overlapped by the outline of a Black Lion, "...disenfranchised Nobles and knights clearly supported Prince Larg." A similar looking White Lion covers Larg.

Black and White Symbols are so clich?. What should have been used instead?
Fire and Water
Puppies and Kitties
Roses and Thorns
Yuna and Lulu

 

The music, which is very well orchestrated and quite addicting, in my humble opinion, takes a dramatic, percussive turn and we learn that "The Black Lion symbolizes Prince Goltana and the White Lion symbolizes Prince Larg." That took a little bit longer to type than I would like, so from now on, White!Lion Larg is going to be W!LL, and Black!Lion Goltana is going to be B!LL. Yeah, I know it should be B!LG, but B!LL matches W!LL, and you know there is some serious sexual tension between these two. They have to have parallel nicknames. Think of the 'shippers! In fact, I even smell a sitcom! B!LL will be playing the part of a slovenly libertarian and W!LL can be his anal-retentive conservative roommate. Gimme a month or two to figure out how this glorified custody battle will fit in and we'll talk actors.

ANYway, above the words, the lions emit purple and baby blue lens flares, respectively, and are replaced by the Princes' proper pair of "Shield featuring the Lioness Rampant" crests. The entire scene is then consumed in flames as we read: "This is the beginning of what will later be known as The Lion War." The music climaxes to a particularly fervent canon and the screen goes black. And then, we find ourselves dumped, unceremoniously, back at the title screen. I haven't exactly measured it or anything, but I'd be willing to bet that those five minutes of screen time have more plot within them than the rest of the hour. So, if you made it through that rushing torrent of exposition, you should be okay for the rest of the recap. Or maybe not. Who knows?

 
Umm, We're over here!

I select New Game from the menu and put on my two-inch-thick reading glasses as a line of nearly illegible white words scrolls across a khaki-colored stone background. "I am Alazam," the barely there text says, "a scholar of ancient Ivalice history... Have you ever heard of the 'Lion War'?" Well, unless you count the video we just saw that set the scene for the "Lion War," no. Not that it really matters, though, because Alazam is just throwing out rhetoricals and I don't get a chance to respond either way. "It divided Ivalice in two over who would be the successor to the throne," He continues, as a small picture of the map of Ivalice is unfurled behind the area the barely there text is writing itself in. Surprisingly, this doesn't really help with the visibility, as the map is yellowed and blends in just as well as the light colored background. Sigh.

"[The Lion War] ended with the appearance of a young hero named Delita. Everybody living here knows this hero's tale..." except for me, obviously. I wonder how this conversation started, anyway. Was the person Alazam is talking to (and us, by extension) just chilling, minding his own business when Alazam approached him with his stories, l Maechen? "Oh you look like you don't know something that everybody that lives here knows. Wanna hear a story?"

In reality, Alazam just keeps on trucking with the barely there text. "But we also know that what we see with our eyes alone... isn't necessarily the 'truth'." Good, because my eyes aren't going to be seeing much of anything after this, much less the truth. Excuse me, "truth." The map dissolves in a wipe to the top of the screen, revealing a young person facing away from the camera, so we get a wonderful view from behind of his tousled blonde hair, purple armor with spiked shoulder pads, cross-gartered stockings, and white skintight leggings that flare at the ankles. "Here's a young man. He is the youngest son of the noble Beoulve...pillars of knighthood." Which is pretty much a glorified Engrish way of saying he's the youngest in a big family with a long way to go to live up to their haughty standards, whatever they may be.

"There's no record of his playing an active part in history but... according to the 'Duray Report' released last year (concealed for many years by church), this unknown man is the true hero..." Alazam awkwardly exposits. "The church claims he was a blasphemer and anarchist--the root of all evil... but is this the 'truth'? Won't you join me on a journey for the 'truth'?" Um... hold up one second, please, and let's analyze what Alazam just said. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've grown up learning "American History," where we learn all the news that's fit to hear, American-style, and I've learned that you have to take the information with a grain of salt, but what the fuck? What Alazam is proposing we do is exactly like picking a random figure from a history book and making up a story about how he is really the true hero that history forgot. Umm... okay? Does that strike anybody else as a bit odd? "Before that, please tell me your 'name' and 'birthday'." Alazam rudely interrupts, abruptly putting a stop to my belittling of his life's work.

I feel pretty... oh so pretty...
 

Now, while it may sound like he is asking for my name and birthday, Alazam is actually asking for me to assign a name and birthday to the strangely-clad lad gracing us with the ass shot that time forgot. To understand my nickname for this particular youth, however, you have to see a picture of the official artwork. So, please direct your attention to the pink box to the side of the screen. Notice the feminine eyes, heavy with mascara. Allow your eyes to wander to the hourglass figure, and the flowing mane tied back into a ponytail. Take in the provocative placement of the saber and the '80s era workingwoman's shoulder pads. All evidence seems to point to our young 'man' being not quite what 'he' seems... and so, I dub 'him' Cesario. For those of you who haven't read the Bard's Twelfth Night, here's the skinny on one of the first and foremost transvestites in Shakespearean literature:

In Twelfth Night, Olivia is a young maid whose ship sinks and she gets shipwrecked in Illyria. Beside herself with grief over the loss of her twin brother, she does the only thing to do. She dresses herself up as a eunuch and offers herself to the local duke to be a messenger boy and general flunky. However, she falls in love with the duke and struggles to maintain her masquerade while suppressing her feelings for her main man. Awww. I'd suggest the play to anybody--the homoeroticism therein is a real kick. Besides, would it kill you to culture yourself?

Anyway, freshly dubbed and given the birthday of January 1, Cesario is ready to go. And so we do--right into the opening credits.

 
Fanta's Last Advertising Campaign.

Ireland. Or maybe Scotland. Hell, I dunno, the Northern UK? In CG mode, we can see an aerial view of a foggy land of peat marsh and bright green grass. There is even one of those endearing moorland stone walls running through the countryside and we can hear a wailing bagpipe tune in the background. SQUARE PRESENTS, enormous white letters appear, THE "ZODIAC BRAVE STORY." Wait, I thought this was a story about the "Lion War." Whatever, I'll just roll with it. The camera falls to the ground and proceeds to race across the bright green countryside, flowing over enormous rocks scattered about the moor. In the horizon, we can see the beginnings of a sunrise peeking over the peaks of a distant mountain chain. This beautiful landscape is ruined by a sudden and fucking enormous ... LENSFLARE!! AAAAHHHH!! The music even seems to share my anguish, as an angsty canon rises up to drown out the bagpipes. The camera rises into the sky and the individual, golden letters spelling "Final Fantasy Tactics" cascade across the screen as it fades to dark. Then, the Tactics Fanfare strikes up, Daaah, da daaah, duh-da-da DAAA DAAAAAH! and the game's logo ripples in behind the title. Very dramatic. I'm impressed to the point that I forget that I'm already a half hour into this recap and have yet to see more than the backside of a character.

Art Direction Hiroshi Minagawa, a flourished font says, as the camera returns from the black fade to the Misty Celtic regions. This time, however, the perspective is from inside a ruined town, with half destroyed walls and dead trees stinking up the landscape. The fog is much thicker, too. The cosmic oboe section strikes up Prelude to Tactics Fanfare as we see a lone figure atop a chocobo strut into the grasslands surrounding the ruined town. (Visual Effects Jiro Mifune) The ChocoQuestrian lifts his visor, inadvertently showing us his FREAKY HUGE anime!eyes, and signals for his four fellow ChocoQuestrians to move out. (Battle Map Creators Toshiyuki Mogi) The camera does that weird floating above the ground at high speeds thing again and the full cosmic orchestra plays some thematic traveling music. Judging by the anxious and hurried tone, I'm guessing that these are bad guys. Or they're late for a luncheon. Either way.

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