Five Forgotten SNES RPGs That Deserve Reboots

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A few weeks ago I was lamenting the lack of really excellent Japanese RPG’s in the past console generation. But really if you discount BioWare and Bethesda, the genre as a whole has been kind of stagnant.

Newer titles seem to lack that creative edge that led to some of the greatest games of past generations. Normally, reboots and remakes don’t exactly bring to mind creativity, but in order to bring back the genre’s groove, it could be a good idea to revisit and even rebuild the successes of the past in order to isolate and potentially build upon what made those games so outstanding.

I feel that remakes get a bad rap due to Hollywood’s half-assing resulting in films that are shadows of the originals, but video games are a different medium altogether.  Capturing the spirit of a gaming classic is a lot easier to do and constant advances in technology have made improving on perfection something very attainable.

So what I’m going to do here is suggest some underappreciated personal favorite titles from the Super Nintendo Entertainment system that represent everything I love about role-playing games.

Games that had fresh ideas that would translate well to the modern era could blow away the competition given a fresh coat of paint. While some lesser series have been perpetuated endlessly, these seem to have been abandoned, and that makes me sad. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Secret of Evermore

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Remember when Fable 2 came out and everyone went nuts over their virtual canine companion?  Well, they’d already been one-upped over a decade prior by this underrated gem from Squaresoft.  Except in this one, you could actively switch between the boy and his dog, and the dog was way cooler.

Even better is that in addition to the sniffing out of items and taking bites out of evil was that the dog actually leveled and changed form as the game progressed. Ever wanted to chomp fantasy baddies as a big ass poodle? Well you could have!

The setting is a world made up of several kingdoms that vary in theme from science fiction to prehistoric times and more in-between. There is even a Final Fantasy IV crossover where you meet up with the protagonist of my favorite game of all time. Remember when role-playing games used to be full of secrets and surprises beyond boring collectables?

Evermore’s gameplay resembles Secret of Mana, which is a very high compliment, and as you can see in the above picture, it looked damn good for a 16-bit title. I’d love to see a remake of this one since the concept is so strong and imaginative and the canine companion concept was so far ahead of its time. It’s time this dog had its day again.

Ogre Battle

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This is simply one of my absolute favorite games ever. When the original March of the Black Queen came out, I had to order it from a catalog because I never saw a copy of it on store shelves. It turned out to be one of the best chances I ever took.

What set this one apart from most other RPG’s was that you did not control the combat at all. You assembled and maneuvered your army on a massive world map capturing and defending towns while engaging the opposing army. But during actual fighting, your troops acted on their own which made your unit configurations very important.

On top of this already-complex system, day and night passed during battles and some units were more effective at night so you had to arrange and move your units appropriately. Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves were best grouped together and deployed at night, for example.  Furthermore, as the war progressed, your morality was an issue. If you stationed terrifying night units in towns, for instance, people would view you poorly and your morality would suffer. Your morality rating was a factor in determining which of several endings you received.

Your units leveled up and evolved as the game went on, and the maps were filled with secrets. This is the kind of strategy game you could play forever. It was a monster to try and finish because there was no way to save during each battle, and the later maps took several hours to complete at best.

A remake or even straight re-release would be an absolute godsend. The N64 had a sequel I never knew existed and the PlayStation had Tactics Ogre, but I think that the time has come to bring this criminally underrated strategy franchise into the modern gaming era.  The game’s developer, Quest, was folded into Square meaning that it’s up to Square-Enix to get their shit together and bring this one back to life.

 

Inindo: Way of the Ninja

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Why aren’t there more ninja-based RPG’s? God only knows. I’ve discussed this one before in my Koei piece, but one good recommendation deserves another. Out of all of these games, I think this title might be the most impressive on a current-gen console due to the sheer depth and variety presented. It was way ahead of its time. Sadly, it’s also the most obscure title on this list.

Inindo puts you in the shoes of a surviving member of the Iga clan of shinobi whose village was destroyed by Oda Nobunaga in mythological feudal Japan. From there, you pretty much get to free-roam it, traveling from village to village and exploring dungeons. There are dozens of other travelers –samurai, monks, and fellow ninja among them- whom the player can build relationships with and eventually party up with if their friendship rating becomes high enough.

In addition to this build-your-own-party system, the player is able to work as a spy for hire for daimyos and build relationships with them as well. Once you’ve progressed in level, you can actually participate in large-scale battles and help the warring daimyos conquer territory, with your goal being to grind down Nobunaga’s power so you can invade his palace and get your revenge.

The coolest thing about all of this is that it’s not scripted. What happens is dependent on what you do as a player. The daimyos will war back and forth, but it’s up to you to choose sides and steer them towards success for your own ends. And you are working on a timetable too, which is unusual.

Now imagine a modern RPG with all of these elements. I know, right? Just thinking about expanding on the social party-building system, the tactical strategy elements, and spying minigames gets me all excited. It’s a shame it will probably never happen.

The 7th Saga

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Obscure enough for you yet? This is another one that is sitting in Square’s catalogue as it was originally developed by Enix. It was a great experience back in the day. The player chose one of seven heroes and set off alongside the other six on a mission to gather seven runes. How you went about it was your business.

You could make friends with the other heroes and team up with someone, or you could challenge them to duels and end up fighting all the time. When one of them has a rune, you will either have to attempt to take it from them in a duel, or they may attack you in order to get yours. These interpersonal dynamics based on player actions were something I’ve never really seen the like of and could be amazing with current gen upgrades.

Another innovation made in 7th Saga was the mini-map (now a standard genre feature) and a non-random battle system where enemies showed up on the mini-map, letting you know when a fight was coming. And rather than switching screens entirely when you went into battle, the game actually zoomed in and seamlessly changed perspective, which is something a lot of modern RPGs can’t seem to integrate to this day.

It was one of those games worth playing several times just because the cast was so diverse and who you chose changed the overall experience and tactics. It was also kind of an early attempt at what Peter Molyneux originally tried to do with Fable where you had to compete with other heroes.

[whispers] Psst…7th Saga kind of did it better.

Shadowrun

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I love you, 1990’s. You had the coolest stuff. Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam were on the radio instead of Nickelback, kids cartoons on TV were still actually funny, and Shadowrun was a thing. Shadowrun was a multimedia franchise that stemmed from a tabletop role-playing game (the kind you play with pen, paper, dice, and imagination) and it was like a conglomeration of all of my favorite genres. It took place in a cyberpunk dystopia where magic has returned to the world, bringing things like orcs, elves, and dragons back into the fold with corporations running the world even more than they do now. It was amazing.

I suppose it’s no surprise that an RPG based on an RPG worked out alright, but this was just an above-and-beyond masterpiece. The player was Jake Armitage, a Shadowrunner (corporate mercenary) gunned down in the streets before waking up in the morgue. Time to figure out what the hell just happened and why, I guess.

This game is my only pick not from Japan, but Japan is the world’s only remaining superpower in the Shadowrun universe and Japanese developers could steal a lot of ideas from this obscure western RPG to improve their own modern games. It also has something else setting it apart, but I’ll get into that later.

The controls were really unique for a console RPG. You aimed your gun using a cursor and your hit percentage was heavily influenced by your stats. This might not fly in the age of the commercial shooter, but some rather successful BioWare games have operated on a similar principle.

Shadowrun also pioneered the ability to hire NPC’s as party members and command them to use their abilities, another BioWare staple. I still remember my go-to dream team of an assault rifle-toting orc, a pistol-toting combat mage, and a female werefox mage like old friends. Sound cool? It really was. Throw in a deep conversation system (which they did) and you are pretty much looking at a perfect game.

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Are you sick of me whining and wishing for things that will never happen yet? Well, this time I’m ending on a happy note. Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter, Shadowrun will be returning in the aptly-titled Shadowrun Returns. No, not in a multiplayer-only shooter thing like they tried to do some years ago for I don’t know what reason, but as a proper PC sequel to one of the best console role playing games of all time.

But what about the rest? Hey, I’d love for the same thing to happen for the rest of these titles, but I’ll take what I can get. Shadowrun Returns is definitely a step in the right direction and if one small-time developer can raise enough money independently to bring back an obscure old-school RPG, one can hope that it can be done again and again. And if Square-Enix and Koei want to get off of their asses and get out of their respective monumental ruts and bring some real deal gaming back to the masses, all the better.

In spite of the degradation of innovation and overall quality in role-playing games over the last ten years or so, it still remains my favorite genre and still has the highest potential for both storytelling and thought-provoking mechanics. Here’s to hoping for a new RPG golden age combining the spirit of the glory days with modern horsepower.

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10 PSN Classics To Play Before Going Next Gen

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Anybody who has been unfortunate enough to have followed my internet ramblings here on Gamemoir knows that my gaming history is a long and winding road that has taken me here and there, but not quite everywhere. Assuming you have not made a personal timeline of my history as a gamer, let me sum it up for you first to put this list in perspective.

The SNES remains my most-played system ever. I played it all through high school and college until the PlayStation was on its last legs before buying one of those. While I covered a lot of ground in the time between buying a PlayStation and jumping ship to the original Xbox, a lot of games I meant to play but never did fell through the cracks and I never had a PS2.

A few months ago, I finally came back to Sony to right some wrongs. I bought a PS3 with the goal of not only checking out some of their fine exclusives, but to go back in time and play some of the PS2 games I missed as well through HD rereleases and PlayStation Network downloads. But I never knew how deep that rabbit hole went.

I’ve been catching up on PS3 standards these past months and have some PS2 classics under my belt too. Lately, some Ebay sales have left me with some money in my PayPal account that I’ve hesitated to put in the bank. You see, if I put it in the bank, it will be spent. With PSN, I can use PayPal as a payment method so I decided to keep it where it was and use it as my personal PSN petty cash drawer.

My next move was to see what I had available to choose from. Damn. I mean, I knew there were a ton of games on there but I had never checked out the “classics” section before, and I was greeted there with a veritable wonderland of drool-inducing games priced from $3.99-$9.99. Here are the ten games I found that I won’t be able to move on to the next console gen happily until I’ve played them.

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Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross

I’m doubling up here right off the bat because technically I’ve already played the hell out of Chrono Trigger. It’s a stone classic from the SNES and one of the greatest role-playing games of all time, hands down. I meant to buy it on my DS, but the price never came down, which seemed wrong for a straight port of such an old game. I’d have plunked down for a proper remake in a second. The price for the PSN version is much lower.

Chrono Cross was the PS1 sequel that I never got the nerve up to play. I’d heard it sucked, and the thought of playing a shittier version of a game I prized as much as I prize Chrono Trigger led me to play other games instead. In the end, I never got around to it and the question of whether it was worth my time or not never got answered. I think the time has come for me settle this.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

Around Halloween, I wrote an article about the lack of great vampire games having never even given this series a try. It kind of came off as “Zelda with vampires” so I gave it a pass. Then I was thinking to myself “Zelda… WITH VAMPIRES!” and I’m not really sure what I was thinking not playing Legacy of Kain.

We are in the middle of quite a stupendous drought of vampire games right now and it looks like I’m going to have to go back in time to get my fix. So let’s see what this one’s all about.

Nobunagas’s Ambition: Iron Triangle

I swear, when I was looking through this list on PSN, I was thinking that Koei must been reading my mind. Another article I wrote a while back was decrying the lack of classical historical strategy games from the Japanese developer. In recent years they’ve been focusing on remaking the same action games over and over and their strategy titles were staying in the homeland.

Well, I found several Koei strategy titles from the PS2 era on PSN and I’m pleased as punch. It’s like the gaming gods answered my prayers. I’d love some of the more recent Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles, but I’ll sure take this feudal Japan equivalent without complaint. Arigato gozaimas, Koei-sama!

Legend of Mana

Remember that bit about Chrono Cross from a few minutes ago? Well, this is the exact same deal. Square’s Secret of Mana is one of the greatest RPG’s of all time (and the best with multiplayer by far) and I’d heard less than sterling things about the sequel, which led to me not taking the time to play it back in the rushed PlayStation era.

But over the years, I’ve heard better and better things about Legend and I feel like enough time has passed that I really need to take the opportunity to give this one a fair shot to stand on its own.

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P.T.O. IV

Another Koei series I specifically singled out in my previous post regarding that company; P.T.O. was a ridiculously accurate war simulator that focuses on the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII. I have amazing memories of the original game on the SNES and the way it portrayed the Pacific War in such a realistic manner.

I’m really looking forward to this one. The format is one that ages really well, and I can’t wait to see how the title progressed between the SNES and PS2 eras. I’ve read that there are several of factions you can play as in addition to American and Japanese forces, so that should be pretty interesting.

Psychonauts

This is a last-gen cult classic from mastermind Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions that has maintained an aura of awesome well into the current gen. While the game sold poorly in spite of its glowing critical reception and vocal fan base calling for HD remakes and sequels, I was pleased to see it available for download.

I was one of those jerks who didn’t listen the first time around, and given my constant whining about the need for new and innovative games, I feel like a hypocrite for not having given this one a go when that’s exactly how people describe Psychonauts. Time to right that wrong.

Final Fantasy V

This is a big one for me. The one old school Final Fantasy Game I never managed to play. After the full remakes of FF III and IV, it seemed pretty natural that this one would be next in line. It was originally a 16-bit game unreleased in America for several years, finally surfacing on the PlayStation, where I missed it.

I meant to snag the Game Boy Advance version to play on my DS, but that never happened either. Square is still teasing a remake for the 3DS, but at this point I think I may as well grab it off of PSN for a quarter of the price so I can finally put the stamp on this one.

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Fatal Frame III: The Tormented

Over the years I’ve drifted away from straight horror games and missed out on series like Fatal Frame as a result. This is the one where you have to take pictures of ghosts. Sounds silly at first, but when you listen to the testimony of gamers who have soiled themselves playing these games, you will be a believer.

The franchise has a sterling reputation and I’d like to find time to play them all, but the graphics on this third game look pretty great and it seems like a pretty promising way to help get me back into the genre with a bang.

Kessen III

Koei’s third entry, tying fellow all-time fave old-school developer Square for most games on this list. From what I can see, the gameplay is a strategic real time style similar to Bladestorm, but taking place in feudal Japan and utilizing heavy story elements combining historical fact with dramatic fiction. So far, so good.

The original game was a PS2 launch title so I never had the chance to play any of the games in the series since I never owned that console.  The third game supposedly has a very different and interesting view of Oda Nobunaga as a hero, so it might be fun to play this one right after Nobunaga’s Ambition.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

RPG confession time: I have never played a game in this series. I’m a fan of the genre and I’m a fan of Atlus, but somehow I’ve just never laid hands on a title from the the Megami Tensei franchise and this bugs me. Frankly, any game that has teenagers fight back against dark forces by shooting themselves in the head is something I really, really need to check out.

There are a lot of other features like the choice and morality systems that draw me to this one, of course, and the series’ longevity and dedicated fanbase speak for themselves. This is a franchise I want in on, and Persona  4 Arena (the only entry in this past gen so far) doesn’t look to be the entry point I’m looking for so the extended Persona 3 FES on PSN looks like my best available option.

persona 3

Okay, so I’m going to have to play like the wind at this point. I’ve still got plenty of current-gen greatness -both new and upcoming- to come and the next gen is upon us. My original plan was to wait a year and see, but now it’s looking like my PS3 may have a good two years of life left in it if I factor in older titles available for download. Not only is it a formidable list, but most of them are JRPGs or strategy titles that could potentially eat up a hundred hours apiece.

How am I going to fit these in between the numerous classic and upcoming PS3 titles on my wishlist?  I. Don’t. Know. But I need to find a way. I’ve got the release of the next Mass Effect game penciled in for the day I plan on finally getting a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One since that’s pretty much the only franchise I can’t put off until later, so hopefully BioWare will take their sweet time with that one because in the meantime, I’ve got a lot of past gen goodness to indulge in. But which one do I play first…

 

 

So When Are Spoilers Okay, Again?

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This article contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Crazy spoilers. Eeeeeeevil spoilers.

Geek culture, man. You can spend your entire life immersed in it and still not understand it completely. Take spoilers, for instance. When are they okay? When are they not okay? Does anybody have a definitive list of when they want spoilers?  Personally, once I’m sold on something I tend to avoid the media hype about it as much as possible because I’d like to go in blind and experience everything as it happens, but being a citizen of the internet, they don’t make it easy.

There used to be a code of honor for some mediums that they’d label an article title with spoilers. For instance, it might say “Villain for Next Spider-Man Movie Announced!” At that point, you could choose to click on the article or not. The specific instance that got me thinking about writing this article came from Agents of SHIELD.

A couple weeks before the show’s return headlines on nerd-based websites declared “Deathlok is coming to Agents of SHIELD!” I don’t know if Disney paid these sites to do this (I tend to blame all worldy problems on Disney whenever possible), if Marvel is applying their stupid comic book marketing to television or what, but any hype generated (as if the average viewer would give a shit about such an obscure character) was offset by the fact that the show did a great job of setting it up and revealing it only to have it blown weeks before it was revealed. This pretty much destroyed the entire episode for me.

Instead of being in the moment and having my mind blown as intended, I spent the entire episode thinking “Oh, so that guy is going to be Deathlok. Look, He’s getting his Deathlok leg. Such Deathlok. So cyborg. Wow.” The name was never spoken or implied, but then at the end of the episode, the camera zooms in on his leg, where you see word is stamped in what would have been a “whoa” moment for loyal comic nerd viewers, but instead was just a “duh” moment because it had been all over the flippin’ web. This kind of crap is new to television, but there’s plenty of precedents elsewhere.

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Spoiler alert, Lois: nobody stays dead in comics. Such a drama queen.

At this point I have to wonder if this won’t become standard operating procedure in popular media. Comic companies have been guilty of deliberately spoiling their most important stories for years in hopes of enticing collectors to flock to get their copy of the historic death or of a big name or some obscure character coming out of the closet. Anybody with a brain knows that collectors flocking will most likely mean there would be no point in collecting an issue since everybody having a copy does little to appreciate the value, but a sale a sale to the comic industry.

How mind-blowing would it have been to have been reading your monthly Superman comic expecting to see the big guy win yet again and to have been met with Doomsday beating the Man of Steel to death instead? Right?! Too bad. In case you missed the media firestorm preceding it, they made damn sure to plaster “THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN” on the cover alongside the (amazing) image of Lois Lane clutching his brutalized body. Sure, there were still feels to be felt, but imagining how much more truly jaw-dropping such a moment could have been if you’d never seen it coming makes me kind of pissed.

On the other hand, take a franchise like Harry Potter. Reports and videos of trolls pirating the books and showing up at midnight bookstore releases to rain spoilers upon unsuspecting fans reveal some pretty strong feelings regarding the practice.

Props to the guy with his hands on his ears going” la la la la”.

Which brings us back to the question, when and why are spoilers acceptable? A lot of us scour the net for any little tidbit of leaked information about upcoming films and television shows, but we will threaten you with bodily harm if you see something before us and try to tell us. We’ll pitch a fit if somebody tells us who dies in a message board post or comment section without proper warning, but we just accept it as part of comic book marketing.

And what is the statute of limitations? Some twists are so ingrained in popular culture that it’s almost unthinkable that somebody wouldn’t be aware of them. Some are so well-known that they transcend the medium altogether and are common knowledge even among people with no interest in the work it came from.

Speaking of transcending mediums, what’s the etiquette with that? Take Game of Thrones, for instance. The show is pretty universally loved and airs some ten eagerly anticipated episodes a year. But the books the show devoutly follows have been available for consumption for years. Wherever people discuss the TV show, the George R.R. Martin fans are likely to converge and begin discussing things that the show hasn’t caught up with. This leads to all sorts of drama.

Is it kosher to banish commenters who are big enough fans to have read the original work to cater to fans who aren’t? I mean, A Song of Ice and Fire may not be Star Wars, but most of the stories have been out there being discussed for years. At what point do you just say “get off the damn web if you don’t want to know”?  Or does a cross-medium franchise have its own set of rules? What if it’s a remake? Can I not discuss that Carrie kills everyone at her prom (oops) because you haven’t seen the latest revamp yet and lived your entire life without bothering to see the classic film (or other remake) or read the popular book? To what extent are those in the know beholden to those who aren’t?

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I mean, if you love something enough to care about spoilers, odds are you are going to be on top of it. There’s a definite level of dickishness associated with deliberately spoiling something for somebody else, depriving them of that “holy shit” moment they can never get back, but there’s also a slightly lower level for people who choose not to keep up with popular culture and make a show out of making everybody else dance to their ever-so-slow tune.

Then there’s the tricky business of online reviewing. To fully explore what makes some stories great, it can be necessary to allude to if not state outright plot elements that might be better left a surprise. Do you risk semi-spoilers in order to better convey your appreciation, or do you hope that your vague positivity shines through and gets the point across? People might say to always avoid spoilers outright, but recalling the most famous and celebrated film critic of all time wrote a popular review of Night of the Living Dead that was little more than just a list of spoilers and observations regarding children in the audience with precious little backlash, one wonders what the standard is. Maybe it was just a different time.

As far as I can see at this time, spoilers for casual pre-release marketing purposes seem to be acceptable while post-release spoilers between fans are unacceptable. Trailers that give away practically the whole plot of a film or TV commercials and “on the next…” segments are pretty commonplace. The current review standard seems to indicate that spoilers are okay so long as you give fair warning first. With that in mind, at some point I wish we’d question the need for major entertainment companies to use them as advertising. That seems to be the one area nobody has a problem with and it’s often the most egregious.  Unless one is trolling. Like so:

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Spoiler alert, losers!

Personally, I kind of prefer the J.J. Abrams approach to marketing. Dude doesn’t want to tell us shit about shit he’s doing. Half the time, he’ll avoid even giving you the title of a film for as long as he can unless he’s working on an established franchise. Remember that first trailer for Cloverfield? THAT is how you get peoples’ attention. Giant monster movies are a small market, but his refusal to tell anyone what the hell they just saw made what would have been a cult release at best a majorly anticipated event among all sorts of moviegoers.

So round and round we go, when we can rock spoilers nobody knows. Perhaps Congress could spare some time from their lax schedule of destroying America to hash out some Constitutional amendments regarding lawful use of spoilage. In the meantime, surf the web at your own risk because here in the wildlands of cyberspace there be trolls and corporate leaks. Beware!

90’s Flashback: Shadowrun

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Hoi, chummers; it’s nostalgia time. I’d say don’t call it a comeback, but in this case that’s exactly what we may be looking at. But first let me take you back to a time when most good music came from Seattle and nobody said Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino were overrated just to sound smart. A time when if you wanted to connect to the internet, you had to listen to your computer make god awful noises and then wait for minutes on end for a single image to slowly load one line at a time. A time when the concept of a fake nerd was like pretending to be a leper. And the phones? They were connected to wall sockets like freakin’ lamps or something.

In the 90’s I was a high school virgin and I’d like to think Shadowrun played a part in that second part. What the hell is a Shadowrun, you ask? You mean that multiplayer-only shooter that Gamestop sells for like five bucks tops? Yeah, I don’t know why that was a thing either, but back in the day Shadowrun was the coolest thing ever.

Think about all of my favorite things, some of which are likely your favorite things if you’re here. All right, I like science fiction and fantasy. I like post-apocalyptic dystopias and cyberpunk and made up lingos and guns. I like anti-heroes and kickass mercenaries and novels and evil corporations and virtual reality and monsters. I like role-playing games (video or traditional), Japanese culture, and, damn it, I like gritty stories. If only there was some place I could get all of these things at once…

Right, Shadowrun has all of those things and then some. It’s like Ghost in the Shell, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Matrix had a threesome baby, but before two of those things ever existed. Whoa, I think I just blew my own mind. Seriously, though, the first thing I thought when I saw the trailer to The Matrix was “lame Shadowrun rip-off”. This thing about ruled my life for most of my high school years and I’m pretty sure I still have a stash of the novels with the pages falling out of them in a box in my garage somewhere waiting to be excavated.

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Pictured: awesomeness.

The multimedia franchise started with FASA’s pen-and-paper RPG set in a future version of Earth where magic returned to the world, mutating many humans into orcs, elves, dwarves, and the like and giving the long-abused Native Americans (who retained their connection to the Earth) the power to enact a spiritual apocalypse of sorts via a large scale Ghost Dance ritual. This threw the planet into chaos and allowed them to seize political power, segmenting the United States in the process and crashing the global economy, leaving the remaining megacorporations to govern and Japan as the last global superpower.

Citizens are branded with serial identification numbers before they are allowed proper jobs and many of those without are what are known as shadowrunners. They are essentially illegal mercenaries who usually make a living being hired to do the megacorps’ dirty work. This includes various coolness like espionage, hacking, wetwork, magic rituals, and even full-on assaults for particularly hostile takeovers.

I mentioned The Matrix before. Shadowrun’s cyberspace is actually referred to by that exact name and is a virtual reality environment where a person connects their brain directly to a computer to traverse the internet as a VR environment. Deckers –as they are called- use illegal programs tied to their cyberdeck hardware that can manifest as objects in the Matrix and defense programs appear as physical threats designed to fry the brains of unauthorized users.

As you can see, it’s a really complex universe with limitless imaginative possibilities and I’d say that the various creators have utilized it to the utmost. Most of the many novels I read were excellent, the most prominent being the Secrets of Power trilogy written by Shadowrun co-creator Robert N. Charrette. There were forty novels in all during the ten years that they were originally produced. Forty. Novels.

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A little light reading.

They featured everything from ghouls and vampires to weretiger assassins, dragon CEO’s, animal shamans, and technologically enhanced “street samurai”.  One memorable story focused on the harrowing experience of a character whose human form changed into a monstrous troll and saw him shunned by society, forcing him to take to the streets and learn the shadowrunner trade the hard way. It’s actually pretty hard to go wrong with concepts like these to work with.

Cool stuff, yeah? Someone should have made a video game or something. Oh wait, they made several. The only one I’ve played was the cult classic Super Nintendo masterpiece from 1993 that introduced me to the franchise and remains one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It was borderline flawless and followed a year later by a cool looking Sega Genesis game that I regrettably never got to play. That one appeared to have a much superior Matrix and better character customization, which was something that was shockingly lacking in the SNES title.

At this point one may be thinking that Japan would be all over this franchise due to the insanity of it all. Yes, the game was released there, yes there is a manga for it, and yes there was a Shadowrun video game released in that style; everything but an actual anime series. Supposedly, the video game even incorporated rolling dice into the gameplay in homage to the original work, which sounds really cool. Sadly, it game was for the Sega Mega-CD and gamers know how that worked out.

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Let me just give a quick eff you to anybody who saw this on the shelves and thought “nah”.

So where the hell did this franchise go? It was never going to be a pop culture giant, but something this cool and varied with so much to recommend it shouldn’t just vanish. Shadowrun is still a thing on the tabletop gaming scene, but that is about as nichey as niche entertainment gets. Where are the films? Where is the television series? Not even comic? How did that never happen? They even stopped writing books. This is not justice.

Well the good news is that a comeback is being staged. I first took notice in 2007 when a new video game was released. My initial enthusiastic reaction of “ohmygawdrly!” was diminished when I realized that not only was the new game a shooter, but multiplayer only and without much to recommend it beyond the source material. What the hell? An RPG with dozens of great stories and a brilliantly-realized and fascinating world reduced to a second-rate Counterstrike wannabe? Whyyyyyyyy?

Thankfully, that is not all she wrote, so to speak. There are more books being published and thanks to the magic of Kickstarter and Steam, fans finally got a sequel to the 16-bit classics in the form of a little thing appropriately called Shadowrun Returns, released last year.

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Take that, pics or it didn’t happen guy!

Yeah, I didn’t believe it either until I ran across the game while researching an article I was writing about obscure SNES RPG’s a few weeks ago.  As soon as I get my gaming schedule cleared up a little, I’ll definitely be buying this, assuming my crappy laptop can handle it. I may buy it anyways because if it makes enough money, it could get ported to consoles and help revitalize a franchise that is tailor made to make geek dreams come true but faded away before that was considered a viable business model. There is also a MMO in development.

Assuming you like stuff that’s awesome you might consider looking into this franchise if you’re nerd enough. New copies of the original novels are hard to come by, but used copies are pretty cheap online. Or you could go the route I took twenty odd years ago and get into the Shadowrun universe by playing the video game if RPGs are your cup of tea. Either way, it’s a shame this concept never really took off, but I’m glad to see it’s still kicking around.

 

 

 

Piracy and Me: Is Paying for Stuff for Suckers?

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It happens more and more often. Ask somebody what the last CD they bought is and their response is laughter followed with “you still buy CD’s?”  Go to a message board and see somebody complain about having wasted sixty dollars on a half-assed game and behold the mockery at somebody who actually purchased a copy of what could be downloaded from the internet for free.

Right now you are either saying “f*** yeah, loser!” or “Nick, why didn’t you call the police and turn these miscreants in to the proper authorities?!” Any way you look at it, piracy is part of our world now. Welcome to the digital age. The only question is what the hell can we do about it?

Well for starters, let us all collectively point and laugh at the tools who suggest that multi-billion dollar corporations track down and sue the families of every child who downloads a song or watches a Youtube clip that they don’t own the rights to for millions of dollars that they’ll never get just to ruin as many lives as possible. That’s not an option.

And let’s go ahead and mock those ridiculous anti-piracy ads that corporations have possibly been wasting more money making and distributing than they were ever losing from piracy while we’re at it.

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Ummmmmm….they may be going about this wrong.

That last ad does have a point seeing that corporate capitalism resembles pimping more than anything else. The people at the top have other people do all the work, take all of the profits, and then dole out as little scratch as they can get away with to the people whose labors earn them their fortunes.

With the internet making information so easily transferable and most media being easily reduced to information, it’s natural that people would begin file sharing. The concept is a natural progression from handing a CD or book to an acquaintance. But now, the entire world is digitally acquainted.

So we’re back to the question of what to do about it. I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time. There are so many ways to obtain media in the digital age, but the people selling it seem stuck in a business model that no longer works. Their reaction to theoretical lost profits from piracy seems to have been to raise prices, which in turn has led more and more people to turn to piracy for relief.

Income and employment are down, the cost of living is up, and corporate profits are still rising. It makes you wonder who is the real bad guy here. You know what? I NEED a downloadable car.

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Go, internet, go!

Do I care if the pimps at Disney or Microsoft or Warner Brothers lose money? Not even a little. But here’s where it becomes an issue for those of us whose interests extend beyond the mainstream. Capitalism is the closest thing we have to true democracy. We vote with our money. If a little video game or indie flick made by an innovative artist comes out and can’t get any financial traction, they go away, possibly never to resurface.

This is why I still buy DVD’s, video games, CD’s, and books. I think of it as donating to the cause. Whenever I can, I try to support the cause. But is particularly taxing for a comic book reader and anime fanatic like myself. Comics are a few bucks an issue and anime series are typically released in pricy box sets. And here I am turning my pockets inside out to find only lint.

Comics in particular have been an issue for me. There are a ton of them out there and it’s nigh impossible to keep up, much less acquaint oneself the classics without devoting yourself entirely to it. This is the medium where I lean on file sharing the most, and feel the worst for doing it. It’s an industry I support as much as I can, but to read an entire run of a comic series is a triple digit investment at least.

How do I live with myself having availed myself of a creator’s blood sweat and tears without paying? Well, if I love it, I will buy it when I can. In the meantime, I have often taken to the net to review and otherwise hype my favorite titles as a way to give back. It may not be legal tender, but I like to think in some way I do my part to pay the artists back by bringing in new fans. Hopefully ones with fatter wallets. Isn’t rationalization fun?

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Then there’s anime. It’s a niche industry in America that always manages to find a major distributor like the now-defunct ADV or Funimation, but it is always struggling. Companies go out of business and operate on small budgets with many of the voice actors also taking on production duties in the localizations. It’s a small circle. But more and more often fans are taking to streaming on the internet rather than waiting for DVD releases.  This doesn’t bode well.

Hits like Attack on Titan and Kill la Kill are viewed, raved over, disseminated, memed, and moved on from long before they even make it stateside now. I prefer to wait given the choice, but that brings me back to money. The prices went down for a while, but they seem to be back on the rise now.  Netflix has a massive anime selection, but they are far from reliable when it comes to getting the latest and greatest, either to stream or on disc.

Basically, if you want to have any hope of keeping up, your options are either stream for free, import on the cheap, or wait a year or two and pay a ton for it. I tend to trend towards the middle option, but that opens up the even worse issue of of bootlegging.

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Moving on to video games, PC gamers are legendary for their pirating prowess. In fact, they kind of invented modern piracy as we know it. As I said, it’s commonplace to go to a message board and see a poster declare that a game wasn’t worth the money they paid for it followed by a number of posts cackling at the very concept of paying money for a game.

Personally, I have almost never pirated games; they are too readily available and the prices on games go down pretty steadily after release. Console gaming is a primary hobby for me and I support it with gusto so my conscience is clean here, but the community on the whole is dirtier than bad hentai.

Game developers have probably the best reactions to piracy too. Sometimes they release augmented copies onto the web that are deliberately broken at key points so that after a gamer has spent ours investing themselves, they get reamed by being unable to progress further. I can’t say I disapprove of this method.

Others take a kinder gentler approach. Hotline Miami creator Jonatan Söderström went so far as to offer technical assistance for pirated copies of his 8-bit 80’s ultraviolence wonderland after it was torrented far and wide. When questioned about it, his statement was “I’m not going to criticize this, it’s a fact of life. It would be nice if guys could find it within themselves to pay for it, but that’s the world I’m in, so you know, you just have to take it for what it is.” My reaction to this dead-on assessment was to go buy the game.

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Last on the chopping block: music. This has been ground zero for the fight against piracy, and it will possibly be the industry that finds a solution. Apple’s one-dollar-a-song approach paid huge dividends for everyone, but that price point has since gone up substantially to the point where it’s still often a much better deal to just buy the physical disc.

While other companies are finding some success with a subscription model, the constant raising of prices for downloads and the decline of physical media has led to pirating becoming the standard way to own music. I’ve had many a head shaken in my direction while trying to extoll the virtues of buying stuff instead of torrenting it to music “fans”.

And maybe they’re right. After all, most artists make precious little from album sales with the record label taking the lion’s share. Whenever I buy a new album, they release a better version with bonus tracks or a live disc a few months later, which makes me feel like a sucker for being in such a hurry to tell them to shut up and take my money. After they take it, they demand I shut up and buy it again for the bonus tracks.

And with corporations taking things to insane extremes to go after consumers and extort money or ruin their lives while lobbying for draconian new laws that practically make the internet itself illegal, I’m not sure I see a downside to watching them crash and burn. There are plenty of ways for artists to get their work out to the general public in the digital age. Corporate sponsorship is not the only way to gain distribution anymore and without payola and massive advertising campaigns determining what we see and hear in the media, quality and word of mouth could actually determine what succeeds for a change.

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I’m still on the fence, personally. While I can acknowledge the ethical issues with torrenting when you should be buying, I’ve never been a proponent of eliminating file sharing or hunting and legally savaging those who engage in it. It’s just too valuable a tool and I’m not at all sold on the concept that it’s destroying our way of life; maybe the way of life of someone with a much higher standard of living than mine, but that sounds like somebody with comparatively little to bitch about if you ask me. And is it as bad as knocking an old lady down and stealing her purse or even shoplifting? Psh. Distributing a digital copy is not the same as taking somebody else’s property. Until you understand the difference, you not able to partake in this discussion seriously.

But this has all been discussed to death. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to keep with my happy medium in the meantime. My meager monthly comic bill nets me a few hours of reading, and a pricey anime box set I might not even enjoy that much will keep me busy for a few more, but to even imagine an attempt to give love everywhere it’s due in geek culture, torrents and streaming are a necessity. Otherwise I simply would never read or watch a lot of great titles and that would be a shame for artist and thief alike.

Is not paying and not reading/watching in any way better than not paying, reading/watching, and spreading the love? I don’t believe it is. And this is why piracy and I will maintain a casual acquaintance. I’ll never suggest that we should not pay into the things we enjoy, but at the same time I think we have to respect that the sellers have so much more than the buyers at this point and there is so much out there that cheating a little is kind of the way it’s going to be for a lot of us. Just don’t forget that some things are well worth supporting and I won’t tell if you won’t.

Five Awesome 90’s Arcade Brawlers That Deserve Rereleases

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Ah, the early-to-mid 90s. The silver age of gaming it may be, but a golden era it was. Video games were evolving from quaint pastime and pop fad status into full blown big-budget entertainment presentations, e-sports, and personal obsessions. Out with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong; in with Ken Masters and Johnny Cage. It was time to kick some ass.

In the 16-bit console era arcades were still a viable form of entertainment because the games were 32-bit, meaning you could play PlayStation quality games there years before PlayStation was a thing. Also, the multiplayer; if you really wanted to test your skills or team up for four player co-op action, the arcade was where you did that. Home consoles couldn’t compare at the time.

While 2D fighters were definitely the defining genre of the 90’s arcade scene, there were a surprisingly large number of excellent beat ‘em ups on display right alongside them, although one could argue the Double Dragon/Final Fight heyday was over.

Still, some of them became classics in their own right like The Simpsons and X-Men, and have since received digital re-releases on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. But many of my favorites remain obscurities that were overshadowed by the fighting game craze and never got their time to shine in spite of how incredibly fun they were. Today, I’m sharing some of the funnest arcade games of all time with you.

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

golden axe revenge of death adder

Remember Golden Axe, fellow old-schooler? Of course you do. Everyone remembers Golden Axe as Sega’s 1989 fantasy multiplayer side-scrolling beat ‘em up that set the standard and gave Genesis owners something other than Sonic to crow about. The one where half the time you ended up batting your own ally in the arcade because people are dicks. While that one is a true classic, it kind of pales in comparison to its arcade-exclusive descendant, released just three years later.

The Revenge of Death Adder featured an all-new cast -including a giant carrying a dwarf on his back, a trident-wielding elf (my favorite), a female centaur, and your typical barbarian- and featured four player co-op. In addition the game actually had branching paths, allowing you got to choose different routes through the level, adding replay value.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that you could ride on giant goddamn scorpions and praying mantises? The older Golden Axe games had fire-breathing dragons and those weird four-legged bird things, but having a giant insect munch a dude’s head or drive its stinger into his chest was a new level of cool, and hearing the exclamations of bystanders when you brutally finished an enemy that way never got old.

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

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This Capcom gem was based on a comic book and was made into a short-lived cartoon series, but I only know the franchise from the video game. Three players could choose from four characters and beat asses using their fists and a large variety of weapons.

But that’s standard procedure. What made this one stand out was the dinos. They weren’t just enemies to be defeated. In fact, they weren’t necessarily enemies at all. They typically wandered the screen for a while before leaving, but they’d often take a chunk out of the baddies before they went. As long as you kept your distance, you could use the wildlife to your advantage, which was really cool. I was partial to the sleeping T. Rex. When you woke him up, he freakin’ RAGED, typically taking out every enemy onscreen.

So there’re the dinosaurs, but what’s this about cadillacs? On occasion you could cruise through a level in style, mowing down all of the pedestrian losers as you went. All in all, it was one of the funnest games in the arcade.

The Punisher

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Another Capcom game, this one starring Frank Castle (with Nick Fury as the optional second player!) laying waste to the hordes of organized crime. It came and went like most beat ‘em ups, but this one left a lasting impression for the sheer mayhem of it.

What set the basic gameplay apart this time was the huge amount of weaponry involved. Most games of the genre have you kick, punch, jump, and maybe do a special move or two by pushing two buttons together. On occasion you’ll get a baseball bat or something to smash through the fodder even more efficiently, but in The Punisher you had all sorts of items to deal death with.

Katanas, submachine guns, flamethrowers, pistols, hammers, and all sorts of other nastiness was laying around to help you lay waste. It was over-the-top and so very 90’s, but holy crap was it fun. One of those games you play with a friend next to you with both of you shouting the whole time about how much ass was being kicked before thine eyes.

Alien vs Predator

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Chalk up three in a row for Capcom. Between this and the Street Fighter and Marvel fighting titles, there’s really no argument about which company rocked arcades the most in the 1990’s. If I had to pick just one of these games to get re-released this would be the one, and Capcom has stated that it is the game they get the most requests for from fans, so it seems likely.

First of all, it’s Alien vs. Predator, which is a concept that sells itself as the decades of comics, novels, films, and video games featuring the title can attest to. The variety of characters (two different Predators, and two different cyborg marines) and enemies as well as the depth of combat puts it ahead of most (if not all) beat ‘em ups of the era.

This is the first side-scroller I can think of that utilized fighting game special moves. There only one button for melee attacks, but combined with the joystick, you could pull off special moves like a Predator-style dragon punch in addition to the usual mashing combos.

There was also a button used for ranged attacks such as the Predators’ burners or the marine’s guns (which would overheat or need to be reloaded), which added an interesting and unique balance to the combat.

Naturally, there were other items to be picked up in addition to each character’s individual weapon, including the above-pictured grenade launcher. As you can see , the graphics were exceptional for the time and combined with the strong concept and exceptional gameplay, this was the gold standard.

Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones

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This could be my rose-tinted fanboy goggles talking, but I remember this game really blowing me away when I finally found it at a roller rink in a city thirty minutes away from my hometown. Roller skates? What are those even for? I can walk, damn it, and I hardly ever fall down doing that. When I went to Roller Town, I always ended up playing video games the entire time, and finding this one there was a memorable gaming highlight for me.

Maybe it’s because I was disappointed with Double Dragon 2’s odd control scheme after the perfection of the original classic, or maybe it’s because I played the hell out the 8-bit NES version of Double Dragon 3 and the arcade one was so much cooler, but I find it hard to believe that this game was not well received when it was released.

There were a lot of things about this one that I liked, but my favorite was the store system. During the level you could find a store where you would insert more coins and buy really cool new playable characters, power up your existing ones, or even buy a weapon for yourself.

It seems like bad DLC before bad DLC was bad DLC, but I found that it was extremely well-balanced. Pretty much anything you bought for your character for an additional quarter would double your lifespan, so it worked out great.

In addition to that interesting innovation that never caught on, there were double attacks two players could pull off together by standing back to back, and the variety of environments as the Lee brothers traveled the world was pretty killer. It was a definite return to form for a revolutionary series in my eyes. I figure players could accumulate points in-game to spend in a rerelease, but that seems unlikely since this game seems pretty forgotten.

One of the best things about the advent of the digital age is that smaller, older games like these can be released for mass consumption fairly easily and inexpensively where there is a demand. Right now a lot of these games can only be played in their original form at all via emulators on PC, and that’s not exactly legal or ideal. Games like Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Castle Crashers pay tribute to the genre and there are plenty of XBL/PSN ports and HD remixes going around so it only seems natural that these gems get their day in the sun as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

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Fallen From Grace: Can the JRPG Make a Comeback?

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 You know, there was a time when Japanese role-playing games were the toast of my gaming world; back before the market was inundated with a million zombie games and first person shooters and sequels were the exception and not the rule. Western RPGs were the domain of PC gaming, but consoles were ruled by the East and companies like Square and Enix (now consolidated as Square Enix for your convenience).

The differences between WRPGs and JRPGs were many, with Japanese games tending to trend towards more complex, linear stories and colorful characters influenced by anime while American and European ones were more likely to offer players freedom and medieval fantasy settings. All in all, it was a pretty balanced system with plenty of creativity to go around on both ends.

But at some point, our friends in the East seem to have stopped trying. In the last two console generations, Western role-playing games have surged to new heights led by BioWare and Bethesda while their Japanese counterparts have practically stood still resting on their laurels. As a result, their place in gaming culture has been reduced back to the cult status from whence they came after the PlayStation era saw a surge in mainstream JRPG acceptance. Why?

To me it really seems like the genre has fallen into a rut. As if they are just repeating themselves over and over trying to maintain the holdovers from the heyday long passed. I’m still drawn to JRPGs as a general rule, but I’m actually beginning to get a bit leery of them as I pick up more and more lengthy titles that gobble up my time needlessly and end up being something I do just to do out of habit rather than something I actively look forward to.

Even the titles that do almost everything right are kind of paling in comparison to the presentation of Western titles. I just tapped out on Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, which was somehow disappointing to me in spite of the fact that it’s refreshingly old-school and features the charm of the legendary animators at Studio Ghibli. The combat is fantastic and has a cool Pokemon element to it, I died a ton of times (a good thing), and the game does not auto-heal you after every fight making it the most challenging RPG I’ve played in a long while.

But the story is so full of fetch-quest clichés and hand-holding elements that are really out of place considering the level of challenge in the combat that it takes me out of it. Excessive grinding takes up too much time that I don’t just have anymore. Modern RPG’s have got to keep the story moving.

And then there’s the fact that the game is only semi-voiced. You’d think at this point that recording some audio would be the easiest thing to do in a linear story-based game. Look at what BioWare does in comparison with their endless combinations of dialogue from worlds filled with fully-voiced characters and nuanced performances. Going back to a AAA RPG that will have one or two lines of spoken dialogue and then revert back to minutes of text in mid-conversation complete with that teeth-grinding noise the letters make as they’re spelling out across a box has become an issue for me this gen.

Furthermore, there are games such as the Disgaea series, which prides itself on characters that level to 9999 and do quadrillions of points of damage in a single attack. And they don’t level particularly fast or do crazy high damage to begin with. It’s just that the game is designed for people who want a game that takes years of grinding to max out.

But what about those of us who just want something really damn good and memorable but don’t necessarily want to pour hundreds of hours in running back and forth and fighting the same battles again and again?

There was a time when these kinds of games EARNED hundreds of hours of gameplay. They didn’t need to bloat the story or force excessive grinding. You wanted to play it multiple times. The depth wasn’t artificially inflated with pointless features that are tacked on for the hell of it, the games were just deep to begin with.

Titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Ogre Battle should have revolutionized the genre, but instead seem to have broken it since I’ve spent all of the years since trying to find games that recapture the magic of those kinds of classics, but usually found only pale imitations if I’m lucky.

There were some other semi-bright spots in the past gen including great creativity of concept in titles like The Last Remnant, Record of Agarest War, and Resonance of Fate, but even these were marred by low production values. I finished none of them in spite of the fact that I really enjoyed them for the most part because I always ended up finding something else I’d rather play.

Some of them had last-gen graphics that were an eyesore in addition to the lack of consistent voicework, some had features that felt frustratingly unfinished and lacked overall polish while some were just too long to finish before weariness set in, and some had all three. There’s got to be a balance that can be attained.

Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma brilliantly utilized gameplay elements from Shadow of the Colossus and featured a great new AI partner system to create one of the standout JRPG’s of the last decade while aping several Western elements. But it had an unimpressively smallish world that relied heavily on traveling back and forth across the same areas fighting the same enemies to stretch its length with few memorable characters along the way.

Titles like Elder Scrolls an Fallout offer massive landscapes that always have more for you to explore and great fully-voiced dialogue from tons of characters, showing that even the best current JRPGs have a ways to go before they are ready to reach the stars again.

So the question here is what can Japanese developers do to catch back up with the heavy hitters? I already mentioned that beefing up the presentation is a must. At this point watching animated characters silently mouthing words and gesturing as text taptaptaps across a dialogue box in a current gen title isn’t really acceptable. I’d even prefer the visual novel format with voiced static character images at this point.

Another thing that needs to happen is a reanalysis of the best games from the classic days of the genre. At some point the genre wasn’t broken and they tried to fix it anyways. Final Fantasy Tactics is the best example of this. Try playing the original and then play the portable sequels and newer games of the same genre like the Disgaea series to get an idea of what I’m talking about.They took a perfect and complex strategic battle system and stripped away a lot of the depth that made it outstanding in favor of shallow gimmickry and because of that, the classic stands alone as a true masterpiece.

It really seems like the least interesting titles of the last few generations are the ones that are getting endless sequels that seem more like new paint jobs on the same bland gameplay with redundant stories and cardboard cut-out characters that are there to fill archetype requirements more than anything else.

This production line approach is what is killing the genre. They choose to streamline where there should be depth and they add needless complexity where they should streamline, and even when they come up with a new and creative concept, they skimp on the production values.

It seems like most non-strategy RPGs are loathe to give you more than three characters in your party anymore, which is a shame. Final Fantasy has confronted the issue at times by allowing characters to switch combat roles, but this is the wrong approach.

Diversity is strength in a party-based RPG and making characters more functionally similar to one another is a huge mistake that robs the genre of something very special. Older titles in the series and games like Suikoden gave you dozens of unique party members and let you build teams of up to 5-6 characters with many other options.

In addition to the more complex elements of classic titles that need to make a comeback, obviously some fresh blood needs to come in. Dragon’s Dogma had the right idea with incorporating elements from non-JRPGs. More player customization is always a good thing, and open world gameplay is without a doubt the wave of the present and future, but I’d also recommend some new approaches to get ahead of the curve.

A new take on equipment, for example, could be something really beneficial. At this point, I couldn’t even imagine how much time I’ve spent perusing in-game stores and eyeing the merchandise, comparing it to my own equipment and trying to guess whether a treasure chest in the next dungeon will render an expensive purchase obsolete.

One thing I’d really love to see is less emphasis on constantly finding more powerful new items and more emphasis on choice.Having several varieties of equipment available with various pros and cons and letting the character decide which suits their play-style/character with the option to upgrade and improve or switch along the way would be preferable to the current status quo of having to equip whatever weapon is the strongest to keep up. This would eliminate some long-standing headaches with traditional RPG’s and possibly help revitalize a genre that seems to have become too mired in its own tropes to grow and evolve meaningfully.

It bothers me to see the country that revolutionized video gaming and whose pop culture has always been ahead of the curve fall behind and struggle to keep up when they could be upholding their tradition of innovation instead of forging a tradition of bland conservatism. The JRPG is a genre that still has a lot of potential, but to utilize it they are going to have to take chances and embrace some change. Here’s to hoping that the next generation of Japanese games for playing roles throws off the shackles of looming irrelevance and brings back the spirit of the 1990’s golden age for all of the gaming world to appreciate again.