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In the past couple of years, I've bought a grand total of seven Squaresoft RPG's (plus Einhänder, Brave Fencer Musashi, and Tobal No.1), and have rented various others from other companies. From what I've played, not only are my two Strategy-based RPG's more customizable (even more so than the much advertised Materia and Junction systems), they also have more in-game options for tactics and procedure.
Let's start with Final Fantasy Tactics. Compared to most of the non-SRPG's I have (i.e. SaGa Frontier II, Xenogears, Parasite Eve), FFT has a more intuitive and customizable combat and job system. Xenogears has A) Weapons, B) Parts, and C) Deathblows. SaGa Frontier II is a little better, where you can equip weapons, abilities, and special tactics are used at certain times. And in PE, you can upgrade your weaponry to your liking. Versus FFT's system of changing jobs = changing HP and MP, the option to choose which abilities you gain, and being able to freely change which types of attacks yo can use in battle, along with the fact that instead of there being one or two tactics to defeat enemies like in traditional RPG's, SRPG's give you the ability to do just about whatever you want and you can still find a way to defeat the enemy.
Front Mission 3, on the other hand, puts it's emphasis less on the full customization of abilities, and more on how much or how little you have, in regards to weapons and wanzer equipment. Lighter part: less HP, more weapons. Heavier part: more HP, less weapons. Energy pack or the heavy items pack? I have, by far spent more time wasted on Front Mission 3 than any other game. I'm about 35 hours into it, and by this time in Final Fantasy VIII, I was done. And FFVIII was a struggle to get through it because a lot of the battles were so predicatable. Screw up in FM3 and you can be sure that the fact that you have 4 and they have 8 will definitely kill you. In FF7, it would be "Who cares, just use one of those Megalixirs you over-copied." In FF8, it would be "Who cares, just use one of those Megalixirs you got from Card-Modding." In FM3, you have no elixirs to give you your body parts back, you have no cheats. It is harder, longer, and by far more interesting because of how many ways you can approach it.
So there you have it. Personally, I love traditional RPG's, but when a good SRPG comes along, I just have to buy it and study it and then, of course, critique it. If people want to move to the next step in Role-Playing games, they should think of a way to have at least 50 different ways of approaching a problem, as in FM3 and FFT. the Active Time Battle system and the counter system in FM3 were both great ideas, now we need one to make the actual gameplay different and varied every time.
Frank Resident Bartender @ #rpgamer, esper.net
[My Comments: Another well-written editorial. There are no glaring grammatical errors that I noticed, and all the comparisons are fact, rather than opinion based. This is a GOOD thing.]
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