Technical holdups somewhat bog down the PSP iteration of Final Fantasy Tactics, making only a good game out of what might have been amazing.
Fundamentally, Final Fantasy Tactics: Shishi Sensou is a PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics, with some added extras. The best of these additions would certainly be the game's animated cutscenes, which really bring the characters and story to life. The artwork in them is great, and the sequences, which play fairly often, add quite a bit of value to the game overall.
Piling onto the good modifications are two new playable job classes and playable stars of other Ivalice-based Final Fantasy games. Balthier of Final Fantasy XII and Luso from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 appear in this game, with just enough backstory to make sense, while not putting overly gigantic twists on the already established plot. While useful, the characters don't necessarily become as vital to the party as other characters like Agrias, Orlandu, or Mustadio. They are nice to have, though, and in certain scenarios, can definitely prove useful. Regarding the new classes, a Dark Knight is very nifty to have, since originally this was just Gafgarian's class; meanwhile the Onion Knight starts out virtually useless, but gets stronger as the character in question masters other job classes.
But with the good also comes the bad, the widely discussed lag and slowdown. In this imported PSP version of FF Tactics, the slowdown runs rampant, showing up for almost all magic spells, monster attacks, summons, and other actions. There are even occasional glitches within the new cinema sequences, usually within the first 10-15 seconds (example here). How much this bothers a given player will vary greatly from one person to the next; some will find (or rather "have found") it to be completely game breaking, while others would claim the lag to not be a problem. Over time, the lag does become less of a big deal, but that's not to say gamers should have to adjust or "get used to" a big programming flaw such as inordinate slowdown. As well, the sound effects have suffered greatly in the transition to PSP.
|Even the smooth-talking Balthier can't explain this one.
Meanwhile, everything else that made the original Final Fantasy Tactics great is left intact. The job system, the battle system, the visuals, the music, the plot--all the original ingredients are still there, and it's for that reason that the game is still enjoyable. It's pretty hard to screw up Final Fantasy Freaking Tactics.
But what it will all come down to is the ultrasubjective issue of lag, which will bother some while having no effect on others. Regarding this issue being fixed in the US version, Square Enix declined to confirm or deny its presence, when asked by RPG Land a few days before the posting of this review.
It is anticipated that the English version will be overall better than this one, as it will feature a completely redone translation and voice acting within the cinemas (which are silent in the Japanese version), but to what extent it ends up improving overall will likely come down to how much of that lag is still there.
All that said, Final Fantasy Tactics: Shishi Sensou (to be called "War of the Lions" outside of Japan) is a good game that was almost great. Were it not for some porting issues, it would have reached higher.