Final Fantasy Tactics 2: The Sequel We Deserve
Rumors of a Final Fantasy Tactics remaster have been swirling for months, and speculation that this release could come to the Nintendo Switch has been high. Making the jump to Switch makes sense, given the previous mobile ports of War of the Lions incorporating touch controls, along with Switch’s increasingly strong RPG pedigree.
However, alongside the excitement of this remaster comes the inevitable frustration of series fans that a true sequel to the original Final Fantasy Tactics continues to elude us. Yes, fans received the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS titles to whet their appetites, which both received generally favorable reviews. But true sequels, these games are not. Fans of the original title know just how different these titles truly are, and how they fail to recapture whatever alchemy Square employed to make the first game such a gem.
Of course, if a remaster really is in the works, fans will be clamoring for more FFT in the future, and with that, the question must be asked: Could Square Enix recreate the lightning in a bottle that was the original FFT? And if they could, how much better could a sequel be using the lessons learned from two and a half decades of hindsight?
When Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA) was announced for release during the GBA era, fans of the original title rejoiced – particularly Nintendo kids who lamented the Final Fantasy franchise’s move to Playstation consoles. Getting a portable FFT on a Nintendo handheld was a dream come true. That optimism lived on all the way up the game’s release, even after details about the game’s changes to FFT’s original vision came to light. The game’s lighter story, more restrictive class system, and other mechanical changes were given a generous benefit of the doubt, as fans hoped and prayed that the new release would somehow live up to the high standard set by the first game.
Unfortunately for everyone, while FFTA serves a perfectly passable – and even good – tactics game, it falls far short of the heights reached by its predecessor.
The game’s story and tone ended up being not only lighter than the original, but a complete and total departure from everything fans of FFT loved about the original. FFT presented a serious, sweeping epic filled with political intrigue, family drama, love, sacrifice, tragedy, and an overall sense of maturity. FFTA, meanwhile, went in the polar opposite direction, presenting a simple story about children being sucked into a fantasy world, with the only significant moral quandary being whether or not those children should or should not return home. Even the game’s pushpin world map pulls players out of feeling any sense of groundedness in the world, further decreasing the emotional weight of the game’s events.
Added onto this simplification of the game’s story is the gross simplification of the game’s combat and progression systems. Gone is the ability to pick and choose which abilities your characters learn, as abilities are locked behind a boring, equipment-based acquisition system. Gone are the massive job trees that offer infinite combinations and creative strategies, replaced by comparatively tiny trees tied to specific playable races. Worst of all, gone is the CT-based charge mechanic for abilities, which went a long way to creating not only variety in combat, but also a sense of risk and reward tied around using certain skills. Dropping the charge system stripped away a huge layer of complexity in FFT’s combat, perhaps one of the most unique elements that set the game apart from the run-of-the-mill tactics games.
In compensation for all this loss, all Square had to offer was combos and the reviled Judge system, which simply applies MORE restrictions on individual battles, serving as a nuisance at best and a source of unmitigated rage at worst.
Restoring the Joy of Combat
Combat in any supposed FFT2 would need to meet – at a minimum – a simple checklist of requirements to begin approaching the intricacy and satisfaction found in the original. First and foremost, the charge system must make a return. As one of FFT’s combat’s defining traits, a true sequel will need to CT points and ability charge times back in force. Second, freeing up the job tree and the ability to learn skills in any order will restore the sense of player agency that was lost in FFTA. Finally, the judges must be buried in a deep, dark pit, and never spoken of again.
Moving BEYOND these restorations and finding a way to make combat better than the original will then be the true challenge Square Enix would face in FFT2.
A great place to look for innovation would be in map variety and atmospheric effects. Games like Into the Breach have proven that even the most simple of terrain elements can create a huge amount of variation in how battles play out. Cracking ice, crumbling stone, and shifting sand could all influence how characters move and act across the field. Destructible terrain could open up secondary win conditions and alternate strategies depending on map layout. FFT dabbled in some of these elements, but modern technology should allow it to fully embrace and explore how different environments affect combat.
Finally, a simple overhaul in both enemy and player abilities – what they can do and how they are balanced – could smooth over many of the rough edges from the first game. For example, classes like archer and lancer sat on extremely simplistic skill lists that could easily be replaced or expanded. Meanwhile, caster classes often had ability lists largely limited to “do this type of damage” to an enemy. Lacing abilities with secondary effects, either through stat changes, statuses, positional changes, or environmental alterations would greatly enhance combat from top to bottom. Slotting similar changes to the monster list, many of whom have little more than one or two simple attacks at their disposal, and Square could make one of the most satisfying and varied tactical combat systems to date.
Expanding the Class System
Final Fantasy Tactics has one of the best class systems in gaming. With 20 jobs to discover, five ability slots to fill for attack, support, reaction, and movement, and a plethora of unique abilities to interchange to fill those roles, the possible interactions can be almost overwhelming. Want a high-jumping thief dual-wielding samurai swords? You got it! How about a teleporting knight with the power to summon massive, elemental monsters to wreak havoc on your enemies? It’s yours! The possibilities are staggering.
Certainly, this is not a system that is unique by any means. Lots of RPGs, including several Final Fantasy games, come with similar class systems. But the implementation found in Final Fantasy Tactics really takes the cake here. Any character can learn any ability from any class, provided you have time to get them there, and the varied amount of abilities possible in a tactical combat system – rather being simply turn-based – pumps up the complexity and creativity up to eleven. It’s not perfect. Some classes outshine others by significant degrees. But the difficulty of the game is such that you can make almost any combination you desire work in practice.
To improve upon this class system, the proposed FFT2 has only to look to more recent games from Square-Enix for inspiration. Both Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler provide examples of how to make class systems work phenomenally well. Bravely Second, in particular, does a fantastic job in keeping your starting classes relevant throughout your adventure, by carefully measuring out the required JP and MP for certain abilities and locking more advanced features of classes for the end game. Octopath Traveler, meanwhile, uses a variable JP-cost system for each class’s abilities to make each successive ability more expensive than the last. This gives customization options and keeps ALL skills relevant throughout the game, depending on your build.
Through slight tweaks and reimaginings, every class could be given this same level of utility in FFT2. Add onto that a bigger and bolder job list, and you’ll have another masterwork of game design on your hands.
The Future of Ivalice
So what would a sequel story to the original Final Fantasy Tactics look like? For that, we have only to look at how the original game set framed its narrative.
Final Fantasy Tactics opens with Alazham, a scribe 100 years in the main story’s future, telling you the story of the Durai Papers, a historical record lambasted by the church as heresy, which paints the benevolent King Delita as an ambitious, morally ambiguous character and casts his heretic friend, Ramza Beovle, as the true hero of the Lion War. Finally able the reveal the truth, Alazham asks you to listen with an open mind as you play through the events detailed in the Report, starting with Ramza and Delita’s days at the military academy and ending with Ramza stopping a plot by the church to manipulate the Lion War and resurrect a great evil from antiquity.
This framing device, often forgotten by players spending dozens of hours enjoying the core of the game, makes the perfect jumping off point for a sequel. What happens when Alazham reveals this news to the public? How does the royal family, descended from Delita, react? Into what political climate does this bombshell publication land? How has Ivalice changed in the last 100 years, and what tensions will erupt at the news that the beloved royals may not be as honorable and heroic as once believed?
To answer those questions, I personally would look to real-world history for inspiration. It’s no secret that the original game took cues from England’s War of the Roses in constructing its political atmosphere and plotting. I see no reason not to look to a later period in English history for more gold to mine.
Take the English Revolution, for instance. Tensions between the King, Parliament, and Scottish rebels over taxes, political power, and religion all came together in a series of civil wars and political clashes that led to the king being beheaded, repeated attempts to normalize a new government, and the ultimate failure of the revolution and return of the monarchy. This era of English history is rife with characters, settings, and events to draw on for inspiration. Infused with established events of the first game, staple Final Fantasy elements, and a little bit of creativity, and you’d have a tale ready to rival the original title in scope, intricacy, and emotional impact.
Ultimately, the best possible sequel to Final Fantasy Tactics would build directly onto the foundation of the first game, smoothing rough edges and bringing in elements from similarly successful JRPG and tactics games. Holding true to the core of what made FFT great remains the most important detail, but with a passionate development team who understands what made the original game great, Square Enix has a good chance of making an even better experience.
As far as the likelihood of such a sequel happening. . . who knows? Even the remaster is just a rumor at this point, and it’s no guarantee that Square Enix would want to dip their toes back into the well immediately.
Let us know your thoughts on a possible FFT sequel in the comments below, and join us in waiting with bated breath for any announcements regarding this incredible side series.