Retro Mod: Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3
We haven’t covered a retro rom modification since the stellar Shining Force 2: Battle Royale, but that continues to be our most popular article. So without further ado, here’s another of my favourite retro re-edits:
Final Fantasy 1.3 is a massive overhaul of the classic tactical battler, featuring re-balanced and refined items, skills, enemies and jobs (read: archers don’t suck anymore), and provides a much more solid challenge. In short, it’s Final Fantasy Tactics as it was meant to be.
I played the heck out of Final Fantasy Tactics way back. I had an import copy from the US, which meant my PAL TV and PSX could only play it in black and white because wizards. Despite that, I still played the game for months upon months, slowly building my team of death dealing teleporting ninja-monks before finally giving up in after being schooled by high powered wizards and summoners in Chapter 4. Good times.
Tactics was produced from the most angelic of tactics game building blocks – the rich universe of the final fantasy games, the resources of gaming behemoth Square (pre-Enix), and the team that made Ogre Battle – who used the aforementioned to build on the latter base into something near gaming perfection. There’s a lot of great things about Final Fantasy Tactics, but if its appeal to me could be narrowed down to two words I’d choose “
Final Fantasy” “character development”. Why? Tons of stats and complex sub-systems combined with a wealth of unique and varied characters to recruit, tameable monsters, plus hireable blank-slate cadets to mold as you please. The job system is where the heart of it lies though – with tons of jobs, plenty of skills that can be mixed and matched from fireballs to monster taming, and topped with dozens of types of equipment to play with, from poison guns to magic releasing samurai swords to erm, handbags.
But the game wasn’t without its share of issues. I can only assume that when staff approached director Yasumi Matsuno asking about game balance, Matsuno simply laughed before jumping out of a window and suffering only 1HP of fall damage. The game is, to put it lightly, about as breakable as a vase made out of eggshells held together with ancient mummified cat hair. Only time and patience was required to find the skill combinations that turn Ramza into a demigod. It was inevitable that a community like Insane Difficulty or Final Fantasy Hacktics would eventually do something about it, and do something about it they did. There’s a few good mods out there, but today we’re talking about Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3 because it’s the
best one of the lot the only one I’ve played. Headed up by a guy going by the name Archael, FFT1.3 doesn’t just add re-balances and tweaks – many small but still significant – but also adds a staggering amount of content, that it’s impossible to cover it all here. Needless to say, some of the major additions and changes are enough to make Major Dad proud. And since patch 184.108.40.206, it is even playable on actual PlayStation consoles, too. And no, “Insane Difficulty” isn’t referring to the struggle of becoming an all clown rap posse – FFT1.3 is hard. (But don’t worry – there’s also an Easy Type available.)
Jobs are the heart of Tactics so it’s no surprise to see some big changes here. The first improvement includes a complete re-spec of the Archer job – now renamed Marksman – so say goodbye to the Charge skillset that was so slow its moves might eventually execute sometime after you’ve already completed the game, and say hello to actual useful skills! Perhaps controversially, the arguably over-powered Calculator job is gone. Kaputt. Finito. It’s now replaced with the Sage class, which has access to “forbidden boss magics” that were normally not acquireable by the player, such as Zombie 2 and Sleep 2, as well as the strongest area spell in the game, Flare 2. There’s also some new classes to the roster – the Dark Knight & Onion Knight are now playable without needing the PSP War of the Lions version of the game, and that brat Marche from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is also recruitable. Whatever black magics Archael used to make these additions possible, I don’t want to know.
The New Face of Fear
Combat and enemies are another major rework. The big one: story battles now scale to your level. In the original, only random battles scaled, making it all too easy to grind levels, then murderise Gaffgarion in the first round before he even moves (always satisfying though). On top of all this, your foes are now are given much greater access to their job skills, providing them with more tactical actions than “run up and hit you” or “cast that one spell I have”. They are often well-equipped, so there is no more knights-wielding-crossbows silliness, and they tend to carry a lot more healing items and won’t be afraid use them so liberally as to make a Chemist blush, meaning that almost dead slowed poisoned Wizard I left to die in the corner suddenly turns into a party wiping hack bastard from nowhere. Meanwhile, for the random battles, a whole ton of random encounter set ups were added, meaning you won’t be fighting the same 5 goblins over and over again in Chapter 1. They’ve even added 3-way free-for-all “arena” battles which are quite exciting, but no less harder.
Skills and combat mechanics have received an overhaul, with some broken or non-sensical things fixed. For example, in the original game the “oil” status was supposed to make the afflicted character more vulnerable to fire. Instead it didn’t. Other things didn’t mesh with the logic of the Final Fantasy universe, either, for example flying creatures weren’t more vulnerable to wind-based attacks. Both of these things, and more, have been fixed. Debuffs are also made more potent, with silence, poison, and berserk now permanent until manually cured. Overall, while some skills remain more useful than others, most all skills and abilities now have some kind of point or worthwhile use, or at least useful situational use (moves that interrupt spell-casting, for example). There tends more meaningful tactical decisions available at any one time.
Time Can Change Me
As a quick summary of some other general changes, expect various tweaks, improvements and content for the game. Equipment-wise, items are generally enhanced to address the increased challenge of the mod, such as crossbows having a chance to perform a doubleshot, books a chance to cast magic, daggers increasing speed, and so on. There’s a ton more variety to pick from too, providing you with more tactical loadout options which, even if not strictly necessary, adds a certain flavour by enabling you to give those generics in your small army distinct weapons to match their personality.
Naturally, the tried and true tricks and glitches are no longer exploitable, either. The free job skill scroll glitch doesn’t work anymore. Brave and Faith values are no longer permanently manipulatable either. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, no matter, since it’s all been removed from FFT1.3.
It’s a Difficult Thing…
So all these things are lovely, but it’s important to emphasise that FFT1.3 is a much more challenging game.
I am no “hardcore gamer” but even for a norm like me, there’s some excitement to be had. Final Fantasy Tactics is, after all, a strategy game, and one with a wealth of tactical options. The higher difficulty makes you actually want (and need) to use them, and battles are far more interesting. FFT1.3 has done, for the most part, an excellent job balancing and tweaking the game, improving skills, items and jobs, to meet this increased challenge.
Nonetheless, even for the FFT veterans, FFT1.3 requires learning a re-learning a lot about the game, and necessitates new tactics which some may or may not like. Most prominent of these is that enemies generally have access to the Item skill and all the items. Unlike you, they also have unlimited items. If you can’t win a battle with 99 phoenix downs, then you probably weren’t going to win with unlimited ones anyway, I suppose, but nonetheless the enemies’ ability to endlessly use free, instant resurrection and healing does get annoying at times. The other big one is the way scaling works. Enemies scaling to your level in the story battles was sorely needed in the vanilla game, however their equipment can scale beyond what is available to you in the shops, which means there is a point where you will be hopelessly outgeared with no real way to deal with it (anyone who has dealt with bandits in obsidian armour in Oblivion will know what I’m talking about here). True, you can do things like train some thieves and then steal the opponents’ gear to catch up, but… for me at least, if this becomes necessary it becomes a bit tedious. I did find myself relying on crystalising enemies to acquire those juicy job skills more than ever while avoiding too much XP. While to a certain degree this makes things more interesting, it does feel a bit odd to be actively avoiding XP in an RPG.
I’m sure those were tough design decisions to make though, and probably also partly due to the limits of working on an almost 20 year old game. Nonetheless, if all the cool new content sounds exciting but the talk of “Insane Difficulty” makes you recoil in fear, then fear not – there is also an easy version available which gives you practically all the same goodies but without the difficulty enhancements. Something for everyone!
In any case, the highlight of FFT1.3 is the combination of skills and difficulty that compels you to think outside the box. There’s FFT1.3 Content for those who want the new toys but without the choking hazards. Whatever your poison, FFT1.3 breathes new life into the classic game.
Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3 | Forum+Download page (v.220.127.116.11)
Final Fantasy Tactics1.3 Content (aka easy mode) | Forum+Download page (v18.104.22.168)
- Note: this is a modification (PPF file) for an old Playstation game, so you will need the original game, ripped to an ISO, and then a program to patch the PPF file onto ISO. I recommend PPF-o-Matic. You can then either play it in an emulator like ePSXe, or burn the patched ISO for playing on Playstation (you probably need to know how to burn PSX games properly for this to work, since I could never get it to work myself).
Extra Reading |
Blame the RNG or God – excellent Let’s Play of FFT1.3