The role-playing game genre has made great strides since its early days as a thinly veiled Dungeons & Dragons rip-off. Stories have grown increasingly complex, the music and graphics have greatly improved, and the battle systems have evolved into wonderfully varied schemes. There are many great RPGS, but which is the best of the bunch? A handful of 2D-X RPG-lovers offer their favorite RPGs of all time.
Avion Foster-Jarvis, News Editor
The Final Fantasy sets the bar for RPGs, with Final Fantasy VII standing alone as the series’ groundbreaking masterpiece. Some will argue that FFVII isn’t the best, but without it where would we be? FFVII introduced us to some of the best heroes ever created (Cloud Strife, Tifa Lockheart, Vincent Valentine) and one of the best villains that has ever existed (Sephiroth). Back when multiple discs for a video game was a badge of honor, FFVII came out the door, guns blazing, with three discs.
Clearly, FFVII takes a lot of its mechanics from previous installments, but it improves on them as well. A more streamlined skill system through the use of Materia, a massive amount of summons and the return of “Desperation Attacks” which have been renamed “Limit Breaks.” FFVII was so amazing that its characters made cameos in several other video games (including the ever-popular Kingdom Hearts franchise) and some even went to spawn video games of their own (Vincent in Dirge of Cerebus). In fact, FFVII was so good that Square took the characters from the video game world to the film world with the critically acclaimed movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children. Final Fantasy VII is hands down the best RPG ever; how could it not be when it’s is known as “the game that sold the PlayStation”?
Neranjan Bisson, Features Editor
My favorite RPG of all time is Final Fantasy Tactics. FF Tactics is a brilliant game that brought even casual gamers into the world of tactical role-playing. FF Tactics plays and feels like a game of chess with its Shakespearean story that involved the church, friendship, class war, and political strife.
One of the things that appealed to me about FF Tactics was its character class system which in a way can actually be utilized as a tool for learning delegation skills in ones real life. Bringing an army of Ninjas and Wizards that you developed on to the battlefield has a great level of satisfaction. FF Tactics is one of the games from the golden era of Square and was Yasumi Matsuno’s first game at the company. The quality game play offered with FF Tactics has lasted till this day and has been one of my favorite games on the go in both its PSP and iOS versions. A brilliant game that led me to my interest in the history of warfare, FF Tactics will forever be my favorite RPG.
Eric Guzman, News Editor
Xenogears is easily one of the most influential RPGs that I’ve ever played. Yeah, I know, its not as acclaimed as Final Fantasy VII or as legendary as Chrono Trigger, but what Xenogears did with its intricate plot, was change the way I looked at science and religion. It raised questions that I would have never thought about asking at such a young age, and did it in a sophisticated fashion.
The battle system was unlike anything at the time. Mixing buttons to create combos during battle was addictive, and discovering new abilities was extremely rewarding. What made this a complete package was the shiny beautifully destructive mechs called Gears (or, as I used to call them, “bootleg Gundams”). The soundtrack is outstanding, as with any composition the main theme (featured on our best video game songs) caused a stir of emotion that is missing from many modern games. I’ll admit that the second disk of the game isn’t the greatest, but you can’t blame the team for the time constraints that were placed on them. Still, Xenogears is one of the greatest RPG’s ever made, hands down.
Alejandro K. Brown, Contributor
My pick for best RPG ever goes to the first RPG I ever beat: Phantasy Star II for the SEGA Genesis. It was not only was the first video game in my house (I had to go to friends’ houses to play the NES), but it was completely different from what I had seen up until that time. Phantasy Star II had faux 3D fields, a mix of static and motion battle sequences, a music score that changed from upbeat action to somber to fit the story, a story line that touches on quite a few social issues, and insane dungeon maps.
Yet, most shockingly for me, it was the first time I would experience a main party character being killed without any hint, warning or lead-up to the moment. I spent time and equipment on this character. I started to care about them as I did the rest of the team, and not only were they killed off, they decided to heroically sacrifice themselves in a battle to the death to save the rest of the team. To an impressionable kid amazed by video games, this was simultaneously awe-inspiring and devastating.
Tim Torres, Lead Reviewer
Chrono Trigger. Is it such a surprise? It’s the brilliant RPG from the masterminds of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest at the height of their game. It’s got the best character designs Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama has ever done. It continually pelts you with fresh scenery, new characters, and brilliant compositions from composer Yasunori Mitsuda at every turn. It introduced the New Game + feature that lets you revisit the adventure with all your stats, weapons and items from your first way through.
There are numerous branching paths and choices to make: How you assemble your specialized party members to when you defeat the final boss. Yet it remains an uncomplicated, lighthearted adventure about time travel and you can find everything it offers in just about 30 hours, a fraction of the time most other over-bloated RPGs take to complete. I can rattle off what makes Chrono Trigger great in my sleep. I think I have.
If you want to see what the big deal is I recommend the Virtual Console version on the Wii. It’s a perfect emulation of the original SNES version. The next best bet is the pricier version for the DS though it has superfluous anime cutscenes and an awful extra dungeon with a new ending that needlessly complicates things. Whatever you do, avoid the PSN version — load times and slowdown abounds. It breaks the game. It’s supposed to be breezy and fun. Think it’s too cliche? Well, Chrono Trigger gave birth to a good many of them. It’s one of the first games to get every single thing about it right. And it’s still the best.