I've been an advocate of trading defense for stat boosts and evade as evidenced by these threads:http://slickproductions.org/forum/index.php?topic=354.0http://slickproductions.org/forum/index.php?topic=429.0
There are some obvious reasoning for that.
The values for each significant stat (attack power, defense, and magic defense) are important (though the magic defense stat is almost insignificant, followed by the defense stat to an extent), but multiplies have a greater influence since their impact determines the most to damage output.
Vitality in relation to every other stat is actually weak.. whereas all the other stats have some influence against the multipliers. Someone such as Yang would greatly benefit from a Headband+Karate/Kenpogi combo since that directly influences his attack multiplier stat. For someone such as Cid, sometimes it is a difficult decision, given that the multiplier barely moves for him since his Agility growth looks bad (but actually it is comparable to Yangs, except that Yang gets Agility boosting claws). If one were to expose this behavior in FF4A late game, it isn't as bad.. but early game, you may prefer to simply take less damage. It's an interesting decision to say the least, and one worth exploring if you have nothing better to do.
Late game, particularly if you plan to stat max past level 70), the emphasis on stats is reduced (pretty much all the final characters in FF4 can max the Agility stat, except for Rosa). Evade and Magic Evade (via the stat multipliers) becomes much more significant in reducing damage. These cause monsters such as the Behemoth or Red Dragon to simply miss you more often than not... and make the EvilMask look silly when Holy or Flare fail to hit you. It has a greater significance vs magic simply because magic defense is not that high, but if you were to evade some of the enemy's spell multiplier, you can easily lose 340-1200 points of damage vs Flare/Holy/Meteo attacks.. something that a slight magic defense bump doesn't magically fix.
Anyways, here's some other interesting examples of equipment choice:
Light (Paladin) Helmet vs Triangle (Gaea) Hat for Cecil..
Light Helmet stats:
7 defense, 0 evade, 2 magic defense, 1 magic evade, +3 Will, undead resistance
Triangle Hat stats:
3 defense, 7 evade, 5 magic defense, 5 magic evade, +3 Will, +3 Wis
It almost seems that a 4 defense difference is a lot... which is partially true. For the majority of time it is relavent, it's not a significant concern. The rest of the Paladin's initial equipment already covers undead resistance, and the Triangle Hat boosts a number of other things.. which allows Cecil during the "weakened" Dark Elf have a greater chance to completely avoiding his magic (he has a 1x spell multiplier in this state IIRC).
Here's another look at another equipment comparison...
Mithril (Silver) Helmet vs Priest (Wizard) Hat
8 defense, 0 evade, 2 magic defense, 2 magic evade, spirit resistance
5 defense, 8 evade, 7 magic defense, 7 magic evade, +5 Will, undead resistance
3 defense doesn't seem like that much, and that's true. However, the Priest Hat benefits Cecil is even greater this time around. Spirit resistance at the point of the game you can buy the equipment is practically irrelevent.. plus most likely Cecil has moved on from most of his Paladin equipment so the undead resistance will prove useful when it matters (not as significant, but there are a number of places where you have undead). Cecil at least becomes a semi-competant healing at this point.. so it's not that much of a hinderance.
Well.. here's a more compelling argument+comparison...
Diamond Armor vs Light (Sorceror) Robe
19 defense, 0 evade, 4 magic defense, 2 magic evade, lightning resistance
12 defense, 10 evade, 9 magic defense, 9 magic evade, +5 Wisdom, +5 Will, lightning resistance, undead resistance
7 defense is "probably" significant again, but the Light Robe has far more application.. since at this point of the game, those extra stat boosts would have boosted Cecil's magic defense multiplier a notch, plus given him some extra defense vs undead (then again, if you have the Priest Hat, it won't matter as much). These choices always become tougher, but the reality is what you prefer. The stat boosts are generally better at this point of the game, but you may have some difficulty measuring the difference.. so here's a very interesting argument...
When Kain leaves for the final time and comes back.. he comes with the Genji (Samurai) armor set. That set is realtively inferior IMO, for many reasons. The best armor equipment set IMO is the following:
Green Beret (Bandanna)
Power Wrist/Armlet (Strength Ring) / Giant (Zeus) Gloves is preferable...
Here's the benefits over the entire Genji Set
1) Resistance vs Mages
2) Resistance vs Petrify - useful vs Kary/Selene Guardian/Moon Goddess
3) Resistance vs Lightning
4) Lots of power boosts, useful for killing normal enemies and bosses
5) Massive evade boost
The Genji Set has only the defense and magic defense benefits.. but that's it. There's nothing amazing except that defense vs Behemoths is nice, but then again why would this matter if you don't use Blink to your advantage?
In sum, the tradeoffs listed here are worthy of note, and something to think about when playing the game (and hacks).