And yes, I'm a fan of Square Titles :P
As of now, the Cities in Elemental are traditional TBS fare. You build them up, train units, harvest resources and give the AI key locations on which to focus their invasions. Building improvements on the map is kinda unique, but in general it's currently what you'd expect from settlements in any Turn-Based Strategy title. To you they are production centers...to your neighbors they're obstacles.
I'd like to improve the TBS city experience. Looking back, I don't really have any fond memories from settlements in previous TBS playthroughs. There was a cool planet in GalCic2 I got once that had, like, 5 super-rare tiles. And once in Civ4 I seem to remember a well fortified location that I could defend easily and made my center of domination...but in general, of the thousands of cities and planets that I've controlled, none of them really stand out in my mind.
Turning my attention over to RPGs results in a swarm of warm and fuzzy memories. Of the cities I've visited, almost each one holds a special memory for me. Who doesn't love the feeling of sending your party, near death from their recent adventuring, to the local town's Inn to replenish their health and spirits. Or stumbling across an distant armor shop filled the equipment significantly stronger than the 'leather vests' your hero's currently don.
In RPGs, Cities aren't just a strategic strongpoint on the map. They provide the user with special interactions, giving game worlds' life and 'soul' that permeates for years.
- The Auction House -
Obviously there have been many auction houses in games since, but my first experience with one was in Jidoor, one of the southernmost cities in the world of Final Fantasy 6 (FF3 for us SNES old-timers).
Nothing was cooler than taking your seat and waiting for the unveiling of the item you'd be bidding on. Rare Espers, items, and equipment were all up for grabs (with a few lame ducks thrown in for fun).
- The Judge and Jury -
Guardia Castle (Crono Trigger)
It's a pretty compelling scene: have the player judged for the crimes of the hero they're playing. What made it TRULY great was that the player was not only judged for actions carried out per the story, but ALSO for the player's actions at the start of the game. Helped the girl find her lost cat? That was a point in your favor. Swiped an old man's lunch for yourself. Point against you.
Now, the game didn't actually deviate based on the outcome of the trial, but as a set piece it was quite memorable.
- The Collector -
Apple Kid - Multiple Cities (Earthbound)
Nothing warms my soul than hard work paying off. In Earthbound, Apple Boy needed cold, hard cash to help aid in his creation of some amazing invention. Throughout the game, you'd fork over the dough with little in return (he was polite, at least).
You'll see this in COUNTLESS games nowadays, be it someone that's collecting money, berries, insects, metal ore...but Earthbound had some fun with it and never let the player really know if they would get the payment they deserved. Of course, if you stuck with it and kept his research going, it'd result in the Ultimate Weapon for one of your heroes...a nice payoff for being a nice guy.
- The Unwelcome Return -
Having pillaged a village's great relic, only to be marooned helpless at that same village 5 game-play hours later, is a fairly humbling experience. Nothing beats taking the normally harmless action of talking to NPC's and making it hazardous if you talk to the wrong person (expecially the 'sexy dancer' that drugs you and turns you into a pig).
- The Arena -
Coliseum in the World of Ruin (FF6)
A staple in RPGs nowadays, my first encounter with a battle arena was in FF6, after the world was ripped apart. You bet an item, and based on what you bet you'd get to fight a different opponent in one-on-one battle. Winning resulted in a better item (often something very-rare) while losing lost you whatever you bet. A fun (and risky) way to get those weapons and armor that weren't available in shops.
- The Invasion -
Defending Fabul (FF4)
While castles and towns are usually safe havens for the weary traveler, final fantasy 4 turned that backwards several times with story driven in-town battles. The most memorable was the defense of Yang's home, Castle Fabul. Wave after wave of enemy forces
crashed against those walls, creating an exciting and intense endurance challenge to the player (and frustration when Edward the stupid moron bard trips 5 steps from your destination).
Of the countless RPGs that I've adventured through, those are definatly the 'city interactions' that I remember best. Not that this currently meens anything to Elemental, but as we walk that line between RPG and 4x Empire Builder, I want to keep the best parts of both genre's in our sights.
But enough about my console-specific memories of RPG past...what city-related experiences resonate for you guys?