Pros and cons between GBA Hacking, Lex Talionis and Tactile?

As someone who has used all the different methods of making FE fangames, I think I’m probably the most overqualified person here to give my thoughts on them.

Here are (some of! I can’t possibly name them all) the pros and cons of each engine:

GBA Hacking via FEBuilder:
Pro: Long established, lots of existing hacks, lots of support.
Pro: You can play a romhack on any device which has a GBA emulator.
Pro: You always get a stable FPS with a romhack. I’ve never played one where the FPS dropped to like 5 or some crazy slow number.
Con: Strict limits on specific things. Want to use more than 255 items, classes, or characters? Too bad.
Con: Want to use portraits with more than 16 colors? Too bad.
New: I just found out the halfbody additions are in GBAFE now via FEBuilder, but they are a bit limited and you can only have two halfbodies onscreen at once. Proof. If you have to have halfbodies, Tactile is better, but GBA can make them work.
Con: FEBuilder is a solid editor in terms of versatility but the UI is clunky as heck.
Con: Romhacking has a lot of things that can simply break your rom and you have no idea why.
Con: Rom is limited to 32 MB’s of filesize. You can’t go higher.
Pro: Roms are only 32 MB’s, so they’re very small and easy to trade around.

Romhacking via Buildfiles:
Con: All of the generic limitations to romhacking still exist. This means portrait limits, number of items/characters/classes, etc.
Pro: All the generic pros of romhacking. This means usability on many devices, a small filesize for ease of transfer, etc.
Con: Takes quite a bit of work to learn in my experience.
Con: Fewer people who know how to use Buildfiles, harder to get support.
Pro: Buildfiles, once learned, are incredibly easy to edit and get working.
Pro: It’s extremely easy to fix bugs with a Buildfile. No more permanent random screeches of death.
Con: No UI interface to make edits, you have to type all the code out.
Pro: Once you learn how the code/eventing works, it’s pretty easy to whip up chapters.

Making a custom game with FEXNA/Tactile:
Pro: The engine is extremely fluid. 60 FPS, and I don’t recall the last time I saw it dip below that. Yeti has made Tactile buttery smooth over the years.
Pro: The system’s base goal is to perfectly emulate but also improve on the GBA interface/gameplay experience. The cursor behaves exactly like in GBA, as one example.
Pro: Way more supported filetypes. Much easier to add music and other such things.
Pro: No limits on portrait sizes; you can add halfbodies, you can add tons of ‘emotions’ for characters, or you can even use the GBA hackbox. Tactile is king in this regard. Only the limit of 32x32 pixel blinking+mouth flaps exists, and I’m 90% sure you can edit that.
Con: Cannot use on most non-computer devices, though Yeti did show a fantastic tech demo of getting FE7x to run on Android and Apple phones. I have no idea how this works though. This is still a lot more effort to build .apk files than romhacking which just supports that stuff innately, though as a cool pro, the controls look way better ingame than for romhacks.
Con: VERY slow development cycles. Expect one big update every several months.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about lots of teeny little updates. You just get the ‘big ones’ every so often.
Con: Setting up Tactile is an absolute chore and you can break things during the install process very easily. Don’t even get me started on the seemingly nonsensical file structure inside the folders.
Pro: Tactile DOES support multiple promotions, and you can add as many as you want. This is the same as for LT, and also better than GBA FE8 hacking.
Con: Tactile does not have the simple option of yes/no and choice branches. Yeti insists on not adding them and this is extremely frustrating for everyone involved.
Pro: Tons of FE7x-specific features are included with Tactile at base, including using many of Yeti’s FE7x animations.
Con: Importing new GBA animations is a pain in the ass. You can do it and it’s not hard, but the act is extremely tedious.
Con: Importing map sprites is also annoying and tedious. Funnily enough, it became a lot easier when I formatted them with LT first, then ported them to Tactile.
Pro: FEXNA’s game creation interface is beautiful and well thought-out. I vastly prefer it to FEBuilder. The event editor, specifically, is amazing. The ‘unit placer’ is a lot of fun to tinker with too, since you place units down in the engine.

Making a custom game with FEXP:
FEXP is the older version of FEXNA. Don’t use it. It sucks.

Making a custom game with Lex Talionis:
Con: The biggest con of LT is that it’s currently unfinished, though Rainlash is constantly adding new features and patching bugs literally every day. If you need to make a game right this instant, don’t use LT. But a few months from now? It’ll be great. You can also start working with it now to learn how it works while you wait for more features to get added.
Con: While Tactile is extremely hyper-accurate in emulating the intricacies of GBA… LT often misses the mark by very slight deviations. The games are all perfectly playable and enjoyable, but some aspects feel a bit clunky. For example ,the cursor doesn’t quite feel like it moves the same as GBA, and you can tell when you move it around. Not a big con, but when you stretch this over many different aspects of the UI, it does feel ‘quirky’.
Pro: Setting up LT is -much- easier than setting up Tactile.
Con: It’s still more annoying than GBA.
Pro: No color limits on portraits! The same as Tactile!
Con: No halfbody support (currently! It may get added later).
Pro: While LT does use the ‘hackbox’ like in GBA romhacking, it does not have the ‘edges’ of the portrait get cut off.
Pro: The interface is just as clean and easy to use/work with as Tactile, therefore it’s automatically better than FEBuilder.
Con: We don’t yet have a full editor for battle animations, events, and a few others.
Pro: They will come soon! Rainlash works very quickly and gets lots of feedback.
Pro: Importing new assets is pretty much always easier in LT than in Tactile, and roughly as easy as FEBuilder. Maybe even more so. For example, importing a set of map sprites takes 4 seconds in LT but something like a minute each in Tactile.
Pro: LT’s file structure is way, way, WAY cleaner than Tactile’s. I cannot emphasize this enough. That means you don’t have to hunt all over the place to find code, assets, graphics, songs, etc. Having dedicated ‘project folders’ really helps here.

I could honestly add way more. Overall, my rating of preference goes like this:

LT > FEXNA >>>>> GBA >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> FEXP.

However, I have a few biases. For one thing, I value versatility in my (future) projects. I do not like romhacking’s limitations. I do not like being unable to bugfix gamebreaking issues on occasion. That shit drives me up the wall.

I also value certain types of features more than others. If you just want to make a simple FE fangame, I think GBA Hacking is undoubtedly the best because it’s so easy to get into and you can play your project anywhere. If you want to make a wacky and out of this world feature-filled game with huge maps or tons of characters or 1000 items, you can’t do that with GBA and should consider a custom engine.

I would like to take a moment to talk about Tactile and LT-specific features, though.

Tactile’s unique systems:
Base training which replaces the idea of BEXP in FE7x. I don’t know if this is actually included in Tactile, though.
FEXNA has a lot of enhancements to the GBA formula which LT does not have, at least as of yet. These enhancements are numerous and amount to hundreds of minor but satisfying QOL fixes. Yeti’s youtube channel is a good source for these.

However, some of these have gotten ported in various ways to GBAFE via FEBuilder patches and ASM. Therefore, they’re not as exclusive as they used to be.
Another feature is that Tactile is currently the only engine which gives you a MUCH bigger playing screen, mostly for the sake of adding halfbodies, but it also allows you to see more of the game map. You also get 3 lines of dialogue by default instead of 2 like in GBA. (Tequila did just release a patch recently adding 1-3 line support to GBA though, along with other enhancements!)

LT’s unique systems:
Fixed growths mode, hybrid growths.
Easy-to-add AOE magic and attacks.
A really, really, REALLY verbose and intuitive item/skill creation system. I cannot even put into words how incredible this system is. You ‘craft’ items and skills out of ‘components’ such as these: Example 1. Example 2. Example 3. Example 4. Once LT gets further along in development, this UI will look much more visually understandable, so I will be able to provide a better explanation/tutorial at that time.
LT allows you to pick a theme for the editor. I use the dark theme. FEXNA doesn’t have this :frowning:
LT has several contributing developers. They have added all sorts of systems from FE1-5 and 9+, including crafting of items/food, BEXP from FE9/10, FE5 FoW, Laguz Transformations, FE5 Fatigue, Skills set up like Awakening/Fates instead of classic titles, all the stuff in this menu, and so on!

Essentially, I would categorize the two engines as such:

Tactile: Countless small-scale additions that drastically enhance the playability of GBAFE while adding a few new features, but lacking many huge, unique, big-hitting features.
Lex Talionis: Lots of big features, more than I can even keep track of, but a bit clunkier on the execution sometimes. Needs more polish overall, but still very playable/enjoyable.

So, yeah. Enjoy my huge-ass wall of text, lmao.

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