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Feature: The Essential 20 Japanese RPGs

The Japanese role-playing game is a surprisingly important genre for developers to study - both in terms of gameplay and storytelling, and Gamasutra <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3581/a_japanese_rpg_primer_the_.php">presents an 'Essentia

March 19, 2008

2 Min Read

Author: by Staff

Japanese RPGs that concentrate on narrative and battle systems, favoring storytelling perhaps more than any other genre, actually have more complex roots than many realize, as writer Kurt Kalata explains: "Two of the most popular games back in the day were Ultima and Wizardry. Although all had followings amongst hardcore Japanese gamers, they were a little bit too uninviting for your average console owners, whose ages skewed a bit younger. Yuji Horii, a developer at Enix, decided to take on an interesting experiment. By combing the overhead exploration aspects of Ultima (the third and fourth games, specifically) and the first person, menu-based battle system of Wizardry, a new game was born: Dragon Quest. Released for the Nintendo Famicom in 1986, the game became a phenomenon, and went on to inspire dozens of clones. Most of these are best left forgotten, but it did inspire two more notable franchises: Square's Final Fantasy and Sega's Phantasy Star." With this in mind, Kalata presents a thorough run-down of the top 20 JRPGs of all time and detailed information on each title, including in-depth explanations for each as to why they're worthy of note. Kalata covers more obvious candidates, like the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger, to somewhat under-exposed fan favorites like Shadow Hearts: Covenant: "Shadow Hearts is a game of contrasts. On one hand, you have an immensely violent and brooding hero, fighting in a world filled with hellish demons. On the other hand, you have flamboyantly gay shopkeepers, even stranger cast of supporting characters and a real world setting that grossly misinterprets historical figures and events to its whims. The games consist of moments of tragedy intermingled with moments of total ludicrousness. The first Shadow Hearts -- which was released in American within a week of Final Fantasy X and got totally demolished at retail as a result -- errs a bit too much on the serious side. The third Shadow Hearts, subtitled From the New World, takes place a warped version of 1920s America and conversely errs a bit too much on the wacky side. Sitting beautifully in the middle is Shadow Hearts: Covenant, which balances its tone perfectly." You can now read the full feature, which contains Kalata's complete top 20 as a journey through the best of JRPGs (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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