How is Alpha Centauri underrated..?
Also I have to admit I never got that far in Summoner 2 but absolutely adored what I played. Great example of allowing character customization while keeping everyone unique.
RPGs up until Chrono Trigger were largely bogged down by slow pacing and artificial difficulty levels. CT eliminated a lot of that.
Eliminating egregiously bad is not good game design so much as it's something that should just be common sense. CT's corrections to the RPG formula don't so much speak for CT's quality in and of itself so much as they indicate how much of an absolute nadir RPGs were in prior to it.
It's actual novel gameplay additions are rather slight, and I'd have a hard time saying it added anything new from a strictly-mechanics standpoint outside of combo attacks, as the improvements to dungeons was more of a level-design thing, and the battles on the map thing was... strictly visual.
As to the payoff between individual or team-up attacks: I don't know where you're getting that.
I'm getting it from me replaying CT this summer. A lot (*not* all) of the double attacks only do marginally more damage than their component attacks would together, unless you're hitting an elemental weakness in which case the double techs are actually generally stronger, but elemental weaknesses weren't ever hugely important *except* for a few fights, and except for a few dungeons, you wouldn't even be messing with techs for regular fights.
Triple techs I never really even bothered with and never really suffered for it. I've generally heard they weren't worth messing with from other people, too.
Do you base a game's value solely on balance alone?
It depends on the genre, although I place a *huge* emphasis on balance for strategy games and traditional RPGs.
Strategy games, as a genre, are entirely built around balance. If balance is blown, the entire game is blown. This should be fairly self-evident.
As far as traditional RPGs go, they're generally turn-based, menu-driven, and lacking in novel gameplay mechanics. As I said, CT's main addition was combos. And selecting a combo from a menu is no more fun than selecting a regular attack from a menu, so balance is pretty important here. I'll post up some points on balance I made earlier, later.
The other important thing, to me, for RPGs, is dungeon/town/area design. This is harder for me to explain, though, so I won't.
I'd also place a really big emphasis on interactivity, but JRPGs don't really do this, so whatever.
For action games... level design is probably the most important thing throughout, with balance taking a back seat EXCEPT for arena-type games like Q3 or UT where balance is really fucking important to playability, because otherwise you get a single god weapon and it's too easy to lock out the match by getting said weapon and camping the weapon's spawn point.
For single player FPSes, I think weapon *novelty* is more important than outright balance. like, weapons with unique functions and, of course, the game providing you with opportunities to use these functions. Although really well-balanced weapons can sometimes do just as well. Depends on the level design, truthfully, which is why I really do think level design is the main guiding factor for FPSes and other action games.
Nice graphics, music, and story are always a plus, but the actual quality of the a/v and writing side of things will rarely, rarely change my opinion of a game unless it's something like Earthbound where the writing is exceptional enough to overcome the fact that the gameplay doesn't really have much merit (although I do find the area design to be pretty neat, especially the cities).
Of course, if I was still 12, I'd be QUITE happy to ignore the actual gameplay, and, say, use a certain character because I liked their personality or thought they were neat looking or something. This is because 12 year olds are smart enough not to analyze everything into oblivion.