I’ve been cruising through my backlog lately, and between grinding levels in Persona 2, trying to maximize my additions in Legend of Dragoon, starting a speed run in FFVII, and attempting to get to level 100 on Disc 2 in FFVIII, I have to say that I am in desperate need of a new, fresh game.
Instead I keep going back to replay my retro titles over and over again in new ways, trying to discover things I never knew about them, or new ways to play. Needless to say, in the process of repeatedly destroying some of my favorite games, I started thinking about all the various pieces that make a game really work for me: battle systems, skill point allocation, story arcs, characters, music and all the intangibles.
So I decided to compile the ultimate RPG by putting together the “best” of each of my favorite games to see what it would look like. So without further ado, I give you…
Retrodragon’s Perfect RPG!!!
As a retro gamer, the visuals tend to be of lesser importance when it comes to what makes a game really click . But still, I do have my preferences. I tend to prefer hand drawn art styles, because they bring in something really wonderful to a game. It’s the one
reason I can continue to play Atelier Totori long after I became annoyed with some of the game’s issues. I just plain loved the visuals. Going back to previous gen consoles however, I can only think of a few games whose visuals really inspired me. For example, I still enjoy the anime style of Tales of Destiny II (Tales of Eternia if you will). The colors are bright and fun, and the characters look crisp. The magic and spell visuals are all done with an anime feel, and they have a certain vibrance that just keeps them easy on the eyes.
Another game that I enjoy the visuals of is Final Fantasy Tactics. For whatever reason, I never get sick of those stubby little people shaped sprites. They just work. So when it comes to character design, my Perfect RPG would have hand drawn sprites.
As far as the game world, my favorites have been Skies of Arcadia, (I mean who doesn’t love that world? So well fleshed out) as well as
Final Fantasy XII. The world of Final Fantasy XII had such diverse areas, that it was just a joy to be in. Bright colors, lots of enemies, and always something new to see. I spent more hours than I want to admit in FFXII, so I must have really loved it!
Ultimately then, the visuals for my Perfect RPG would have sprite based hand drawn characters, in a vast colorful world that apparently includes sky travel of some kind. And probably sky pirates.
The one thing I can’t stand in a battle system is drab turn based battles that are either too easy, or don’t provide enough options to really strategize. It’s the only downside to the traditional FF games (at times). The battle system, although often enjoyable,
feels limited. FFX and FFXII are probably the two best variations in my opinion (not counting FFXIII because it’s next gen). They both offered lots of customization options in the way you level and strategize. But my favorite battle system actually comes from my all time favorite RPG: Shadow Hearts: Covenant. The judgement ring and the combo system make for tense battles that keep you on the edge of your toes. You have to pay attention or you just can’t win. I love a challenge. The other battle system that I really love is the additions from Legend of Dragoon. Yeah, I know people have issues with Dragoon, but it’s a personal favorite of mine. You can see the point here though. I love battle systems that use timed button presses to keep the turn based system interesting. FFVIII did this with Squalls gunblade, and even Breath of Fire IV did it with the Super Combo skill. In the end, I just want to feel like I’m doing more than selecting from a menu. I want to interact with the fierceness of the battle on a deeper level.
So for the battle system the Perfect RPG would be a hybrid of turn based battles with an engaging timed button press system.
It’s hard to judge this based on a bunch of games, but I will explain the feel I enjoy the most out of a story: personal and dark. I know
that based on my love for hand drawn sprites you would assume that I like fun care-free stories, but I actually prefer the opposite. I like dark, moody almost horroresque stories. The Shadow Hearts series present this at times, as did the prequel game Koudelka. But for most rpg’s it’s a pretty rare thing. The reason I enjoy the Persona games as much as I do is all about the dark places they take their stories. I like to see storylines that discuss death, suicide and the paranormal. Creepy of me right? But ultimately, it is those stories that make me think about my own life and open up new thoughts for how to view the world around me. Yes, I like the playful storylines of a Hyperdimension game, but come on, only the dark games that deal with real issues will make you think. The other element that the Perfect RPG would have in it’s storytelling would be a good sense of humor. (Actually the horror/humor combo is very successful in both the persona games and the Shadow Hearts games).
So the story would have to be just a little bit on the dark side, and deal with real life emotions. Then temper the dark parts out with some good old fashioned humor. Perfecto.
The Perfect RPG cast is hard to really nail down. But I always enjoy a game that provides lots of strong support to the main protagonist. Yes I need a strong hero or heroine, but they need to be surrounded by a team that keeps the battles and story interesting. I love the cast in the first two Shadow Hearts games, but the third was a different story. FFVI easily has the best cast of any Final Fantasy, although Lightning might be my favorite overall FF character. Some of the Tales games have had great cast’s, I’m thinking of Abyss and
Symphonia in this case. You might think I would go for the cast of a Xenosaga game, but for all the time they spent fleshing the characters out, I never thought they were a Perfect RPG cast at all. If you’ve ever played Resonance of Fate (a somewhat obscure PS3 title) you would see a perfect trio in action. They blend nicely, get along well, and all three feel vital to the games plot.
I guess then the Perfect RPG cast would be quirky, unique, and provide color to go alongside one or two really excellent lead characters, such as Yuri and Tidus (yeah I know people hate his voice). One necessary element though: one side character must be a ninja assassin. I know it’s weird, just go with it.
This is easy. My two favorite soundtracks are both Square games: Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VIII. Granted the two of them don’t mix very well. Ok, fine. So based on the dark feel the game would need to have, I think FFVIII’s style of music would be more fitting. But I would love some dreary piano pieces like they used in Eternal Sonata. I loved the way that game integrated Chopin’s great music into the very storytelling. Pretty cool. My game could have some “Raindrops” type songs in it for sure.
Well, if you were to put all those elements together, you would either get a totally crap game, or you would just discover it was a copy of Shadow Hearts: Covenant with weird sprite characters. In any case, you probably wouldn’t play it very long. Maybe this is why I play games instead of create them?
Hope you enjoyed these thoughts on my ultimate game! Feel free to share your own!