Virtually everyone reading this preview right now has played Final Fantasy Tactics, so we'll cut right to the chase and talk about what's up with this PSP version, to be subtitled "War of the Lions" in North America.
At the core, this is the same old Tactics folks know and love from the PlayStation. Those who've somehow missed that game are strongly encouraged to play it, like right the hell now. Go. We'll just wait.
Differences are present in the PSP version which may make it intriguing for even the most seasoned FFT vets...though there is heavy mid-battle and mid-scene lag that could upset a lot of players as well. Starting with the bad news, the game severely slows down during most varieties of special attacks. Many of the flashy knight-sword skills and monster attacks, for example, execute at about half the speed as their PSX version counterparts. Other skills are also noticeably slowed, and players will notice Ramza taking a little stutter-step when arriving at certain points on the map, somewhat randomly. Sadly, it also falls victim to diminished sound quality, most obvious with the magic spells.
But on to the good news, eh? Final Fantasy Tactics was a game with a great story told in choppy translation and restricted visuals, but the PSP version contains animated sequences that are nothing short of amazing. They have not completely replaced story segments done with the game engine, but the most important and most memorable events have been remade in impressive quality. Even better, the English version of this game is getting a retranslated script. No more being all like, "What the hell does that mean?" after certain lines. Additionally, English voice acting will be present in the American version of the game. Click here to see an MP4 video of the opening scenario, complete with English voices.
It should be noted, however, that the aformentioned lag is still present in these new animated scenes. There can be over 20 seconds of loading while waiting for the sequence to begin, and usually within the first 15 seconds or so, a given cinema will stutter or skip at least once. (I tested this on mulptiple PSPs.)
Here is an exclusive video serving two purposes: one is to show you the amazing cinemas, and another is to demonstrate the skips and load time associated with them. There is a short version for those who just want to see the lag/skipping for themselves, and a long version for those who want to see this example cinema in its entirety. It's a conversation between Delita and Ovelia, and there aren't really any spoilers, especially if you can't read Japanese somewhat quickly.
Exclusive video: Great cinema, choppy intro: short version | Great cinema, choppy intro: full cinema
There are new classes available in this new version. Namely, the Dark Knight, which players may recognize as being originally just Gafgarian's class; and the Onion Knight, which starts out as nothing special, but gets much more powerful eventually.
Exclusive video: Onion Knight introduced (spoiler free). Here, you'll kinda see what it looks like (sorry for somewhat low video quality) and some of the Onion Knight's specifics explained.
In the next video, I planned on simply showing you a young Onion Knight, but it turned out I was at a part of the game when Russo (or "Luso," it seems is how the name will be translated. It's this guy), a character from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 appeared in cinema form, and I was unexpectedly flung into a story battle. So if you'd rather let that scene take you by surprise some day, by all means skip this video. If you don't mind seeing this "Mob Hunter" introduction, click away.
Exclusive video: (Contains Luso spoilers) New character Luso and the Onion Knight in battle.
The sword skills used in that battle are not the ones that slow the game down the worst. If I'd been thinking ahead, I'd have done those, as well as cast some magic, but I'm absent minded, so here we are.
The Sky Pirate Balthier of Final Fantasy XII fame will also make an appearance in chapter four. To accomodate for all these added characters and classes, the army's max size has been increased to 25 members, up from the original 16.
Amid its obvious flaws of mid-attack lag, dumbed-down sound effects, and skips in the cinemas, War of the Lions is still, well...Final Fantasy Tactics. When one of the greatest TRPGs ever gets some genuinely cool bonuses, it's hard to pass up giving it another go, but damn if there aren't persistent annoyances. We'll see how it all turns out come review time.