- Character Advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
- Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
- Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
- Story: main story at the forefront; world full of lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
- Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
- Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve
I condensed my thoughts as much as I could in the above while trying to maintain intuitive meanings; however, in case my intention isn't clear here's a more detailed explanation for each point:
- Practice/experience based advancement - This covers skills getting better through use or experience points gained from repeated actions (e.g. combat, tasks, exploration, or quests). This doesn't include levels or experience gained at set points in the game (i.e. get to dungeon level 2, become character level 2).
- Stat or level increases - Why is this separate? Well, to give the games that don't cover the item above a chance. Some games I'd still consider CRPGs even if they have set levels.
- Multiple classes or characters - Character choices feels more like role-playing.
- Customize characters - Customization beyond a character's class. Choosing stats, skills, and appearance are examples of this. Again, increased options for role-playing and creating a character to suit the player's wants are a good thing.
- Character stats used for combat - If the game isn't using character stats, then why does my character matter? Static damage based on equipment, buffs from items, weapon range, and collision based hitting are all examples where this isn't the case. If it doesn't matter what character I'm playing, then it isn't role-playing.
- Additional combat options - Something beyond attacking, defending, and healing. This includes magic, sub-weapons, evasive techniques, or something that makes fighting more interesting than button mashing.
- Turn-based - Turn-based combat just feels more strategic, more RPG-like. I'll accept some real-time aspects, but turn-based mechanics should underlie the actions.
- Store to buy and sell - I'm warming up to the idea that CRPGs need an economy that matters. What's the purpose of collecting all these swords if I can't sell the ones I don't use anymore? Note that buying and selling are necessary to count this one.
- Equipment decisions - Interesting equipment decisions. (i.e. higher armor, or lesser armor with elemental bonuses; trident or spear?) If everything is just an upgrade, then it's not a decision, there's nothing to weigh or consider.
- Item decisions - Same goes here, there needs to be interesting considerations for items. (i.e. When should I use the protective shield? Should I save the flying boots for pits or use it to avoid attacks?) I don't include healing items. Also, the distinction between items and equipment in my mind is items are consumable (or one or more uses, but limited) and equipment are not.
- Main story at the forefront - The story is mentioned more than in the manual, at the beginning of the game, and at the end. It's the main goal of the game, and it should matter throughout the game.
- World full of lore - Whether from NPCs, signs, old computers, audio messages, etc. the world should present a complete picture. Information regarding ancient empires or even messages scrawled on the walls, the purpose here is to get background on the game world.
- Descriptions for objects, people, and places - This is mainly for items and equipment. Knowing which weapons are better, what additional use they have, or the usefulness of items is vital to the story and enjoyment of the game. People and places are included as possibilities in games without items and equipment. (Are there any?) I dislike situations where I'm given a choice between two swords, and there's no indication of which is better.
- Open world from the beginning - Go anywhere! Well, nearly anywhere. This is more loosely defined than it sounds, and I give concessions for things like hidden towns or dungeons, possibly the occasional 'locked gate'. A feeling of being dragged in one direction is the issue I'm trying to avoid by including this point. Any alteration from "finish level 1, level 2 unlocked, finish level 2, level 3 unlocked..." should qualify.
- Visited locations remain open - This seems very similar to the one above, but it addresses cutting off backtracking. Arbitrary restrictions on traveling to previously visited locations are bad in my book. Sure, if the game says the evil empire took over the town you were just in, then maybe I could believe that, but why can't I walk left in Super Mario Bros.? (Okay, not an RPG, but you get the point.)
- Side quests - Any quest left uncompleted without preventing completion of the main quest is considered a side quest. These activities should add to the game world.
- Puzzles and riddles - I like puzzles that fit inside the world and story, or riddles solved by knowing about the history, lore, or current events in the game. Anything that doesn't fit the game doesn't fit here.
If I were to change anything, I might get rid of puzzles and riddles and combine exploration into one calling it quests and exploration, but 20 is nice round number. This is a work in progress, and will remain so throughout this blog I expect.
So, on to the games (finally). The first game up is Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord. I don't have a Sega Master System, so that will have to wait. From what I can tell, the game qualifies, but I haven't seen enough to judge it on this scale. So, on to the next game (and first game to be cut), Deadly Towers.
|Not as pretty a screen as The Legend of Zelda, but it has scrolling text detailing the story.|
(NES) Deadly Towers
- (1) - Character advancement: stat or level increases
- (0) - Combat: none
- (1) - Items and equipment: item decisions
- (1) - Story: main story at the forefront
- (2) - Exploration: visited locations remain open, open world from the beginning
- (0) - Quests and Puzzles: none
Why is this called a role-playing game? My best guess is that this was such an early game that no one had anything else to compare it to except for role-playing games. Even the back of the box mentions, "Arcade action with role-playing game depth." I'll give it credit for trying.
It has many things going for it, including an open world to explore (well an open dungeon is more like it), a store to purchase items (I don't believe you can sell), health and equipment upgrades, and a main story with short-term goals that show progress. However, even with all of this, at its core, it's an action game. This type of game would come to be known as action-adventures instead of action-RPGs, and have more in common with The Legend of Zelda than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
|I'm dying to know what that Japanese text says; probably developer names so I know who to curse.|
(SMS) Phantasy Star
1) 4 - Character advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters
2) 4 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3) 4 - Items and equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 2 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore
5) 2 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 1 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest
Final Rating 
Definitely looking forward to this one. I plan one more post before playing Tuesday night, showing off a mapping tool to be used for 2D maps.