Elemental Challenge Day Eleven: Tactical

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Put on your thinking caps, here comes Day Eleven and Tactical games. For the purposes of today’s challenge, we’re lumping together TRPGs and SRPGs, using the terms Tactical and Strategy interchangeably (in the land of the rising sun these are known as Simulation RPGs/SRPGs, to make this more confusing). The general definitions seem to be that strategy refers to a plan of action put in place before battle whereas tactics refers to the implementation of that plan, putting it into action during battle. In gaming, the difference between these two terms is small enough to be almost moot since games in this vein often utilize planning prior to battle and tactics during battle. TRPGs (or SRPGs, if you like) emphasize turn-based combat and stat crunching like traditional RPGs (differentiating TRPGs from RTS games) but TRPGs add to that an emphasis on planning out battles, placement of characters/units, topography, the passing of time, isometric backgrounds, a de-emphasis on exploration, and so on. Battling is the meat and potatoes of the game opposed to anything else. These TRPGs typically play out much slower than even traditional RPGs, so they’re often highly inaccessible and require quite a lot of patience. The analogy with chess is not used flippantly.

 

FF3-NES-Summoner2.png The Green Screen Mage

Ugh, no. The worst.

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blackmage The Black Humor Mage

I used to think tactical games were boring, but I have new found appreciation for them. Recently, a friend got me both Fire Emblem Fates games, and I am having such a good time. Both games have such a great story and characters, great music, and simple yet satisfying gameplay where the weapon your characters hold either have an advantage or disadvantage to the enemy weapons. Swords beat bows, bows beat shurikens, and shurikens beat swords. It’s like rock-paper-scissors. I really look forward to playing Fire Emblem Awakening. I can see why these were considered some of the best 3DS games.

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mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Chroma Squad. This might be the most under-appreciated hidden gem out of all the games I name. The turn based/tactical combat is done so well and utilizes many different techniques that are compiled upon during the course of the game. Not to mention, you get to make your very own squad of Power Rangers! How freaking cool is that? It is meta, it is hilarious, it is freaking Chroma Squad. I highly recommend it. (Honorable Mentions – The Banner Saga, Call of Cthulhu Wasted Lands, SWAT(PC))

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spoonybardmageright.jpg The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

I only discovered Valkyria Chronicles when it was recently re-released, but it is a tactical combat game with so much heart. With parallels to World War 2, the story was relatable and powerful, with memorable characters and a satisfying combat system.

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finalfourteenthmage.png The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

Luminous Arc was one of the more interesting tactical games that I have played. I loved the character designs and the take on witches. Instead of being gloomy in their design they were incredibly cute. The game had a vast array of characters each with their own individual tropes. The story was nothing to write home about but paired with both the gameplay and characters I thought this game was an absolute gem.

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HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS). I picked the only other RPG I’ve played for my Tactical pick. Again, Fire Emblem is a simple game to play…but to master it? You need tactics. Which characters are best to use? Which characters are best to pair up? Which characters are best to marry and have kids? Which kids will be the most use? Awakening is more than an RPG; it’s like chess. The wrong move can stop you from progressing.

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 The Rage Mage

Every time I fall asleep, the dream keeps getting longer. In January, the dreams lasted days on end. In March, the dreams stretched on for months. In June, I was trapped in my dreams for years. Last night I had a dream that stretched on past a millennium. Who will I be if I dream for ten thousand years or more? What happens when I forget who I am? And what are my dreams about? Playing a single round of Nobunaga’s Ambition on the NES. At least in the dream I have Ito Junji-san to talk to, y’know to pass the time.

 

rmage2.jpg The Well-Red Mage

Final Fantasy Tactics frequently tops lists of best TRPGs, and not without reason. It’s also one of my favorite Final Fantasy games. It’s a highly complex tactical adventure with one of the most robust job systems in all of the Final Fantasy franchise, but on top of that it has an epic story with all of the intrigue, betrayal, and gravity of historical fiction. The sense of realism that this game accomplishes in its narrative is alone impressive, but when a battle is so engaging it takes over an hour to complete, you can be sure you’ve stumbled into a game that gives you plenty to chew on. And isn’t that what you want if you’re playing a Tactical RPG, anyway?

I didn’t like the sequel to FF Tactics. More often than not, games in this category are a turn off to me than something I’m excited to play, because of their plodding gameplay, but there are exceptions. Other Tactical/Strategy games I’ve enjoyed include Advance WarsOgre Battle: the March of the Black Queen, and Kartia: the Word of Fate. Today’s genre challenge really reminds me how much I’m looking forward to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, to my own utter surprise.

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Now my brain hurts. Too much thinking, planning, strategizing! Well, there’s more tactical adventuring to come. Have you used up all your favorites yet, because there’s still tomorrow’s genre… and it’s a real timely doozy. See you there!
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31 thoughts on “Elemental Challenge Day Eleven: Tactical

  1. I haven’t played a lot of tactical games tbh, not even FFT. I want to check that out and Fire Emblem of course, so I have to use the only game I’ve really played Eternal Eyes. It’s a cute little TRPG where you control moppets that you can evolve (similar to Pokemon, I suppose). It was fun and cute.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’d love FFT, and I could see you creating a party of characters themed around the FFVII ones. Besides… there’s a secret playable character from FFVII tucked away in there with your name on it.

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  2. Yea for everyone who picked Fire Emblem! I’m not the biggest tactical fan, but the FE series is the closest to bringing me in. I’m not a fan of the permadeath though, so I guess I’m just a “casual” fan, haha.

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  3. Green Screen Mage got me to nearly spittake. Best first response.

    Okay, so, I won’t lie, this got tricky. I love TRPGs, because their gameplay does tend to involve a lot more planning around a team than individually powerful heroes, and I love putting together a team. FF Tactics Advance held my attention for, according to my save file, -600 hours-, which is either a testament to how much I fell in love with it or how dull those school years were for me. The story of a kid getting stuck in a fantasy world seemed so much more alluring despite being a common premise for fantasy, even.

    However, Marche would’ve wanted us all to move on to future adventures and I eventually did in the form of Phantom Brave for the PS2, a NIS game that puts you in the protag-boots of an adorable little girl named Marona, who just so happens to be one of the nicest and cutest necromancers in video games, ever. I found the strategy part of the game a step higher than what I had gotten used to, and the bonus stages and dungeons kept me busy for longer than I think I should admit. What I liked was that the game required you to not only think about which units to use, but -when-, since aside from Marona, your allies consisted entirely of Phantoms she could summon into objects around the map. They had a set number of turns they could manifest in battle before leaving and being inactive for the rest of the fight- which would sometimes get particularly long, requiring you to divide your own units into teams to be used in one part of the map or another.

    The best part of the game is Marona herself, though. She genuinely tries her best to help others and can’t understand why the populace is so afraid of her powers. Never does she ever turn on the people or abandon them even though they warrant that at a number of times, and she powers through the conflict just out of sheer kindness, no matter the personal cost to herself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d be wiping spit off my screen too if I didn’t already anticipate her answer. We go way back.

      Admittedly, I don’t know anything about Phantom Brave. Well, I suppose I know more now thanks to your robust comment, but you know what I mean. Also, I really didn’t enjoy FFT Advance but now you’re making me want to give it another chance. I think at the time I just wasn’t ready for a big sprawling tactical game, and maybe the handheld visuals turned me off after playing FFT on the PlayStation. I’m not much of a handheld gamer, y’see.

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      • The Advance graphics are kind of a downgrade from the original… and I definitely missed the 3D rotate-able environments. I’m certain there were at least two occasions where my poor archer’s arrow went flying straight into a tree because trying to convey height differences in the advance’s 2D engine didn’t quiiiiite work out. I actually did debate on writing about Tactics myself, too, especially since the storyline was a lot more on the grave and serious side of things, especially with protag Ramza. Unfortunately, a lot of fun I had with it was due to a ‘hard mode’ mod someone introduced me to a long time ago, so I’m not exactly sure how much that might have skewed my time with it. – w-

        I’d definitely recommend looking into the modding community if you’re also an avid fan of Tactics. They rebalance a few of the rarely-used classes to breathe new life into them, and ramp up enemy team composition- sometimes even tossing in units who’ve mastered their class into the fight! I don’t know if they ever made such a mod for the War of the Lions remake, though, so, mileage may vary. It’s very obvious that it was made with a lot of love and effort in retooling the game for Tactics fans looking for an exciting playthrough.

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        • Yeah, I love pixel art. A lot, as we’ve both discovered about each other, but I think it peaked with the SNES. The Advance lacked the hard, black outlines around sprites that helped them pop on screen. Most everything on the Advance seemed to me to be bland, visually speaking, and going from FFT on the PS1 to FFA on the GBA was too much for me at the time, I think. I’d try it again, someday.

          Hey, so actually it’s funny you mention thinking about writing on the Tactics narrative. When I reviewed the game, I barely summarized it because it’s such a rich, complex, pseudo-historical story that I felt it deserved its own piece separate from the review. All that to say, if you ever feel so inclined to break down and analyze the FFT narrative, feel free to! It’d be a perfect companion piece to the review we did on Tactics.

          As for modding, I think that’s too deep for me! I’m a declutterer in my life right now and I’d love to learn more about it but that’s an area of gaming I’ll have to rely on someone else’s expertise on for the moment. 😀 Plus, I struggled through some parts in FFT as it was! Haha!

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  4. I’d say check out any of the X-Com series of Turn-Based Strategy games. You create characters to fend off the alien menace, that level up as you play. But there’s the balance of perma death. If your highest ranking hero is gunned down by the greys, he isn’t coming back. There’s a high amount of challenge in these games, but they’re still fun to play even if you suck. X-Com Enemy Unknown is probably the most accessible to new players, but they’re all pretty great. Plus the Sci-Fi theme is a nice change of pace from the usual Fantasy setting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear a lot of great things about the X-Com series, especially since people started up the buzz over Mario + Rabbids. Who knows? Maybe if we’d tried this event a few months in the future, my nomination would’ve gone to Nintendo/Ubisoft’s upcoming SRPG.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve only played one game from this genre (with the exception of a few similar phone games): Yu Yu Hakusho Tournament Tactics. It’s not a spectacular game, but it is pretty fun. It was a neat way for fans of the series to get even more involved in the characters, helping them level up and make their way through the dreadful demon tournament and save the day. I never finished it, sadly. I got stuck at some point after encountering a level that I simply couldn’t overcome. I still own it, so maybe I’ll pull it out sometime and try again.
    I loved the game so much that I have no doubt that if I ever picked them up, I would greatly enjoy the Final Fantasy and Fire Emblem games from the same genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. FEDA: Emblem of Justice. Though, I don’t think it ever had an official English release. I vaguely recall having to patch a SNES ROM after failing to understand an imported version on a friend’s Saturn (I think it was the Saturn anyway).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d have to say Fire Emblem: Awakening. While I think Fates was an improvement in game mechanics, the story and characters were lacking for me so I couldn’t get into it as much.
    I really need to find a way to play the original Final Fantasy Tactics. I have heard so many good things about it and I did enjoy the second title, but like you most folks I have seen talk about the series agree that the original is the best one.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I loved this game. I couldn’t find a SNES copy after I lost my original to the ether, but I have it for the PS, an old scratched up disk that I bought for pennies while Funco was being gobbled up by Game Stop. The class system was actually really fun, in-depth and relatively unique.

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