Cloud, Sephiroth, Aerith, Squall, Seifer, Chrono, Pikachu – Do these names sound familiar? If they do, then you were playing Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) in the mid-to-late 90’s, and are at the very least familiar with them. The Golden Age of the JRPG certainly was kicked off in a big way once Final Fantasy VII made it’s Playstation debut in 1997 and started a firestorm of games flowing into the US from all the major Japanese game makers.
These games grabbed our attention with their in-depth storylines, complex gameplay, and compelling character development. To this day you will still find people (myself especially) referencing these games for both nostalgia and as some of the best video game stories ever written.
I fell in love with JRPGs when Final Fantasy VIII came out. I was aware of Final Fantasy VII, and had even attempted to play it when it had come out. However, I was still rather young at the time and did not have the patience to get far (I never got off the first disc). Final Fantasy VIII however, I was the perfect age for. I loved the Guardian Force system, the music in the game was fantastic, and the story really spoke to me.
In a world where now every AAA title game has a phenomenal soundtrack, these games were certainly the ones that pioneered this field due to, if nothing else, simply how long the games were. Games in this genre could run anywhere from 40-100 hours or more. Add in features like New Game + and you could extend your gameplay into a near endless loop of possibilities.
As I got older, the gameplay became less important to me as the story, character development and music is what got me hooked into a game. If Final Fantasy VIII is my favorite JRPG, then Final Fantasy X is next in line because of it’s great music soundtrack, unique characters, and interesting story. Plus the ending really does throw you (No spoiler here, go and play it 🙂 .
These games pioneered what Video Games could do in creating a strong powerful narrative that compelled you to play “just to the next save point…”. I’m trying to take these same elements now and create them in my own game based off of the 5th edition Dungeon’s and Dragons campaign. Square Enix created some of the best villains of all time, and most other game companies cannot compare.
So, on this Far Back Friday I like to harken back to the Golden Age of the JRPG. I anxiously await to see what Square Enix is planning for Final Fantasy XV, which many are calling the mark or break point for the genre in the US/Non-Japan Markets.