In recent times the House of Chocobo and Slime is turning its eye to the past even more than usual. After dusting off two long forgotten franchises (for all the details, jump into the review of Star Ocean: The Divine Force) and waiting to be able to launch the highly anticipated Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion, a Square Enix pleasantly attentive to the old glories and above all to the series that wrote the history of the JRPG has even tried to breathe new life into the unforgettable Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together which since 1995 has dictated the rules of turn-based strategy.
Based on the version launched on PlayStation Portable only in 2010, the new edition titled for the occasion Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a very curious remastered, as the development team has made numerous playful tricks to the original formula of the masterpiece. After spending several days in the company of the product we are finally ready to issue our final verdict on the complex restoration carried out by Square Enix.
Choices that shape the future
Those who in the past have been lucky enough to try their hand at Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story or Final Fantasy XII will already know it, but the stories born from the pen of the Japanese screenwriter Yasumi Matsuno have always been characterized by a strong political component that translated into intrigue. also quite intricate, shocking betrayals and often drastic developments.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together in particular stood out, in the distant 90s, for the presence of countless narrative crossroads which, depending on the choices made from time to time by the player, significantly changed the evolution of the story, impacting on the fate of allies and enemies, favoring unsuspected alliances and altering the ending of the adventure. It is no exaggeration to assert that the story of Tactics Ogre was totally shaped by the decisions made in the run by the user, who in the key sequences of the story was called to take one of the three viable directions and to take responsibility for the choices made. A feature inherited in recent times from the phenomenal The Triangle Strategy (here you can find our review of The Triangle Strategy) and which guaranteed the product an excellent replay value. Before even going into the analysis of the narrative system, which to the delight of fans of the first hour has remained intact, it must be specified that, compared to the original and its re-release for PSP, the remastered packaged by Square Enix presents a new mechanic which, if necessary, allows you to retrace your steps and change individual decisions, in order to obtain different developments.
Probably designed to meet the needs of those who would prefer not to re-tackle the entire story of Tactics Ogre, whose longevity is about fifty hours, the mechanics of the “Wold Tarot” can only be used after satisfying certain conditions, yet in our opinion this is one of the most delicious and sensible improvements of the entire package, since it ensures that a player who is not particularly satisfied with the path taken has the possibility to change it without having to start a new game.
As for the real plot, in which we prefer not to dig too deeply so as not to preclude the pleasure of discovery for the new generations, it is enough to know that this revolves around the daring Denam Pavel, his sister Catiua and the childhood friend Vyce, that is three teenagers who during the campaign will fight to put an end to the oppression and persecution to which their people have been subjected for years and to obtain the much desired freedom.
By dealing with rather delicate themes such as racism and the rawness of war with absolute mastery, the narrative structure of Tactics Ogre is always engaging and never banal, also because this manages to contextualise every single motivation of the various characters. Unfortunately, the publisher has also decided in this round not to localize the Italian texts, which could preclude the total understanding of the story to anyone who does not have a good knowledge of the English language. In fact, the characters tend to use a courtly language that on the contrary will send the expert connoisseurs of the English-speaking language into raptures, also because the new edition even includes two spoken tracks – in English and Japanese – which make the dialogues even more fluid.
A renewed gameplay
Although the playful formula behind Tactics Ogre: Reborn has remained fundamentally the same, the Square Enix team has come up with numerous measures aimed at streamlining and rejuvenating the experience offered by the strategic. For example, even before starting the battles, which just like in the past are consumed on the inevitable isometric grid, the player has the opportunity to examine the pitch and even the equipment of the opponents on the field, in order to exploit the information. acquired to select the most suitable units for the fight and compose the best possible party.
In this regard it should be emphasized that Tactics Ogre: Reborn also allows you to save a maximum of five different configurations, so that the user is free to quickly select a pre-built party and conforms to the situation, completely eliminating the otherwise tedious need to deploy one per one the individual units of the battalion. As told in our Tactics Ogre: Reborn tried, the order of action of allied and opposing pawns is determined solely by the speed of the same and can be consulted at any time at the bottom of the screen, which opens the door to a delightful component strategic.
Given the slowness that usually penalizes the general, it should be specified that the developers have well thought of introducing an option that, once activated, doubles the speed of action and minimizes the risk that the clashes continue excessively.
The most substantial innovations, however, must be identified in the character growth system, which this time has been totally rethought: while once it was the classes to level up, forcing the units to return to the initial level after each job change, in the remastered they are instead fighters to gain experience and strengthen themselves after each fight.
In this way, the system manages to encourage the constant change of class and the experimentation of increasingly effective combinations. Not only has every single class been equipped with new unique and deadly abilities, but the access to the many talents that in past versions of the game had to be unlocked using grinding has been anticipated, favoring not a little the already great customization of the soldiers. The same goes for weapons and protections, which once could be added to the equipment only after reaching the required level: the Japanese software has removed any prerequisite, allowing the party to immediately exploit the various pieces of equipment as soon as they are found.
Since the aforementioned changes risked lowering the overall difficulty of the strategy, the Tactics Ogre: Reborn team – which does not offer the difficulty selector now present in all modern productions – has well thought of introducing the so-called “Party Level”, that is a level cap that goes up as the story continues and that prevents you from resorting to grinding to overcome obstacles with mere brute force.
Not being able in any way to exceed the maximum achievable level, from time to time you are therefore encouraged to win the fights by developing thoughtful and imaginative strategies, as well as being able to exploit the conformation of the terrain and various other factors to your advantage. Users not particularly accustomed to the difficulty that characterized the titles of the past may feel intimidated by the level of challenge proposed by Tactics Ogre: Reborn; however, while the system continues to be very punishing, the new feature called “Chariot Tarot” balances things out a bit, allowing you to rewind up to ten rounds and implement a different tactic. This way, less strategic players shouldn’t run the risk of getting stuck. If on the whole we are quite satisfied with the tricks made to the “quality of life”, there is still a mechanic that convinced us very little, identifiable in the cards that appear randomly in the course of the disputes. Each guarantees permanent bonuses and penalties, and if on the one hand their existence alone adds a pinch of unpredictability and can alter the course of the battle by pushing the player to change their plans, on the other the possibility of accumulating even four threatens the general balance. .
The weight of the years
Between tricks and absolute novelties, the playful component of Tactics Ogre has greatly benefited this re-edition, but the same cannot be said for the visual rendering. Focusing almost exclusively on the reinvigoration of the gameplay, from the graphic point of view Square Enix has limited itself to raising the definition of the scenarios, which already at the time of the landing on PlayStation Portable accused a poor pixel art of details.
Of course, the portability offered by Nintendo Switch (the version we have chosen to put on the test bench) helps to mask the advanced age of the product and its historical imperfections, but we still remain of the opinion that the Casa dei Chocobo could have at least renewed. the inexpressive sprites of the characters and the original illustrations accompanying the dialogues, which, like the PSP version, are badly cropped and furthermore penalized by an excessively thick black border.
Keeping in mind the wonders that Square Enix performed with the aforementioned The Triangle Strategy and the other titles in HD-2D, the restoration of a timeless classic like Tactics Ogre would have deserved a greater production effort in our opinion.