Alas, Poor Scrappy: Algus/Argath comes back from the dead as Death Knight in a special battle in The War of the Lions. While he definitely deserves to be killed at least more than twice in one game, his last words are pitiable, crying for his mother as he goes to oblivion, the only person he ever cared for.
Delita may well be the most notorious example in video game history. He's either a tragic Anti-Villain who rises above prejudice and heartache only to find the world hasn't changed for the better and is forced to kill someone he cared deeply for in self-defense to boot or a vaguely repentant Manipulative Bastard whose mistreatment by the nobility leads him to equally evil actions, including the murder of his wife, who suspects he intended all along to kill her to consolidate his power - which, conveniently enough, he does. There's rarely a middle-ground between these views, either.
There are a few places in the game where the player can give Ramza different motivations for his actions, for example, choosing to focus on killing the bandits instead of saving Algus or Mustadio. These choices have very little impact on the rest of the plot, but whatever decision you make is commented upon, essentially allowing an in-universe version of this.
Also, did Olan/Orran really see Ramza and Alma at the end of the game, or did they perish and all he saw was their ghosts? There is enough evidence to support both their death and their survival.
St. Ajora Glabados - besides the conflicting sources about his history in-story, there's so much contradictory information about him that what he was actually like is impossible to determine. The character portrait hidden in the game suggests it might have been intended for there to be a flashback into his past, but since we never actually got any such thing... yeah.
Anti-Climax Boss: Altima's final form has only one spell that causes a plethora of negative statuses. However, riding a Chocobo negates everything and all she can do is try and punch you with her mediocre attack rating.
Amusingly enough, Altima actually had some attacks programmed in that weren't really used by her default AI. Of course, given that by then, you likely have the game smashed into huge pieces on your living room floor, she won't have more of a chance to use them.
The Zodiac Stone bringing Marach back to life. It's the first time the stones do anything but turn a willing host into a monstrous demon, and there's no foreshadowing that it could or would do that.
Ultima "spitting" out Alma for the final battle. Again, none of the Lucavi have ever done anything like this before. Granted, they all were willing hosts, but given how big a deal it was for Ultima needing Alma's body, it just comes out of nowhere.
Broken Base: Charge times on spells. A lot of fans think it adds depth and complexity and think their removal in the sequels is dumbing down the games. Others think it's a Scrappy Mechanic that only serves to artificially pump the difficulty and limit classes.
Dycedarg Beoulve initially appears to be just another ruthless, power-hungry aristocrat, but turns out to be one the most evil characters in the game. He murdered his own father for power and, along with his childhood friend, Duke Bestrald Larg, plunged Ivalice into civil war against Duke Goltanna. Then he backstabs and murders Larg as well, and when his brothers Zalbaag and Ramza call him out on his actions, he has the audacity to be offended. When he merged with Adrammelech, he murdered Zalbaag as well.
By far, the worst of all has to be Duke Gerrith Barrington. He starts out by burning down Rafa's village and then saving her and her brother, but not for remotely benevolent reasons. Her brother he seems to be grooming to be a unflinchingly loyal soldier, and what he does to Rapha is simply unspeakable.
Tiamats, who can pelt you with repeated dosages of fire or lightning.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Wiegraf and Zalbaag are both rather popular with fans, who would've loved for either one (or even better, both) to join the player party permanently.
Agrias Oaks for the main party. Helped by being one of the more developed characters who joins the party.
Despite having no personalities or even individual portraits to speak of, Lavian and Alicia - Agrias's two knights - often get developed roles in fanfiction. It's especially telling since Rad - who is in a similar position - rarely gets this much acknowledgement, as when he does he's usually just Gafgarion's lackey who gets unceremoniously killed in the first fight against Gafgarion.
Fridge Brilliance: It's little wonder, when you think about it, why Rapha charges right at Elmdore, Celia, and Lettie at the start of That One Battle on the roof of Riovanes Castle. She just watched her brother get shot for trying to protect her, by the man who spent much of her upbringing brainwashing and raping her, who in turn was just tossed off the roof to his death by Elmdore's assassins thereby robbing her of any chance for revenge, so she decides to end it all running head-long at the trio and it's up to you to stop her before they gladly take her up on it.
Game Breaker: Final Fantasy Tactics might as well be called "please break this game into itty bitty pieces": Any character can be pimped out with the right set of abilities and equipment to make them more or less untouchable.
Any discussion must begin with Orlandu, a.k.a. "Thunder God Cid". Every single Jedi Holy Knight skill in the game, the Excalibur which strengthens and absorbs Holy and gives permanent Haste status, the heaviest armor available, and the only thing you have to do to get him is play the game through as normal? Sign me up. He is basically a giant "You Win" button for the majority of battles he takes part in.
Orlandu comes with the skills of Meliadoul, Agrias and Gaffgarion, the first two of which join your party. In any other game, they would be Game Breakers in their own right, especially when equipped as well as Orlandu. (It's getting them there that's the problem; again, he comes with legendary equipment, while they don't. Even worse, Meliadoul is recruited after Cid joins the party, at which point she gets hit with one of the nastiest cases of Seinfeld Is Unfunny in recorded history.)
In the PSP version, FF12 cameo Balthier, who comes with superb equipment and upgraded Thief abilities. For fun, try this: Sky Pirate Balthier with an Ultimate Javelin using Barrage with equipment optimizing PA.
His barrage skill is akin to attacking twice with any weapon, it's unblockable, undodgeable and if he uses it with his default gun he can easily kill any unit withing 2 rounds from across the stage. He also has all the thief skills and all of Mustadio's skills and is extremely fast and versatile.
He has all the thief skills with upgraded success rates. no more will you have to worry about beating <15% success rate.
The Samurai ability Blade Grasp. Grants a percentage chance equal to your brave of blocking a physical attack, including arrows and bullets, despite its description. A high brave/low faith character with this skill is practically immortal - it can give a player a 97% base chance to block an attack.
Set the Monk's Martial Arm ability to a Ninja (rather than giving Dual Wield to a Monk). The Ninja has better mobility, stat multipliers and equipment options.
The Calculator/Arithmetician's skill set can make a spell caster nearly unstoppable, by allowing instant, free casting of most of the game's spells (including Flare and Holy) with unlimited range. Give the skill to a job with high magic power, and you've practically got a Person of Mass Destruction. If only this job was able to be scroll-glitched, it would easily become the most exploitable class in the game.
There's also armor that absorbs Holy elemental spells, so you could just nuke everybody on the field, hurting the enemy and healing yourself at the same time.
The Remake adds Dark Knight as a job class. Give one with Darkness, Iaido, Shirahadori, Safeguard, and Move+3 as abilities, then equip with Excalibur, Aegis Shield, Crystal Helm, Mirror Mail, and Featherweave Cloak. Especially deadly in the endgame, as Brave increases are permanent in a 4:1 or so ratio, meaning give him 20 brave in one encounter and he keeps five after the fight. You could easily have a character untouchable by magic with an 8% chance of being hit from behind. The only weaknesses are summons and non-reflectable magics, which can be avoided by virtue of the shield and cloak, and characters with holy blade abilities, like Weigraf and Loffrey-the latter of which is foiled by Safeguard. Ramza? With Shout? Hoo-lee-crap. Strategically position a mime? Ow.
In the PSX version at least, any unit participating in battle with other unit types would gain a quarter of any JP those units gained, meaning a Level 2 Ramza could leach enough JP from others' actions to actually progress to other jobs and eventually master them all, without taking an Action. This way, random encounters' levels are still low, but Ramza still has ludicrous skill sets and the option to level up in whatever job the player wants (or spams the stat growth, as mentioned later herein with the Degenerator).
Give units the Dance/Sing ability with Sunken State as a reaction ability, making a barricade of invisible dancers/singers, and choosing Wait whenever a turn comes up. Also, bring a book; doing this took as much time to read a Tom Clancynovel or two.
Anyone with instant-cast abilities breaks the game. Around chapter two, you get Agrias who doesn't do so as much but still really helps and is likely a crucial part of the battle team. However, by chapter four, it seems the devs decided "Ah screw it" and gave you the most powerful character of all time.
Agrias is actually more broken than Orlandu. Why? She can equip Perfumes, he can't. One such Perfume, Chantage, gives permanent auto-raise, making her completely unkillable. Whereas Orlandu can still be killed, Agrias just gets up again... and again... and again, until the other side is simply destroyed. Once you get a Chantage, Agrias can literally almost-solo the entire game, and the "almost" is simply because Ramza is required for story battles; in that case, he can just sit in a corner with Vanish while Agrias kills everything.
The War of the Lions takes this even further, with the ability to gain the Tynar Rouge accessory. Permanent Haste / Protect / Shell, and +3 to Strength and Magic? Stick this on Agrias, and she could even give Orlandu a run for his money.
Cloud usually gets overlooked because of the countless other Game Breakers, his low starting level, and his slow Limit skills. However, even Orlandu doesn't have Finishing Touch: as fast as a level-one White/Black spell, costs no MP, and does three things to enemies: makes them dead, makes them as-good-as-dead, and makes them soon-to-be-dead. All of Cloud's other Limit skills are either weak or too slow to be practical, but with Finishing Touch, what else does he need? Sure, you still have to build him up from level 1 and use the weak Materia Blade, but attack power is irrelevant when you're hitting with an insta-kill move. The only stats that matter for Cloud are speed (simple, make him a Ninja) and HP, with speed being higher priority. The Time Mage's Short Charge ability also helps, making the low casting time for Finishing Touch even shorter.
One of the most practical reaction skills in the game is Auto-Potion. It causes the character to consume the cheapest healing potion in your inventory, as a counter-attack, saving you the trouble of wasting a precious turn to heal them yourself. It does come with the downside of consuming said potion, which can get expensive if the skill is used en masse, but by the time you can employ it en masse you probably aren't hurting for Gil. Its other downside is that, to learn it, you have to spend time as a Chemist. ...A healing class that is also a true Combat Medic due to being one of the only classes in the game that can use guns. Yeah, they're really awful to have on your team.
Set Chivalry on Archers and watch them break enemy equipment from a distance. Doubles as a Disc One Nuke.
Good Bad Bug: There is a way to cheat the Job Point system in the PS1 version. Going to buy a skill, get to the point where it asks you if you want to buy this skill. Then hold down the square button and press the up or down arrow to switch placement of skills. This may cause you to buy a skill you already own or you couldn't possibly afford. After backing out you will find that this has caused the game to glitch and you either have 9999JP, 0000JP which acts as an infinite, or that it has stolen away all your JP or given you a marginal amount more. The exact effects have been mapped out on other websites. Not all jobs can be glitched in this way, but you may be happy to note that most of the more expensive and time-consuming jobs can. Have fun smiting people with Bahamutthe minute you gain the Summoner class.
Also, the PSX version has an item duplication bug. You know that awesome Infinity–1 Sword Cid carries? Try giving one to your entire party!
In one level of the Deep Dungeon, one of the random encounters includes a generic Male Time Mage. This would be unimportant except that, when killed, the Time Mage lets out the female death scream. If recruited (through the Mediator's "Invite"), the character has female stat growths and access to the Dancer Job, but all of their sprites are male.
Using the Jump ability on a target with the Blade Grasp reaction ability causes the jumper to end up in the skybox, which the game treats as being at infinite height. Equip a gun on this "skywalker" and you've got a guy who's untouchable but can still rain death on basically anyone he wants to.
Harsher in Hindsight: The guy who founded the corrupt church of Glabados, Ajora Glabados, who was also implied to be the Anti Christ or at least under Demonic Possession of the Lucavi Ultima was born on September 11. His actions in the game alone are bad enough as it is. It gets worse approximately three to four years later, with the 9/11 Terrorist attacks.
Moral Event Horizon: Algus/Argath's killing of Delita's sister at Fort Ziekden - even though it rather brutally resolved the kidnapping standoff. The fact that he shows little remorse is the clincher.
Speaking of Folmarv, he might have crossed it when he murdered his son Isilud and massacred an entire castle, but if not then, he most definitely did when he raised Zalbaag as a zombie and forced him to fight his younger brother Ramza.
Rapha and Marach's innate skill would assign them a random number of hits to random squares within the 5-square-cross targeting zone you give them. The Random Number God being the Jerk Ass he is, actually hitting anything with this ability is less likely than winning the lottery.
The fact that support spells can miss is near-universally disliked. Especially since their accuracy can be less than an offensive spell, which doesn't make a lot of sense unless characters are trying to dodge Haste.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The game constantly throws anvil-sized sledgehammers onto you about how very wrong it is to treat people differently just because of your birthright, and that it's your actions that determine the kind of person you are. But with all the racism and classism that still goes around the Real World even to this very day, such anvils need to be dropped with all the unsubtlety that can be managed.
Spiritual Adaptation: It's been compared to Berserk's "Golden Age" arc, with similar themes of rising up to nobility, a mundane setting getting rather biblical with monstrous religious-themed demons, and even similar scenes of characters bonding by making whistles from leaves/grass. Of particular note is the Lucavi and the way they merge with humans via the Zodiac Stones and a Deal with the Devil, which is almost exactly the way that the Beherits and Apostles work in the aforementioned series.
Of particular note is Rapha mourning Marach's death. The guy may have been a Jerk Ass up to that point, but you really feel for his sister.
Rapha: Look, Marach! A new dawn is risen. Can... can you see it? So often we sat together talking, waiting for the coming of first light. We'd talk of the journeys we wanted to make together, wouldn't we? How when the war ended, we would go back and visit our old village. You remember, Marach, don't you? Don't you? Tell me you do! Tell... tell me you'll still go!
This then leads to one of the few times a Zodiac Stone does something genuinely good in the game.
That One Attack: Blood Suck is a rare but extremely nasty status effect. It turns the target into an undead vampire who goes crazy and starts sucking the life out of nearby targets—friends or enemies. And friends get turned to vampires too if they get Blood Sucked. If your whole party is vampirized it's game over! Status effects usually don't spread, let alone game-ending ones.
That One Boss: Wiegraf Folles, in the 4-part raid of Riovanes Castle, may be the most infamous example in FFT. The first part is actually pretty standard but if you save afterwards, you cannot back out and Level Grind to toughen up Ramza. This may render your game Unwinnable. Not to mention that Wiegraf, in the second part, knows several long-range sword techniques, while the battlefield itself is a small, closed arena with difficult terrain. You must fight him alone.
Not to mention that after you defeat Wiegraf, you must fight Belias - who also has long-range attacks - on the same map. The good news is that the remaining party members will arrive to back you up. The bad news is that he summons two demons to even the odds. But if you do defeat him, congratulations, the worst is over. Now you simply have to pray you canprotect Rafa!
The Golgorand Execution Site. You have five people, no guests. That's the Arbitrary Headcount Limit. The enemy doesn't abide by this rule...and throws eight units on you. Included among them is Gafgarion, who by himself is basically a One-Man Army. The level's layout also favors the computer, with two powerful mages relatively safe atop the gate and the player's party divided into two groups. The difficulty does make sense In-Universe, given it was a trap sprung by Gafgarion.
ALL of Riovanes Castle. ALL OF IT. First there's the duel between Ramza and Weigraf, where Weigraf uses Holy Sword attacks. Then there's the fight against Belias and several Archaic Demons. Belias is tough, the Demons are no pushovers, and Ramza is likely pretty weak after the Weigraf duel. And then there's the infamous battle on the roof against Elmdore, Celia and Lettie...
Many of the levels involving Wiegraf, Elmdore and/or Elmdore's two Bodyguard Babe assassins, Celia and Lettie, who have 100%-accurate Instant Death skills, reducing any fight against them to a Luck-Based Mission. The other problem is their very rarely-used charm spells, which can temporarily turn one of your strongest fighters against you. Once finally killed, they transform into demon spawn from hell: compared to their human forms, said demons are a joke.
The Dorter Slums, the fourth battle in the game. Between Archers on the rooftops peppering you with arrows and Black Mages pelting you with rain-boosted Bolt spells, you can end up with a good chunk of your party incapacitated or dead before they even get near. And if your party members try to get near them, the Knight guarding them can easily dispatch them. This battle is basically the game's way of telling you it won't be pulling any punches, and that you'd better shape up if you want to survive.
There's also the random encounter with the eleventy billionnote just eleven, really monks on Grog Hill. The Monk class not only comes with a resurrection spell, but with a strong, long-range hits-everyone-on-a-line Earth-elemental attack. They're all wearing armor that absorbs Earth-elemental damage. There are Bonus Bosses in some games that are easier than this.
Bervenia, when players meet Meliadoul. She has a strong team of Summoners and Archers, begin at much higher elevation, and are fairly high level. But the kicker is Meliadoul herself. Her unique moveset is based around powerful ranged attacks that are guaranteed to break players' equipment (and as a bonus, probably kill them in the process). She also has an automatic Reraise, but mercifully the fight ends when she is defeated the first time.
Any level involving Gafgarion, the old man who does nothing but stay JUST out of range and spam Night Sword, giving him all the damage he deals back as health. Your choices involve ignoring him while you take out his allies, or focus fire him down, letting his allies beat you up. Or Steal/Break his sword.
The Level Grind ball-kick that is Finath River. Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards, except in this case it's the Chocobos playing the part of the Wizards. Fortunately they combine the best vulnerabilities of Glass Cannon and Fragile Speedster. Unfortunately, they have the strengths as well, and there is no set team of enemies for this fight, meaning you could end up with a massive army of Chocobos waiting to kick your ass. Fortunately, you can keep resetting until you get an enemy team of the weaker Chocobos, monsters you have been slaughtering in random battles since the game began.
Balius Tor (or Bariaus Hill as it was called in the original English translation) is one of the most dangerous maps in the game. The storyline battle you fight there is already tough, as it's the first time the game sics Summoners on you, but even after that point, it hosts some of the deadliest random encounterss. It's possible to face an entire flock of Chocobos, or even a massive battle of up to a dozen enemies that includes every single Demonic Spider the game can throw at you at once (including Dragons, Red Chocobos, Behemoths, and Hydras). You pretty much need to save the game before crossing this node.
Nelveska Temple. Not only are players limited by having to use Reis and Beowulf if they want Reis' human form, but the stage is stacked against the players. For one, two Hydras begin the stage pillars next to the party, out of reach of most units but in excellent position to attack on their turn. Construct 7, the boss begins at the entrance of the temple meaning he can only be attacked from the front (and may choose to go further into the temple, making him even harder to hit) and can attack from across the stage. But the worst are the three Cockatrices. They can fly so the terrain means nothing to them, and have the ability Beak, which has a very high chance of Petrify. All this combines to make an exceptionally difficult map. And on top of that, the map is home to the Infinity Plus One Spear and Shield; getting them means you'll have to delay the battle, and they'll both be Permanently Missable if you miss them.
Finath River is one of these. Chances are you're relatively high level when you get here, and you get a level dependent spawn of Chocobos. Including Blacks which fly and thus are all but impossible to outrun. And Reds, with Choco Meteor, which cannot miss. Worse still, monsters are much stronger than humanoids, since they can't wear equipment and thus get much larger growth.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: There's a lot of evidence that at some point in the game's development, Valmafra/Balmafula was going to have a bigger role and even participate in battles. And yet she abruptly exits the story only to appear again in the epilogue. This lead fans to ask "Why?"
Tier-Induced Scrappy: Rafa/Rapha and Malak/Malak/Marach, whose abilities were all but ineffectual in combat, and all they were good for (aside from cannon fodder) was Rafa's ability to find treasure in the Deep Dungeon. Slightly improved in the PSP version, where Rapha's Skyseer skills are much more powerful and accurate, though her brother is even worse than before.
With proper planning both Rafa and Malak can actually become incredibly (Read: Cid-level) deadly, Malak more than Rafa though. However, the sheer amount of strategy involved to achieve this result is often far more trouble than it's worth.
Cloud becomes Awesome, but Impractical since by the time you get him, he's massively Overshadowed by Awesome and his abilities have a charge time. By then, you have a lot of characters who get instant-use abilities that really really break the game.
And Mustadio, sadly, can also suffer this in a number of circles, depending on whether a person likes the way gun-users work in this game. The introduction of Balthier into the PSP port hasn't helped matters. Making this sadder is that he's actually a rather popular character with a dedicated fanbase, but his low-level usefulness means he gets somewhat underappreciated.
Past a certain point, the entire magic-using half of the Class and Level System can become this as well, due to an inversion of the Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards trope. While a mage is chanting their incantation, their more sword-minded opponents can: 1) close and slaughter them before the spell fires; 2) block the spell with their shields, an item wizards themselves cannot use; 3) just shrug it off, particularly if he (or the wizard!) has a low Faith stat; and 4) move in and take them with], since units in this game are not Friendly Fireproof and a spell that can kill a fighter is practically guaranteed to kill the mage that cast it. Add in swordspell users like Agrias, who combine ranged attacks, mobility and high damage output, and wizards are basically obsolete.
Tietra has shades of this, despite her nature. In her first scene, she's telling Delita she's settled into classes well and everybody's kind to her. Then Alma discreetly tells Ramza that Tietra's been putting on a brave face to reassure her brother, and the other girls have been remorselessly bullying her.
Jerkass Woobie: Delita. Malak/Marach is a more definite example as despite his attitude, he has been manipulated by Barrington to quite extensive effect and still shows love and concern for his sister.
Stoic Woobie: Zalbaag, given the difficult decisions he's had to make in his noble position and asking Ramza to kill him, after Hashmal brought him back as a zombie.
Reception to it was underwhelming initially, possibly because it was both a spin-off and everyone was still focused on Final Fantasy VII which had come out not too long beforehand. Over time the game has developed a small (compared to other FF's at least) but very devoted fanbase who praise its interesting political storyline, unique Darker and Edgier take on Final Fantasy, and its rich, layered battle and job system. Its remakes and re-releases helped spread its reputation, and it received a proxy Colbert Bump due to being based on The Wars Of The Roses, the same Real Life conflict that inspired A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV adaptation, and sharing a number of themes with those works.
In-Universe, Ramza's reputation has since turned around now that the Durai Reports have been released to the public
Woolseyism: The PSP re-localization. See below for details.
The script of the PSP version was rewritten to get rid of the cheesy script in the original, and to fit better with the rest of the Ivalice-verse. They even added a Spoony Bard bit that didn't appear in the original:
Ramza: My brothers do not want this fight! Set down your sword, Wiegraf, and my brothers will treat with you!
Wiegraf: Ha! No spoony bard could spin a sweeter tale! You say your brothers do not want this fight? Tears then, for the world you see is one beyond my weary sight.
(The original (mis)translated version remains highly popular, though.)
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Defeat Dycedarg's Elder Brother!note To explain why this is a "Blind Idiot" Translation, the game instructs you to kill Dycedarg's older brother, which most people assume to be Zalbaag... however, when showing the target, Dycedarg is highlighted, and Zalbaag is on your side. Not to mention that Dycedarg is Zalbaag's elder brother, as well as the eldest child. Given that both are brothers of Ramza, it's easy to suppose that the intended meaning was more like "Defeat Your Elder Brother Dycedarg".