i'm enjoying the challenge. the random encounters pit you against monsters at your level so you're not able to just walk in and beat the living crap out of them endlessly. it also makes it tough to grind unless you learn how to work the system. i think i've got it down, but i can't seem to manage 5 monsters, they're smart enough to take their time waiting for me to screw up. i don't mind hitting reset every once in a while, well i do.. but they were still figuring out how to make video games back then so i can cut them some slack.
i've mastered monk and learned all of the useful abilities out of it for my 5 main troops. i'm working on theif right now, and almost have it so everyone can steal every type of thing. as soon as everyone's theived up i'm going to try the next story segment and see if i can strip all of the enemy units of their stuff. should be interesting.
of all of the final fantasy systems, i feel fairly knowledgable about:
1, 2, 3?, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9?, 12, tactics, tactics advance?
i'm not sure about III because its so slow to grind out all the classes and i just haven't put the time in yet. i've played a good chunk of IX, but i'm thinking i didn't play quite enough of it yet to be a certified competent in it. i got the gist though. i think of tactics advance as soup with tactics and IX stirred in, and i haven't figured out how to get random encounters so i don't know how to play the thing.
i'm starting to get a good feel for how the core Final Fantasy system has evolved. first and foremost, they're building a game for profit. took me a while to get that. if you're building a game to sell, you gotta make sure that the end user feels like they've gotten their money's worth. ideally you don't want to make your system Perfect because you're going to wind up building sequels that are version improvements or copies that fall short.
to make a quick example, the dragon quest series shows this in spades. dq 2 was an obvious improvement over 1. painfully obvious, end of point. dq 3 had vast leaps over 2 as well. but thats where things sorta stop improving. from what i can remember dq 4 didn't have anything particularly new. they just used the engine from 3 and built a new story. dq 5 wasn't much different iirc. i haven't seen the 6th. dq 7 was dq 3 with a prettier 3d world. dq 8 was more of the same, but with an added alchemy pot.
with final fantasy, they didn't just improve the system until it did things "perfectly". it looks more to me like they're exploring different ways of looking at the same thing. many of the games look just different enough to people that they're willing to go through the same process again and again.
you've got your core abilities - fight, item, defend, flee. every game has that. every game has a way for characters to do other special abilities like magic, jump, steal, whatever. all that's really different is accessability. every game limits your access to the entire set of abilities in some way.
in ff1 you pick an ability at the start when you choose your job and you're stuck with it forever.
in ff2 each character has a set number of slots you can fill with spells - you're not allowed to have every kind on one person.
in ff3 you can only have a single job active at any given time, and each job comes with its limited set of abilities.
in ff4 each character is pre-jobbed and you can't change them. spellcasters can learn spells as they level up, but only spells of the job they've been set to.
in ff5 you need to pick a job and level it up to open up abilities. the job will come with a single ability, and you're able to set a 2nd ability for use as well. they started giving a little more leeway here.
in ff6 special abilities are once again hard-wired to individuals. spells are gained by levelling up espers, and everyone can get access to every spell. you need to get the espers first though. hard-wired abilities are built up mostly by levelling.
in ff7 abilities are gained by socketing equipment with gems containing the abilities. you're limited by the number of sockets your character has on his or her equipment. you also need to gain the gems before you can use the embedded abilities.
in ff9 abilities gained by equipping items with the abilities in them. a staff may have a spell in it, but equipment is limited by class so you can't equip it to a knight. instead, you need to find a sword or helmet with the spell in it and gain the necessary AP.
there aren't really any abilities in ff12. they instead have limited equipment and spell usage. you can buy something but you can't use it unless you've earned its license. you can likewise complete the license board and not be able to use most of it if you haven't found it or bought it.
in final fantasy tactics, if you're willing to put the work in, everyone has access to every ability at the very start of the game. you just gotta grind for the job points.
part of the big question seems to jump around whether or not things should be hard-wired or not. should every character eventually be able to use every ability? if you answer yes, you allow extreme amounts of customization and strategy. if you answer no, characters are specialized individuals and are unique from one another. no matter which path you decide to take there is plenty of opportunity for strategy and character development. i'm still not sure which is more important to me.