First, let's look back at the year of games we've passed. All-in-all it was a seminal year. Final Fantasy was surprisingly fun, less grindy than I remembered. Phantasy Star II on the other hand was the biggest let down of a sequel, and the largest single grind (discounting Wizardry due to perma-death). Standing just over Wizardry in my list of games I'd rather not play again, I can only hope both series rebound soon.
|1990 RPG of the Year! (Source: Time Warp Gamer)|
Back to the games; I think most surprising was Super Hydlide. Little Ninja Brothers was a bit disappointing, but I chose to make that harder on myself (will not make that mistake in the sequels). Shattering my childhood memories, I can't express how underwhelming Dungeon Magic turned out. Unsurprising to most I'm sure, Ultima: Quest of the Avatar takes the prize for best 1990 game by a wide margin. A lot of replay value there, and so much room for optimization. Overall a solid year. We'll see how the games stand the test of time as we explore 1991.
|Welcome to 1991, all the games I'll play in chronological order (includes approximate release of new systems)|
In 1991 the US saw the release of two new consoles. The Game Gear was released to compete with the Game Boy, but late to market once again Sega couldn't compete with the install base. Even with technical superiority, color display, and wider grip, the system never found a foothold in the US. It did however feature a handful of RPGs (all first party), one of which was released the same year. The SNES was also released the same year, and was big news. I recall my parents bought the console during the first week as a bribe for my brother to do better in school. He did, we got the system, and then he reverted to his old ways. That's another story though. The first year for the SNES offered a good selection of RPGs, and one specific title that blew away all others.
Enough small talk; on to the games! I'm hoping to avoid situations like Ultima IV's initial lack of noting the SMS port by addressing nuances of the games here. Apologies in advanced for the weird spacing. Blogger is very temperamental about where it wants to place images next to text.
Dragon Crystal - Our second (or first) Game Gear title comes quickly on the heels of the last. Dragon Crystal is a spiritual sequel to Fatal Labyrinth. This title is available on the 3DS, and it gives me a good excuse to purchase one. It's a simple graphical rogue-like. That means I could beat it in a couple of hours with extreme luck, or days with very poor luck.
Faria: A World of Mystery & Danger - From the future developers of Lunar and Grandia, Game Arts presents an action-RPG similar to The Magic of Scheherazade or Crystalis. This is a title I've heard very little about, and its rarity has made it a bit hard to come by. Also, it seems the year may be wrong; the copyright in the game and manual say 1990, but most sites claim a date of June 1991, so I've stuck with that. Just note, this may be in the wrong year.
|(Source: Game Boy Database)|
Final Fantasy Adventure - Not a sequel because this is actually the start of the Seiken Densetsu series. Even though it piggy-backs off the Final Fantasy name, it sets itself apart as an action-RPG. It's known as Mystic Quest in Europe, not to be confused with Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the SNES in the US (aka Mystic Quest Legend in Europe).
Magician - Another forgotten gem from my youth, at least in my eyes. This was a fun game where you take on the role of an apprentice wizard just starting out. First quest? Destroy the evil sorcerer endangering the land. Don't worry, all apprentice wizards do this and mostly come out alright.
Rings of Power - Naughty Dog strikes again, this time they're doing it on a console. Rumor has it that after a meeting with EA to discuss their next game after Keef, they saw the console for the first time and were completely enamored. The rest, as they say, is history. Yes, I know about the hidden intro screen.
Shining in the Darkness - I'm fairly sure this was my first experience with a 16-bit RPG. I remember having a sitter, and they brought over a Genesis. I remember an RPG and an ice hockey game. I don't clearly remember the names; however, I can't figure any other game that fits the time frame. Maybe a scene from this will jog my memory. Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection once again proves a great value.
Sword of Hope - This is the first time we see a blend of RPG and adventure genres; control of the character is through an ever present menu of directional arrows, look and use commands, and simple turn based combat with experience and levels.
Warsong - Also known as Langrisser, this title seems to be Sega's first answer to Fire Emblem (followed by Crystal Warriors and Shining Force). Like Fire Emblem, character units die permanently. I don't have much knowledge beyond this, except the battles look slow with the number of troops available in each one. I've been a bit jealous that Shen Nung over at Inconsolable has been able to enjoy Fire Emblem on the NES. It's truly unfortunate that series didn't make it over to the US until much later. Next to RPGs and puzzles, the strategy genre didn't really hit me until I got my hands on games such as Ogre Battle and Vandal Hearts. I'm looking forward to this and all other games like it.
|(Source: Games Database)|
|(Source: Yesteryear Gaming)|
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom - Have I mentioned how much I enjoy a compilation like Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection? I really hope this entry addresses much of my complaints, but from what I hear this may very well be the worst of the series. At least I can look forward to the the fourth installment. The idea of playing through heirs is intriguing enough that I've been meaning to play this; although, I couldn't bring myself to playing through without playing the series in order. I'm sure others can relate that feeling.
|(Source: Encyclopedia Gamia)|
|(Source: Retro Game Cases|
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Quick! Without scrolling up, how many box covers above contained a dragon? It's probably more than you remember.
Battlemaster - I nearly let this one slip by. SeedyGamer suggestions rarely make the cut, so I felt sorry for the game; however, there's nothing redeeming about it. It's a purely action game with an inventory.
King's Bounty - The game that spawned a series. Heroes of Might and Magic is a great series I hear, but they aren't featured on the blog either (unless I miscalculated future cuts).
Mysterium - This is a game, I think. I actually played through it after I determined it would fall very short on my scale. It has no character levels, equipment based combat, and level-by-level puzzle design. I honestly can't recommend it to anyone, anywhere. Of course, that means I'm going to do a speedrun for it soon.
Neutopia II - The sequel does little to add features. Instead it polishes (ever so slightly) what it accomplished. I actually did a blind race (racing a game never played before) of the first, and I think I'll do the same for the second. It's at least enjoyable enough for that.
Pirates! - I don't have the same love Chet does for this game. Potentially due to the differences of the port, but I'm just not connected. While Chet chose to include this edge case, I'm going to have to cut it. Don't worry, we get to be pirates in Uncharted Waters (and its sequel coming later [New Horizons]).
Rolan's Curse - I haven't played it, but from what I can tell it's about as basic a Zelda clone as one can get. Another potential candidate for playing through quickly to get a feel for the game. It also spawned a sequel we'll get to another year.
Times of Lore - As much as I'd love to include the game, I just can't manage to convince myself it's worth it. I may do a longer than normal cut write-up, but this isn't deserving of more than one post on this blog no matter how much I played it.
Tombs & Treasure - It's fitting this is last. As far as edge cases go, this is teetering in limbo, and I really want to push it off one way or another quickly. I don't own it, so if I were to play it I'd need to pick it up quickly (or play it online like at virtualnes.com [no affiliation]). There's some talk of experience points for the characters and levels to gain, but I don't see evidence of that. I'd like to know anyone's thoughts on this and the other games expected to get cut. Later Edit: I've decided to include this game.
This surge of titles doesn't last long, but is fairly well sustained for the next five years. I have nothing but speculation as to why. The addition of disc-based systems may have increased the expectation for larger games, which took longer to produce, included more risk, and generated more false starts. Nearing the end of the 16-bit era, 1996-7 saw the steepest decline, and may have meant the end for such titles if not for the release of and subsequent fervor surrounding Final Fantasy 7 (as well as Pokémon the following year). I'm not sure how much credit we can really give to FF VII for saving the genre, but two years after it's release the number of titles to consider each year jumps from 20 - 30 to a steady 40 - 50 (actually rising to 70 some years). That's come down recently, but is still stronger than the mid-90s.
It could also have been growing pains. So many disc based systems failed to gain a market share during this time that it may have scared people off from committing to a mutli-year project until one took the lead. Development costs increased during this time from what I hear. Of course, once the PlayStation came out on top, it was soon flooded with plenty of RPGs. This trend followed Sony into the PS2 era.
Well it's quickly getting to that time in the blog. Prices for carts, discs, and manuals I can't find online are on the rise. So, in order to keep up with that I need to lighten my load a bit. It's not much currently, but I'm selling off a good portion of the games I've played so far. Crystalis is the only game I've sold so far. Here's the full list of games I'm planning to put up:
- Destiny of an Emperor
- Dragon Warrior
- Dragon Warrior II [no battery save]
- Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy Legend
- Little Ninja Brothers
- Magic of Scheherazade
- Super Hydlide
- Swords and Serpents
- Ultima: Exodus
- Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
- Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord
And with that, we're off to another exciting year of RPGs.