Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3: Proverbs for Gaming and Life

I’d call myself a pretty big fan of Final Fantasy Tactics. Made by Square during its PS1 golden days, it was really the work of Yasumi Matsuno, creator and director of the Ogre series (Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre). Taking more from the latter game than the former, it uses a turn-based grid system with 6-8 units on each side vying for supremacy in turn-based battles. Imagine a Final Fantasy game completely focused on the battle system, and you’ll have a great idea of why FFT still remains one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made. Of course, it’s not really a FF game at all, but don’t tell anybody that!

Still, it wasn’t without its own flaws. Grinding was all too easy, making the story-line battles trivial as you could power-level over whatever challenge came at you. That led to the game being less “Tactics” and more “Time-waster”. Certain sequences that forced several battles in a row alleviate this somewhat (don’t save on your main slot here!), but they can’t fix this ultimate problem. That also means that learning the mechanics of the game isn’t a necessity; you can go through the entire game oblivious to the use of certain classes and abilities because…well, they weren’t that useful. I can’t even remember a time I used the Orator class, which supposedly “persuades” enemies into your party. You basically level your party to become Ninjas or Mathematicians (CT 5 Holy, anyone?) and you win the game. Unless you’re stealing rare equipment; then you’ve intentionally made it harder on yourself.

People still play Tactic religiously, even if it is rather easy, just because it’s fun to play. But what if it were more difficult and punishing? What if it balanced the game so that all the classes were useful in some way? What if the game actually leveled enemies with you and forced you to use all the tools at your disposal – actual tactics – to win battles? Enter Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3:

Created originally by Archael (whose YouTube channel can be found here) and a host of other people at Final Fantasy Hacktics, it’s moved over to Insane Difficulty where it now resides. It’s an interesting creation, a combination of all the talents of these various rom hacking communities to fix the game’s few problems and make it much more challenging in the process.

Wow, is it ever challenging. If you thought you knew how to play this game, you’re most certainly wrong. Even the introductory fight can be lost if you’re not paying attention (darn that Lezales!). From what I can tell, the AI isn’t necessarily smarter; they’ve just been given better tools in most instances. Whereas before some storyline fights intentionally gimped their gear to ease the player’s progression, 1.3 ensures they have every tool you have. Story battles rise in level with the highest member of your party, and it’s in your best interest not to power level. Even random battles have enemies that far exceed your party’s capabilities. As an example, I had 5 people who were level 2, and the random battle through 5 level 7-10 enemies against us – that was not a pretty sight.

Story battles present situations that appear insurmountable from a level standpoint. However, from a tactical standpoint, we have the advantage by being human beings; ergo,  to strategize correctly remains the name of the game. At the moment, my brother and I are stuck at one of the easiest battles in the normal game, Sweegy Woods. Monsters have gotten a huge boost, not only in range but also in damage. They’re much more formidable and (I would bet) useful in your own party. Here, having a bunch of goblins with a two block radius Turn Punch almost always kills someone. Bombs have a long range attack that, at this level in the game, is far beyond your party’s capabilities. Perhaps going into the battle with squires and chemists wasn’t the brightest idea, but it seems doable…

…that is, unless Algus and Delita don’t want to act like total idiots and kill themselves. Apparently neither of them got any AI improvements, and they continue to act like complete idiots no matter what class/weapon combination I give them. Why must Algus charge ahead with no care for his person and subsequently die in one turn doesn’t make sense to me. The random nature of FFT has always been there, but now you pray for that random number generator to swing in your favor, whether to hit an attack or to prevent your stupid AI controlled party members from dying. You can persevere, though; you work around the random elements and plan accordingly.

I’ve accepted, after ten attempts or so, that I am really bad at Final Fantasy Tactics. Just checking Youtube and other sources, plenty of people have beaten this fight with little to no problems, yet I’m stuck on it. That hasn’t diluted my enthusiasm any, though; I’ve been thinking of some alternate strategies to get by this fight (probably Wizards…lots of Wizards), but that’s part of the fun. Ever had that feeling in a game where you just can’t get past a particular sequence to the point where you have a personal vendetta against the game? That’s about the feeling I have now, and it’s great. That’s how you should feel – defeated, yet learning from your mistakes and winning.

If I seem like I’m on a Proverbs kick lately, it is by no means intentional. To win, you must have discipline. Unlike real life, Final Fantasy Tactics always has definite rules. Parents can’t give advice for every single contingency, but they can give you the tools to perservere, adapt, and understand your situation. That doesn’t mean moral instruction isn’t definitive, but the situations in which one’s moral character will be tested takes myriad forms. There’s nothing new under the sun, but it can look that way! Take Proverbs 4:

4 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, For I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. “ The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding. “ Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her. “She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.”

Wisdom, personified as a woman in the previous chapters, precedes understanding. Wisdom, from my perspective, almost works akin to discernment; to analyze your actions in an objective way is not a skill easily learned. It requires a heck of a lot of honesty and humility, and we’re not naturally gifted with this ability. It’s learned, and that’s why Proverbs hammers this one concept into your head: wisdom leads to understanding. If you can’t see what’s wrong, how can you solve it? If you have wisdom, you can understand everything if you put enough effort into it. I can’t play Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3 well, but I know I can in time. What we learn as kids proves to affect us and keep us from screwing up long into the future, as Proverbs 6 says:

20 My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life…

Anyone who’s familiar with emulators always hears the complaints about difficulty patches: “They’re too hard”, “This is impossible”, “I have a PhD, what gives?”. None of these are the problem. You are the problem. People design these patches with intimate knowledge of the game assumed. In time, one can learn it. FFT 1.3 is the very definition of a rude awakening, but it’s certainly worth playing.

Get it here!


About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • JustinFox

    This game got so hard that I was 40 hours into it, and I had to start completely over because a boss had me TOTALLY outclassed…… This thing was “Battletoads” hard.  Got through it some how. YEeeeeeeeeeeeaaash. Loved it though. 

    •  @JustinFox The normal game is  just a grind fest, but this patch scare me.

  • Loved FFT. Just wished it moved faster. Probably why I prefer Fire Emblem over it – especially the GBA versions. Are you into them at all?

    •  @Mjoshua  Prefer Fire Emblem!? Blasphemy!
      Kidding aside, I do own all the English language Fire Emblem games. I just have to start playing them (probably go with the subtitle-less GBA entry from 2003 first).

      •  @Zachery Oliver Honestly, I think I would recommend Sacred Stones first. The stories are independent and that one lets you get used to the mechanics better. It’s really really easy to play the first one about 75% and then get completely stuck because you didn’t build out your characters just right. There’s no grinding, so you have to learn how to strengthen your weakest characters early on. Best tip I can offer: always use your weakest characters for finishing attacks (that’s how they get the most XP).

        •  @Mjoshua I’m somewhat familiar, given I played the original Advance Wars (haven’t beaten it yet, though). I don’t like the idea of permanent death, though; it scares me.

        •  @Zachery Oliver Yup. It’s one of your biggest foes. 🙂

  • asnduiasdu

    That’s about the feeling I have now, and it’s great. That’s how you should feel – defeated,

    Get a job, fag/life, fag

    • Ah, the anonymity of the Internet – a lovely thing on both sides of the coin, if not in this particular instance.