Without conflict, stories would become mundane and all too similar. Battles
in RPGs allow for characters to gain experience and generally this goes
towards leveling up or otherwise improving the characters in the game.
Without some change or improvement, a game would become stagnant and not as
enjoyable. So, a solid battle system, whatever its use or depth, is very
important to an RPG and can be the point that makes or breaks a successful
title. While some games like Harvest Moon find their RPG zen without any
battle at all, a battle system is the base for nearly all other games whether
good or bad. What stood out most for the readers when it came time to gird
their loins was the awe-inspiring battle power of Tales of Symphonia.
Tales games are renowned for their battle systems that are involved and
interesting, and the GameCube incarnation proves for many readers to have the
most important aspect of a good battle system: it is simply fun. Being fun is
the easiest and most effective way to successfully bring a battle system
together. Tales also keeps things simple, which means anyone can pick it up
and play, whether the person will play only few hours per week or a few hours per
day. What makes it fun is difficult to define, but it likely has something to do with
the fact that there is always something to be doing or someone to be
In Tales, enemies are shown directly on the map as characters travel, allowing
for escape before battle begins if the player so chooses. Once in battle,
each character has unique abilities which can be used individually or combined
together with other characters for bigger and more elaborate attacks.
Otherwise, there's still ranged, magic, and melee characters which can all be
used to put the beat down on the various enemies found in the game. The
readers found that this was the battle system that appealed to them the most
this year, and it netted top spot on the voting.
Another solid battle system in 2004 ended up being very similar to Tales of
Symphonia, but only climbed to the second spot on the reader side, is the
much-lauded and anticipated Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Much like Star
Ocean: The Second Story, players and enemies are free-moving within the battle
area, allowing for many different styles of attacks as well as using
characters together for various combination attack. These fast paced-battles
included all sorts of flashy combination attacks that combined together to
make another fast-paced battle system that blew away the competition and
made leveling up characters fun and easy. However, it lacks a solid
blocking system, which was a huge detraction for many RPGamers. Even so, Till
the End of Time manages to capture the hearts and minds of enough readers that
it takes the silver position.
Tromping into the bronze slot is the darkly realistic Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
Using the Judgment Ring system found in previous Shadow Hearts titles, the
battle system is further refined again in the third entry in the series. The
main purpose of this Judgment Ring was to do additional damage. A line
travels around the Ring, which is shaded in different areas. If all these
areas are hit, then the characters will do increased amounts of damage. Even
smaller areas inside the shaded areas can increase the damage given, yet again. This
same system was used elsewhere in the game, such as with the lottery or while in shops, purchasing items. The downfall of the system is that there will always be an element of randomness which is far more evident than in other battle systems where they simply come across as misses or criticals. While a good idea, the Covenant battle system had enough
flaws that the readers opted to grace it with the third spot.
by Anna Marie Whitehead