Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Archive for the ‘Genre Study’ Category

Genre Study: Roguelikes and MetroidVania Games

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Lately many games that embrace former genres that had fallen to the wayside are making a comeback.  As a result lots of games press and developer media contacts like to coin phrases that are based on gameplay styles not many are familiar with.  When someone tells you that Tokyo Jungle is a “roguelike” or that Guacamelee is a “MetroidVania” title, it’s entirely possible you have no idea what that means.  After this article, you will no longer have that problem.


Original Rogue on IBM compatible

Original Rogue on IBM compatible

You may or may not know that the roots of the roguelike come from a 1980 computer game called Rogue, which established the dungeon crawler.  This game was considered genre-changing when compared to the slower paced text adventures such as Zork and Dungeons & Dragons video game ports like Wizardry and Ultima.  Developers Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, Ken Arnold, and Jon Lane site a hybrid between both types with influences from D&D as well as the text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure, which featured a detailed description of a cave system in Kentucky that was so precise it was used by a tourist to navigate parts of the actual caves it was based on.  The result was a game where an adventurer explored a multi-floored dungeon, collecting items and facing enemies, in search of a final artifact (in this case the “Amulet of Yendor”) to complete the game.  Each floor was more difficult than the last, you could not backtrack to a previous floor, and if you died you got a game over, simple as that.  Additionally the layout of the dungeon, items, and enemies were all randomly generated, which meant you would ideally never play the same game twice.  Despite the fact that you would have to start over, the experience of playing the game assisted you in handling enemies, utilizing items, and preparing for future encounters as such that you could eventually beat the game.  Needless to say the game had a tough barrier for entry and popularized itself mostly on Unix systems in colleges across the country, but the public found it too complex and difficult.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Genre Study: Japanese RPGs (JRPGs)

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Nowadays when people refer to a “JRPG” it’s either associated with a flood of nostalgic love for a handful of long-running series or a groan as modern Japanese companies try to capture the form of evolution that many game players strive for.  This is because modern day JRPGs aren’t a whole lot different from the ones that started life and popularity back in the 16-bit era in Japan and the 32-bit era in America.  If you’re not too familiar with or have never played any of these games, modern or classic, you may wonder why games that follow a well-known and successful formula may fail.  Sure, gamers’ tastes have changed to a certain extent, but there’s still plenty of us that love to play these classic titles and have no problem sinking tens of hundreds of hours into beating them all over again.  Unfortunately for modern titles of this ilke, they suffer from a lack of resources and that personal touch that made the older games so charming.  Even when they do, like the recent Wii release The Last Story, these titles still can’t hold a candle to the heavy hitters of history.  As a result fans of the genre have pretty much independently decided to freeze this genre, and its subsequent games, in time and appreciate that era as exactly that: a specific time of genre-specific gaming bliss.  This makes it difficult for modern gamers trying to break into the genre because the amount of time to complete most games is much lower these days, lack of explanation and exploration are things of the past, and the price tags on the “classics” are either sky high or dirt cheap for the “poor ports”.  For that reason, we’ve compiled a basic overview of the genre as a whole, it’s roots, and the factors that make a title considered JRPG.  At the end we also suggest a handful of very accessible titles that are good for those starting out, especially with many of the classics porting to handhelds with varying results, and will continue coverage throughout this site.

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