(Not picking on you BTW, but replying to your post seems like the best way to clarify my own thoughts at the moment)
Which isn't really fair to FE6 or FE8, because they're pretty fun too. Just... in different ways, and to different degrees.
Yep. IMO FE8 is quite a bit different in feel from most other FEs (not just the GBA ones) simply because of the monsters (and the corresponding watering-down of WTA/WTD). But the other day I was chatting with some friends and let it slip that it's "not really FE" because of that, and pretty quickly agreed that it's really not fair to say that at all. 6 is of course different from 7/8 in being longer, having an obviously simpler engine, and being all seize-throne missions.
What I like most about FE7 is the wide variety of characters and how the Support system brings out each character's quirks; I'm glad they included the Support archive for that reason.
It would be better if getting supports weren't so dreadfully tedious, if the cast of characters were smaller, and more characters had more real relevance to the story. I didn't really think the FE8 story was that much more impressive (although I will grant it seems to have fewer plotholes, and the whole thing with Lyon is actually pretty cool), but I have to admit that you have more reasons to care about a much larger percentage of the blue team in 7 than in 8. (Although I don't like how so many of them in 8 have some direct tie to nobility...)
I also like the wide variety of goals in the game (though, to be fair, FE8 had its share of rout, boss-kill, seize, and hold-out missions as well).
Yep. Do any of the non-GBA games have "claim 3 points" BTW?
I like FE6 mostly because it continues the story where FE7 left off
? FE6 predates FE7, so this is a strange reason to praise FE6. It's rather FE7 that fills in the backstory that FE6 implied.
although naturally some things first introduced in FE7 weren't mentioned in FE6 (like the fact that Eliwood and Hector actually wielded Durandal and Armads, for example).
Yeah, this part always seemed a bit strange to me, actually. If your (as Roy and Lilina) parents wielded them, why do you have to re-track them down? How did they get lost again in environments vaguely resembling the ones where they were first found?
This is one of the things I wanted to re-work in making a combined FE6/7 master hack/remake that I will totally never have time to do
The gameplay is also fun enough, and the maps large enough, to make up for the fact that every single chapter goal is Seize, in my opinion.
Yeah, I like large maps too. I don't feel like you can make up for that lack of variety by just making the game longer, though. The opposite, if anything. As for the gameplay... well, that's even more subjective. I feel like for the most part FE is FE though, so yeah. :/
In terms of characters and personalities, FE8 has less quantity but the same or better quality as FE7, so I really can't speak badly about it either. I would have liked more chapters and maybe some more characters, but I certainly can't complain about any of the characters we had.
More chapters, definitely. More characters, nah. You get too many in every game as it is, really. Honestly, sometimes I wish they'd cut to the chase and give you like ten named characters max (and all of them early on), of which you pick like 4 or 5 for a map, and then they each bring in a small cohort of generics.
I must admit that, other than the main Fire Emblem theme, I didn't like FE8's music as much as FE6 and 7's, though.
Can't say I have a preference in terms of the variations in the main theme. FE8 has some really awesome music. But really, I think all three of them have some awesome music - certain tunes really stand out to me in each.
But in terms of the actual sound rendering quality, 6 is inferior. Just compare the vendor music between 6 and 7.
One last note on the music: I really liked the fact that FE7 had its own unique theme, and how each of the main characters had their own variations on that theme ("Girl of the Plains," "One Heart," and "Loyalty"). It also made the scenes in the last few chapters with "Unshakable Faith" particularly poignant, as it's a triumphant, minor-key variation on the same theme that had been playing throughout FE7 (and to the best of my knowledge, in no other FE game).
FE8 does this ("organ" arrangement of Lyon's theme; Ray of Hope as a main theme rearrangement in addition to the one you usually get for the epilogue; probably some other variations I'm not thinking of), but not to the same extent.
Re 7, I would say that "Anguish", "Reminiscence" and "Shattered Life" are also musically related. And actually, if you shift the key, "One Heart" and "Loyalty" are not that different melodically...
But yes, I agree that "Unshakable Faith"... 'works' really well in the places where it's used. "The Final Battle" in 8 (the corresponding theme, I guess) works well too, though, and seems like the right kind of music for the situation, even if it isn't a rearrangement.
I think I have to give the nod to 7 overall though, just for the sheer quantity of music. The sound room is clearly bigger than in the other two games (and its interface is way nicer too IMO).
Fun factoid from hacking experience: the total audio data for FE7, including samples, audio tracks, instrument descriptions etc. takes up about 4MB, i.e. a quarter of the available space on the 16MB cartridge that they packed it on.