Editorial: The Battle of Battle Systems

RPGs, while some may be action and some may be strategy, there is one common factor that all fans can agree upon: the “P” stands for playing. Speaking of playing, when many think of RPGs they envision either a turn-based battle system with a party of four which can be found in games such as the recently released Persona 5, or a more active battle system with a focus on staying alive individually which can be found in a title such as Bloodborne. While nothing is wrong with either system (no matter what some companies may have you believe), it is always good to identify some of the more out of the box battle systems found in RPGS. So, this game will focus on three unique battle systems in RPGs and if they actually work with their given context or just fall flat in a misguided attempt to be different and engaging.

It is as if the screen is covered with some sort of Greek lettering.
There is too much on the screen right now, too damn much.

The honor of being the first game this editorial mentions goes to Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the Game Boy Advance alongside its remake Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories. Rather than implementing the previous title’s action RPG battle system which gives access to attacking, casting magic, defending, and other features, this game instead offers a real time card-based battle system which involves creating a deck of usable moves. This then leads to theoretically running out of moves including a simple keyblade attack as that also counts as being a card at different power levels. Speaking of which, each move has a power level that can either overtake an enemy’s move and cancel it out which stuns the enemy, or the move can be overtaken by an enemy’s attack and get cancelled out which stuns the player. Overall though, the game received positive feedback and did well with critics, although it is one of the least successful games in the series sales-wise (so far as Kingdom Hearts 2.8 was just released).

Something something get to it something something VOGUE. Those were the words, right?
Strike a pose.

Second on the chopping block is Grandia II for the Sega Dreamcast released eons ago in the middle of the year 2000. What sets Grandia II apart from the rest of other RPGs released around the same time is its mixture of a real time turn based battle system that also includes movement around the battlefield. This means that the player can control a hero and have them move closer to attack an enemy in short-ranged combat, and then move away from the enemy afterwards. Another helpful bonus in the combat is the ability to execute combo attacks which can go as far as to include four attacks in a row when paired with certain accessories. Not only this, but if a combo kills an enemy prematurely, the character will finish the combo attack on the nearest enemy instead of just wasting it. Grandia II did exceptionally with critics who praised the battle system, but it did not do amazingly well in terms of sales unfortunately. However, as time goes on and Grandia II is re-released for modern consoles, it continues to be appreciated by old fans and newcomers alike.

No matter how large or ugly something is, a friend can still be found inside, like Adeki. So, not a good friend per say, but a friend nonetheless.
This…thing looks friendly.

Last in the selection is Resonance of Fate, a lesser known title when compared to the rest of the bunch that released on the Xbox 360 as well as the PlayStation 3. Resonance of Fate also mixes a real time battle system with turn-based controls similar to Grandia II. Each action that the player also uses an action point, action points are the main drive of the game’s battle system and are responsible from actions ranging from movement to attacking. Action points can also be charged during a battle, and attacks can also be charged over a certain amount of turns in order to create an even more powerful attack. Resonance of Fate also has a unique feature that sets it apart from other RPGs in that all damage inflicted by the player is through guns, submachine guns afflicting “scratch damage” which damages an enemy but can not kill them, and pistols which do “direct damage” which can kill an enemy. To say that the battle system in Resonance of Fate is deep is an understatement, and it only gets more complex from that point on. The game went on to receive middling but positive reviews that complimenting the game’s battle system but instead found flaws in the plot and graphics. But truly, the most elusive praise that Resonance of Fate received, is that it won runner-up in RPGamer’s best battle system award back in 2010.

Well, that is just about it for this week’s editorial. Have you played any of these games and want to talk about what you thought of their battle systems? Maybe you would just like to voice your disdain for the fact that this editorial is the thirtieth post in a row to talk about the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise in any given context (a problem that will be alleviated by next week). Whatever your reason may be, make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think!


  1. I never had any issues with COM, to be fair I used a Cloud only deck… Still more interactive than FF15.

    LOVE Grandia II and if you are interested in playing it they just released an anniversary edition now optimized and remastered for PC.

    I have honestly never played the last item on the list- any good? Doesn’t seem my taste.

  2. I have spent all day trying to come up with ‘most unique battle system’ and I came up with three options that I genuinely feel are contenders, ALL by Square Enix:

    1. Final Fantasy II
    You have to injure your own characters in order to progress. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    2. Final Fantasy VIII
    Draw and junction lololololololol

    3. Unlimited Saga
    Does anyone on Earth actually understand this battle system? I owned the game for years and never figured it out.

  3. @Korusi: I personally just really did not like COM and found future deck-based battle systems in the series (like 3D) to be much more refined. It also did not help that I didn’t even know there was a shop in the game until I was more than halfway done with it (I bought a LOT of cards), so maybe with this new knowledge when I play the HD remake I’ll like it more. And I definitely want to play Grandia II soon! I saw the new edition when I was looking through gameplay footage and it definetly intrigued me. As for Resonance of Fate, I have yet to own the game but I was really fascinated by the battle system when I found out about it and continued to watch YouTube videos on it. I can understand how upon first glance anyone would think that it is too complicated but I really think it did a lot of cool things and I hope to play it in the future.

    @Lusipurr: Square Enix REALLY knows how to experiment with battle systems, was FFII the game where mages either had to receive damage from their own team members to level up or they had to deal physical damage to their team members to level up? I remember a weird battle system that sounds something like that.

  4. @Adeki I can answer that. FF2 NES required you to do X thing to raise Y Skill.

    You want better healing magic, you gotta heal. You want higher MP you gotta spend MP, you want higher HP/defense you need to take damage. Each action has a directly corresponding stat you can raise and each spell/ability has a corresponding level up to… what was like 20 or some shit?

    There was a bug in the NES version that made it where you could enter the command and then cancel it as long as you didn’t submit the 4th member’s action and you would STILL get credit for having done that action but it only helped the first three members and left the fourth (often a guest party member) in the dust. ClementJ64 has a beautiful retrospective on FF2 that explains all this in detail and shows you how unintuitive it was.

  5. @Korusi: That’s really funny, it’s probably for the best that they tried that system with the second game in the franchise rather than farther down the line, think of how 7 would have changed!

  6. @Adeki (Spoiler alert: Oh come on the game is over 20 years old.) It would make the Aeris Death scene much more painful at least. You spent 20+ hours leveling up all her magic and stats and then she dies to one stab.

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