When I brought up skill trees, the sphere grid, and the license board in my previous entry, I only really got as far as describing how Fourth Edition could be compared to the skill tree method, albeit a bit “freer.” To maintain its “tree” form, players are required to invest in skills lower on the tree to access higher-level ones.

Skill trees enforce a certain form and guarantee that a character with “Power Z” also has “Power X” and “Power Y,” which were prerequisites. Huzzah.

Final Fantasy 10 has the sphere grid, which is in many ways similar and also different. Rather than requiring certain skills, powers, or stat boosts be taken before proceeding to the next, a character is welcome to skip over spaces on the grid, taking only the ones they like. There’s an additional cost in “spheres,” however.

Movement along the sphere grid isn’t strictly limited to leveling up, and characters don’t “level up” as they do in a more traditional combat-oriented roleplaying game. They don’t receive an allotment of hit points and attack/defense bonuses as they progress through the levels, instead drawing power from choices on the grid.

Final Fantasy 12 has something that sort of falls between the two — a skill tree that grows out and around rather than strictly up. It’s possible to bypass some licenses on the board, picking up mostly only the ones you want, and the characters do receive bonuses as they rise through the levels. I’m actually rather fond of the board.

Of course, in either case, it’s simply easier to let a computer handle movements along the grid or board, and it isn’t like any of the choices made on either are very novel — the Final Fantasy team(s) hasn’t/haven’t really innovated a character development system since Final Fantasy. Like, the first one.

Apart from these two systems though, you want to know what I liked that also kind of worked? Kingdom Hearts. “Choose one, give up one.” I mean, I always chose either power or magic to focus and just ditched defense. Forget defense. *snerk*