God Wars: Future Past Review
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Platform: PS4, PS Vita (no word on Cross-Buy or Cross-Play)
Price: $49.99 PS4, $39.99 Vita
God Wars: Future Past fills a hole I've been unsure of how to fill for a long time. As an undying lover of the original Final Fantasy Tactics, I've longed to find a tactical RPG that perfectly filled that hole. Even the sequels to that beloved game changed up the rules to where it didn't feel quite the same. Yet now, in 2017, Kadokawa Games and NIS America have brought to me the perfect puzzle piece.
Within the game, you create a team of unique characters as you delve through the story. A long time ago, natural disasters led Queen Tsukuyomi to sacrifice one of her daughters, whilst sealing the other, Kaguya, into a prison in case the gods needed a sacrifice one day in the future. She then disappeared. Now, her childhood friend Kintaro saves her from her fate one day, and the rumors of a different way to appease the gods leads them on an adventure to discover the truth behind her mother's choices and how to save the land from the wrath of the gods.
From the moment the battle screen loaded up, I felt transported back to 1998. In an isometric battlefield, you control your designated troupe in turn-based combat. Each character is given a job class, as well as a sub-job and a specialty only they possess. In order to unlock more job classes, you must level up specific jobs until they unlock. Each class offers different growth potential, and you can unlock passive abilities that you can then equip while your character is in another job, creating a mix of primary and secondary jobs and passive skills to craft a truly unique character, and therefore entire army. As you progress, you unlock 14 playable characters, 30 different job classes, and over 400 different skills to mix, match, and level up. This is exclusive of the 250 different pieces of equipment you can customize with as well.
Each turn, every character gets a chance to move and act. Timing is critical: you may want to use a weaker spell to save MP since another of your characters will be able to cut down the enemy before his turn. Defeating enemies earns JP which you then spend to learn new skills. You have to take into account every aspect of the battle: tile height, enemy facing, weaknesses, the works. To be honest, I type this thinking any Final Fantasy Tactics fan is currently wondering if they fell into a retro review. The game does an amazing job of bringing back the feel and pacing of Tactics, right down to where you spend just as much time in the between-level party leveling and adjustment as you do fighting in the first place.
So what does the game do differently? Characters are highly stylized, and reminiscent of feudal Japan. The storyline draws from the myriad gods that are popular in their classic tales. Each and every character is unique, so there's no recruiting generics to continue the tale. When a character falls in battle, there's a countdown just like Tactics, but you usually have time to rescue them and they retreat from battle if downed. If you find yourself up against some difficult enemies, you can select jobs to do instead of relying on randomized battles. Another aspect I like is the oddly named "impurity level." Characters who do a lot in battle, be it attacking enemies or healing other units, will raise their impurity level. This is basically a number that states how much the enemy wants to kill that character. If you rely on one tank or have a particularly adept healer, the enemy will focus their attacks on them. You can taunt the enemy with a character with a ton of HP to get the enemy off your character in dire straits, or use magic to temper the impurity level so they lay off naturally. This becomes a balance in most battles, and another fun thing to pay attention to strategically.
Storyline is told through a combination of beautiful anime cutscenes, some papercraft style story bits, and traditional JRPG style busts with animated mouths talking out the story. I'm only about 20% of the way through the main storyline and every single story beat has been fully voiced by both Japanese and English casts. While they can be a little hokey at times, it feels akin to any traditional anime dub.
The game is amazingly beautiful. While the in-battle graphics are stylized in a way that could easily be created on a previous generation console, the artwork representing the characters is well animated and the world map and in-game designs are very well done. My biggest beef has to be Kaguya's friend Kintaro, whose main artwork looks like he's scratching under his nose. For the entire game. Facial animations change, but poses do not. Some of the characters might be clenching a fist or pointing slightly at something, but that thumb shows up even on his mini-icon in the turn bar. Unless we are in full anime cutscene, Kintaro looks like he's ready to shove his thumb up his nose. There are also some interesting character designs in the name of fanservice. Why in a classic Japanese story I would come across what looks to be a bikini cave woman kitty girl with modern glasses and a business suit tie on is beyond me, but you soon after meet a full bunny suit woman too, so there ya go. Each and every character is overflowing with unique design, and it's quite easy to find a team of favorites.
God Wars feels like I think Final Fantasy Tactics should age in a perfect world. Going back to my favorite, I know there was a lot of hassle. There are minor issues that bog down Tactics if I look at it without the rose colored glasses. God Wars does a good job of giving the tactical genre a smooth and easy layout, letting you see skill trees and guides that help you unlock the abilities you want in your team.
God Wars: Future Past will be available June 20th on the PS4 and Vita for $49.99 and $39.99, respectively. I was able to review the PS4 version. While I can't say anything for the translation to the Vita, as I said the in-game graphics could be pulled off by a less powerful machine, though I don't know what sacrifices were made to make it portable. Of course, long drawn out games like this will be best enjoyed by how they fit in your life. If you have access to a TV and plenty of time, this is an amazing game for your big screen, but if you don't have that privilege or you simply enjoy this kind of game on the go, you won't be disappointed with the Vita edition. There is no word currently on a cross-buy for this game, so simply think through which one would work best for you.
God Wars is such a beautiful tactical RPG and really deserves a place in any collection that still looks for that perfect sequel to Tactics. This could easily have been an alternate universe's take on the same title, yet it has enough of it's own flair to not feel like more of the same. Without a doubt, I recommend this title to any tactical RPG fan, as well as anyone who's looking at getting into the genre.
-A perfect match for Final Fantasy Tactics fans
-You'll spend just as long organizing your team as fighting the battles
-With so many options you can truly customize your perfect team
-While still beautiful, the battle graphics are a little simple
-Voice Acting can be silly at times, in both languages
-Some design choices are odd, even though they make memorable characters
Big thanks to NIS America and Kadokawa games for allowing me to review such a wonderful title.