Thursday, June 28, 2018


Can't sleep...I guess I might as well try to be productive for once.  Maybe I can reclaim a little bit of those late night feelings from before, when I was more...myself.

Work is..."interesting".  (again lol)

Our date for JaSmix finally got confirmed, phew!  Now all I have to stress out about is the workshops. never ends.  But I really do want the event to go well; it has really come to mean a lot to me I think.  Let's hope it all comes together.

An update is in order about Final Fantasy Tactics Advance!  I have been sinking quite a lot of time into this game (less than the save file shows though, because I've been making VERY liberal use of fast-forwarding)...

Probably the funnest part of these types of games for me is planning for the future and doing all this thinking about how I want my progression to go.  It's for that same reason that I love the character creation and stat distribution challenges in System Shock 2 so much.  So naturally, the first thing I did when it came to FFTA was to plan out how I wanted my core squad of 6 to go.

I'll get into my core squad in a second, but before that, I should talk about how I struggled for quite some time on just how I wanted to play FFTA -- namely, how much of a perfectionist I wanted to be.  I started off the game truly playing for perfection: I did some early game shenanigans and grinding clan levels without actually getting character levels (via abuse of the recruitment quests) to get the cinquedea for Steal: Ability purposes, and did save-state abuse to make sure I got core squad members with really good Speed stats (the most important stat in the game is speed).

Ideally if you're super playing for perfection you actually want most of your other non-core members to stay as low level as possible (e.g. having a whole clan of lvl 2 chars other than your main 6).  That's because new recruited characters join your party with your party's average char level, and if you want great stats, you want to level people up in the right jobs.  You can't get a lot of the secret characters until way later in the game, at which point your core squad will have a bunch of experience through battles.  So ideally you want to have a low average clan level despite that (via all these lvl 2 dumb characters) so that the secret characters will join your party at a low level.

So I filled out my squad with low-leveled characters.  But I think the most ridiculous thing is that I started trying to really maximize my core squad's stats by changing people's jobs to the best stat-growth jobs every time before they leveled up.  I kept that up for quite some time, and it gets even more complicated because you don't even have access to the best stat growth jobs at first, because you need to learn abilities from basic jobs to unlock them.  So you need to pick from the jobs that you have available to you that still have good stat growth.  Actually, if you wanted to REALLY be perfectionistic, for all the human characters you'd use Steal: Ability to learn the prereqs, and for the other classes you'd send them on repeatable dispatch missions to grind AP.

Ugh!  So that was getting to be a ton of effort, and the main problem was that I wasn't finding it worth it.  I think if I was replaying FFT again, then things would be a different story, because FFT is simply awesome, bar-none.  But through this second go at FFTA, I now realize just what makes FFTA lackluster in comparison:

1) This may seem trivial, but it's not: The interface for managing and purchasing equipment is way more awkward than in FFT.  There is no "automatically equip with best recommended equipment", and even the mechanism for comparing stat boosts is awkward (you have to hold the start button?).  Worst of all when you go to the store, there's no "fitting room" feature like in FFT where you can shop for and equip new items all in the same flow.  Instead you go to the buy page and if you are buying weapons, you scroll through this GINORMOUS list of all the purchasable weapons for EVERY class.  And if you want to know which class can use a particular weapon, you have to go through the weapon's description, and then press select to open yet another separate screen!  Ugh!
2) Laws are not a fun mechanic and don't add anything to the game, really (besides plot and story relevance).  There's basically no reason to ever break them and they are so narrow that it doesn't really affect combat in a significant way except punishing you when you forgot to check what laws are in effect.
3) Having ability learning tied to equipment is an interesting idea, but in practice it means choosing abilities to learn and go for is less interesting (because you often don't have access to the really good skills in the first place, so you have much fewer choices), and it also means you more or less choose equipment based on the abilities you want to learn, so the actual equipment stats and boosts don't matter as much anymore.
4) The job system honestly feels much weaker and the job abilities in general are not nearly as exciting.  There are definitely some interesting combos for sure, like a paladin (able to use good swords) with the hunt ability, which includes "sonic boom" which is an AoE ranged attack that uses your weapon damage.  But in general not a ton of synergy, and not even a ton of good tradeoffs in terms of the best support and reaction abilities.  There are no movement skills to learn either -- instead replaced by combo abilities, which are not really important at all.
5) The battles are generally a walk in the park -- completely opposite to FFT, where even with good character builds was challenging.  Which I guess is good because...
6) The mission system really is quite tedious at times.  Dispatch missions were really not an interesting segment of FFT and it feels like over half this game is dealing with those.  I guess it is nice that you can now walk around the map while avoiding random encounters...but the encounters in FFT =were= what made the game so enjoyable to play in the first place!  All of these different missions also means it's incredibly hard to keep track of what you need to be stealing in order to not miss anything (I already missed a weapon you need to steal).  To make things worse, you really DO need to make sure you are stealing the right gear, because having the right gear ALSO means being able to learn the right abilities!
7) Lack of cool special classes is also something that is being missed -- I know some in FFT were basically duds (looking at you, Rafa and Malak!), but it was super fun getting to play with Agrias, right?  And deciding how to build her as well.
8) The whole race system SEEMS like a cool idea, and it is...but in actuality, it means =less= versatility and way less possibilities for combining abilities between different classes.  In FFT some of the coolest characters were the ones that combined job traits from entirely different job trees -- for example a character that learned all of the Samurai abilities, but then turned into a Black Mage -- Samurai are down the fighter-type job tree, but their abilities use your MAtk stat.  Those abilities are normally pretty lackluster but all of a sudden if you're a black mage with tons of magic attack power, they become super amazing!  Then you also combine that with the Samurai's reaction ability to evade all physical attacks, and it's an awesome class, though it requires a bunch of effort.  And then there's other crazy things, like making Agrias into a Geomancer so that you can learn Attack Boost, which she can then use to great effect because it applies to her Holy Sword abilities.  With the race system in FFTA there are way less job choices for any given character, which just serves to reduce the possibilities of these kinds of crazy things.  Besides things like doublecast + summon, there really isn't that much that's super exciting.
9) Abilities in general are just not that interesting.  It feels like each class has only a few abilities that are any use at all, and a bunch of the abilities are the same but just with different elements.  In FFT we had things like the Monk kit, which had healing (chakra), revive, ranged damage (wave fist), and super ranged damage (earth fist).  Very cool, very versatile.  In FFTA all of the fighter classes for Human, Bangaa, AND Moogle are basically carbon copies, sometimes with literally the same effect (one ability that does extra damage at low accuracy and another that does small damage with high accuracy).  And then you get gunner, gladiator, etc etc that have "bolt sword, ice sword, fire sword" which all do the same thing.  Those would be super useful if elemental weaknesses were super prevalent, but they're not!  In FFT you used fire magic against undead skeletons, for example, because it was really effective against them.  But in FFTA there aren't as many situations where it's useful.

Anyways...DESPITE all that rambling, I'm actually having an ok time so far, now that I've given up on being a super perfectionist (now I'm just being "reasonable").  Basically, it doesn't make sense for me to try to be perfect if in the end I'm not going to care about the game a ton anyways...

So with that all said, here's my core squad:

Ability: Hunt
Support: Concentrate
Reaction: Counter
As I mentioned, Paladin + Hunt is a pretty good combo as Sonic Boom is pretty great with the better swords.  Concentrate is (uninterestingly) probably the best support ability for physical classes (+50% accuracy boost), and counter is much the same.  See how uninteresting things are already?  It's worth noting that because you can't stat-manipulate Marche (the main character), he actually is the slowest of the core group and ends up having the worst

Ability: Blue Magic
Support: Concentrate
Reaction: Counter
Another human, another concentrate + counter combo.  Whoop de doo.  Blue magic is pretty versatile though, so that's cool.  Ninja actually doesn't give you any good A-skills at all (some very weak utility abilities), but this guy is a ninja because that's the best class to level in as a human.  He equips steal when need be (marche and the moogle do as well).

Ability: Summon
Support: Concentrate
Reaction: Reflex
Assassins are supposed to be really good, so I wanted to have my Viera be an assassin (though I'm having second thoughts now, since doublecast + summon seems really tempting).  So far summon hasn't actually been super useful, although casting regen on everyone has been nice.  The problem is that none of the A-ability sets work very well with assassin.  Maybe doublecast is worth going for after all...

Ability: Spellblade Tech
Support: Weapon Atk+
Reaction: Counter
Again, this is pretty boring.  This guy is mainly a Templar so he can equip good weapons...Templar does get access to haste and some other nice abilities, but let's be honest, you really just want to run up to people and whack them.  Spellblade tech gives you some nice attacking abilities (fire sword, ice sword, etc), but again, it's really just an alternative attack.

Nu Mou
Ability: White Magic
Support: Turbo MP
Reaction: Reflex
Sage offers the best damage-dealing spells, which means black magic is kind of redundant, so I'm switching this guy to white magic instead maybe?

Ability: Charge
Support: Concentrate
Reaction: Counter
This is so you can have ultima charge with a long-ranged gun, which should be a fun combo....once his MP gets high enough so that he can actually cast it!

So yeah, in conclusion...FFT is amazing!  And we all understand now why FFTA isn't.

After this I may actually try out Tactics has a PSP port so I might whip out the very same PSP that I used to play FFT...

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