Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions has finally arrived in the App Store. To be honest, I’ve never been a die-hard Final Fantasy RPG fan. But I picked up the version of Tactics for the Game Boy Advance when I was 12 years old and loved it.

At the time, it felt like a fusion of Pokémon-level strategy with Magic: the Gathering vocabulary and Lord of the Rings characters. What more could a 12 year old nerd ask for in a portable strategy game. After spending some time with FFT: The War of the Lions for iOS today, I’m thrilled to present a summary on its gameplay on the iPhone 4.

The touch-screen based controls in the game are far better than I expected, although I didn’t expect much. Before purchasing, I knew that poor touch controls and inconvenient navigation could ruin the gameplay of a grid-based strategy game, and apparently Square Enix knew that too. For example, rather than having to pinpoint your selection of microscopic text (I have many other graphics complaints, stay tuned), simply hold your finger and glide across menus to highlight the desired item.

Similarly, you can highlight selected spaces and characters on the grid battlefields by using the hold and drag technique. The navigation of battlefields, which is where the vast majority of the game is spent, is also much simpler than in past games.

The previous frustrations of being unable to switch the fixed map views have been removed. Now, you can easily maneuver around the grid using two buttons in the upper left-hand corner and sliding your finger. You can even pinch to zoom for a closer view, although this is almost never needed.

This leads me to my biggest gripe of the game: the over-hyped graphics. Square Enix clearly exaggerated when it spoke of ‘optimized graphics’ for iOS.

Almost everything you see aside from the cut scenes (which are terrific) is heavily pixelated. I’m not certain that it would be possible to generate PSP or even original Playstation quality graphics on the iPhone 4’s screen, but with a Retina Display, it’s not asking much to expect more brilliant colors, tones, and better character detail.

While the graphics are underwhelming, the game’s speedy performance and quality storyline still manage to justify the high price point. The War of the Lions costs $15.99, which makes it very expensive by iOS standards. That’s the same price Square Enix charges for Final Fantasy III for iOS though, and the game is much more in-depth than most iOS games.

Like Previous Final Fantasy Tactics titles, the game also has enormous replay value, as you can level up your team members to amass new battle abilities, equipment, ‘magicks’ and specialty powers. I’m also inclined to give a long and detailed comment on how enjoyable and stunning the music is, but those of you familiar with any title in the Final Fantasy line can attest to this.

Between the strikingly simple touch-based controls, solid performance capabilities (such as quick load times) and ease of gameplay, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions comes out a winner for iOS.


William Shaub is a performance major at Juilliard who balances a life in music with heavy doses of writing and tennis. He loves tech journalism, and spends an enormous amount of time on a smartphone. You...

5 replies on “iOS game review: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions”

  1. Um… the version of Final Fantasy Tactics released on the GameBoy Advance (called Final Fantasy Tactics Advance) was not the original Final Fantasy Tactics. The original was released on the Playstation and then later ported to the PSP.

    1. Who cares, it was an awesome game and did you really have to go out of your way to point out that detail?

  2. It’s hard to get an accurate measure of this game’s performance.  It’s interesting that you call it speedy, a lot of reviews are coming in that make it sound like molasses, even on iPhone 4 after a reset.  Certainly, there’s a lot of nostalgia with this title, but are new players going to appreciate what is being called a sluggish, hastily put together port that doesn’t even have the claimed Retina graphics?

    1. It really depends on the kind of games the new player is interested in. This is a strategy, grid-based game–it’s ‘tactics.’ You’re right about the conflicting reports on the speed. My 32G iPhone 4 has about 4.5 GB’s free, and this game runs beautifully. For those with less memory, it might be considerably slower.

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