Sorry to say this, but I’d like to take a short hiatus for a while. Oblivion took a lot out of me, and with the new semester in full swing and 90 helpless students under my care, I don’t have quite as much time to write as I’d like. Fortunately, since I’ve posted ahead a few months, I’ve finished Oblivion and a few Zelda games, so rather than just cut out completely, I’ll update every other week, and go back to posting every week after finals. Because unemployment. Hooray for part-time teaching work. Anyway, this also gives me the chance to try out a new feature, top ten lists. No pictures this week. Again, sorry.
10. The World Ends With You
While the story kept me riveted, the artwork kept me mesmerized, and the villain with mathematical Tourette kept me…well, really confused, but amused beyond belief, this game deserves praise for the enlightened trance you reach when you finally figure out how to simultaneously control one character’s movements and attacks with just the stylus and inputting combinations with the D-pad to control another character on the top screen on an entirely different battlefield. I think I became telepathic while playing this game.
9. Secret of Mana
A Final Fantasy spin-off game that replaces air ships with riding on a dragon and chucks out chocobos in favor of shooting you out of a cannon. It features weapons and magic that level up with use, and a combat system halfway between ATB systems and the Legend of Zelda adventure combat. Plus you finally get to put Santa in his place in an epic ice-palace show down. Leave me coal five years in a row, will you? It has only served to fuel the fires of my rage! I’ll have my revenge on you, old man! You can’t hide behind krampus anymore! You’ll rue the day…
8. Lunar: The Silver Star Story (Complete)
Sadly, I can’t say I ever played the original Sega CD game, but with the Playstation freeing me from the oppression of Nintendo’s censorship, Lunar took full advantage of that. With cross-dressing exploits, bathing springs, and dialog like: “Thespian? I thought I wasn’t the right gender for that,” Lunar pulls no punches. Ten out of ten for comedic effect.
7. Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Want to know how to get hundreds of views for a single blog post? Talk about its BDSM aspects and the dominatrix villain. Not that I want to downplay Karin’s magnificent rack, or Yuri’s perverted sense of humor, mind you. In fact, I expect that last sentence to increase viewership of this post by tenfold. But the game stands on its own merits as a beautifully dark, Lovecraftian, yet meaningful story told against the backdrop of World War One.
6. Fallout 3
What? You mean we don’t need fantasy worlds and magic in an RPG? That idea scares me! New things make me uncomfortable! I hate Fallout! Hate it I say! Actually, no, I think this game stands out as Bethesda’s gem.
5. Final Fantasy X
Hated Tidus. Loved Yuna. However, I understood the need for both characters in the story. In fact, I’ve never understood a video game storyline quite as well as FFX. If I could only find a way to force my students to play through it and take notes on themes of sacrifice, the role of death in society, conflict with parents, and religious corruption, I might not have to assign those painful classics like Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice anymore.
4. Final Fantasy VI
None of the lists of the best RPGs that I’ve seen ever ranks Final Fantasy VI higher than third place, except for one that gave it second. I hate that. This game deserves first place! It introduced me to the world of role-playing. It provided me an outlet for my lust for fantasy when I didn’t know the genre even existed outside of Tolkien. This came out during my sixth-grade year, and I didn’t know how much it revolutionized the genre, adding in a steampunk setting, an ensemble cast of characters, and a non-linear second act. Plus, you get the world’s first playable moogle (not counting humans transformed into moogles or wearing costumes) as a hidden character!
3. Final Fantasy Tactics
With an in-depth story about class warfare between the rich and the poor, a war manipulated by the church and giant zodiac-apostle monsters, only a system of highly customizable characters with unique, interesting and versatile abilities could improve this game. What? It has that! Excellent! This game may have reached the peak of RPG perfection. What? Why did I put it at number three? Mind your own damn business, Torquemada!
2. Chrono Trigger
Blasphemer! How dare you make a list of the best RPGs of all time and not put Chrono Trigger in the number one spot, as is its birthright! Relax, I actually sweat long over this decision. Chrono Trigger deservedly tops a lot of lists, and for some reason, I don’t get tired of anything time-travel themed. Well, Doctor Who doesn’t exactly do it for me, but mostly because the Doctor has never stood up to anything nearly as threatening as Lavos or Biff Tannen. But still, this game has an excellent high-stakes story, an expansive 4-dimensional world, no random encounters, and a soundtrack that puts John Williams to shame. Plus I’ll always think of Marle as “The one that got away.” But at least fictional girls can’t reject me, dump me, or deliver death threats attached to jars of ashes. I love this game, and so does anyone else who plays it. However, it does top everyone else’s list, and I honestly believe one other game outclasses it.
As much as I love all things time travel, this game beats Chrono Trigger on just about every front. Yasunori Mitsuda’s brilliant score beats the pants off the talentless schmuck who composed for Chrono Trigger, and it introduced a combat interface –for both character combat and mech combat–that made repetitive RPG combat enjoyable much in the same way that shovels must have improved the occupation of ditch-digging. But the story shines above all of that, asking profound philosophical questions about the nature of god and whether his presence improves our lives the way we believe it does–you know, the same philosophical questions raised by seeing Tea Party Christians interviewed on Fox News. Except I actually enjoy Xenogears.
Final Fantasy IV
Both one of my favorite games of all time and historically significant for realizing “D&D plays like shit on a computer,” FFIV introduced the world to RPGs with plots and characters with conflicts and personal growth. Also they travel to the moon. Hey, I didn’t say they thought out the story, just that they had one. I probably should have included it in the list, but honestly, after roughly seven dozen ports, re-makes and re-releases, Square may want to consider retiring this one.
Final Fantasy IX
How do you improve upon a series of hit after hit (and then FFVIII)? Strip down all the old games, take only the good parts, put those together around a well-written story about finding meaning in life and death. Often underappreciated, I consider FFIX the best in the series. What? Why only an honorable mention? Because shut up! …yeah. Put you in your place, didn’t I!
Didn’t see the game you wanted? Screw you! Also, I probably haven’t played it. Drop a suggestion in a comment and I’ll hunt down your favorite RPG and play it. And no, I don’t consider Zelda an RPG. Not even the Adventure of Link. I had enough trouble narrowing down my selections, thank you.