RPG Analysis

Posted on Dec 6th 2014 at 12:00:00 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under SNES, RPG, Japan, Super Nintendo, Super Famicom, North America, Import, Repro, Fan Translation

Source: Kotaku

If you play Super Nintendo games you know what to expect. A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy III are fantastic games, which many of us hold close to our hearts. Perhaps these were games you played as a kid or during your teens, but you at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you've experienced these essential pieces of gaming history. What we played in North America is only the tip of the iceberg though. There are so many great role playing games that we never got to see because they never left Japan. Here are five games that, thanks to translators and/or repro developers, we can finally add to our backlogs.

Continue reading Stuck in Japan: Five RPGs We Never Got to Play

Posted on Oct 27th 2014 at 10:11:47 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under Critique, RPG, FPS, Upgrade System, Mechanics

Watch Dog's Skill Tree. Source: God is a Geek

I recently started playing Far Cry 3 to see what all the hype surrounding the game was about. The game took some getting used to, since the first-person shooter genre is still very new to me, but there's one mechanic in this game that I'm very familiar with, the skill tree. However, I this mechanic wasn't the right choice for this particular game.

Continue reading You Got RPG in My FPS: Bad Upgrade Systems

Posted on Jul 28th 2014 at 09:06:11 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Indie, Golden Era, Unemployment Quest, Pier Solar, Heart Forth Alicia, Boot Hill Heroes,

There's a current trend in the video games scene to abandon the strict conditions synonymous with large-scale major name development studios in favor of smaller teams that focus on projects they are highly passionate about. This one of the major shifts that's currently changing the way we look at RPGs.

Once role playing games were associated with developers like Square, Atlus, or BioWare, but now smaller teams, some the size of a household family, are making names for themselves. They are the new trailblazers who are defying today's RPG status quo. They are the passionate creators who work on projects that are labours of love. Whether the game is the result of artistic expression or love of the bygone golden era of RPGs, these new names in the gaming market are generating a lot of buzz.

Continue reading IRPG?: RPGs and the Indie Scene, Plus Four You Should Keep Your Eye On

Posted on Feb 25th 2013 at 01:20:07 PM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Silent Protagonist, Speech, Dialogue, Conversation, Character, Story

A hero will always have something to say, but not every hero has a voice. Once utilized simply due to technical limitations in video game development the silent protagonist has come a long way. The strong, silent type used to prevail in early video games and has set the standard of how relationships between the player character and supporting cast members are presented. How the speechless explorer is handled has a significant effect on the game as a whole.

There are two principle versions of the silent protagonist: the mute and the secretive. The first case presents a player character whose dialogue is neither displayed nor implied. The descendent of Erdrick in Dragon Warrior is an exemplary mute hero. These protagonists react to the world and those who inhabit it, and ultimately enable the player to become immersed in the character and story. The benefit of this is that the player can form his or her own thoughts and emotions concerning in-game events which makes the experience feel less scripted. However, if handled too lightly the mute adventurer can be perceived as nothing more than an errand boy. This usually comes about when the player must complete tasks assigned by supporting characters that repeated fail to achieve any seemingly significant plot development.

A secretive protagonist is in many ways a solution to the problems that arise from a completely mute hero. Here, the player character's lines are implied or referenced by the supporting roles. Link is one of these protagonists in that even though he does not technically have any lines of dialogue the character with which he is conversing will react as though he had just said something. Similarly when the secretive character is supposed to speak the game will prompt the player with a Yes or No question. Using this type of protagonist allows for strong bonds to form between the player and the hero which in turn allows him or her to become more real and relatable. This scene from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time displays the traits of a successfully executed secretive protagonist.

I know Zelda isn't an RPG, but this scene gets the point across.

Successfully utilizing a silent hero allows the character to be infused with courage, honour, steadfastness by the player. The character that keeps calm when thrown into the fray of battle, clear and conscious while traversing a dungeon is more often than not an adventure with no real lines of dialogue.

The silent protagonist works to varying degrees, but what this sort of character proves is that a person's actions speak volumes. Of course these voyagers are burdened with immense responsibility. This is why the silent protagonist fits so nicely in the Adventure genre, especially in the RPG. The player learns that when faced with opposition what he or she does is equally important as what can be said. We can also gather that the nature of responsibility itself is often something which we would rather avoid, but by approaching the situation head on with determination and a clear mind success is never out of reach. Despite not being able to talk the quiet hero has a lot to say.

Posted on Feb 13th 2013 at 10:34:14 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, David Cage, Quantic Dream, Maturity, Content, Themes

Last week David Cage, CEO of Quantic Dream, delivered his keynote speech at D.I.C.E. Summit held by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science and what he had to say did not please many gamers. This conference is intended for the video games industry but consumers have a big role in what the developers create.

The entire speech can be found here:

Cage strongly asserts that the video games industry is suffering from what he calls the "Peter Pan Syndrome." He claims that video games have not change much, if at all, in their 40 year history. Yes, there have been technological advances and graphical improvements, but the core of today's games haven't changed. I couldn't agree more and I feel the genre suffering from this problem the most is the RPG.

This is a concern of mine because RPGs have strayed very little from the "save the world" paradigm. On the other hand the games can very little substance, like the Fable series. This genre is a very adaptable one that can easily handle mature themes.

Themes that are more mature are found in Role Playing games, but they are always hidden in the subtext of the narrative. I could extrapolate that Final Fantasy XIII dealt with prejudice and societal perception of the "other," but I had to look beyond the facade of the game to glean these issues. I wished that this was the focal point of the story, seeing how the cast would cope with and overcome being labelled as corrupted outsiders.

It seems that RPGs are used as a means of doing and seeing things can exist beyond our reality. Slaying dragons is fun, but it needs to have meaning. There is nothing wrong with a fantastical game with magic and monsters. They can be very enjoyable providing an escape from our real life problems and worries. However, as a gamer I want to see what happens if RPGs used these authentic issues as primary themes.

I am currently playing through the Level-5 and Studio Ghibli collaboration Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The bright and beautiful colours of this lighthearted game disguise the more serious issue which lies at the core. Ni no Kuni is about loss - how the loss of a young boy's mother can completely disrupt his world. The fantasy setting of the surreal parallel world is used as a narrative device to portray the difficulties Oliver experiences while dealing with the death of his mother. It does not take a stretch of the imagine to consider that losing a dearly loved family member would turn one's world completely upside down. This is also what makes the game great. The theme has meaning and is relatable; it is accessible to anyone even those who have little to no interest in video games.

Accessibility is another area RPGs falter. More often than not these games will not interest someone who does not play games. The stories could be deemed too strange, the characters might be to silly looking. How about a Role Playing game with realistic humans set in a world within the confines of our reality trying to overcome something that is relevant to our modern world. An example could be a man or woman living in persecution for his or her beliefs and how this person copes in a society in which they are not welcome.

I hope to see more mature, more relevant RPGs in the upcoming generation of consoles. This genre is certainly able to tackle more than it is given credit for.

Posted on Jan 29th 2013 at 08:47:55 PM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Collecting, Categorization, Genre, Gameplay, Narrative, Adventure

In Part 1 of my critique on video game categorization I posed the question "Can the Zelda games be considered RPGs?" My stance is that these games cannot be labeled as Role Playing games on the basis that they do not depict the character growth, statistic building, and depth of narrative required of games of the genre.

The Zelda series no doubt presents many enthralling story lines, but the characters are subject to the direction of the narrative. Consider these games to be akin to a Greek myth in which the hero is a victim of the fate determined by the gods. Like Odysseus, Link must take up arms, embark upon a journey of epic proportions and cope with an unalterable destiny. The characters of Adventure games are driven by the story. RPGs display the opposite. The characters push the narrative forward.

Despite this critical fact that separates Adventure and Role Playing games one cannot argue that both involve playing the role of a hero on an adventure. This is why I am not comfortable with the term "RPG." Modern video games, and even many retro titles, cannot be pigeon holed into just one genre category. A game such as Secret of Mana is rooted in the RPG basics and incorporates gameplay elements from the Adventure genre. Titles that merge these two genres are too conveniently labeled as Action RPG. This does provide insight on the game's play style, but does not accurately identify the game as a whole. My solution to this is to look at the adventure itself, the context in which it takes place, and whether characters grow as the game progresses.

Narrative Adventure

This is the typical RPG whether it is turn based or played out in real time. These games depict stories which are driven by the protagonist and his or her companions. Character development is illustrated via statistics, but more so in the dialogue or cut scenes. As the characters grow the story becomes deeper much like a film or novel. These games tend to be longer as more time is spent allowing the player to experience the characters and setting. The structure of the narrative often follows Joseph Campbell's Monomyth.

Fantasy Adventure/Action Adventure

The story is set in a fantastical world which has power over the hero. The protagonist's shortcomings do not impact the story; in this case the story predetermines his or her weaknesses. The focus of these games is directed more to the player having to adapt to and overcome challenges presenting by in game obstacles. These games also follow the Monomyth structure, but take the shortened path which is shown in the upper portion of the diagram.

I've enjoyed looking at what constitutes an "RPG" and like that there is no definitive answer. My solution for the categorization problem uses the characters and storyline of the games, as I feel they are integral to a great gaming experience. What are your thoughts on these labels? How do you identify what is and isn't a Role Playing game?

Posted on Jan 22nd 2013 at 08:30:36 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Collecting, Categorization, Zelda, Genre

The first article in my new RPG Analysis series sparked some great conversation about community members' thoughts of the pricing of Role Playing games. We discussed some of our favourite titles and touched upon the timelessness of the genre. One comment, however, stood out from the lot. Addicted cited The Legend of Zelda as the first RPG he had played to completion.

There is no doubt that Zelda series boasts many great games in its catalogue. The debates lies here: can the Zelda games, which commonly accepted as Action Adventure games, be considered RPGs?

Continue reading Categorization Caveat: Part 1, The Problem

Posted on Jan 15th 2013 at 12:04:56 PM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Collecting, Gaming, Value

As someone new to the hobby of video game collecting the issue of retail value versus perceived value regularly comes to mind. Generally this is not a problem as many retro games can be purchased for reasonably low prices. Simulation, sports, and platforming titles are excellent examples of games that may be acquired for a few dollars with the intent to fill those collection holes fairly easily. There are, however, certain games that command excess amounts of money years after their release. These would include games of the Role Playing genre.

A search on Ebay will yield results displaying complete copies of early entires in the Final Fantasy series with three figure price tags. A minimum wage pay cheque is often insufficient to pay for a complete in box EarthBound. Even games of these genres from less popular consoles command relatively high prices. In many cases these Role Playing games have appreciated in value.

Continue reading Perceived Value and RPGs

Posted on Nov 12th 2012 at 02:59:36 PM by (Fleach)
Posted under NES, Dragon Quest, Adventure, RPG

I am a big fan of RPG style games. I love getting immersed in the mythical and fantastical worlds these games create. From the industrial metropolis of Midgar to the Kingdom of the GreatTree, I relish the experience of guiding my band of adventurers on their quests.

It should come as no surprise that for my mission to play as many NES games as possible I'd sooner rather than later play Enix's Dragon Warrior.

Continue reading FreshNES Part 2: The Adventure Begins

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Role Playing games are my favourite genre of the gaming library. I feel it is appropriate to take a look at the games that have touched me in my time as a gamer and collector and share them with the community. Feel free to discuss your thoughts, ideas, and challenge my opinions. The conversation is welcomed.
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