Every once in a while, there’s a game that comes to define an entire genre, like Super Metroid and Metroidvania or Dark Souls the Soulslike. For tactical RPGs, that same idea applies to Tactics Ogre, a seminal title that would influence the genre for decades to come. Even modern releases like Triangle Strategy build upon the foundation set by the original Tactics Ogre. It’s a daunting task to think about changing that kind of nostalgic experience, but somehow, Square Enix managed to not only capture the spirit of the original but also create an integrally new experience with Tactics Ogre Reborn.
“Since there are various systems and elements, we tried to keep it simple while maintaining or even increasing the depth of the game,” lead game designer Naoyuki Takahashi tells Inverse.
“For example, that is the intention behind limiting the number of consumable items and magic/skill equipment to four. While there is a choice of what to equip and what to give up, the system itself is simple. Since the balance would be thrown off if the PSP version’s skills were taken as-is and limited to four, we also added innovations to further increase the depth of the game by distributing elements such as counterattacks, deflects, and move-type skills as functions of the armor.”
While Fire Emblem has also played an integral role in the development of strategy RPGs, Tactics Ogre really came to define the class-based character system that so many other games would use, including Final Fantasy and Disgaea.
What’s so interesting about Tactics Ogre Reborn, however, is that the wealth of changes make it feel like a distinctly different game from both the original and the PSP re-release. These changes make the game feel more focused, giving you less freedom in the larger picture, but a more streamlined experience overall.
On top of dozens of class reworks, one of the bigger changes comes with how your party levels up. Instead of classes leveling up, like in the other re-release subtitled Let Us Cling Together, now each character levels up independently, and your entire party has a level cap that raises as you progress through the story. This is a fascinating way of approaching difficulty, as players can no longer grind for levels, ensuring that big story battles always have an edge of danger and challenge.
The new scout command is also integral, as it lets you peruse the battlefield beforehand and create a strategy, instead of building your ideal party and hoping for the best. That’s really indicative of the best change in Reborn, as the player’s ability to formulate different parties and strategies feels far more dynamic. Layered on top of this is the new Buff Cards system, which brings an element of unpredictability to each match.
In Reborn blue Buff Cards randomly spawn on the map, and both your units and the enemy can collect them for tremendously valuable stat boosts; things like raising physical damage, raising MP restored each turn, etc. The tide of battle can change depending on who collects these cards, and it’s a tremendously fun system that forces players to adjust their strategies on the fly.
While you could talk about the systems of Tactics Ogre all day long, it’s important to note one of the other incredibly vital changes with Reborn, voice acting. It would have been easy for voice acting to feel like an afterthought, but in Tactics Ogre Reborn it ends up feeling vital, like something that’s been there all along.
“I had been thinking that when another opportunity came around to develop a Tactics Ogre title, I would definitely want to realize fully voiced cutscenes to make the game feel like it belongs to the modern generation,” producer Hiroaki Kato tells Inverse “In the recording studio, we paid close attention to whether the units were adjacent to each other (near each other) or at a distance(far from each other) as we recorded. In the latter case, we would ask the voice actors to raise their voices.”
Kato also adds that Yasumi Matsuno, the director, and writer of the original game, played a central role in the Japanese recording sessions. According to an IGN interview from September 2022, Matsuno played a large role in the entire production of Reborn, helping to ensure that the new take on the classic strategy RPG felt true to form.
It’s not uncommon to see games released multiple times across decades, but it is rare to see a massive title like Tactics Ogre completely redesigned not once, but twice. Let Us Cling Together on PSP already felt like the definitive version of the experience, but it’s amazing that Kato and his team managed to capture that lightning in a bottle another time.
Past the actual experience Tactics Ogre Reborn provides, hopefully, this new remaster can open more doors for Square Enix to return to the tactical RPG genre. The company has already shown a willingness with the likes of Triangle Strategy. The obvious next step would be to return to one of Matsuno’s other seminal works, namely Final Fantasy Tactics, which has already been rumored to be getting some kind of remaster. Tactics Ogre Reborn brings a masterpiece of the tactical genre to a new generation, and it’s tantalizing to think of what this team could do with Final Fantasy Tactics or even a brand-new IP.
“Final Fantasy Tactics is a favorite title of mine, so I hope I will have the opportunity to play it with renewed enthusiasm,” Kato tells Inverse. “As for myself, I worked on Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Tactics Ogre: Reborn, and other remastered/remake titles, so I think I would like to create something brand new next.”
INVERSE celebrates the best of the best in entertainment, gaming, science, and technology of 2022. Go to the INVERSE Awards hub.