This is a scaling down of my real-time-turn-based idea. Tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy haven’t had many changes to their combat system in the last ten years. Generally it goes like this: select where to move, select what ability to use. Although it remains to be seen how RPG fans will accept a twitchier combat system, I think I have an answer.
An attack consists of a series of button presses, much like a fighting game combo (though obviously less complicated to pull off), each of which adds damage and/or effects to the stack. The final result of the attack, then, is whatever the player makes of it. This lets players tailor their attacks perfectly to the situation, creates impressive Street Fighter-style visuals, and requires a bit of finesse that could inject some much-needed excitement into a stale genre. Enemies fighting back or blocking would add even more twitchy spice to the soup. How each state or attack mixes with others would be the essence of the design of course, but you could have some pretty interesting times with context-sensitive abilities or limited mappings (you can only have four “active” abilities, each assigned to a face button) or even sets of abilities swapped in by hitting R or L.
Example: A to trip, B to stab, X to uppercut, Y to knock down. The player does X-Y-A-B. Knock down only works once in the air but does good damage, and once knocked to the ground the trip ups stab damage.
Example 2(more exciting): A is an ice bolt, B a hammer, X a blinding light, and Y a grasping vine. Y-X-A-B. The enemy is held in place so they can’t turn away to avoid the blinding light, then frozen and smashed into tiny pieces. Now I want to make a game all about smashing your enemies into various entertaining shapes and collecting their corpses, which give you ability bonuses based on their arrangement. Or perhaps you use them as puzzle pieces.