Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

The tasty looking special edition

When Final Fantasy Tactics by Yasumi Matsuno (the virtuoso designer responsible for the magnificent Vagrant Story as well as a hefty chunk of Final Fantasy 12, two of only a handful of games ever to have been given a perfect score by Famitsu) was reissued on the PSP by Square-Enix it was a revelation. The game’s epic narrative (so epic that the credits only appear after about ten hours of play) was perfectly suited to the PSP, allowing you to curl up in bed with the video game equivalent of War & Peace or the Complete Works of Shakespeare. The new heavily stylised cutscenes, so unlike Square’s normal emphasis on highly polished CGI, brimmed with character and emotion. Its story was a dark, sophisticated and utterly fascinating affair, full of political intrigue, class division, religious extremism and torn allegiances.

On the 25 February, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together will be released, promising to give another Square back-catalogue masterpiece a new lease of life; and if what’s been announced so far is anything to go by the innovations are far more adventurous than War of the Lions, as though Square-Enix were just testing the water before unleashing the gold medal winning dive with a triple somersault corkscrew flourish. Tactics Ogre, originally released on the Super Nintendo in Japan in 1995, is the grandfather of the genre made famous by Final Fantasy Tactics and fully deserves to be recognised as one of the most important games of all time. Although Playstation and Sega Saturn versions were released in 1996/7 in North America, this will be the game’s debut in Europe and it looks to have been well worth the wait.

As with The War of the Lions the game's charming 2D graphics have been updated rather than replaced.

Although the game takes the same isometric, grid-based view as Final Fantasy Tactics the battlefield is larger with up to 30 combatants on screen at once. Graphically the developers have wisely decided to polish and recut the diamond that was already there rather than go for a full overhaul, adding particle effects, animations and moving the camera just enough to bring the charming 2D environments to life. The art direction in general looks amazing, keeping what works and subtly and respectfully bringing the game into the modern age. But where the game really promises to come to life, however, is on the level of narrative.

Whilst the grandiose story in Final Fantasy Tactics was being uncovered in retrospect by a historian looking into events, this time around the narrator is appropriately a Star Seer named Warren Oban. Just as you’d expect from the themes of fate and foreknowledge, the story is altered by the players choices, promising multiple routes through the game and massive effects on the story based on them. If this is undertaken at the level suggested, with allies in one play-through becoming rivals in another, then it could be a breakthrough experiment for Square-Enix, not known for its interactive narratives. To accommodate this new level of interaction, Matsuno has added new characters, encounters and layers to the already bustling plot that contains over 60 characters! The Wheel of Fortune is another new system that will help you to keep track of these branching narratives, allowing you to return to points in the past (with your current battle roster), to change the flow of events or the course of a battle. The premise sounds captivating, and I for one can’t wait to see how it pans out.

The few English screens released demonstrate the usual brilliant flare of Matsuno's writing

Character growth is dictated by a stripped down class system and the effects of a full deck of tarot cards (just as Final Fantasy Tactics drew on the zodiac signs). At the beginning of the game your character’s stats, alignment and allies are determined by your responses to five probing questions each based on one of the cards. This all suggests an adventure of mind-boggling scale, but at the heart of it will be Matsuno’s luminous writing with its trademark take on fantasy, which is darker, more idiosyncratic and more influenced by Western mythology such as King Arthur, than most JRPGs. The pseudo-archaic writing in his games is often breathtakingly lyrical, and sometimes plain rude, with characters more likely to call one another ‘whoreson dog’ (best insult ever) than spout the usual tripe about not giving up.

Key members of the original TACTICS OGRE development team have reformed to deliver the ultimate version of this definitive Strategy RPG experience. Hiroshi Minagawa (Director),  Yasumi Matsuno (Game Design & Scenario), Akihiko Yoshida, and Tsubasa Masao (Character Design) Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata (Composers) return to revitalise their masterpiece for a new format. The most exciting development is that Hitoshi Sakimoto, the brilliant composer responsible for Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyria Chronicles, has returned to the project from his own company, Basiscape to extensively rework the score.

For those as excited about the launch as me there’s also a special Premium Edition; comprising of a copy of the game, a 44 page hardback art book, entitled ‘The World of Tactics Ogre’, an exclusive Mini Soundtrack CD and a 50% off voucher for Vagrant Story on PSN.

TACTICS OGRE: Let Us Cling Together will be released on PSP® (PlayStation Portable) on 25 February, 2011. You can check out the game and its world at www.eu.tacticsogregame.com







One response to “Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together”

  1. chobe avatar

    Looks interesting, love Matsuno’s stuff. Will never play it though since it’s on a handheld and I don’t do that. I never played the FFT port on PSP but my understanding is that they brought it in line with the FFXII Ivalice and fixed all the ropey translation. I think I’d miss the rebels plotting rebellion and ‘I’m protecting Agrias! Geronimo!”. Good opportunity for some peeps to play it though since it criminally never came out over here on PSX.

    Also, *flair. Unless it was intentional.

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