The DS game comes out of its corner swinging, but no punches connect. Although FFTA2 is a DS title, it makes no meaningful use of the touch screen. This isn't necessarilly good nor bad; I'd much rather a developer elect to ignore the DS's touch screen entirely than try to force touch pen functionality into a game where it doesn't belong. If you're looking for a scribbling good time, however, you'll have to find it in a different franchise. So at the end of Round 1, we have no score.
Round 1 Result: DRAW
As you may remember from my angry post back in May, Square Enix's sloppy, emulation-dependent PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics suffers from some pretty shameful slowdown. The animation associated with something as simple as dumping a potion over a partymember's head causes the game to get arthritic. When the annoyance factor of a game's slowdown exceeds the merits of playing through the game, the game ceases to be worth the time it takes to play it. FFTA2, on the other hand, is DS-native, and was therefore developed with the DS and only the DS in mind. It feels much more like the kind of polished product gamers have come to expect from Square Enix. A2 scores a point this round.
Round 2 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2
While I'd like to praise both games for being devoid of Amano Yoshitaka's shitty artwork (seriously, look at his box art for Front Mission 1st...it will probably be the last thing you ever see), I have give this round to the PSP title. Yoshida Akihiro's character designs for FFT are child-like without being too cute, while the hodgepodge of kids, anthropomorphic rabbits and dog-alligator hybrids that populate FFTA2 is just a little too Pokemon for my tastes. The PSP game wins this round with room to spare.
Round 3 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War
In the original FFT and its PSP remake, casting a magic spell entails waiting a turn or two while the magician "charges." Because the turn of the spell's target sometimes occurs before the magic actually happens, the player must constantly consult the turn list to make sure that the knight he's about to zap with lightning isn't about to walk into a crowd of friendlies, causing collateral lightning damage. Where I come from, that kind of micromanagement is more often associated with work than games. Thankfully, FFTA2 does away with this charging system so that a fledgling mage can still lay the magical smack down on his foes without worrying that he might be setting his party up for humiliation. Point, FFTA2.
Round 4 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2
In FFT, you can't undo the "MOVE" phase of your turn, even if you haven't yet finished the "ACT" phase. This unnecessarily unforgiving aspect of the game engine can make the "tactics" feel more like "craptics." But with the extra-yasashii battle rules of FFTA2, those "craptics" have changed into "fantastics!" Or, at least, "reasonabletics."
(Remember, after walking in the woods, you should always check yourself for "deertics.")
Round 5 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics A2
Although FFT boasts 3D maps that can be rotated and tilted for a total of eight possible viewpoints (and sometimes every single one of those eight viewpoints is unsatisfactory...but I digress), FFTA2 is all 2D, all the time. Of course, the maps are all designed with that in mind, and so shouldn't have blind spots, but sometimes the positions of characters on the map conspire with the map itself to make things hard to see. I'll give this point to the PSP game, but both titles should take a lesson from Wild Arms Crossfire, which features a much more useful in-game camera.
Round 6 Result: Final Fantasy Tactics: The Lion War
I HATE random battles in any and all role-playing games. They should be banned from the industry, especially in turn-based strategy RPGs where a single battle can take a half an hour to finish. Since FFTA2 doesn't have little bands of mountain lions, goblins and squid-men jumping out from behind every other bush and boulder while your party is walking around on the map screen, that game takes the winning point in the seventh and final round of my battle royale.
Round 7 Result: FFTA2
FFTA2 for DS: 4 points
FFT for PSP: 2 points