DQ vs. FF

I posted this rant on Talking Time today. It seemed relevant, considering that I’m smack in the middle of two Let’s Plays. On the topic of strategy in RPGs, a semi-common response is to favor DQ because “status effect spells actually work”. As a die-hard FF fanboy, this has always bothered me. For one thing, status magic has been a huge part of the FF series since at least FF10 (that was ten years ago, by the way). And for another, if the ability to poison monsters or raise your DEF stat is important, certainly FF’s innovations in the flow of RPG combat dwarf that importance by a wide margin.

Anyway, here’s the rant:

If there is truly any benefit whatsoever to the DQ approach of “buff, buff, attack”, surely the random nature of revival and healing effects completely nullifies it. There is no reason in the universe for this kind of thing. Just the fact that spells can miss at all is insane.

There’s a deep conversation to be had here, about the nature of risk vs. reward, and I think both the DQ and FF series struggle with it. However, a random “you spent your MP for nothing!” system isn’t the solution. Penalizing the player for trying to work his way back into a fight is neither fun nor challenging — especially if he’s in the situation he is because the RNG decided to use four breath attacks in a row.

In fact, I think FF2 did more to smooth that whole process over than any RPG before or since. ATB is a huge boon in this regard, because wasted actions are not as devastating. In a turn-based system, if a hero dies, reviving him is always a total crapshoot. You can’t control the order in which your PCs move, so there’s no guarantee Potion-guy will get his turn before Revive-guy does. Reviving on one round and healing on the next is equally dicey, because now your very-close-to-dead hero has to survive upwards of two full rounds before he’s out of the woods. I’m sure we’ve all been stuck in situations where we’re frantically throwing revival items at a dead hero, only to watch him die, round after round, just because the game thinks it’s funny.

In an ATB system you can work it so two heroes get their actions almost simultaneously. Revival and healing happen right away. Comebacks arepossible. I can’t count how many times I’ve snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in pretty much every ATB-based game I’ve played. It almost never happens in turn-based games, though — FF1 included.

The other innovation is the ability to run whenever you want. You can try to run as you’re queuing up other actions. There’s no cost. FF1 was already pretty good about this, since your dudes could run individually; you get four chances every round. In DQ, though? The RUN command might as well say “give the monsters a free round”. (Breath of Fire, I’m looking at you, too.)

When it comes to risk vs. reward, FF2 is a freaking golden god. The choices you make are actually important. Much, much less of the game is based around the idea of “I’ll try this and hope it works.” FF3 expands on this metric by giving you meters that show what order your characters will act in, and by letting you “hold” a critical hero’s turn.

Instead of stacking dice against you, these games increase your range of action instead. That does far more for the element of strategy than “you can cast Upper and this boss is weak to Sleep.”

The reason this topic interests me so much is because I just uploaded a video to YouTube proclaiming Dragon Warrior IV to be the only good game in the series… despite having the same combat problems every other Dragon Warrior game does. I’m sure the answer to this conundrum is something like “blind nostalgia”, but I’m sort of hoping it’s deeper than that.

I’m going to try and collect my thoughts on it and report back. Wish me luck!

6 comments to DQ vs. FF

  • By collect your thoughts do you mean mining the argument brewing in your FF2 thread on Talking Time?

  • Alrenous

    I enjoy many of the DQs. (Not 2 or, oddly, 5.) The extreme length of 7 was one of my favourite things about it. I still think 4 is the best, though. Last year I replayed it on my actual NES, immediately after playing through the DS version. In days of yore I ran Alena Ragnar/Taloon Nara (No beat/defeat spam.) But it turns out my all-mage plan worked out fine. Initially I went for Nara+Christo so I could use infernos and the like, but that much healing makes it way too easy, even after wasting MP on infernos and beat. Nara Mara Brey carried the day. I originally thought I’d have MP issues, but didn’t. The raw destruction apparently more than compensates.

    More importantly, why do I enjoy DQ so much if FF has a better battle system? Or: yes, all your points are true, but it doesn’t matter enough. Well, true except the reviving people. The random nature and etc of revival makes death legitimately threatening and expensive. If the AI can kill your guy repeatedly, then it means your choice to revive was bad. (Though yes, it does mean that at low levels in-battle revives are simply not feasible.) How many times have I pried victory out of those jaws with red text glaring at me? So many rewarding times.

    I have a more DQ -and- FF thing, though. It’s not like wanting to replay DQ8 somehow crowds out FF3.DS or whatever. I just wish DQ would go with FF8’s ‘no xp from bosses’ so that my frequent deaths wouldn’t put already weak characters further behind. Or: you should not be learning new physics on or from the final exam.

  • Rosewood

    I liked FFXII’s take on the “raise dilemma” as well. Since manual item use activates immediately and is faster than a spell–and you can enhance the healing qualities of Phoenix Down on the license board–you can revive someone and get them into a “not likely to be insta-killed” position again quickly.

    In FFT, there is a percentage chance that a Raise spell will fail, but it is all tallied out for you and you know the risk you run if you choose it, and you’re also given the turn order so you can plan healing around your Raises.

    I’m no fan of the baseline DQ Raise spell, either, for the very same reasons as you.

  • ASandoval

    I was going to say a couple things on the talking time thread, but it seems Parish wasn’t happy with the discussion (despite it being both extremely civil and a really interesting discussion on play mechanics) so I’ll just say them here.

    Definitely in agreement, and why I prefer FF over all. I still play DQ games, and I think the reason why they’re playable despite the random factor is proper risk-reward management. Much like why a certain percentage of people like Demon’s Souls, the penalty for death is low – the equivalent of “move back 5 spaces” in a traditional board game. Go back to town, lose some gold, no experience or levels lost. It’s not like in FF where not finding a save point/being dumb and not saving can result in real frustrating time losses – lost experience, having to sit through already read dialogue or worse, even a losing a level or two.

  • Darken

    Who cares about healing a once fallen ally? what about the resurrect spell “Zing” ACTUALLY WORKING. Now I’ve only played through DQ8 and DQ9. But Zing has a 50% chance of bringing back the dead. I have been completely screwed over by several boss fights where I foolishly prayed for zing to work after 4 tries. Those turns could have been spent healing or defending, but I wasn’t going to win anyway if say, my main dps/hero was dead. Some of DQ’s battle mechanics are just so ridiculous due to their rooted traditionalism, I really don’t know if I want to take up Brick’s recommendation on DQ4.

  • Huge classic console jRPG fanatic here – to the point that I’ve spent several years developing my own in tribute (still working on it). I decided to go back and play all the old Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games for inspiration. I played all the Final Fantasy games I could get my hands on growing up (which at the time was just 1, 4, 6, and 5 a little bit later). I never played the Dragon Quest games back then, so they’re mostly brand new to me – which means I was very excited to start playing them for the first time. Granted, there’s a nostalgia factor for me since Final Fantasy was my childhood, but I don’t think my opinion is based solely on that factor when I say I *vastly* prefer the Final Fantasy series. Oh. My. God. Dragon Quest is SO tedious. And there are so many times when I’ve thrown my hands up and wanted to quit. I keep at it because I feel like I owe it to my claim of being an RPG connoisseur, and because I’m not generally in the habit of quitting things I’ve started. I’m only on DQIII right now, and it’s the second time I’ve played through because I just quit halfway through it last time (sidebar: FF’s job system makes it fun to switch jobs, but in DQIII I was paralyzed with indecision because I didn’t want to waste all that time grinding if I made a bad decision).

    Now, there are a lot of things that are good about the Dragon Quest series – this is console RPG history in the making right here. I acknowledge that. And I can also forgive these games to a certain extent because NES games are supposed to be frustratingly difficult. I’m fine with that, too. But when it comes down to it, I’ve never had this much issue playing (or re-playing) a Final Fantasy game (although the Cave of Shadows in FF3 came close – but that’s an isolated case, not a recurring theme). Playing Final Fantasy is fun. Playing Dragon Quest is a slog. I’ll probably still play through them all, at least up to the end of the SNES-era, for completion’s sake. But I genuinely feel that it is the natural order of things that Final Fantasy should be the more popular series. I love it so much, I recommend it to others. Dragon Quest, on the other hand – not only would I not dare to spoil a friendship by recommending it, but I don’t even ever want to play these games again once I’ve completed them. As far as I’m concerned, I could toss the cartridges into a fire upon completion (except nobody’s actually playing these games on cartridges anymore). And it’s not because the games are challenging – I can handle challenging. I’m not a novice gamer. It’s because the games are FRUSTRATING. I can’t believe that anyone actually play-tested these games and said, “yep, this is fun.” Except that I know standards were different back in the NES era when videogames were still in their infancy. But even so, Limbo? Come on!

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