The response to my FFVIII post got me thinking a little further about the FFVIII combat system. It occurred to me that the system itself is not necessarily broken, but there sure are some character decisions that the development team made that unbalances the game. For example, the decision to give Squall 255 hit percentage by default makes him the un-dodge-able assassin. He is able to hit every enemy in the game regardless of evasion and regardless of if he is blinded or not. This allows him to kill cactuars, the game’s most grindable enemy, with ease. Thus, the seemingly trivial decision to make Squall really accurate actually invalidates the only defense of the most rewarding enemy in the game.
Another key example is the limit break system, the concept of giving characters with low life repeatable limit breaks is not broken by itself; but, the system sure as hell becomes broken when every character has ridiculously powerful limit breaks. Each of the male characters have repeatable, multi-hit physical attacks that just tear enemies up and the female characters have instant kill and invincibility granting attacks. Had each character had a more toned down limit break, then maybe the system would not seem as overpowered. Alternatively, if the player could not infinitely re-roll their chance at getting a limit break, then players could not spam limit breaks every turn of every battle.
This same cascading cause-and-effect can be seen in Final Fantasy Tactics in the form of Cid. The game’s systems beg the player to balance their party with characters from different classes and abilities, and for most of the game this is essential. Then Cidolfas Orlandeau the Sword Saint joins the party. Cid comes with every sword ability in the game and boy is he great at using them. He can single handedly prop up a party and carry you to the end game in a way that no ordinary character can and he is that powerful by default.
Chrono Cross has a similar character in Guile, the unstoppable magician. Guile has the fairly unique ability to hit every enemy with his physical attacks as well as very powerful magical attacks. But, those advantages pale in comparison to his magic slots which allow him to stock tons of high level magic later in the game. With this boss in tow the early levels in the game become a joke and the later challenges are not challenges. As someone who has played the game with and without the masked death I can say that the experience is night and day in terms of difficulty. His lowest level unique attack teleports his wand inside an enemy and then makes it burst out of their chest like a baby alien; that is where he STARTS.
These examples really show how tricky game balance can be. A single stat advantage or ability choice can take a character from good to game breaking, and when multiple of these advantages stack up you get an unstoppable killing machine that circumvents the intended difficulty curve.