Seeing how some of our members seem disappointed by FF XIII, I got to thinking: what does the average player want from each RPG? These are my choices:
STORY: To me this is the most important part. I want an involving story, one that makes me care for the characters. It doesn’t have to be original or overly complex. But if I’m going to spend dozens of hours following these characters around, I want to get to know them and see them grow as people. Villains included. Examples: LUNAR, BREATH OF FIRE III.
GAMEPLAY: I enjoy novelty, but up to a point. I don’t mind, say, how every FF game reinvents its job/ability system- as long as the basics are still the same. In particular I like turn-based over real-time combat, and abilities that can be used outside of battle (like the Psynergies in GOLDEN SUN.)
EFFECTS: E.G., visuals and sounds. This is the least important part to me. I will play a game with crappy graphics as long as the story and gameplay are good. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy graphics like FFX’s or the music of the FF series in general.
Characters and story. Characters moreso. You can have the greatest story in the world, but if the characters are bland or uninteresting it directly effects how the story is told. On the other hand, the story can be boring as hell, or cliche or whatever, but if the characters are fun and engaging, they can make the story interesting.
Battle system is second to me. If the characters and story are keeping my attention, it’s worth it to me to slog through a boring battle system to see what comes next.
I’m pretty much the same as DR on this. I do care about story, but while I can manage to stomach a lame plot with good characters (Star Ocean 2 for instance, and by “good characters” I mean “Ashton”), I can hardly care about a good plot if I don’t give a shit about the people it involves.
It’s only recently that JRPGs have started to attempt to stop copypasting Ultima in terms of gameplay, so for the large majority I always disregarded gameplay unless it was particularly jarring.
Story is actually second in my book. More important is Setting. I want to see the whole world and see what makes it different from other worlds. Stuff like Tech level, magic, any legends or stories involving folk heroes or gods… this is probably why Wild ARMs is one of my favorite series, since there’s so much supplemental material to find. Exceot for WA4, which seems to go out of its way to give as little real information about the world as possible.
Story and characterization are the most important bits. What’s also very important is the quality of the writing. I’m tired of seeing 12 year olds rally up and save the world using the power of friendship. We’ve seen this enough times already. There are exceptions when something is exceptionally well made, like Tales of Vesperia, but typically, when a story revolves around something like this, the studio tends to not make the effort to make the characters and villains more than unidimensional cardboard cut outs. You can’t make good characters without good writing and you can’t make a good story without proper pacing and tension, which also requires good writing, but other things, like direction and music.
I’m open minded about battle systems. I grew up on classical RPGs, so I don’t get turned off by DQ or old FFs. I also like different battle systems, like Ogre Battle, FFT, Valkyria Chronicles, WA and ME.
I’m not judgemental about graphics, hell I like DQ4,5,6,7’s style. I do however care when they’re good (DQ8 is the epitome of DQness imo and I really enjoyed that aspect) and I find it very unfortunate when a series regresses to an inferior system (ex: DQ9…). I think something that wasn’t mentioned is music. A good soundtrack used in an appropriate way really help support story telling and immersion, it creates the right mood and context for things to happen in, especially if a given track is very common.
It doesn’t matter how good any of the individual parts are if they’re not integrated well with each other. But integrating a bunch of pieces of shit into a pile of shit won’t work well either. RPG’s should be worked as a whole so everything synergizes to create the best possible result. The music is the one thing that should stand on its own though, because it’s the one thing people might actually pay attention to outside the context of the game. That doesn’t mean just compose whatever songs you want and stick them anywhere in the game, you still have to pay attention to integration, but there’s no reason not to make sure the music stands on its own, even if the game doesn’t.
Other than that, gameplay, obviously. And the only thing I’m really picky about there is when it’s crutched heavily on luck. Your success at a game shouldn’t happen “just 'cuz” like it did in Diablo 2, most MMOs, etc. I don’t care if a game uses random chance once in a while to simulate realistic situations, but it pisses me off when it’s heavily slanted, impossible to manipulate, and has a huge effect your success. Get rid of luck, make the system complex enough to offer a variety of solutions to different obstacles but not so complex that people will say “fuck it,” and you’re on the right path.
Graphics actually are rather important. It’s a visual medium. They don’t have to be in the realm of Square’s Uncanny Valley; oftentimes simplistic graphics are more captivating. But the game still needs to look good. If the colors are dull, the art bland, etc, it’s actually rather hard to get immersed in the game. Older games get a “pass” because we know the limitations back then, but many of the classics are still often beautiful in their own way. That is not to say that I consider graphics then end-all, be-all (or even the most important factor), but I would find it hard to get immersed in a game that’s just plain ugly.
Some of my favorite games in general (NiGHTS: into dreams, Katamari series, Skies of Arcadia) are up there in part precisely because their graphics contributed to the total package. I’m sure I would not have enjoyed those games anywhere near as much if the graphics actively detracted from the experience.
Gameplay comes first and foremost for me, and story can take a backseat to that any day. If the game isn’t fun, then a good story isn’t worth anything… might as well read a book. That said if it’s an RPG it certainly helps if the story has more than a few redeeming qualities. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, just as long as it does its job at stylising the game and promoting atmosphere. Sound/music and graphics are quite important too as they are video games after all. But a nintendo game is just as fun as a modern one, so when I say graphics and sound I mean what I meant with the story comment… as long as it fits and it works then that’s great.
Yes, gameplay by all means. If the game is fun, you can forgive the rest of its failings. Characters are the second most important element for me. Good characters can make up for a lacking story or setting. Kefka would be interesting anywhere. Story and setting tie in the next place for me. Finally, I appreciate good graphics and music as much as the next guy (Katamari, Wind Waker etc.) but they are more like the frosting of the cake for me. I acknowledge that if the cake’s colour is runny green, you may not find it that appetizing and give it to your dog.
Teachnically, Ultima IV was out at the time, but it’s well known that Dragon Quest was a hilariously shameless ripoff of earlier Ultima titles with a bit of Wizardry thrown in. Then Final Fantasy was created ripping off Dragon Quest and a bit more of Ultima, and Japan as a whole decided to stop trying to come up with anything else gameplay-wise for like two whole decades.
Never having played Ultima, I had no idea of its connection to DQ. What elements do they share?
Though I DO notice how much FF has ripped from Dungeons and Dragons. And yes I know EVERYBODY ripped off D&D in the early days, but FF even swiped some of the same bosses! (Marilith the Fire Fiend is from D&D, for example. Same EXACT name!) Of course FF has also invented plenty of original stuff since then.
My larger point was that in later Ultimas you could explore away, interact with party members*, try to see what you could do in a world that was scripted but allowed you to experiment (drawing Lord British to the harbour and shooting him with a cannon was inadvertent genius), play with the morality system (which was often terribly broken) and so on. DQ drew from the basic elements of the first Ultimas (which makes sense as it was the major crpg then), but then jrpgs split their path and the aforementioned features were mostly explored in open-world wrpgs.
*some people caught on to that later on, thankfully.
Rig reminds me of one RPG element you rarely see but which I do really enjoy: interaction between characters. Maybe it’s because of my tabletop RPG-playing roots. In most games this is limited to “speak to an NPC and he’ll give you a clue of some sort… or just a random comment” but in others you get to go in background-related sidequests or even forming bonds between characters. The way Cloud’s dialog choices in FF VII affected his date on the Golden Saucer was cool (and hilarious!) for example. In Tales of Legendia you got special scenes (and even “titles”) from such interaction (I hear this is a feature of most TALES games). The Dating System in Thousand Arms was a riot! On Star Ocean II I actually had to choose whom to pair with each other; now that was a bit of a hassle.
Pretty much everything. Concepts like HP, turn based combat, EXP and so on being applied to games outside D&D, pretty much all you’d call the core of what made JRPG gameplay were taken from Ultima and Wizardry. They kinda stole the thing.
Unfortunately, like Rig said, they didn’t bother to steal the improvements Ultima made later on. Cue almost three decades of little, usually purely aesthetic change.
beats on the Character and Story drum as well I’ll forget a lot of bad gameplay, bad graphics and even a bug or two if there’s a good story and funny character. I don’t necessarily need to relate to those characters, as long as they make me smile, I’m lenient. Heck, I’ll even forgive (though it’s not an RPG) Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for the final level that made me want to jump out the window just to have something happen - seriously, you go through THE VERY SAME CORRIDOR ten to fifteen times, you’ll think you’re stuck in a puzzle trap of some kind - if only for this scene. Hilariously godawful voiceacting (from the hero, the other two are doing fairly well here… in comparison) and a villain so over the top he makes me cry with laughter? Also, villain-boy effing stabs and kisses Trevor Belmont, that’s… all kinds of special. As special as his WTFpants.
And give me some none-human character kthxbai and with that I DON’T MEAN ANY GODDAMN ELVES ARRRRGH.
I’d say that Story and Battle System are up at the top for me. To an extent, I’ve seen plenty of examples of where a game has an excellent battle system and a shitty story (Star Ocean 3), and the occasional vice-versa (uh…drawing a blank here). If the game has a good story, then I’m possibly willing to put up with a bad battle system (unless it’s just THAT bad). This explains why I put so much time in FFXII, despite the story being near non-existent.
While we’re on the topic, Graphics is a plus if it adds to the experience. However, I’m only willing to take that so far, since if a game looks like shit, I’m gonna assume it is shit. (Speaking of FFXII, did you know it actually looks on par with current gen games when played on an emulator? Crazy shit.)
VA can often make or break certain games too, though for me, it’s not totally necessary since I’m used to playing games without VA.
I started playing Sands of Destruction like a month and half back, and enjoyed the first half of the game or so, but afterwards, it just goddamn fell apart. Story was kinda interesting and then turned stupid. Gameplay was broke as all hell. And I didn’t care much for the VA. Honestly, I may not even finish the game, since I have no real incentive to. So I guess I need to feel like I have an incentive to finish a game or be engrossed in it.
Personally, I wanna play a RPG where I’m just the leader of villains and none of this “I’m a badguy, but may be a good guy because of the morons around me” type of shit. Like hardcore bad and just plain evil. Just sorta ruthless. Like most normal RPGs, but totally the opposite, and there is no happy ending (well, relatively speaking. It’s bad for the heroes obviously, but a victory for you!). It’d make for some interesting endings (lose against the heroes and see the “good” ending, or beat 'em, enslave them, and take over the world.)
[offtopic]You’re playing Romancing Saga 3, Ultratech? I have a savestate after having opened/closed the Water gate, no the way to the Fire gate. The enemies were great for leveling up, so I put it off and then they switched to hard enemies that don’t help you level up and I let it go. If only RS3 was emulated properly for the DS I’d love to give it another try. [/offtopic]