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Playing Silver for the first time and it seems a bit clunky even by 1999 standards. Was hoping to be immersed by the charm of the game but after 20 minutes I'm feeling a bit disappointed. Baring in mind final fantasy 8 was out at the same time, it looks and feels excruciatingly dated. Like final fantasy 7 dated! Does the game get better as you go on and is the combat system ever anything more than bashing the controls and hoping for the best?
I don't think it's fair to describe the combat the way you did. There's no "bashing" nor "hoping", at least if you're willing to learn how to play the game. There's pressing the right button or combination of buttons at the right time in the right place.
You will get different weapons as you go along but nothing dramatically different. Compared to other hack-and-slash games from that time it actually has more varied combat, as long as you're willing to learn all the moves and try different weapons. On the other hand, if you want to just press one button for ten hours I suppose the game can be beaten that way as well, but it's hardly the game's fault if you choose to play that way.
Since you mentioned FF, if you prefer turn-based games where battles consist of opening menus then this is not the game for you. This is a real-time hack-and-slash game, and honestly I don't know what else you were expecting other than hacking and slashing.