Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

All Hail Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

We sing the game's praises now and forever!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: June 20, 2011
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If you show Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together to your hipster Japanophile friend in his early twenties, he'll probably scoff and tell you it is a bad Final Fantasy Tactics clone. That's when you reach across and smack him down and lord over him with your knowledge that he is OH SO WRONG. You see, TO:LUCT actually came out BEFORE the seminal FFT, and in fact, FFT owes pretty much everything to Tactics Ogre, and was even developed by the same team.

TO:LUCT is part of the Ogre Battle series, although the other entries in the series skew heavily to standard RPG while TO is firmly entrenched in the SRPG genre. Originally released on the venerable Super Famicom, ports also made their way to both the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. Now ported to the PSP, this classic has been redone top to bottom with updates, new features and multiple improvements.

The tale of TO:LUCT (the name is ripped from a Queen song, and there are many Queen references throughout the series) draws some very sharp parallels to the 1990's Yugoslavian battles for independence that was at the forefront when the game was first released, and as such deals with some very heavy themes (like ethnic cleansing and nationalism) for a video game. In this case though, Serbians and Bosnians have been replaced by Lannisters and Starks… no, Wallisters and Galgastans, and instead of fighting over the Balkans, they are fighting over the land of Valeria and neighboring Xenobia.

It's a depressing tale that breaks up the battles, and you have to make several difficult decisions that radically shift the course of the narrative and have lasting impacts on the story as it goes along. Yasumi Matsuno did a brilliant job of carefully crafting the Lawful, Neutral, and Chaos paths to each tell a "real world" story that doesn't rely on supernatural forces as an excuse for morality, and in fact will often challenge just what you consider "lawful." The whole experience is far more mature than it comes off in the similar Valkyria Chronicles.

You'll play the game as Denam, young Liberation Army member, generally paired with your sister Catiiua and Xenobian pal Canopus along with a rotating cast of anywhere from 5 to 10 more NPCs and "custom" teammates. Early on, you and your cronies are limited to a basic set of classes that they may freely switch among, and as the game goes along you'll recruit new classes and obtain more classmarks that open up a vast array of options. There are over 20 "standard" human classes, another 15 classes that certain unique characters can use, and another dozen classes for monsters that you can recruit into your party. The way the leveling system works is that you level up classes, not characters, so when you move to a new class, you become the level of that class, regardless if it is lower or higher than your previous class.
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