Combat is interesting and challenging to a point, character interactions are charming, and dungeons do help break up the monotony, but it isn’t fulfilling overall. FE: SOV is nothing special, but it is a perfectly serviceable title good enough to act as a gateway into the rest of the Fire Emblem series.
Really, all this means is that SMT: 4A is a fine game with a major problem – it is a sequel. If SMT: IV didn’t exist, SMT: 4A would feel like a fresher game. It does bring some major improvements to the previous game but balances them out with some major regressions. In the end what’s left is a game that does enough to be enjoyable but not enough to be great. The story is more engaging, the gameplay on the whole is better, but the loss of atmosphere and overall addition of monotony makes this a game mostly for those who were a fan of the first. Since it’s a sequel, I suppose it succeeds in what it set out to do by finishing up the story, but in some cases, it does not really feel like a necessary continuation. There is not enough new content for a standalone game, making this feel more like “disc two” than an actual new title. A tricky business, indeed.