FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS by SQUARE ENIX Co., LTD. icon

FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS ($15.99) by SQUARE ENIX Co., LTD. is the much-anticipated port of the popular PlayStation tactical role-playing game that first arrived in Japan in 1997, and then hitting the US shores the following year.

In Final Fantasy Tactics, the setting is the medieval kingdom of Ivalice, where you assume the role of Ramza Beoulve. Who is Ramza? He is a highborn cadet that finds himself in the middle of “The Lion War,” in which two opposing noble factions are fighting for control of the land. Of course, things aren’t as simple as they seem, as there is a major twist in the plot that you will discover as you play through the game.

FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS by SQUARE ENIX Co., LTD. screenshot

Cutscenes are beautifully rendered and will look great on your iDevice. If you are new to the game, there is a lengthy tutorial to go through to show you the ropes of the game. I, however, chose to forgo this and get straight to the action.

The elements of a RPG are found in this game, such as experience and job points, item equips, and the famous job system that Final Fantasy became known for (since the original Final Fantasy). Once you master the beginning set of jobs, more advanced jobs will open up, like Bard, Ninja, Mediator, and more. Some advanced jobs have prerequisites that must be fulfilled before you can access them.

The battles, however, are not your standard turn-based fare. Battles take place on a battlefield that consists of squares for each character unit. Each unit gets a turn to move, attack, and perform other actions (like using items and change equipment).

The placement of these units and the direction they face will play an important strategic part of your battle. Depending on the job that you have given to your units, they will get a special “action” in addition to “Attack” on the menu. For example, magic users will have “Magic” as an option.

Because of this grid-based strategy, battles can actually take a while, unlike the traditional Final Fantasy RPG battles in other titles. However, you end up with a more satisfying experience once you finish a battle, and the rewards make it worth it.

On the World Map, you will simply tap to travel to various areas. Once you reach that point, you will advance the story and engage in battles. In cleared areas, you can access the Tavern, Outfitter, and even the Warrior Guild. Taverns will give you rumors, Outfitter will sell equipment for your recruits, and Warrior Guilds will allow you to hire new units on to your team.

A very important point to make about battles in Tactics — if one of your units falls in battle, you will have three turns to resurrect them (either with Phoenix Downs or a spell) before they disappear forever. That’s right — you will lose your units. This adds to the challenge of the game and makes you stay on your toes to keep your current units.

If you are familiar with the original and even the PSP remake, then you will feel just at home with this title. There are even improvements over the previous versions, such as the ability to move the camera around to get a better view of the battlefield.

FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS by SQUARE ENIX Co., LTD. screenshot

However, there are still a few flaws with this iPhone port. The biggest issue is that the graphics are not optimized for the iPhone 4 Retina display. I was disappointed to see that the in-game graphics and menus were just a tad fuzzy. Countless delays, yet the graphics haven’t been improved for current standards. Come on, Square Enix, you could have at least improved the graphics with all that extra time you’ve had.

Even though I had closed out all other applications and restarted my phone after installing, I encountered a bit of lag when going through menus during the game. Again, just a minor annoyance in spite of delays from the developers.

Currently, this game has a fairly high price tag of $15.99, and this is just the iPhone version — Square Enix will release an iPad version later in the fall.

For this much money, I would not recommend getting the game in its current state. The graphics have not been improved for current devices, though there is less lag than the PSP version when performing actions in battle. Lag is persistent, and extremely disappointing considering the wait.

The only reason to buy this game right this instant is for nostalgia’s sake. For the rest, I would recommend waiting until there are updates to improve the disappointing performance before dropping the cash on this game.