Impressions: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

The third time out on American shores for the Tactics Ogre franchise is most certainly a charm. Following a fantastic debut on the Super Famicom, the isometric strategy-RPG moved on to the PlayStation, and also the Game Boy Advance for portable tactical battles to take on the go. Square Enix’s dazzling return to form, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together for the PlayStation Portable, is a remake of the original Super Famicom release and later Sega Saturn port that had an entire generation of gamers enamored with its memorable characters, intertwining storylines, and deep gameplay. For what is arguably one of the best tactics adventures ever developed, this PSP edition does the fanbase a fantastic service and makes it even better.

Set in the land of Valeria, players must lead forces on a tenuous journey to liberation. The narrative can understandably seem a little muddled, but focuses on three ethnic groups essentially fighting for supremacy: Walstanian, Gargastan, and Bacrumese peoples all with different ideology and clashing ideas when it comes to government and politics. Protagonist Denam heads up a list of intriguing and personable characters throughout an easy fifty to ninety hour campaign that will lead you down several twisting plot roads and back again. Every decision you make can absolutely change the outcome of your entire game, only ramping up the replayability factor for a game that’s going to eat up hours of your schedule anyway.

And many of those hours will be spent braving several of the familiar tactical battles you will have seen in other similar games. It is often imitated but never duplicated, except perhaps in the case of Final Fantasy Tactics, a personal favorite rivaled only by the likes of Disgaea or Tactics Ogre, one of the best in my book. You control several units at a time (up to 12 characters for a full party) on an isometric grid of a battlefield. You have a set number of moves with which you may advance and plan attacks accordingly. Higher ground and different types of terrain will affect your ability to move across the board, as well as weather effects. You need to plan out every move, every action, as it is integral for victory.

Luckily, exclusive to this PSP remake, the CHARIOT system lets you rewind time in order to let things play out again. You may go back up to 50 different moves, which can be an awful lot of time when it comes to the bigger, more epic battles. You may find that this can completely turn the tide of victory to your favor, so even if you’re not especially great at these types of games, you may find that you have a chance, after all.

Leveling has been tweaked significantly from the previous releases, making it much simpler for newcomers to the series. Since characters are all class-based, they will now level up together by class. This addresses previous complaints beautifully and it reinforces the character class mechanic, though as you burn through mages, warriors, and other staple classes, you’ll favor one over the other, then scramble to build up your under-used characters. It’s simple to keep track up, but like Pok√©mon, can be quite tough to balance. I enjoyed the challenge.

The non-linear narrative will have you bouncing from location to location via the gorgeous world map, from which you can choose your destinations. You may choose to stop and shop for supplies or to rest and regroup, though you will need to be vigilant for random battles. In many cases, they can prove to be more difficult than canonical matchups, so it’s always prudent to pick your battles.

Gorgeous environments, character portraits, and painstakingly-detailed sprites pair up with some truly touching musical selections to make this Tactics Ogre the best-looking and best-sounding of the series yet. You can listen to individual tracks as you unlock them along the way, and drinking in the beautiful character portraits is an absolute treat. It certainly does channel Final Fantasy Tactics, or even Vagrant Story, so if you’re a fan of either game you will feel right at home here.

This PSP re-issue of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together stands up there with the best of the best – something about bringing a venerated classic to Sony’s handheld just seems to give things a little more oomph and a lot more polish, added to the fact that you can now take this iconic adventure anywhere you want to go. The sprawling narrative, branching paths, and addictive gameplay make this one tale you’ll want to revisit again and again, while having gorgeous environments and exquisitely detailed graphics certainly don’t hurt. Fans of the 16-bit original will definitely want to take a well-deserved trip down memory lane with this masterful remake, and if you’re new to the series, I highly recommend starting with this release. You won’t be disappointed.

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