listened to the newest episode of the State of the Arc podcast this morning, which was ostensibly about reacting to the Final Fantasy XVI trailer...
it was fine and about what I had expected to hear from them, but the one part that made me think a lot was a throwaway line about how the main character system differences between the FF and SaGa series boil down to nature vs. nurture
jobs/classes in classic FF games are a modal state: your job defines your base stat spread, your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses. SaGa games do not have a formal job or class structure, they have a complex stat growth system where your character's in-game experiences are directly reflected in the makeup of their stats with some variance sprinkles on top. (yes, I'm fully aware this is a massive oversimplification of both games' systems, but the specifics are not actually important for what I'm trying to say)
none of this is news to anyone who has played both, but hearing it explained in a nature vs. nurture context opened my eyes as to why people seem to be so repulsed by SaGa-style systems
I grew up on final fantasy tactics advance, a game that introduced me to more complex job systems, and made me realize that I will always be really into meticulously planning character builds in a spreadsheet and incrementally working towards my goals every day after school. there was never a moment in that game that I didn't feel like I was directly in control over how my characters would turn out. it was always just a question of how much time I was willing to put into it.
SaGa characters, regardless of whether they are actually capital-H Humans or not, feel more human than Final Fantasy characters because of how they grow mechanically over the course of the game. you do have some level of influence over the roles and stats growth of your characters, but you never fully feel like you're _in control_. SaGa characters are imperfect by nature, and instead of battle scars being mentioned in a line of prose, they are plainly visible to you on their stat sheet. instead of playing to a rigid role, they, like us, must constantly adapt to whatever inconveniences are thrown in their way, like losing the only healing spell your party has access to randomly at the end of a battle in the middle of a dungeon.
perhaps the reason people get so turned off by SaGa is because it is too reminiscent of real life. perhaps people come to video games to escape a life they feel they have no control over, and the rigidity of the final fantasy class system gives them an aspect of their life they have definite control over. the humanity that final fantasy loses by having a more rigid class system is more than made up for by its story, which is a much easier sell when characters fit into clean archetypes than when they are an RNG mess like some characters become in the SaGa games.
if there's any wisdom to salvage somewhere in this mind dump, it's probably that there something we could all learn from SaGa's character systems. not letting your own life story be defined by your work, but rather accepting to let yourself be a flawed, scarred character defined by your experiences, and always re-evaluating what the most appropriate role you should be playing in this very moment. it certainly isn't easy, but that's what it means to be human.