Editorial: Get a Job!

It should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody at this point that I am a fan of JRPGs, and of job systems. This week, I would like to attempt to get to the bottom of just why it is that I love job systems so much. Exploring a well-made job system is one of my favorite things to do in an RPG. The reason I love Final Fantasy V so much is its cleverly-designed job system, where mixing abilities from different jobs allows for a decent amount of character customization. It is hard to pin down exactly why it is that I prefer a well-made job system to the blank-slate style of character customization in a game like FFXII. I certainly like other systems, but there is something about mixing and matching character setups within the confines of a job system that I find highly appealing.

I am also really glad that Bartz is his more common localized name. Butz is just stupid-sounding.
Final Fantasy V has one of my favorite job systems in a game.

There is a level of strategy present in a job system that simply is not there in RPGs that use a classless system of character development. The need to use each of the jobs effectively was in my opinion the strongest point of the the FFXIII battle system. While Sentinel may not have been the most useful role, there were some fights where the damage reduction was simply a necessity. Trying to balance a party in the first Disgaea was always something I loved doing, even if my parties always do eventually just consist of Laharl and some characters that can make him stronger. But what constitutes a well-made job system?

For me, a good job system in an RPG is all about options. I always love being able to combine abilities from multiple jobs, like FFV. If the player cannot use abilities when not in a specific job or class, then allowing for on-the-fly switching mid-combat also works very well. The main thing I want in a job or class system, though, is varied role options. There is no point in having a class system if the classes are all similar, like they are in Sword of Mana. As long as I have a few vastly different roles to play around with, I am generally very content with most job systems. I even liked Final Fantasy III‘s job system well enough. It may not have done much, but it did allow for party customization on a level its NES contemporaries usually never came close to reaching.

Ninja-punching all day every day.
I love this job system, broken setups and all.

Of course, there are issues with class-based character customization, especially if the game is not well-balanced. As much as I love Final Fantasy Tactics and its character customization, there are certain job combinations that are completely overpowered. I can honestly think of few class system based games that I have played that are extremely well balanced; there almost always winds up being one or two classes that are simply better than the rest. Despite the issues with balance though, I am still a sucker for a good job system.

If this article has not made it clear yet, the main reason why I got into Final Fantasy was the series’ frequent use of variations of the classic FF job system, from the original simple six options at the game’s beginning to the more complex Tactics system of leveling jobs to unlock other jobs. I have yet to play any other JRPG that captures my attention via a job system quite like the Final Fantasy games. Disgaea came close, as I do really like its system as well, but to date nothing has matched the FF job systems in terms of Deimosion-appeal.

I have as of late been trying to broaden my taste in games, but I cannot help but find myself drawn back into class systems in JRPGs. The appeal of messing around with different jobs and trying to find that one perfect combination is just too strong for me to resist. No matter how much I try to branch out into different styles and genres of video gaming, a good job system will always pull me in. Every gamer has that one thing that will always win them over, and I suppose I have found mine. What can I say, readers? I know what I like.

6 comments

  1. Good thing LFoPD went with a job system, then! What did you think of FFX-2’s job system?

  2. I loved the X-2 job system, but it did have some issues with balance. Also the fact that they allowed job-change animations to be turned off? Excellent.

  3. I concur. I think it’s helped the FF series to switch up predefined characters with systems though. The designer(s) were always pretty aware in those games without classes to make sure whatever party you have in the storyline is well balanced enough to be useful while still challenging. XIII was cool in that each character could fill a few roles when necessary – per your example, I wouldn’t keep one on Sentinal usually, but when I need to take a step back and heal and rebuff, having a Sentinal is definitely useful. I also loved how you switched roles on the fly.

  4. Yeah, I really love XIII’s system as well. It really felt like you were directing the flow of battle. Such a different feel and take on job systems. I don’t think I’m too picky, though, as long as I get customization. FF9 has classes instead of jobs and I dig it, I also dig FFXII’s system of essentially choosing each character’s class. Or even Skies of Arcadia’s weapon element-based way of upgrading magic. Any system in which I can make meaningful choices.

  5. I want to ask: is “classes” the preferred nomenclature when a character’s abilities are essentially predefined, and “jobs” when you choose what they’ll be?

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