I’m a pretty big Final Fantasy fan. I came into the series with VII and have played everything since besides the MMOs and the two sequels to the lackluster XIII. I’ve had conversations with friends about what the Final Fantasy musical RPG that never was would have looked like (I would totally play that—good or bad, it would be hilarious). Here at The Old School Game Vault, I’ve gone back and played and reviewed IV and VI. And last year, I finally picked up the PSP update of the cult classic tactical RPG Final Fantasy: War of the Lions. And then, thirty hours in, I walked away to play another—and so far much better—PSP remake of a classic TRPG, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Here’s why I won’t be firing up my PSP version of FF Tactics ever again.
In 2007, ten years after its debut on the PlayStation in 1997, Final Fantasy Tactics was remade for the PSP as FF T: War of the Lions. New FMV cutscenes with voice acting was added alongside an expanded aspect ratio, a couple new job classes, and a smattering of new game content. Also added was a terrible, game-destroying slowdown problem. Final Fantasy Tactics, I suspect, is a good game. But War of the Lions, which is more port than true remake, seems to keep some of the slowness of the PS1 original and then add a new layer of lag on top, and the combination just leeches the fun from the game.
This might be bearable if this wasn’t a game that would take 60 hours to play anyway. As it is, slowdown alone would probably add 5-10 hours to that, which is crazy. And the lag sticks with War of the Lions into its PSN version, so even the Vita plays the game maddeningly slowly. I’ve heard that the port of WotL for iOS and Android fixes the slowdown, though, so there might be a version of the game out there that I would want to finish.
How on earth does this happen in the late 2000s and early 2010s, though? This is a 1997 game whose gameplay and in-battle graphics have barely been touched. The PSP port developers said the slowness wasn’t something they could avoid. What? That’s crazy talk, Square.
I wish I’d know about the WotL PSP/PSN lag before I’d bought it—which is why I’m telling you! At first, I didn’t notice so much, because I was too busy learning how to play the game. But once I settled into the strategy, it became incredibly frustrating. FFT:WotL is a game loved for its difficulty. You can’t save and load mid-battle, so it’s quite possible to get 45 minutes or an hour into a fight and then have it all fall apart and have to start the battle over. This is a game design that doesn’t appeal to all gamers to begin with, though in a good game, I appreciate things not always being easy. But to heap on top of that the fact that these re-trys are way slower than they need to be is just too much. Punish me for my mistakes, game, but don’t punish me for yours. Don’t take a game that already makes me redo stuff and than make those redos really slow. Apparently there’s a fan-created patch that helps with the PSP slowdown, but it’s not available for the PSN version of the game. If I’d have known that before I started, I might have tried it, but now I’m just too bitter about the time that I’ve already wasted on it that I don’t think I’m going to mess with a fan patch on my otherwise pristine PSP, especially because I suspect at least some of the slowness is just because the PSP is struggling to process the game so it won’t ALL be erased by the patch. I’d rather move on.
A handful of hours into Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together I’m already enjoying it more than WotL. Though its base game is older (released in 1995 for the SNES) the PSP version, Let Us Cling Together, is a true remake, updated to feel like it belongs on the PSP. And it’s fast. Both games have rock solid gameplay and compelling stories, so I’m going to devote my dozens of hours to the one where those hours are all sunk into playing, not waiting for the game to process.
I may return to Final Fantasy Tactics in some form that isn’t the PSP version, but I can’t see myself even doing that for at least a year. When I do, it’ll be either a port of the original Final Fantasy Tactics (not the updated, laggy War of the Lions) or the mobile version of WotL that apparently fixes the lag. But it may be that every time I consider going back, I’ll still be too pissed at Square for having delivered such a sloppy experience that I instead choose to devote my time to some other game. This just makes me madder at them, because I know there’s good gameplay and storytelling amidst that laggy mess.
Bloodborne, an immensely fun and difficult PS4 game, has been universally lauded with almost the sole exception of weirdly long load times—which the designers promptly promised to fix in a patch. But at least with Bloodborne when you’re playing, the game functions well. It’s only when you die or switch major areas that you have to wait. Have you ever quit a game that you really wanted to like because of unforgivable lag or load times? What games did this to you? Which ones did you put up with because they were worth the bother? Have you played another version of FF Tactics where the lag wasn’t so bad?