I'm playing through Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. As you know, Bob, it's a GBA strategy game similar to Final Fantasy Tactics.
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about the game: I love it, but it's extremely infuriating. Why?
Because when someone dies, they stay dead.
I like the theory. There's a huge amount that can be done with that. But I don't care for the execution.
From strictly a gameplay perspective, it's terrible because the only thing that really threatens you are bosses, which are only found at the end of a fight. Since you can't save partway through a fight, this means that you're basically stuck restarting from the beginning after you've finished getting all the way to the end.
Of course, it's also a positive feedback loop, which is generally a bad thing: if you start losing characters, you get weaker.
However, even if all that wasn't the case, it's still something I can't really bring myself to like. The reason is that it's treated like a standalone event. Someone dies? They spout a line of dialog and vanish from the roster. There are no other repercussions... even their loved ones seem to instantly forget about them.
The drama of death isn't in the dying, it's in the loss it causes everyone. That's why we can kill a million goblins and thousands of people named "mercenary" without a twinge of grief or guilt, but why we feel really bad for an assassin robot in Terminator 2.
They have a unique "talk" system in this game, where various people can talk to each other during battle. This is often used very well - you have to talk to specific enemies with specific people to get them to join you - but is, in general, underutilized. I had two warriors, father and son. The father is dead. The son? Doesn't care. Merely doesn't have anyone to talk to anymore.
I might have done it differently.
I think what I would have done is changed a secondary relationship.
For example, if his father dies, maybe he'll suddenly get the ability to talk to a younger boy in the party, essentially taking on a father role. If his father was alive, maybe the two of them only become friends. Maybe they have no significant relationship at all.
It could also be done via "lonely cut-scenes" where he gets all emo or whatever, but that kind of goes against the mood of the game. Instead, I would have liked to have seen more (optional?) "large" talks - five or six people all talking about things. It's possible to change what individuals would say in such a meeting without changing what others would say (keep scripting to a minimum on that front, at least).
The reason I'm so disappointed in their death mechanic is specifically because they have the loss mechanic in place already. The "talk" mechanic is perfectly suited to dramatize death. It's like someone handing you peanut butter and chocolate, but refusing to mix them. Currrrrses.
What are your thoughts on the matter?