Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Square Enix hates turn-based combat

Strict turn-based combat has traditionally been one of the staples of JPRGs. This means that combat consists, effectively, of the player and the enemy/enemies taking turns to attack each other (or do other actions). During your turn, the action effectively pauses, and you have all the time in the world to select an action (most traditionally from a menu, increasingly by other means the more modern the game).

Some games and game franchises still use this traditional form of combat, one of the most quintessential examples being the main Pokémon games. However, this has become rarer and rarer with time, especially from the 2000's forward. Game companies, who have traditionally made, and still make JPRGs have tried all kinds of other combat systems, almost invariably bringing it closer and closer to real-time combat with actions bound to controller button presses, rather than being selected from some kind of menu. The combat system has also become increasingly less turn-based and more real-time, in that the combat does not pause at any point, and the combatants don't take turns.

Square Enix seems to be one of these companies. Both Square and Enix (when they still were separate independent companies) made some of the most famous and most popular JRPGs of all time, starting in the late 80's, and going very strong for the entirety of the 90's, and well into the 2000's. Basically all of them used strict turn-based and menu-based combat, with very few exceptions.

At some point, however, Square started moving away from turn-based combat systems. I think Final Fantasy IX was their last game that used that system, and Final Fantasy X, while still using a menu system, started moving away from the traditional system and more towards real-time combat.

While not exactly the first time ever to do that, Square Enix JRPGs nevertheless started emphasizing the real-time aspect of combat, and de-emphasizing the strictly turn-based system of old. While still selecting actions from a menu, the combat doesn't actually pause, and you have to be expedient about it (although some games may have an option to have the combat pause when it's your "turn".)

Many spin-off games, such as Crisis Core, got rid of the entire menu system completely.

The same is true for Square Enix's latest game in the main franchise, Final Fantasy XV: The combat system is completely real-time, controller-button bound, with no turns and no menus of any kind. The combat system is more akin to a so-called "spectacle fighter" than a traditional JRPG.

A couple of years ago they announced that they will be creating a complete remake of Final Fantasy VII, one of their most successful and popular games of the series. The original game used strictly turn-based and menu-driven combat. Apparently the remake will have none of that, and will be purely real-time spectacle-fighting, like FF XV. This is quite a disappointment to many.

Many people, including me, like the old turn-based combat system of so many JPRGs of the 90's. We miss it. It's not used in almost any game anymore (Pokémon being perhaps the only exception).

I find the real-time spectacle fighting system boring. It's just meh. There's something charming and relaxing about the turn-based menu system combat. But it seems that Square Enix have decided that they will never make another game like that. Almost no game company is making such games anymore (with the exception of indie developers creating traditional JPRGs with RPG Maker.)

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