The World of Asian RPGs

One of Moby Games’ contributors has penned a massive “The World of Asian RPGs” article that profiles many JRPGs released over the past 20+ years. A little about the Dragon Quest series:

Dragon Quest series is the undisputed king of RPGs in its homeland. The law that forbids Japanese stores to sell newly appeared Dragon Quest games on working days, for fear that people will leave work and school to be able to get hold of the game, illustrates best the series’ tremendous popularity. Dragon Quest, Enix’s greatest creation, is for most Japanese the absolute leader of the genre and its purest incarnation. However, outside of Japan the success of the series was questionable at best. While it gained a small, but faithful fan community in the West as well, the majority of Western players found Dragon Quest games (known as Dragon Warrior outside of Japan) too conservative, their stories too simple, their production values too low, and their gameplay mechanics too basic to enjoy. Indeed, Dragon Quest games deliberately ignored the growing tendency of Japanese RPGs towards complex plots with an abundance of cut scenes; they avoided graphical effects and remained faithful to the original concept of required leveling of characters and the integration of story into the gameplay. Paradoxically, Dragon Quest games have always been in a way the most Western of all Japanese RPGs, paying more attention to immersion in the game world than following a set-up plot line.

And the first three Final Fantasy games:

The first Final Fantasy was a strong start for the series. Even though in most ways this first game was the least typical of all, the ability to create your own party freely, assigning different character classes to party members, was an interesting gameplay element that encouraged experimentation and set the stage for the job systems of later games. However, in terms of story line and characterization the game was much less daring, and was hardly a step forwards compared to the first Dragon Quest.

Final Fantasy II was in many ways the first true Final Fantasy game. It introduced such cardinal aspects of the series as a very emotional story line, morally ambiguous characters, tragic events, etc. Although the characterization was not very developed, it was distinct enough to allow the player to care for the characters. The story had to be emotionally experienced rather than concluded from gameplay and conversations. The game also featured a very interesting system, which replaced traditional levels with gradual development of individual statistics through continuous actions of the same kind. While this system was criticized by many fans for being unbalanced, it was still an extraordinary achievement for early Japanese RPGs. The first two games were later re-made for Playstation as Final Fantasy Origins, with nostalgic graphics and more user-friendly gameplay.

Final Fantasy III can be considered a step back compared to its predecessor. Ignoring the tendency to detailed characterization, it once again let you play as a party of nameless adventures. On the other hand, the job system was quite interesting, allowing full customization of the party with various character classes. Graphically “Final Fantasy III” was also very impressive. It remains until now the only Final Fantasy game that was never released in the West, neither stand-alone nor as part of a compilation.

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