Posted by: seanmalstrom | October 11, 2016

Email: Gamasutra’s Article on the History of Japanese RPGs

He still gets Zelda wrong (as most people do). It definitely was an RPG. You improved your health, your armor, your weapon, got new weapons, etc. Very little puzzles in Legend of Zelda, but it was very high on exploration, arcade combat, and RPG growth elements. Zelda 2 was in the same direction. So was Link to the Past.
I am glad Final Fantasy prevailed over Dragon Quest in the West. Final Fantasy 1 was damn cool, and it is rich in story, just not in ‘plot’. FF1 has the richest mythology I’d say. I also prefer FF1 lacking the ‘cutesy’ crap or japanese crap that would later soil the series. When I play FF 1, I see it as entering an apocalyptic world where the game’s mythology just keeps getting deeper and deeper. It was very surprising at the time.
-Kill Evil Wizard, Save Princess-
This is how the game starts. It is very expected, very cliche, but the game purposely baits you as in saying it is rejecting that premise for a RPG. Dragon Quest did not do this (you rescue the princess as did Zelda and Mario).
-Getting your boat-
You enter a town that is conquered by pirates. I had never seen such a thing before in a RPG! It made the game feel alive. And this is how you get your boat.
Elfland is pretty cliche, as is killing the EVIL ELF. The miners were interesting, and it was interesting you could affect the overworld map by blowing up part of the land.
-Earth Crystal-
Undead dungeons galore. Boy, this was when the game really got tough.
-Fire Crystal-
Getting a boat and going through the rivers was cool and unexpected. The old men drowning me in the game’s mythology was cool too. Final Fantasy 1 nailed the mythology because in ancient myths, the hero is not actually beating a bad guy, the hero is correcting time itself. Getting the airship was nuts. Airships were not in Western culture then. Getting cool and future technology FROM THE PAST is why this game is so high in the mythological sweetness part.
-Dragon Castle-
They upgraded your classes! In this RPG, the dragons are citizens, not monsters to be killed. Cool.
-Water Crystal-
You get in a submarine and visit a lost city under the sea. It is so cool. The northern continent is characterized by a collapsed ‘futuristic civilization’ which is really, really cool. I don’t think I’ve seen another RPG do it this well.
-Sky Crystal-
Transport to a Flying Castle where you battle robots and mechs that shoot lasers. Fuck. This is not what I was expecting when I started thsi game.
-Final Dungeon-
Go backward centuries in time to defeat the bosses the first time (!) and destroy Chaos itself. It makes no sense but it does.
When I play games like Final Fantasy IV or VI, I am amazed at their high mythology. IV has a couple of fallen civilizations, but it is on the Moon. VI twists it by saying that futuristic technology is here today but it is MAGIC that is lost in the past. Very, very clever.
I haven’t been able to get into a Final Fantasy game since. I also dislike Dragon Quest’s constant use of cliches and the series’ lack of mythology. Though, I did like the Edrick Trilogy. In Dragon Quest 1, your ‘best armor’ is ‘old armor’ from the great Edrick hero.


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