I love the FE series. Especially on GBA. Sounds like you guys understood little the game mechanism under the game.
I hate the fact that when I attack someone, they get a free hit on me
You can use archers, magicians, throw axe and javelin to attack short range units without being counterattacked. You can use short range weapon and magic to attack archers without being counterattacked. As for unit that are both long and short range (magicians, or warriors with throw axes or javelins) you can't avoid risking a counterattack, but you should attack an unit that will evade easily, or kill them in 1 hit, which is an extremely common tactic in the game (both for you and unfortunately for the computer too).
If counterattack are being a problem you simply don't use the right unit for attacking. I'd say use mages a lot, they are the most versatile and powerful units. They evade everything easily and harm pretty much everyone. Their only con is that they have low defence, so you should expect them to survie more than 1 physical attacks.
I also hate the fact I have to send units that really shouldn't be on the front lines to talk to enemies to get some characters.
This can be a bit annoying, but the idea is to talk to him/her as soon as possible so that he come in your side, and then kill his former buddies off with any unit that is suitable. No big deal.
- Exp is scaled to the level of the hero who is attacking. So if you actually use your strong units you'll gimp yourself because you get only a fraction of the XP out of the map. Half the game is bringing shitty units into risky situations just so they can get SOME XP. It's conflicting bad design
This is what makes FE so great. Forget about tanks, they simply don't exist, the ones that appears to be the weaker are actually the strongest if you manage to level them up to 20. Pre-promoted units should never, ever be used. Never promote anyone before being LV20 (except if you're right before the end of the game and know there'll be no occasion to level up to 20).
- And yeah the counter attack thing, that can punish you for being too good... Had /tank/ units blocking doors that only take 2 or 3 HP per hit still die because the enemies that attacked them died in the counter attack, so 10 enemies would attack that unit in the same turn in a row.
Then you sent the wrong unit. You should have sent one with high probability of evading attacks. Evasion is the key to beating FE, much moreso than high defence or high health which are useless.
- Permadeath combined with randomness, 15% critical hit chance can often be enough to randomly destroy one of your people for no fault of yours, sending half an hour of playtime down the drain.
In normal difficulty mode, all enemies have 0% of critical hit chance, except those equipped with special weapons. You should spot those and try to kill them in 1 hit (with magic for example) to forbid them to attack you.
In hard difficulty, I agree with you, this is maddening. All you can do is pray. FE6 has only hard difficulty I think, as many enemies have 1 or 2% critical hit. I've got my ass whipped with a random enemy that had 1% critical hit, I can assure you I was mad.
For this reason, prefer to play in normal mode.
As for what's being said, I agree with the fact Shadow Dragon isn't very good. I don't like its graphical style, if feels so plain and generic. The graphical style of the GBA games is so much better.