The best JRPG battle systems?

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  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 01:28:25 31,358 posts
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    The humble JRPG has seen a sad and steady decline this generation. From it's humble beginnings in the NES era of the 80s with Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, to what many consider to be its finest hour during the SNES/MD era of the early 90s, and its global popularism following the western debut of Final Fantasy VII in 1997. This gen, only a handful of Japanese Role Playing Games have become both critical or commercial successes (and even more rarely enjoying both at the same time).

    Much of the criticism of the JRPG in the west comes down to its ostensibly linear nature: In focussing on an immutable narrative, a JRPG is often far more linear than western counterparts such as The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, where the focus is much more on player choice and carving your own path through the world.

    We've reached a stage where JRPG's are met with disdain. "Oh god, not another Final Fantasy", people moan. And that disdain is reflected in declining sales of the genre outside of Asia and, subsequently, lesser numbers of those games being localised for our shores.

    But instead of bemoaning what JRPGs don't do compared to their Western counterparts, why don't we celebrate what they do differently? And the one thing that consistently sets JRPGs apart from WRPGs tend to be the inclusion of highly strategic battle systems - which often seem simple at first glance, but gradually reveal layers of depth and tactics that "press RT to swing sword" just can't even hope to replicate.

    So what are your favourite JRPG battle systems and why?

    My most recent favourite:


    Yes it was incredibly linear for a huge amount of time, the story wasn't exactly the strongest in the series, and the characters weren't particularly memorable. But the battle system is fantastic.

    The very definition of a battle system that seems simple at first glance but hides incredible depth, FFXIII's battle system manages to successfully merge the principles of the traditional FF ATB system with the semi-real-time ADB system of FFXII, whilst also putting a twist on the FF series' staple Job System.

    In FFXIII, there are 6 classes - Commando (melee damage), Ravager (Magic/ranged damage), Sentinel (Tank), Medic (healer), Synergist (buffs party) and Saboteur (debuffs enemies). All characters initially start off as one of these classes before later being allowed to develop in all directions.

    In combat, party members make their own decisions on what to do according to their combat roles and their knowledge of the enemy you are facing (against a new foe, a Ravager will automatically cast a variety of different spells until they identify a weakness, which they will then continue to exploit). You can also shift their class role mid-combat. The strategy is that by changing the role of one character, you change them all, and these setups need to be defined outside of combat in advance - so you need to think carefully about the different situations you might find yourself in and plan ahead. Need to turtle in? Sentinel-Sentinel-Medic will do the job. Need to buff your party, whilst debuffing the enemy, and deal some rapid damage? Saboteur - Synergist - Ravager is your friend. The system is incredibly versatile, and that's before you consider the Chain Gauge system.

    In FFXIII, every enemy has a chain gauge. The more damage you do, the more the gauge fills. When it hits a certain threshold, the enemy "staggers" and attacks against them do more damage. The drawback is that the chain gauge is constantly depleting - so battles become a strategic game of shifting your party between defensive, buffing, healing and damage dealing paradigms whilst also trying to ensure that you are constantly building the chain gauge so you can maximise your damage output.

    It's a brilliant system and widely regarded to be one of the best battle systems that the Final Fantasy series has ever used.
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 01:29:59 31,358 posts
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    (I was going to do a lot more about other battle systems in games, but realised how epic the post was getting!)
  • Fatiguez 24 Jul 2012 01:59:49 8,883 posts
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    The tastiest shit sandwich?

    The most pleasant lung disease?
  • Syrette 24 Jul 2012 02:20:36 49,687 posts
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  • JBlokeUK 24 Jul 2012 02:37:43 2,302 posts
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    Star Ocean The Last Hope has a great battle system.
  • speedofthepuma 24 Jul 2012 03:32:33 13,418 posts
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  • khaz 24 Jul 2012 03:51:09 2,836 posts
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    Still waiting for something to beat Grandia 2's system.

    Not random battles? Check.
    Real time? Check.
    Moves can be cancelled? Check.
    Moves can be countered? Check.
    A counter along which facial icons moved to see whose move is coming up next allowing for delicious tactics? Check.

    Four simple systems resulted in a megaton of a battle system which never got boring.

    From the more traditional jrpgs I really like FF8. The junction system is endlessly tinkerable, setting up attack/defense/elemental status however you want. You can control hp, strength, speed, defense, even the attack options available to you in your attack window. If you were thinking of taking on Marlboros without junctioning magic to status defense you were asking for a walloping.

    Edited by khaz at 03:53:06 24-07-2012
  • Fonzie 24 Jul 2012 06:37:59 3,122 posts
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    Has to be FFX for me.
  • hypoBla5t 24 Jul 2012 07:00:49 2,249 posts
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    Resonance of Fate was pretty cool, was loving making all the triangles and that. Had a bit of paper on my desk where I'd plan routes for continuous long-sided triangular runs. Dedicated.
  • Armoured_Bear 24 Jul 2012 07:13:46 21,678 posts
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    The battle system in Xenoblade is brilliant and quite different from other JRPGs.
    I discovered an unplaced copy of Resonance of a fate in my back log, look forward to giving it a go.
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 07:26:06 31,358 posts
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    Yeah, the battle system in Xenoblade is great - I still need to get back to finishing that :-)

    Good shout about Grandia II as well. Great game. Shame it really hasn't aged well in the visuals department (even once fully upscaled). Its legacy as an early DC title I suppose.

    I have Resonance of Fate, but not really given it much time. What I remember of the battle system seemed promising with lots of depth, but I seem to remember the game not explaining itself very well.

    I also agree with FFX, though I would choose VII over VIII.
  • King_Edward 24 Jul 2012 07:48:37 11,470 posts
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    It's boring but FFVII. The Materia system just worked on every level. It was simple enough to get any idiot through the game, but had so much depth for anyone wanting to explore it. You could turn each character into a decent all-rounder, or have each one of them as a highly specialised killing machine.

    Junctioning in FFVIII was similar, but involved too much faffing around and drawing 100 of everything was a pain.

    If you want something more traditional then Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter had a ludicrously deep and often (early in the game) intolerable battle system.
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 07:53:43 31,358 posts
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    Dragon Quarter is actually on my Re-Play pile atm. IIRC it's the first implementation of New Game + as well.
  • Deleted user 24 July 2012 08:15:35
    Not really played enough jrpgs to form a proper opinion, but I loved FF12 I think; the one on the PS2 without random battles, I thought the whole game was great.
  • MadCaddy13 24 Jul 2012 08:20:45 2,791 posts
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    Bring back Summons!
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 08:23:34 31,358 posts
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    I'm playing 12 at the moment, and as much as I love it, the combat system leaves me cold. I can see what they were trying to do - trying to find a middle ground between traditional FF and the online XI (and XII was originally supposed to be an MMO), but it just ended up feeling a bit tactics-lite. Positioning makes no difference to damage, for example. And the Gambit system just feels like a get-out clause for not implementing decent companion AI.

    I also find the License Board a bit pap. You can't see anything beyond one square ahead, so you can't effectively plan out each character's development like you could with, say, the Sphere Grid in X. This makes it far too easy to for all characters to end up as clones of each other. Add in the fact that Espers are mostly useless, as are the majority of Technicks and even most magic, and it's a big disappointment to me.

    In the International version released in Japan, they completely reworked the job system to fix those issues - separating it into 12 different boards, one for each "class", which you choose for each character at the start and they are subsequently locked to, and all tiles revealed from the start.
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 08:24:08 31,358 posts
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    MadCaddy13 wrote:
    Bring back Summons!
    They never went away!
  • jambii267 24 Jul 2012 08:39:55 1,415 posts
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    Baten Kaitos: Origins
    Megaman Battle Network
    Chrono Cross
  • StarchildHypocrethes 24 Jul 2012 08:41:10 31,123 posts
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  • Deleted user 24 July 2012 08:43:58
    Resonance of Fate. Unlike other JRPGs, it doesn't get boring!
  • khaz 24 Jul 2012 08:44:33 2,836 posts
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    darkmorgado wrote:
    Dragon Quarter is actually on my Re-Play pile atm. IIRC it's the first implementation of New Game + as well.
    Chrono Trigger did it in 1995.
  • spamdangled 24 Jul 2012 08:49:20 31,358 posts
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    Really? I didn't know that.

    Did it add extra content though, or did it just tell you to play through the game again?
  • dominalien 24 Jul 2012 09:00:45 8,484 posts
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    I truly disliked the system in FFVIII. Never used any magic.

    I agree with OP, the one from FFXIII is splendid.

    FFXII had a very good system as well, but it was KOTOR more than any JRPG, so I don't believe it qualifies.
  • FanBoysSuck 24 Jul 2012 09:05:57 1,640 posts
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    I really hated FFXIII's battle system, it always seems to boil down to debuff > attack > heal > repeat. There was one or two battles that needed more thought but I just couldn't be arsed with it anymore after 40 odd hours.

    Chrono Trigger had one of my favourites, along with FFX, Grandia and Lost Odyssey.

    I found they all got a bit repetative after a while but I suppose they would going on how many hours they take to finish.

    Edited by FanBoysSuck at 09:19:35 24-07-2012
  • Mageme 24 Jul 2012 09:07:13 2,218 posts
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    I liked both FF X's battle system and sphere grid for levelling up. Both felt like a revolution to me at the time.

    I do also like Resonance of Fate's quirky, completely different yet dynamic battle system. The combination of guns and grenades, scratch and direct damage, especially during the tri-attack is so rewarding!
  • the_dudefather 24 Jul 2012 09:11:35 10,677 posts
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    Had a go at The World Ends With You, which must win a prize for most WTF battle system at least

    two screens, one character in each, you control both at the same time, one with the touch screen, the other with the d-pad, you fight enemies in two dimensions at once while playing a extra sensory perception themed card memory game and doing various tabs, slashes and jabs at the screen to activate powers and throw cars around the battlefield

    This is only in the first hour or two, who knows where it goes from there there
  • andywilkie35 24 Jul 2012 09:22:42 5,337 posts
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    FFVII through to X all have excellent systems, and I do like XIII a lot.

    The Tales games have an interesting system - think it comes across as button mashing a bit but it's actually quite a deep system and button mashing won't get you past the bosses mostly.

    Star Ocean's system is excellent too. Same as Tales in that you'll come unstuck quickly if you button mash.

    Best system for me though is the Grandia games. Pains me that Grandia III never made it out over here, even if apparently it wasn't as good as the previous two. Reminds me I need to have another playthrough of them both actually.
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