@extomar: FF7 battles took 1 knights of the round cast to end (except for emerald and ruby weapon). FF10 battles became painfully easy if you invested in Yuna as her summons were ridiculous. FF12 could play itself LITERALLY if you managed your characters correctly. FF9 was a bit more challenging because the final bosses used status effects which decimated your party but otherwise the final battles were cake as long as you used Vivi and Steiner. Every FF game can and has been broken and 8 is not that different.
You had to do A LOT of work to get "Knights of the Round" which turns it into a "power reward" for FF7. And getting a smooth running set of Gambits took a lot of work to pull off as well and your reward for developing and tuning the party in FF12. That is a bit different than "hold down X to win" any battle in FF8. Only a few special fights (think special monsters like Tonbery and Catuar or bosses) can even come close.
@extomar: So the problem you have with the FF8 system is that it is too easy to break, that it does not require tens of hours of commitment to break it? If I play through FF7 or FF9 or any other FF game with the knowledge that I have now about how those systems work I will be able to break them by getting powerful summons or leveling in a particular way. The only difference is that FF8 lets me apply the knowledge I have gained over multiple playthroughs IMMEDIATELY upon starting a new game, rather than restricting me by putting up artificial barriers (like not allowing me to get knights of the round until I re-play the entire chocobo side-quest). I would rather have a system that is wide open and exposed for me to tinker using the knowledge I've gained than a system that places power behind a quest and time barrier. If you know FF8 inside and out you can breeze through with smart junctioning, if you don't the game can be challenging (I know because I used to really struggle when I was younger); if you know FF7 inside and out you can breeze through if you spend hours completing the chocobo side quest. Both games can be made trivially easy, but one makes you waste time getting to that point while the other allows the player the freedom to make the game as difficult as they want it to be from the start, and as a person who is replaying these games that freedom is what has kept me replaying FF8 and prevented me from replaying FF7.
As I said, you don't have to pay attention at all once out of the starting area and have access to enough monsters for all flavors magic. It would be like getting access to "Knights of The Round" as soon as you got Costa Del Sol. For a game that is supposed to be up around 40 hours to complete, getting access that way before the half way point is crazy.
I'm fine with allowing the players access to "god powers" after working for it and progressing through the levels. Basically the idea is to "show your work". FF8 doesn't even come close where the net effect is the game I quickly approached a point where the game did not feel like it was trying to present a threat or a danger for most of the game where it had nothing to do with any multiple play throughs or in-depth analysis. It was more like the monsters were a bunch of resource nodes which I could take or ignore. Resources so numerous that you didn't even need to care about managing that either. And since level, gear and over all strength didn't depend on any of that it really didn't matter anyway.
Another way to look at it is an issue with the level of interaction: In FF13-2 it is also hard to fail any fight and die but you are constantly asked to make a choice. In FF8 you can get by pressing X/Attack no matter what the confrontation is. In both games the player is clearly and overtly powerful as well. In one game you could be hurt a lot if you didn't shift stances at the correct moments and threaten the entire fight even though you could recover totally win or lose while the other couldn't even come close to trying.
@extomar: For me FF8 has presented me with so much information and choice that I have done the mental work before I even play the game and battles are simply an expression of my overall character building choices. I don't need to be pressing a different menu option every battle to feel engaged, in fact I love to try to go through FF8 fighting as little as possible to see if I can make my characters strong enough to finish the game without needing more levels or items. I hate micromanaging battles in FF13 because I don't get any satisfaction out of switching between paradigms until the enemy's life is zero even though my party is much stronger. If I have "solved" the combat problem then let me bypass or breeze through combat, don't make it longer and more obtuse for me to finish fights.
What it appears to come down to is personal preference. All told I probably spent over 1000 hours playing FF7 over the years with most of my games clocking in at about 130 hours each. So it's fair to say that I know FF7 and it's battle system inside and out. I also beat FF8 twice spending over 100 hours with it total. In my opinion, FF7 had a much better battle system; however, I enjoyed the time and commitment you had to put into it in order to get characters that could do 39,996 damage with their attack alone and who could beat emerald and ruby weapon with relative ease. But FF7 and FF8 were both great games hands down.
@zirilius: Triple Triad was the best card battle system in the series, unfortunately followed by the lowly Tetra Master. I don't really understand why Square dialed back the rewards in FFIX that the card system provided. In VIII the card battles could win you anything you need, but in IX all they get you is a ring at one story point.
@thatpinguino: I always thought FFVIII was the most overated in the series. None of the characters are appealing(and they're pretty shallow, or nonsensical), the story doesn't make any sense and it really tries too hard reusing elements from FFVII. Also, I think it's a strech to say FFVIII is a high watermark in rpg combat. The draw system emphazises using regular attacks as opposed to magic, skills or items. Also, a lot of your time will be spent on drawing, which isn't very much fun. Of the Final Fantasy games, I think FFX did combat the best.
Most jrpgs don't account for character positioning, they just stand facing each other and trade blows until one keels over. Sometimes there are ambush situations and enemies on both sides of you, but you can't really set up your characters for flanking, bottlenecks etc. I guess positioning has become a bigger factor in FFXII and FFXIII, but I don't feel like I can control it and I don't think it has much tactical advantage beyond evading some area attacks.
@setsuoh: I just hated that the last battle in Chrono Cross did not involve using your abilities to actually win a battle. The final encounter with not-Lavos was a sort of rhythm game music creation thing rather than a test of the skills you have honed over the entire battle.
I have friends who swear by VIII so to each his own but I though FF8's battle system was awful for most of the reasons already stated.
- Almost no character specialization and the game provides you with even less motivation to do so which makes the already paper-thin characters completely forgettable and interchangeable.
- The junction system which requires you to sit in random encounters and not attack for minutes at a time while you repeat the same inane draw animations over and over again (assuming you want your characters to be powerful enough to enjoy the rest of the game).
- 30-60 second long unskippable summon animations. Unconscionably bad game-design.
- Broken, easily abusable limit break system. This could be seen as a positive if your goal is speed-running.
If I thought the old Squaresoft had a twisted sense of humor I would think the entire game was designed as a critique/troll of how tedious and repetitive traditional jRPGs can be. I could probably tolerate the battle system if I liked the story or found any of the characters interesting or relatable but alas, not the case.
For me the best battle systems focus on the simple problem of keeping multiple dudes buffed and upright. I think FF4 had the best system in the series, and in large part it's because you had 5 dudes to keep track of in combat, rather than 4 or 3. FF4 didn't just have a few great boss battles - almost every boss was ferocious, even on the easytype version by the standards of the 1990s. ATB meant that even simple choices had to be made urgently to keep up. I've enjoyed the odd boss here and there in the FF games after that, but mostly I've appreciated them for story, music, character, and imagination - not mechanics.
I still recommend people try FF4 on the DS, it's one of the few remakes I respect.
FF8, I wasn't totally against the draw system, and I remember gleefully hammering the button for more damage on summons, so I don't have the standard complaint about those either. It was legit, but I feel that battle system was more interesting in the middle game than early on, where it was repetitious, or at the end, where the junctioning setup became quite involved.
I liked Persona 4's battle system quite a bit too. So much of it is about disabling enemies, buffing and defense, often leaving you only one attacker per round on the bosses.
I also think that the first Lunar had excellent boss battles, for the same reasons described above. Its system was not even 'good' for random battles - the onscreen movement felt like insignificant busywork in those - but the bosses were half-hour long slugfests that really drove the heroic theme of the story. I felt very invested in making efficient choices in that game, and that's the essence of good RPG combat.
@thatpinguino: i didnt mind: ff9's last boss was so horribly simple compared to ff8 and xenogears.... the skills, i used them already on so many bosses like the dragons ('and now for lunch!' ^^) among others....
blunt bosses at the time , end of the 90s were a bit boring, hence the amount of hidden bosses like the ultimas (or the russian doll in ff8 )in the ff.....the only boss i would love to see more in games is the one that sniffes your equipment(SMT4-2) and gets pissed off(change in aggressive attack pattern) if you are equiped with what could protect yourself against its most damaging attack.
Not sure if this entry has had a mention yet, but Final Fantasy V is my personal favorite for gameplay. I actually first delved into it a couple months ago, and I could not put it down. Despite its age, that 4-party inter-changeable job system is so refreshing. Instead of being forced into a linear character progression for each character, you could potentially have the freedom to make a team of dancing, bare-fisted, dualcasting, summoning, knights. FREEDOM FUCK YEAH!