The Great Chronicle of Console RPGs Thread

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As promised, I've now had a look at the results of your votes (they weren't that many, but no matter) and among the genres listed console RPGs came out on top with the smallest possible margin.

EDIT: By request, here's a link to the thread with the poll.

I will thus begin chronicling titles among console RPGs in this thread, hoping that it will garner some appreciation among the dwellers on this forum. As said in the previous thread, feel free to add mini-reviews and anecdotes regarding the games covered below.

But first things first. A short demarcation might be in order. Since this thread will be chronicling console RPGs I will first and foremost put focus on games that originated on gaming consoles. Thus games like Ultima, Diablo and The Elder Scrolls will not be featured here.

I realize that sooner or later I will have to make a decision on what to do with titles developed with multi-platform releases in mind, and the same goes for digitally distributed indie titles and such. But I'll get back to that at a later point.

Very well, without any further ado. Here's our first game:

Title: Dragonstomper
Developer: Starpath
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1982

Comment: Developed and published by Starpath, this was the first salvo fired in the role-playing game genre's invasion of home consoles.

In Dragonstomper you play as a dragon hunter who is pursuing a quest for a king to defeat a dragon and reclaim a stolen magical amulet. The game featured a large overworld which the player could explore freely. Enemies appear by random encounters and combat is turn-based. Once defeated, enemies drop items which can either be equipped or sold in villages in order to buy other useful objects. Interestingly, the game doesn't seem to incorporate an experience system. Instead stats (Strength and Dexterity) are raised or lowered by the various items one finds. Finally, the developers also apparently tried to include obstacles which could be overcome in multiple ways.

Game No. 2

Title: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin
Developer: APh Technological Consulting
Platform: Intellivision
Release Date: 1983

Comment: Published by Mattel Electronics, this was actually the second game in the series. However, the first game was an action-adventure game and thus lies beyond the scope of this thread. In Treasure of Tarmin you explore a multi-tiered dungeon, each level consisting of a maze and its surrounding hallway.

The goal of the game is to defeat a Minotaur who guards the titular treasure. The game is viewed from a first-person perspective and like the aforementioned Dragonstomper eschews an experience system in favor of a system where one gradually strengthens what's called "Spiritual" and "War" health. Battles are turn-based and loot consisting of new weapons, armor, magical items, and treasure is randomly placed throughout the maze.

Game No. 3

Title: Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior
Developer: Chunsoft
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: May 27, 1986 (Japan)

Comment: This title hardly needs a presentation. Dragon Quest wasn't the first Japanese RPG; The Black Onyx is generally considered to bear that distinction. But that particular title was originally released for the NEC PC-8801, a home computer system, and thus lies beyond the scope of this thread. However, by drawing inspiration from, among others, Ultima and Wizardry with the intent of attracting a wide audience who were unfamiliar with RPGs or video games in general Chunsoft established in Dragon Quest what would, in hindsight, be widely considered to be the basic template for Japanese RPGs that followed in its wake.

The game gives the player control of a warrior who is tasked with saving the kingdom of Alefgard and rescuing its princess from the malevolent Dragonlord. Dragon Quest's story later became the second part in a trilogy that stretches across the first three games in the series.

The game is viewed from a top-down perspective and has the player explore an overworld with assorted towns and dungeons. Players are encouraged to talk to townspeople in order to gain clues on where to go next. There are no immediate physical restrictions on where one can go, but as players increase their distance to the starting area enemies gets significantly harder to combat. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, feature one enemy at a time, and are shown through a dedicated battle screen from a first-person perspective which displays the current enemy above a command menu. The frequency of these encounters is dependent on what terrain one is currently traversing. The player has various weapons and armor as well as spells at his disposal. By fighting monsters one gathers experience points and gold. By obtaining experience points one will eventually raise a level and thus gain better stats and new spells. Gold can be used to replenish one's hit points and magic points by resting at inns and for buying new gear.

Apparently, critical reception to this game was noticeably cooler in North America than what it was in Japan. However, as the years passed, perceptions shifted in its favor and it is now commonly regarded as a historically significant title. Though initially a slow seller, it became a commercial breakthrough title for role-playing games in Japan, with sales eventually reaching a number of over half a million copies. Sales in North America evidently never picked up, but by bundling copies of the game with Nintendo Power magazine subscriptions Nintendo managed to improve the situation to some extent. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, the success of Dragon Quest marked a turning point in video game development in that scenario writers became regarded as increasingly important members of development teams.

Game No. 4

Title: Deadly Towers
Developer: Lenar
Platform: NES
Release Date: December 15, 1986 (Japan)

Comment: Published by Irem in Japan and Brøderbund in North America, Deadly Towers was one of the earlier action role-playing games for the NES.

You play as Prince Myer, who has set out on a quest to prevent his kingdom, Willner, from becoming subjugated by a devil entity called Rubas. Rubas is planning to use seven bells situated atop the seven titular towers in order to summon an army of monstrosities. Prince Rubas must ascend the towers, burn the bells, and confront Rubas.

The game takes place in Rubas palace and features a one-point perspective. It's apparently mostly a side-scroller, but once you climb the towers it switches into a vertical-scroller. Battles play out in real-time and defeated enemies drop cash, which is used to buy new weapons, armour and other pieces of equipment. Shops are scattered throughout the dungeons at fixed locations, although with randomized selection of wares, and hidden in the towers are portals to a place called the Parallel Zone wherein the player can find superior equipment compared to what is sold in the shops.

Deadly Towers was well-received commercially in North America and was noted among critics for its gameplay, which was described as a fusion between titles such as Castlevania and Wizardry. Retrospective reviews have, however, been more severe, citing the size of the palace coupled with an absence of clues of where to go and what they perceived to be an unforgiving combat difficulty.

Game No. 5

Title: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Developer: Nintendo R&D4
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: January 14, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: There hasn't been any discussion yet in this thread, but if the mere inclusion of any game into this chronicle will spark a debate I guess this title could be considered a prime candidate. A subject of many a disputes throughout the years, the second game in Nintendo's long-running Zelda franchise is often regarded as a departure from its predecessor in the sense that several gameplay elements established in the first title became subjected to overhauls. Of focal interest to this thread, while the first installment in the series is widely considered to be an influential action-adventure game, The Adventure of Link incorporated gameplay elements more commonly associated with action role-playing games.

A direct sequel to the original Legend of Zelda, the series perennial protagonist, Link, is once again called upon to save the titular princess, who has fallen under a sleeping spell. The game is viewed from two perspectives: top-down when the player is exploring the overworld, and side-scrolling during random encounters and whilst visiting towns, caves and palaces. Introduced to the series in this particular entry are towns with assorted NPCs. Link can to talk to these inhabitants in order to gain clues on where to go next, receive assistance from healers, learn new sword techniques, and procure side-quests from wise men. These side-quests, once completed, provide Link with spells of various kinds. The arguably single most noted addition to gameplay in this installment, however, is probably experience levels. By fighting monsters Link can raise his health, magic, and fighting points; each attribute can be raised to a maximum level of eight. By raising these stats Link becomes more resistant to physical attacks, spells cost less to cast, and his attacks do more damage. Battles play out in real-time and occur through random encounters as well as in the cave/palace sections of the game. As per usual in this series, Link must also find various items in order to advance his quest.

Upon release, The Adventure of Link was met with strong sales, with global figures exceeding 4 million copies sold. Critical reception outside of Japan, although apparently positive by the time of the game's original release, has declined in later years, often citing its substandard English translation as a hindrance when it comes to solving some of the more cryptic puzzles present in the game. Since the original Japanese version presumably does not suffer from language related issues I'm sort of curious as to how Japanese critics and players have come to regard this game in more recent years. By the next installment, A Link to the Past, experience points and spell systems would be scrapped in favour of gameplay features more akin to those found in the first title. Nevertheless, features such as the magic meter, different sword techniques, towns, and NPCs would become staples of future installments in this franchise.

Game No. 6

Title: Dragon Quest II: Gods of the Evil Spirits / Dragon Warrior II
Developer: Chunsoft
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: January 26, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: Released less than a year after its predecessor, Dragon Quest II came to expand upon virtually every gameplay element found in the first game.

Set 100 years after the events of the first game, Dragon Quest II's plot forms the third part in the first trilogy of games. The game's primary protagonist is the prince of Midenhall, who is tasked with stopping a destructive wizard named Hargon after he sacks Moonbrooke Castle. The prince is accompanied by his two cousins: the prince of Cannock and the princess of Moonbrooke.

The game is once again viewed from a top-down perspective and has the player explore a larger overworld, including the continent from the first game. Battles are once more turn-based and occur through random encounters, but this time they feature multiple enemies in consistency with the fact that players eventually control a party of three instead of a lone warrior. At a certain point in the game, the party gain access to a boat and is thus able to explore the oceans and reach other continents. The three man party system also came with an expanded inventory. Other new features include warp gates found at certain locations on the overworld map and a mini-game in the form of a lottery wherein players could win special items.

Dragon Quest II found commercial success in Japan where the original Famicom version shipped 2.4 million copies. Critics generally gave the game good reviews, commonly referring to it as an improvement over its predecessor. However, the end game has been criticized for what reviewers found to be a significant difficulty spike. Nevertheless, retrospective examinations, in Japanese as well as Western publications, have remained strong throughout the years.

Game No. 7

Title: The Magic of Scheherazade
Developer: Culture Brain
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: September 3, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: Developed and published by Culture Brain, The Magic of Scheherazade is an action role-playing game featuring a setting based on the stories and folk tales in One Thousand and One Nights.

You play as a male protagonist by the name of your choice who unsuccessfully attempted to defend Arabia from a villainous wizard called Sabaron and was sent back in time while his beloved, Princess Scheherazade, was captured. Suffering from amnesia, the protagonist must travel across five worlds to rescue Scheherazade's three sisters, her father, and finally Scheherazade herself.

The majority of the game is apparently viewed from a top-down perspective akin to installments in the Legend of Zelda series. In each world, the player must complete a series of tasks and recruit allies in the area. In order to fully explore a world one must travel between two epochs using a so called Time Gate found on a particular screen. Players have two weapons at their disposal: a blade and a magical rod. There are three classes in the game that put different emphasis on how one put these weapons to use: a Fighter, a Magician, and a Saint. Changing between classes may be done in mosques or by casting a spell and is required to complete certain quests and in order to gain particular party members. Battles occur in two ways: In real-time where the player fights enemies on one's own, and through random encounters, which may occur when one travels between screens, where combat is turn-based and the player may team up with two party members whilst battling groups of enemies. Certain ally pairings create formations, which enable the party to perform extra powerful attacks.

Regrettably, I haven't found much information on how this game fared post-release, save for a sequel that reportedly reached planning stages but which for unspecified reasons never entered development.

Why has this list been made? Who asked for it? Why does it feature old JRPG's?

So confused.

verdant monkai:
Why has this list been made? Who asked for it? Why does it feature old JRPG's?

So confused.

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

verdant monkai:
Why has this list been made? Who asked for it? Why does it feature old JRPG's?

So confused.

Well, I've created it based on the outcome of a poll which was featured in another thread. I guess the (admittedly few) people who participated in that particular poll was positive to this thread's creation.

It features a proportionally large amount of japanese role-playing games because back in the late 80s most western role-playing games that were released on consoles were ports of their computer based counterparts, whilst a fair amount of japanese developers decided to use consoles as their main platform for releasing original IPs in this genre.

broadbandmink:
As promised, I've now had a look at the results of your votes (they weren't that many, but no matter) and among the genres listed console RPGs came out on top with the smallest possible margin.

Could you provide a link to the original thread in the OP (via editing)? For those of us late to the party, it might provide some much needed context.

OT: Interesting look back. I might have to look for some ROMs of a few of these.

Bara_no_Hime:

broadbandmink:
As promised, I've now had a look at the results of your votes (they weren't that many, but no matter) and among the genres listed console RPGs came out on top with the smallest possible margin.

Could you provide a link to the original thread in the OP (via editing)? For those of us late to the party, it might provide some much needed context.

OT: Interesting look back. I might have to look for some ROMs of a few of these.

That link you requested has now been added to the OP.

The original Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest is still fun, or at least fascinating in a primitive way. I wanted to like The Magic of Scheherazade but could never get into it. Seemed more like the original Zelda. Have you been going to hardcoregaming 101? That's an excellent resource for information on titles like these.

Ratty:
The original Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest is still fun, or at least fascinating in a primitive way. I wanted to like The Magic of Scheherazade but could never get into it. Seemed more like the original Zelda. Have you been going to hardcoregaming 101? That's an excellent resource for information on titles like these.

Many thanks for the tip! I'll be sure to consult that site in case I run into other titles where information is otherwise scarce.

broadbandmink:

Well, I've created it based on the outcome of a poll which was featured in another thread. I guess the (admittedly few) people who participated in that particular poll was positive to this thread's creation.

It features a proportionally large amount of japanese role-playing games because back in the late 80s most western role-playing games that were released on consoles were ports of their computer based counterparts, whilst a fair amount of japanese developers decided to use consoles as their main platform for releasing original IPs in this genre.

Oh ok! thanks man. Some of these look worth a play. Sadly I don't have the consoles and I can't be bothered emulating them. Consider giving the tales of series a look in? I'm pretty sure they are exclusively console games! even the more modern games were developed for the PS3.

Gundam GP01:

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

Here we go. Are you by any chance American? I bet you are.

Whatever I'll fuel your social justice fighter fantasy. YES Glorious Nippon cannot create actual RPG's! they can only create anime games which are obv for babies, Fantasy is only good if its game of thrones, Evangelion's Shinji is whiny for no reason, Cowboy Bebop is racist because spike has an afro and is a white man. Yep you figured me out mate.

Gundam GP01:

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

Here we go. Are you by any chance American? I bet you are.

Whatever I'll fuel your social justice fighter fantasy. YES Glorious Nippon cannot create actual RPG's! they can only create anime games which are obv for babies, Fantasy is only good if its game of thrones, Evangelion's Shinji is whiny for no reason, Cowboy Bebop is racist because spike has an afro and is a white man. Yep you figured me out mate.

I don't think he meant it in that kind of way. It was a question not an opinion, please don't over react.

Gundam GP01:

verdant monkai:
Why has this list been made? Who asked for it? Why does it feature old JRPG's?

So confused.

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

jRPGs are distinctly console-friendly, though the genre is descended from western computer RPGs like Ultima. There are western-style dungeon crawl RPGs on consoles but they're not as common and for the most part not as historically important[1] as the jRPGs on consoles. To the point that "cRPG" (c for computer) is synonymous with western RPGs while "console RPG" is synonymous with jRPG. Though since the Elder Scrolls has gained such popularity on consoles that has begun to wain somewhat.

Broadly speaking, jRPGs are set apart from cRPGs in a few ways. jRPGs tend to have pre-defined characters on a linear story, and the action is shown from above/3rd person. While cRPGs are more likely to be 1st person, with the ability to generate characters who explore a dungeon/world taking on various quests in a non-linear order.

Since this thread is concentrating on games from the NES era and before so far, here are some of the cRPGs that made it onto the NES

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/swords-and-serpents

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/tales-of-the-unknown-volume-i-the-bards-tale

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/exodus-ultima-iii

Of course there are some asses who will argue that "Japanese RPGs aren't really RPGs" because they're linear and have predefined characters, but that's just getting into semantics.

[1] AS console games- many were ports of important games from PC.

Ratty:

Gundam GP01:

verdant monkai:
Why has this list been made? Who asked for it? Why does it feature old JRPG's?

So confused.

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

jRPGs are distinctly console-friendly, though the genre is descended from western computer RPGs like Ultima. There are western-style dungeon crawl RPGs on consoles but they're not as common and for the most part not as historically important[1] as the jRPGs on consoles. To the point that "cRPG" (c for computer) is synonymous with western RPGs while "console RPG" is synonymous with jRPG. Though since the Elder Scrolls has gained such popularity on consoles that has begun to wain somewhat.

Broadly speaking, jRPGs are set apart from cRPGs in a few ways. jRPGs tend to have pre-defined characters on a linear story, and the action is shown from above/3rd person. While cRPGs are more likely to be 1st person, with the ability to generate characters who explore a dungeon/world taking on various quests in a non-linear order.

Since this thread is concentrating on games from the NES era and before so far, here are some of the cRPGs that made it onto the NES

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/swords-and-serpents

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/tales-of-the-unknown-volume-i-the-bards-tale

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/exodus-ultima-iii

Of course there are some asses who will argue that "Japanese RPGs aren't really RPGs" because they're linear and have predefined characters, but that's just getting into semantics.

Why was this sent at me? It seems to pretty much agree with me.

verdant monkai:

broadbandmink:

Well, I've created it based on the outcome of a poll which was featured in another thread. I guess the (admittedly few) people who participated in that particular poll was positive to this thread's creation.

It features a proportionally large amount of japanese role-playing games because back in the late 80s most western role-playing games that were released on consoles were ports of their computer based counterparts, whilst a fair amount of japanese developers decided to use consoles as their main platform for releasing original IPs in this genre.

Oh ok! thanks man. Some of these look worth a play. Sadly I don't have the consoles and I can't be bothered emulating them. Consider giving the tales of series a look in? I'm pretty sure they are exclusively console games! even the more modern games were developed for the PS3.

Gundam GP01:

What, it's not a real RPG if someone in Japan made it for some reason?

Here we go. Are you by any chance American? I bet you are.

Whatever I'll fuel your social justice fighter fantasy. YES Glorious Nippon cannot create actual RPG's! they can only create anime games which are obv for babies, Fantasy is only good if its game of thrones, Evangelion's Shinji is whiny for no reason, Cowboy Bebop is racist because spike has an afro and is a white man. Yep you figured me out mate.

Jeez, who the fuck put bees in your pajamas, dude?

[1] AS console games- many were ports of important games from PC.

verdant monkai:

broadbandmink:

Well, I've created it based on the outcome of a poll which was featured in another thread. I guess the (admittedly few) people who participated in that particular poll was positive to this thread's creation.

It features a proportionally large amount of japanese role-playing games because back in the late 80s most western role-playing games that were released on consoles were ports of their computer based counterparts, whilst a fair amount of japanese developers decided to use consoles as their main platform for releasing original IPs in this genre.

Oh ok! thanks man. Some of these look worth a play. Sadly I don't have the consoles and I can't be bothered emulating them. Consider giving the tales of series a look in? I'm pretty sure they are exclusively console games! even the more modern games were developed for the PS3.

Oh, don't worry. We'll touch upon the Tales of-series at a later point. But since I intend to try to maintain a decent chronological order that might take a while.

With that said, if you're interested in these kinda games on a more general level I'd say you could always stay tuned, since there might be other titles featured here worthy of your attention.

Game No. 8

Title: Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei
Developer: Atlus
Platform: Famicom
Release Date: September 11, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: The first installment in the seventh most commercially viable role-playing game series in Japan, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei puts its focus on dungeon crawling and is thematically revolving around demons. It is based on the horror novel Digital Devil Story by Aya Nishitani.

You play as Akemi Nakajima, a Japanese high school student with an affinity for computers, who creates a program that can summon demons into the real world. However, it turns out Akemi has been tricked into summoning a demon named Loki with his program, whereas an American computer mastermind named Isma Feed has summoned the demon Set in order to use its power. With the aid of his friend Yumiko Shirasagi, Akemi sets out to correct his mistake.

The game takes place exclusively in a labyrinth complex built by a so called demon king known as Lucifer. At the start of the game, the two main characters are given 15 ability points each, which the player must distribute among five character attributes:

-Strength: Influences physical endurance to enemy attacks.

-Intelligence: Influences the availability and effectiveness of magic spells, and the success rate when attempting to convert demons into allies.

-Attack: Affects the efficiency of physical attacks.

-Dexterity: Influences the order of attacks during battles, and reflexes when defending from physical attacks.

-Luck: Influences the probability of a preemptive attack from the enemy, the success rate when attempting to escape, etc.

The labyrinth is presented from a first-person perspective. The player can equip the protagonists with various weapons and armors. Both of them have limited hit points. Additionally, Yumiko can cast spells and has limited magic points, whereas Akemi can collect items and use his computer to gather and summon demons. These demons can then be used to fight at the side of the protagonists at a cost. In addition to gathering such demons, they can also be fused into a new, different demon. By exploring the labyrinth the protagonists meet various NPCs providing hints on what needs to be done and assorted quests, some of which are mandatory to progress further in the game. Scattered throughout the labyrinth are treasure chests containing monetary units and/or jewels, which can be used to fully replenish hit points of a single character. Some areas work according to special rules, such as dark zones, where the map is of no use and walls cannot be seen, and damage zones, where each step taken by the characters deprives them of one hit point. Weapon and armor shops are also present, along with health springs, where both hit points and magic points can be restored against payment, and rag shops, where special items can be obtained in exchange for amethysts, which lie scattered throughout the labyrinth. Battles are turn-based, with random encounters taking place while exploring the labyrinth. After successful fights experience points and monetary units are gained. In addition, magnetite (a substance used to summon demons) and/or jewels can also be obtained through battles. Experience points are gained collectively, and once the protagonists have gained sufficient points for a level-up each character receives one ability point each, which can then be assigned to the desired attribute.

Once more, post-release information is fairly scarce. Nevertheless, gameplay elements such as demon catching and fusing became staples in future installments, and the game was noted for eschewing the otherwise omnipresent high fantasy settings of other RPGs at the time.

Game No. 9

Title: Faxanadu
Developer: Hudson Soft
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: November 17, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: A spin-off title to the Dragon Slayer series, a computer role-playing game franchise from Nihon Falcom, Faxanadu is an action role-playing game whose plot apparently takes place at the same time as Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu.

You play as a nameless Elven wanderer who returns to his hometown of Eolis to find it in disrepair, virtually abandoned, and under attack by Dwarves. To make matters worse, the town's source of fresh water has run dry for reasons unknown. Therefore, the Elven king has given the wanderer a sum of gold and assigned him with uncovering the cause of the troubles that have befallen Eolis.

Viewed from a side-scrolling perspective, the player explores the world in a mostly linear fashion whilst fighting monsters in real-time battles and visiting towns where one can buy new weapons, armour, and assorted items as well as talk to NPCs in order to receive clues on what to do next. At certain points throughout the game the player also acquire new spells, all of which are reportedly projectile based. By battling monsters the player gains experience points, gold and various items. Having gained enough experience points, the player can visit churches where a guru will bestow them with a higher rank, which will allow them to equip new gear. Since this game's save system is password based, higher ranks will also determine the amount of gold a player will possess upon resuming a game. The game also feature life and magic meters, which display the player's remaining health and magic respectively, but these are seemingly unaffected by how much one level up. Of further interest might be that this title was apparently an early example of a game in which the player character's appearance changed according to what gear one was currently wearing.

I haven't been able to locate sales figures for the original release of this title, and reviews I've found are exclusively retrospective. Overall, critical reception in more recent times appears generally favourable. While critics have praised the game for its soundtrack (composed by Jun Chikuma) and the mixture of role-playing and platforming elements, the linear level design and comparatively simplistic character progression system have repeatedly been pointed to as factors that decrease replay value. Nevertheless, the game is said to feature one of the better language translations to English among these types of games for the NES.

Game No. 10

Title: Final Fantasy
Developer: Square
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: December 17, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: If any role-playing game in the NES library is in less need of a presentation than Dragon Quest this would arguably be the one. Inspired by the aforementioned title, Final Fantasy was feared by its development team to become Square's last game before heading into bankruptcy following a string of commercially unsuccessful games. Instead, the game was both commercially and critically well-received and has become widely regarded as one of the most influential role-playing games released during the third console generation whilst also being credited with helping to popularize the genre as a whole.

The game gives the player control of four youths called the Light Warriors, who each carry one of their world's four elemental orbs, which have been darkened by four Elemental Fiends. Together, they quest to defeat these fiends, restore light to the orbs, and save their world.

The player begins the game by choosing four characters to form a party, a choice that will remain with them for the duration of the game. There are six classes to choose from: Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, White Mage, Black Mage, and Red Mage, each with different attributes, abilities and restrictions. Later in the game, the player has the option to have each character undergo a class upgrade. Apart from a superficial transformation, some classes gain the ability to use weapons and magic that they previously could not. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective as the player explores the overworld, towns and dungeons. Initially, players are restricted to travel on foot, but get access to other means of transportation as they progress through the game. As per usual in role-playing games on the NES, towns offer players new gear through shops, opportunities to replenish hit and magic points through inns, and clues of what to do next through NPCs. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, and are shown through a dedicated battle screen where both one's party and the enemy forces are displayed above a command menu. Through successful battles the party gains both experience points and gold. Gathering enough experience points allow the warriors to raise a level and bestow them with an increase in their attributes. Spells are divided into two groups: White, which is defensive and healing, and Black, which is offensive and destructive. Magic can be bought from White and Black magic shops and assigned to characters of appropriate class. Spells are also sorted in an eight level system, with four White and four Black spells per level. Each character may learn only three spells per level. White and Black Mages can potentially learn any of their respective spells, while Red Mages, the Ninja and the Knight cannot use most high-level magic.

Upon its initial release, Final Fantasy sold 400,000 copies. In addition to earning good reviews at the time of its original release, the game has received continued appraisal in retrospective assessments. Critics have often pointed to the game's comparatively elaborate plot when compared to the first Dragon Quest as one of the title's primary assets. However, opinions appear divided on the subject of the game's pacing and the amount of grinding required in order to raise gold and experience levels. Nevertheless, the game is still frequently featured on several top games lists in various publications and is generally regarded as a seminal installment in the role-playing game genre.

Game No. 11

Title: Phantasy Star
Developer: Sega Consumer Development Division 2
Platform: Sega Master System
Release Date: December 20, 1987 (Japan)

Comment: A darling among video game critics. Phantasy Star was lauded for its, at the time, advanced graphics and detailed plot. Furthermore, the game has also often been referred to as a departure from the norm of other role-playing games released during the same period of time in that it featured a female protagonist.

The game is set in a solar system called Algol, consisting of three planets. As the story begins, Algol is ruled by King Lassic, who's originally benevolent rule turns into a harsh dictatorship after he converts to a new religion. After a series of political changes, small pockets of rebellion emerge, but these are mostly ineffective against Lassic's rule. When Nero Landale, the leader of one such rebellion, is killed by Lassic's underlings, his sister Alis swears revenge.

The player controls Alis from a top-down perspective and has her explore a overworld dotted with towns and dungeons. Of note is that once players enter dungeons the game switches to a first-person perspective, and instead of crawling through them frame-by-frame they are fully animated. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, and are shown through a dedicated battle screen from a first-person perspective which displays the current enemy beside a command menu on the left hand of the screen. During her travels, Alis will pick up party members and equip them with various weapons and armor as well as spells. By fighting monsters she and her party members gathers experience points and gold.

I haven't found any information on how this game fared commercially. On the other hand, it appears to have received a warm welcome by critics, who liked its mix of fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics, three-dimensional dungeons, and the amount of content present in the game. Retrospective reviews have, once again, commended its graphics, citing its dungeons and animated monster encounters, but they have also pointed to the characterization of party members and NPCs, as the writers give them their own backstories in order flesh out their role in the plot, which they argue set the title apart from other role-playing games that had been released until that time.

I realize that this entry in this chronicle might come off as fairly biased in the game's favour. Thus I would be very interested in what impression this game has had on people who've actually played it.

I played Phantasy Star and it is good for the most part. Although there is a lot of grinding and you can have encounters you can't win very early in the game;it does have its charms. The dungeons are confusing though, but hey it's good practice for mapping dungeons in your next D&D game!

Game No. 12

Title: Dragon Quest III: And thus into Legend... / Dragon Warrior III
Developer: Chunsoft
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: February 10, 1988 (Japan)

Comment: The third entry in the Dragon Quest series continued to expand on the gameplay elements found in its predecessors, and is generally considered the peak of the franchise's NES epoch.

The plot of Dragon Quest III serves as the opening act in the first trilogy of games. The story follows a hero, which can be of any gender, who is assigned with saving the world from an archfiend called Baramos.

The game is yet again viewed from a top-down perspective and has the player explore an even larger overworld, but this time featuring a day/night cycle. Thus, certain items, characters, and quests are only accessible at specific times of day. A new banking system is also introduced wherein players can store items and gold instead of just relying on their inventory. Replacing the lottery from Dragon Quest II is a mini-game in the form of an arena in which players can place their bets on monsters in order to win gold. However, the arguably most prominent new feature in this installment is the introduction of a class system. This time around you can pick up three additional party members, each of which you can assign a gender and class. These classes include: Fighter, Goof-Off, Merchant, Pilgrim, Sage, Soldier, and Wizard. Choice of class affects both the stats and what spells a given character can learn. Furthermore, the game incorporates a form of dual-classing. Upon reaching experience level 20, a character has the option of changing classes at a specific temple. A character who changes classes has their stats halved and restarts at experience level 1, while still retaining their spells. Although only four characters can be in the party at a time, extra members of the party can be kept at a tavern, allowing room for new recruits. Random encounters are still present and are now affected by the aforementioned day/night cycle in that tougher enemies are more common during the night.

Dragon Quest III sold over one million copies on the day of its release and 3.8 million copies total in Japan. Critical reception appears to have been equally positive, with praise directed at the game's numerous new gameplay features, including the day/night cycle and banking system. However, upon its release in North America more than three years later the game appears to have met a significantly less enthusiastic commercial and critical response, which has been attributed to the fact that at this point the fourth generation of consoles was well underway. Criticism by American reviewers seem to have been leveled pimarily at the game's aging graphics and interface. Despite this, retrospective reviews by American publications have, much akin to those aimed at the first installment, tilted in this game's favour, citing its way of implementing character classes as a blueprint for future, similarly multi-layered class systems found in japanese role-playing games.

Game No. 13

Title: Final Fantasy II
Developer: Square
Platform: Famicom
Release Date: December 17, 1988 (Japan)

Comment: Released exactly a year after its predecessor, Final Fantasy II didn't reach western shores until 2003 in a compilation entitled Final Fantasy Origins for the original PlayStation. The game is probably best remembered for how it relinquished the experience point leveling system of its predecessor in favour of a system where progression of attributes and skills were dependent on how they were used. That said, Final Fantasy II introduced many aesthetic elements that would become staples of the franchise, including chocobos and the recurring character Cid.

The plot of the game follows four youths whose parents were killed during an invasion by the empire of Palamecia. Three of the four main characters join a rebellion against the empire, embarking on missions to thwart the emperor's plans.

Instead of choosing four characters to form a party from, this installment gives the player three pre-defined characters, each with attributes and skills which the player can develop freely. As the story progresses, the fourth spot in the party will be filled by additional characters, whose skills can be developed according to one's choosing. Once more, the game is viewed from a top-down perspective as the player explores the overworld, towns and dungeons. A new addition to dialogs is present in a system where the player can learn special keywords or phrases from NPCs, which can later be repeated to other NPCs to gain information or advance through the plot. However, battles are where this title's arguably most noteworthy changes come to the fore. The dedicated battle screen is largely intact, although a back row feature is now present, within which characters or enemies are immune to most physical attacks, but can be harmed with bows and magic. As mentioned above, general experience points are absent in this game. Instead, each character develops depending on what actions they take in battle. For instance, characters who frequently use a particular type of weapon will become more adept at wielding a weapon of that type, and will also increase in physical strength and accuracy. Attributes include agility, evasion, hit points, intelligence, magic points, magic power, spirit, stamina, and strength. Hit points and magic points increase with their use; a character who takes a heavy amount of damage in a battle might earn an increase in maximum hit points, while a character who uses a lot of magic during battle might increase their maximum magic points.

Sales figures for the original release of Final Fantasy II exceed 750,000 copies. Reviews I have found are exclusively centered on the numerous re-releases this installment has seen throughout the years. Praise is usually directed at the game's story presentation, which has been described as putting more emphasis on characters and giving players a clearer direction through the various missions. However, the attribute and skill progression system has faced repeated criticism. An observation made by critics and players alike points to an easily abused exploit in the system wherein players may simply have their characters attack each other and repeatedly cast spells, thus causing their hit points, magic points, other attributes, and skills with particular weapons and spells to grow extensively.

Game No. 14

Title: Phantasy Star II
Developer: Sega
Platform: Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
Release Date: March 21, 1989 (Japan)

Comment: An early example of role-playing games for the fourth generation of consoles, Phantasy Star II was, like its predecessor, released to wide critical acclaim.

Phantasy Star II is set 1,000 years after the events of its predecessor and recounts the story of a government agent named Rolf and his companions, who are on a mission to find out why the protector of the planet of Mota has started malfunctioning. Gameplay is reportedly largely similar to the first installment. However, the first-person perspective present in dungeons and battles in the first game has been scrapped and combat is instead shown from a third-person perspective in the battle screen.

Once more, information on how this game fared commercially has eluded me. Contemporary reviews, on the other hand, appear to have been decidedly positive, citing the plot, graphical advancements, and the sheer size of the game as strong points. Retrospective reviews have also been favourable, although they seem to put heavier emphasis on its story, pointing to the use of recurring themes that run parallel to the journey of the protagonists.

Game No. 15

Title: Destiny of an Emperor
Developer: Capcom
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: May 19, 1989 (Japan)

Comment: Developed and published by Capcom, Destiny of an Emperor is a role-playing game based on a manga written by Hiroshi Motomiya called Tenchi wo Kurau, which takes place during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China.

The main protagonists of the game are three sworn brothers called Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu, who form a small militia to defend their village from Yellow Turban rebels, followers of a sorcerer by the name of Zhang Jiao, and then proceed with launching a military campaign aimed at unifying China under one banner.

I've found conflicting information whether the game features a linear plot or a branching storyline. That said, the game is viewed from a top-down perspective whilst travelling the overworld, visiting towns and laying siege to castles. Since an individual character's hit points represent the number of men under his command one has to restock on food from time to time, in addition to buying new gear when one has sufficient funds. Magic is present in the game but is called Tactics and requires a dedicated character aptly called Tactician. Certain spells get more potent depending on what terrain the player is currently located in when the fighting starts. Battles are turn-based and occur through random encounters. You fight between one and five enemies at a time. These range from generic enemy bandits to unique generals. When defeated, there's a chance the player might be able to recruit a given general. There are 150 unique generals present in the game and one may recruit as many as 70 of these. However, only seven characters may be used in your active party; five will do the fighting, one will be used as replacement should anyone be defeated, and one will contribute as the aforementioned Tactician. The rest of your recruited generals will enter a reserve pool, from which the player can incorporate them into the active party. Reportedly, only your main characters and a fixed amount of recruitable generals can increase their stats through combat. Furthermore, certain stats remain static, such as strength and intelligence, which determine the power of a given character's physical and magical attacks respectively.

This franchise apparently saw further installments released in Japan, but this was the only title released in the West. Post-release information appears to be non-existent. However, the game seems to have garnered a cult following, who are referring to the game as highly recommendable.

Game No. 16

Title: Mother
Developers: Nintendo & Ape
Platform: Famicom
Release Date: July 27, 1989 (Japan)

Comment: Often dubbed Earthbound Zero among western audiences, the first game in the Mother series never saw an official release outside of Japan. Nevertheless, perhaps due to the popularity of its sequel, the game eventually found its way into the hands of English-speaking players by way of emulation.

The game's plot follows a boy, named Ninten by default, who lives in the fictional small town of Mother's Day in the United States sometime during the 1980s. After a series of seemingly supernatural events occur in his hometown the boy sets out to discover the source of these incidents.

The player controls Ninten from a top-down perspective and has him explore an overworld sprinkled with towns and certain dungeon-like locations, such as an unchecked zoo and a run-down factory. In addition to presenting the player with the usual opportunities of buying new gear, gathering clues from NPCs, and replenishing their health, towns are also where one receive money for defeated enemies. By making a phone call to Ninten's father a sum is deposited into Ninten's bank account. This sum is proportionate to the amount and difficulty of the enemies one has vanquished since the last time a phone call was made. These phone calls are also used as a method of saving one's progress. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, and are shown through a dedicated battle screen from a first-person perspective much akin to the Dragon Quest games released up until this point. Enemies include household objects, various satirized townspeople, unmanned vehicles, and extraterrestrials. By fighting these opponents Ninten and his party members gain improved attributes and psychic abilites, which essentially work like magic spells.

Mother sold 400,000 copies in Japan and was critically acclaimed for its humorous tone and modern setting. Retrospective reviews have, while still generally positive, criticized recurring balance issues and the amount of grinding required in order to advance through the later stages of the game. Shigesato Itoi, lead designer of Mother, has reportedly stated that the final area of the game was never thoroughly play-tested.

The game was, in fact, slated for release in North America and a localized version was apparently finished in 1990. However, the game's release was initially put on hold and subsequently shelved. The underlying reasons for this decision has never been made public but a common hypothesis attributes the game's shelving to the then impending release of the SNES in America, which supposedly would have affected the commercial viability of the game negatively. However, by 1998 a prototype cartridge of the English localization found its way onto the World Wide Web. A fan translation group called Demiforce managed to raise enough funds to buy said cartridge. The data contained on the cartridge was converted into a ROM file, which was later circulated around various web sites, and the rest is, as they say, history.

broadbandmink:
Game No. 11
image

Title: Phantasy Star

I quite enjoyed this one. Though I had to keep worrying if the 25 year old battery on the cartridge would die while I played it lol. Especially since at the ending area you basically have to keep resetting the game to win. Since randomly running into a Red Dragon boss before the final boss is a death sentence. And if you're unprepared for the final boss when you get to him there's no leaving the final area so you're just fucked. So it's walk a few steps, save, walk a few more steps, save w- gosh darn it! *RESET* still a great game though. Nice mix of dungeon crawler and overhead RPG with extremely impressive graphics for the time. (Blows FF out of the water.) Especially the first person dungeons. It looked good enough that when the Mega Drive (Genesis) was released in Japan they re-released it on that 16-bit system via a cartridge with a built-in converter.

The music is ok (the title screen music in particular is infectiously catchy) although it's kind of tiny as most Master System games are without the Japan-only soundchip upgrades. Whether for Nostalgia or some other reason though there are those who prefer the non-enhanced version.

Ratty:
I quite enjoyed this one. Though I had to keep worrying if the 25 year old battery on the cartridge would die while I played it lol. Especially since at the ending area you basically have to keep resetting the game to win. Since randomly running into a Red Dragon boss before the final boss is a death sentence. And if you're unprepared for the final boss when you get to him there's no leaving the final area so you're just fucked. So it's walk a few steps, save, walk a few more steps, save w- gosh darn it! *RESET* still a great game though. Nice mix of dungeon crawler and overhead RPG with extremely impressive graphics for the time. (Blows FF out of the water.) Especially the first person dungeons. It looked good enough that when the Mega Drive (Genesis) was released in Japan they re-released it on that 16-bit system via a cartridge with a built-in converter.

The music is ok (the title screen music in particular is infectiously catchy) although it's kind of tiny as most Master System games are without the Japan-only soundchip upgrades. Whether for Nostalgia or some other reason though there are those who prefer the non-enhanced version.

Thanks for the video! It makes a nice complement to my entry above.

As for your description of the end-game, it pretty much sounds like standard issue Japanese RPG game design to these ears. 1) The final area is essentially a death trap by design, 2) "You've made it this far. Congratulations! Did we mention this is a one-way-trip..?".

Game No. 17

Title: The Final Fantasy Legend
Developer: Square
Platform: Game Boy
Release Date: December 15, 1989 (Japan)

Comment: The first entry in the SaGa series, The Final Fantasy Legend was reportedly also the first role-playing game for the Game Boy handheld system.

You play as four warriors who are attempting to climb a tower at the center of the world that supposedly leads to a paradise. At the start of the game, the player must choose a character class, gender, and name for the party leader. There are three available classes: Human, Mutant, and Monster. This choice will remain with the player for the duration of the game. One may recruit up to three additional party members through a similar process by visiting so called Member Guilds in various towns. This may be done multiple times, should a given party member perish during one's travels. However, fallen party members may also be resurrected given that they still possess at least one heart; a form of extra life. Stats are determined by the class of the character in question. Different classes also raise these stats in separate ways. Human stats are raised through items that grant permanent bonuses, Mutant stats increase by random after successful battles, and Monsters evolve by consuming meat dropped in combat thus transforming them into other sub-classes. Humans have no restrictions in terms of what weapons and armour they can carry. Mutants are more limited in this regard while Monsters cannot use either equipment type. On the other hand, both Mutants and Monsters can take full advantage of spells and other abilities. The game is viewed from a top-down perspective while the player explores the overworld and visits towns where one can buy new weapons, armour, and assorted items as well as talk to NPCs. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, and are viewed from a dedicated battle screen, which is reportedly largely similar to those found in early Dragon Quest titles. An oft noted feature is that weapons will wear out and break with use, thus requiring the player to stock up on replacements.

Commercially, The Final Fantasy Legend was Square's first million seller. Reviews, contemporary as well as retrospective, have been mixed, however. Praise has been directed at Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack and the game's system of character class development. The latter have, on the other hand, also been the subject of criticism due to the unpredictable nature by which Mutants and Monsters evolve. Certain critics argued that this particular feature increased the difficulty of the game, since those classes could potentially develop in directions that may prove counterproductive. Lastly, the final boss of the game has apparently received a degree of infamy for how hard it is to defeat without resorting to instant-death methods.

Finally, regarding its impact on future developments within the industry: Satoshi Tajiri, co-founder of Game Freak, has cited The Final Fantasy Legend as a source of inspiration while developing the first Pokemon games. Not so much because of its gameplay elements per se, but because it convinced him the Game Boy was capable of managing comparatively complex games.

Game No. 18

Title: Sweet Home
Developer: Capcom
Platform: Famicom
Release Date: December 15, 1989 (Japan)

Comment: Closing out the 80s in this chronicle is Sweet Home, a role-playing game with a horror theme. Developed and published by Capcom, the game is perhaps best known for its remake that ended up becoming the first title in the Resident Evil series. Of further note is that the game is based on a film bearing the same name.

The main protagonists of the game are a team of five individuals who heads out to the abandoned Mamiya manor with the aim of capturing a fresco of a painter known as Mamiya Ichirou on film for a documentary. The game has five different endings. Which one you get depends on how many characters are still alive after the battle with the final boss.

The game is viewed from a top-down perspective while the player explores the mansion, read diary entries and examines other bits of information. You can only keep up to three characters in your active party at a time, thus making it necessary to switch between different individuals from time to time. Each character's inventory is restricted to one weapon and two items. The game is apparently devoid of spells and there's only one type of item that replenish hit points: Tonics. Tonics are scattered throughout the mansion and are of a finite quantity. Battles occur through random encounters, are turn-based, and are viewed from a dedicated battle screen which, judging from the pictures I've seen, mostly resemble that of early Dragon Quest games.

Post-release information appears to be non-existent. That said, players who like Capcom's Resident Evil franchise might perhaps do themselves a service by checking out this game.

Game No. 19

Title: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen / Dragon Warrior IV
Developer: Chunsoft
Platform: Famicom / NES
Release Date: February 11, 1990 (Japan)

Comment: Released at the dawn of the 90s, Dragon Quest IV was to become the last entry in the series released on the Famicom / NES. It was also the last Dragon Quest title released outside of Japan for nearly ten years.

An oft noted feature of this installment is its plot. Divided into five chapters, it is reportedly by far the longest of the four NES titles. The first four chapters follow the main character's future companions and the fifth, which is told from the main protagonist's perspective, brings all the characters together as they set out to save the world.

The class system has been overhauled; this time around, each character has a fixed class. As per usual, the game is viewed from a top-down perspective as the player explores the overworld. The day/night cycle from the previous installment is retained, but the arena has been replaced by a casino. Overall, gameplay is apparently very much similar to previous games in the series. That said, there are some additions of potential interest. In the final chapter you control a total of eight characters, but you can only bring four into battle at any given time. Thus the game introduces a caravan/wagon in which you can "store" the rest of your party. Members in your active party can then be swapped in mid-battle if need be. But it should be noted, if one enters a dungeon the caravan/wagon is left outside and one has to rely on the four characters one brought within. Also new to this particular entry are Medals, which are scattered throughout the game and can be traded for certain unique items. The arguably most palpable change, however, is how one controls the party during battles. You are only in direct control of your main character; the other members of the active party are controlled by the game's AI and can only be given guidelines on how to act during fights via a system called Tactics.

Dragon Quest IV was well-received commercially, selling over 3 million copies in Japan, and has maintained solid reviews throughout the years. Critics have generally lauded the game's multi-sectioned story, but opinions appear divided on whether the additions to gameplay brought anything new to the table. Finally, the design decision to deprive players of direct control of their secondary party members has repeatedly been called into question, and subsequent re-releases of the game have seen revisions in this department.

Game No. 20

Title: Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II
Developer: Atlus
Platform: Famicom
Release Date: April 6, 1990 (Japan)

Comment: The second installment in the Megami Tensei series features a post-apocalyptic setting and is the first entry in the franchise not based on a novel by Aya Nishitani.

You play as two teenagers living in a shelter some 35 years after a nuclear war which created a dimensional rift that bridged the demon world with the human world. After the shelter is invaded by monsters the two youths set out to save what's left of mankind. This installment features an overworld which is viewed from a top-down perspective, whilst dungeons retain the first-person perspective from the first game. Otherwise, gameplay is reportedly identical to the first entry and therefore readers might refer to my description of that particular title above. The developers did, however, apparently make some minor tweaks to graphics, interface and difficulty.

As was the case with its predecessor, post-release information is hard to come by. Any input from visitors to this thread is thus most welcome.

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