Just made it to To Coda Ruins in ES. I specifically remember this dungeon because I took notes on everything that was said, thinking it would be the solution to some puzzle only to not need any of it. I've also been reminded how impressive this game's cast of playable characters is. In terms of gameplay, they're all pretty diverse and most of them are quite useful in the right situation, except maybe Beat and Polka. Beat for obvious reasons and Polka because she's not the best attacker, and let's face it she's not the best healer either.
I love the music there. I was stoned on painkillers when I played that game (foot infection way back), so all the music sounded brilliant.
And yeah, everything plays really nicely and differently.
I did admire Beat's penchant for rapid-fire and echo building, but only early on (and the bonus dungeon basically makes "getting lots and lots of money" into an in-game joke).
Polka I thought was pretty useful at the end
. Her final healing spell has great range and restores a lot (also, I stopped using Chopin by the end... I still can't get used to saying Chopin is in a Japanese game).
I wish I used the twins more; they're definitely the more "technical" attackers, but I wasn't able to keep up with the Party Level's faster and faster countdown.
As soon as Falsetto was available, I went the rest of the game with her; she was probably my most consistent member just for that echo building (a certain item/accessory combo in particular made her build a FULL gauge in one attack in some cases).
While I agree 100% that the cast has great variety, I find their usefullness is placed at different points of the game for sure. Viola kinda has trouble keeping up against some of the better end-game skills other characters have and doesn't build echoes well at all...otherwise though, she's "the mid-game queen". Also Retto falls into this, IMO, as well. He's kind of average, but becomes pretty tough by end-game.
Xenoblade - Are all the enemies complete damage sponges or am I just playing this wrong?
At the point you sound to be at, right now your damage options kinda suck since you're forced into those anti-mechonis weapons that Dickson sells (which I think are unslotted or have only one gem slot) for everyone not named Shulk. In a short while though you'll start collecting weapons from enemy drops that are much closer to, or on par with, where your equipment should be.
At that part of the game, I kept everyone's normal equipment and upgraded Shulk's "Enchant" so you CAN damage Mechon with normal weapons. Later when you get the two-slot Anti-Mechon weapons, I booted him off.
But yeah, in general some enemies can take a while. I enjoyed using Dunban and Melia for their ability to quickly topple enemies (Melia in two attacks; that rod-strike and the one where she does a superman kick).
I'm getting screwed up a lot on the hard difficultty....it's hard. :(