The original Ogre Battle was a novel combination of real-time strategy and RPG elements with plenty of replay value owing to its random elements and multiple endings. Tactics Ogre, first released a few years after, continued that philosophy but changed the combat up into a turn-based tactical system. But does it prove to be a worthy sequel to a cult classic, or does it simply pale in comparison?
Ogre Battle was a low-key hit on the Super Nintendo; though released in very limited quantities (reportedly only 25,000 copies were released in North America), it won acclaim for its open-ended design, numerous endings and the sheer amount of customizability the player could have for units - not just equipment and class, but they could recruit virtually every unit they came up against in the game to their party. From dragons to zombies to vampires to werewolves to the Pumpkin Mage, you certainly weren't wanting for options.
Tactics Ogre, like all of Matsuno's works, is one that shows a love for storytelling and the mechanical elements in every facet - the narrative is a dark and complex one, the gameplay pulls no punches with its difficulty, and it's a very deep, complex experience that will require a lot of experimentation and fine-tuning to find your niche in. Still, it's an ordeal you're glad to undertake because it's all so well-done; his passion shines through and gets you invested in the world he's weaved, ensuring that you want to puzzle out a road to success and see your way to all of the possible story paths and endings it has to offer. Definitely not an ideal choice for beginners to the genre, but those who want to see an intricate, brilliantly realized tactical experience and one of the most well-crafted worlds in all of video gaming will find a lot to enjoy in Tactics Ogre.
Developer: Quest, Square Enix
Publisher: Quest, Riverhillsoft, Atlus, Square Enix
Platform: Super Famicom, Sega Saturn, Playstation 1, Playstation Portable
Released: 1995, 1996, 1998, 2010
Recommended Version: The only two versions released outside of Japan were the Playstation 1 and PSP ports. The latter is my recommended version; not only does it provide a significantly overhauled version of the game, but it gets right everything the FFT port botched - it runs great, the new features are well integrated, and the game's Middle English sounds natural instead of cringey (though as Matsuno also returned as lead designer for this version, I'm not too surprised by any of that).