NOTE: I'll be using the names from the original PSX version.
NOTE 2: Thanks to Orioto for the wonderful artwork above, check out his excellent work at http://orioto.deviantart.com/
Honorable Mentions: The final battle(s) with Ultima, Wiegraf in the monastery, Izlude in the monastery, Deep Dungeon in general
The final battle of Chapter 1 is a bit on the difficult side, certainly above average. The enemy crew outguns your party unless you've done a fair amount of over-leveling up to that point, with black mages hiding behind well-equipped knights. The good news is that defeating Algus means the end of the battle. There are other fights later in the game that are more difficult than this one, yet can also be won by taking out a leader. Izlude and Wiegraf in the monastery come to mind. At that point you're likely better-suited for assassinating enemy commanders, though. The Fort Ziekden fight, being much earlier, is going to drag on for considerably longer. Algus also doesn't bum-rush your party like many commanders do, choosing instead to stay back and snipe like the jerk he is. This is a tricky fight, but it isn't as bad as anything else on this list.
The first Lucavi demon is actually fairly difficult to take down. He's quick and can unleash a variety of status effects on your party, including putting everyone to sleep with little chance of resistance. Later in the game, Zalera is basically the same fight with more HP and goons added; however, by then, your characters are through the roof on power. Again, this is a fight that is mainly difficult due to the point it shows up. Relative to your party at the time that you fight him, Queklain is more of a challenge than most of the other Lucavi and can definitely catch players off guard who haven't previously dealt with status effects.
Not the only "Protect Rafa" battle to appear on this list. Your first meeting with Rafa can be a frustrating one, as she doesn't have many HP. Being AI controlled, she also likes to stand right in the open where enemies can easily attack her. The enemy group is composed of meleers who can reach her on the first turn AND Summoners; this means she's very likely to get annihilated without the player having very much input on the matter. The good news is that if you get control of the tide quickly, it really isn't all that difficult. Those first couple of turns with Rafa out in harm's way can be rough.
The first fight on the list that is significantly difficult to the point of maybe ending some playthroughs. Potentially encountered within the first hour of the game, this is a true test of your party strength and it comes before most players are prepared for it. Black Mages make their debut here, and they debut with a bang. Less notable but equally deadly are the enemy Archers, who of course start with the high ground on you as usual. To top it all off, your party is outnumbered. This is a big wake-up call that the game isn't going to play fair, and there isn't any good way to end the fight quickly. Without many strategic avenues to victory, you might need to stop and level/class grind until your party can manage it. On the other hand, it sorta teaches you the value of mages.
The fight with Elmdor, Celia, and Lede in Limberry Castle is a very difficult one. It isn't the first time you face some combination of these trio, but unlike the previous skirmishes you can't win by simply taking out one of the assassins. Defeating Elmdor is the only path to victory, and with his Blade Grasp skill, it's easier said than done. Most physical attacks won't even land on him, and even powerful non-physical attacks with 100% hit rates seem to do vastly reduced damage. In other words, even Orlandu can't save you here.
A composite battle, with most of your party fighting a goon squad outside the gate while Ramza fights Gaffgarion one-on-one. This can be a very difficult fight if you haven't prepared for it, since Ramza is likely to be outgunned. Gaffgarion's ability to self-heal while attacking makes him particularly frustrating. The good news is that even a minor amount of preparation makes all the difference; giving Ramza a movement ability like Teleport can allow him to get the gate open quickly and let the rest of the party in for a beatdown on Gaffgarion. However, for unprepared players and underleveled Ramzas, this one is a big challenge.
#4 - Elmdor Rooftop Battle, Protect Rafa
Atop Riovanes Castle, the objective of protecting Rafa again rears its ugly head. Not only that, but you're protecting her against Elmdor and his overpowered assassin duo. Simply defeating one of them ends the battle, but good luck accomplishing that when they can easily annihilate Rafa on their first turn if she moves poorly (and she's AI controlled, so she probably will). This battle is a recipe for major frustration, and the fact that it follows another super-difficult fight in Riovanes just makes it even more of an ordeal. At least you don't need to defeat all three of them, which would make it a candidate for first place on the list.
A somewhat unsung battle, this is a main story (mandatory) fight that looks and acts like a random fight. It's against a squad of chocobos that scale with Ramza's level, and given how completely overpowered chocobos are... this fight can actually end a playthrough. If you've been playing normally (i.e., not grinding more levels than you absolutely have to), then this battle is manageable. However, if you're well-built, the fight edges towards impossible. Get here with a level 99 Ramza and it's likely the chocobos will destroy your party on their first turn. The variance in difficulties keeps it from being higher on the list, though with a high level Ramza this is absolutely a contender for #1. Also, unlike the top two, this fight doesn't box you in; you're free to go work on your party and make any adjustments that could help you win.
First of all, Gaffgarion leads the enemy charge and starts out within striking distance of your party, meaning someone is going to take an attack from him before you even have a chance to move your characters. Take down Gaffgarion, and you've still got his SEVEN goons to deal with (you can bring five characters to the fight). Several of them start on top of a wall, making them difficult to reach, and they're much higher-level and better-equipped than the enemies in previous fights leading up to this point. It's extremely difficult to get through this battle without losing at least one character permanently, even if you spent a lot of time getting ready for it and training up your party.
Finally, we come to the most famous part of Final Fantasy Tactics. The battle with Wiegraf at Riovanes has ended many a playthrough of the game, as players are tricked into saving before the fight and thus can't do ANY building-up or preparation before trying again (assuming they've only been keeping one save slot, which most people do until they know better). That aside, this is also the hardest fight in the game, and the worst possible time for it to box the player in. One could argue that Wiegraf and Velius are two separate fights, but I'd say that they're Part One and Part Two of a single battle.
This concludes the Top Ten Most Difficult Battles In Final Fantasy Tactics, as well as my coverage of the game. Stay tuned for Dragonball Z Month!
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