Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Posts Tagged ‘final fantasy

Genre Study: Japanese RPGs (JRPGs)

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jrpg

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 ilk, 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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Day 8

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On the eighth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Eight Final Fantasy Titles!

The Final Fantasy series has always been a staple in gaming since it was first introduced on the NES in 1990.  While the series has undergone various changes, the basic format of multiple adventurers taking on opponents in turn-based combat was still around with each iteration on the Playstation.  Final Fantasy VII released in January 1997 and at that point I didn’t yet own the console and couldn’t get the game everyone was talking about.  I thought it was odd that every gamer I knew wanted to play this game – Final Fantasy games had always been big with some gamers, but it was never a universal series.  After I got to see it in action in a local Babbage’s, I completely understood.  FFVII was gorgeous – futuristic cutscenes, impressive graphics, a cyberpunk atmosphere and versatile battle system (including the infamous materia magic).  Even more intriguing was the fact that this was on the Sony Playstation as Nintendo had been the sole home for Final Fantasy games in America for almost a decade.  I got the game for Christmas in late 1997 and immediately began to play it, but with a 70+ hour campaign along with a girlfriend and school restarting, I only got as far as the big twist that concluded disc 1. 

After the giant success of Final Fantasy VII, the Playstation quickly became the home of both role-playing games (RPGs) and Square Enix titles.  I had always wondered why the Final Fantasy series had jumped from part three to seven, a common inconsistency for Japanese RPGs released in America.  An article in Electronics Gaming Monthly about the series would reveal that in America we only got certain titles and Nintendo had chosen to number them differently for consistency with an America audience.  It turns out that Final Fantasy II and III released on the Famicom in Japan but never made it stateside (probably the massive undertaking of regionalizing it and the fact that the SNES released only a year after the original FF).  In America we got Final Fantasy IV, renamed to Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy VI, renamed to Final Fantasy III.  How confusing, right? 

As Final Fantasy fever hit the Sony Playstation and newfound gamers began to enter the magical worlds of RPGs, it seemed every Christmas had a Final Fantasy on shelves.  Thanks to multiple teams working on projects, Final Fantasy VIII would grace store shelves of eager gamers in 1999 and Final Fantasy IX only a year later.  At this point Sony ran into a similar problem that Nintendo had: the Playstation was coming to an end and by the following year the Playstation 2 would be available.  In a genius decision taken straight from the book of Nintendo, Sony decided to continue to release classic Final Fantasy titles on the Playstation.  Launching as dual-game collections, most games would give you a combination of a game US audiences had played along with one they hadn’t.  Final Fantasy Anthology offered Final Fantasy V and VI, which would be most familiar to audiences of the time given the popularity of Final Fantasy III (VI) on SNES and introduce a cult favorite with VFinal Fantasy Collection would also release that year and include Final Fantasy IV, better known as II in America, to complete the SNES packaged offering.  Those that didn’t catch the extremely rare and high-priced Collection could pick up Final Fantasy IV along with Chrono Trigger, an SNES classic from the makers of both Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, in Final Fantasy Chronicles.  In the final days of the Playstation, Christmas 2003 would be adorned with Final Fantasy Origins, collecting Final Fantasy I and II.  If you’re paying attention, that’s eight whopping Final Fantasy games and more than 500 hours of overall gameplay (and that’s not even counting Chrono Trigger). 

Back then I remember a friend of mine that was so obsessed with the Final Fantasy games that his mother would just ask if he wanted the new Final Fantasy again that year.  It was during those years that I wasn’t gaming often and when I did I definitely didn’t have time for a huge Final Fantasy game.  Thankfully I recently picked up most of these titles on Amazon – yes, Amazon has new copies of these particular Playstation games on its site at this moment (and for cheap too!) – and will eventually try to find the time to work through them.  Much like the HD remakes today, each title featured enhanced graphics and new CGI cutscenes.  For many RPG fans the wonderful world of Final Fantasy opened up and they were given the ability to enjoy a whopping eight titles in one console generation, not to mention the fact that they would all still work on both Playstation 2 and Playstation 3.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 21, 2011 at 9:57 am