RPG Reflections, Part I: A Slime Draws Near!

Part I: A Slime Draws Near!
Part II: Falling Into the Niche
Part III: Culture Clash
Part IV: But… the Future Refused to Change
Part V: …Dear Friends, Once More

RPG Reflections

I suppose I have a somewhat precarious relationship with role-playing games in that I’m simultaneously fascinated by them and a little bit put-off by them. I like the concept behind the genre, that of going on an adventure while growing as a character. The implementation, on the other hand, is a little tricky to get right, balancing complexity with simplicity, linearity with freedom, and telling a story while letting the player create his own.

There was a time when I was really into RPGs, but in recent years, I’ve been keeping a bit of a distance. Yet, I still enjoy reading about them or hearing what others have to say about them. In fact, I’ve been inching closer to getting back into the genre more regularly. I suppose it’s strange to be interested in a certain type of game, and yet also be a little apprehensive about them. That’s why I’ve decided to retrace my steps and explore my thoughts on RPGs in this multi-part series.

Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior (NES)

The first RPG I ever played was Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest) on the NES. As you might have already guessed, I got my copy free with a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine (not a bad deal for $15). It was really unlike anything I had played before. It wasn’t an action game, and there were no reflexes to be tested. But I easily understood the menu-based structure of it, and was really intrigued by the seemingly open-ended nature of it. In fact, this will sound funny, but I was really blown away by the inclusion of a “talk” command. It obviously wasn’t the first time you could interact with non-player characters in a home console game, but among the other commands, it just felt really sophisticated. (And I was eleven-years-old and easily impressed.)

I was also really intrigued by the battle system. By today’s standards, it’s exceptionally simple and shallow, but at the time, I thought of it like a game of poker. What commands would I choose from my assortment of options? How would my opponent respond? How would random elements like “excellent moves” and missed attacks affect the outcome? While a lot of it was repetitive, there were still those occasional moments, just like in poker, where things got really interesting.

Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior (NES)

I spent a lot of time playing Dragon Warrior back then, and I eventually beat it, but it’s not a game I could ever really go back to. The fresh concept combined with my youth, having more patience and a lot more time, made the game fun. But when all was said and done, underneath it was a rather shallow, repetitive, tedious, and clunky game. I like to think I have much better ways to spend my time these days other than walking around in circles, and fighting the same enemies over and over just to make my character a tad bit stronger.

Not that I disrespect Dragon Warrior. It set the gold standard for console RPGs for years to come. Many games not only built off of its foundations, but vastly improved on them. Yet, despite my initial positive experience, I wasn’t quite hooked on the genre just yet. I definitely noticed when the sequels came out, but I didn’t jump on them. In fact, I only rented Dragon Warrior II a couple of times. It wasn’t until the SNES era that I really found myself being absorbed into RPGs. Once again, it was the influence of Nintendo Power, and a game that appeared on the cover called Final Fantasy II….

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5 thoughts on “RPG Reflections, Part I: A Slime Draws Near!

  1. Pingback: Nester’s RPG Reflections, Part I « LVLs. – Gain Experience!

  2. The original Dragon Warrior certainly shows its age, that it does. If you’re looking towards getting back into RPG’s, the DS Dragon Quests are all really good and worth a look.

    Nice reflections, too – I remember being quite enamored with DW back when I was a kid, myself. The NES Final Fantasy also. But I think I truly got into RPG’s with the Commodore 64’s Western spin on the genre like The Bard’s Tale and Pool of Radiance, which had a little more customization and felt like there was more personal investment to be had. I never beat those games, and currently I’d say I lean more towards the Japanese school of RPG’s over western, but it’s interesting to note how my own development in liking the genre has evolved over time. I look forward to learning more about yours, my friend. 🙂

    1. Nester-Lvl

      I suppose it’s a little bit of an exaggeration to say I want to get back into RPGs, since I’ve played plenty of action-RPGs the past few years (and lets not forget the major strategy-RPG kick I was on last year). But as for straight RPGs, I’m pretty intent on Xenoblade for now.

      However, I’ve also been eyeing Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light since that seemed to be the next best thing to the DS SaGa remakes that never left Japan.

  3. Jason X

    Interesting stuff. I’d like to see how the rest of your experiences with the genre turned out. I never actually played Dragon Warrior I. I didn’t get an NES until 1990, and by then DWII was out. My mother ended up buying the original game at some point a few years later, when Nintendo re-released a bunch of old NES titles at discount prices, but I didn’t bother to give it a shot. It looked very dated and cumbersome. My mom sure played the hell out of it, though.

    I think one thing that intrigues me about your story here is that I’ve also found my own interest in RPGs waning over the years. It’s not that I don’t want to play them, really. I just don’t feel like committing such large blocks of time and energy to any one thing. Especially in this age of Achievements, where RPGs seem to require mammoth levels of effort for such miniscule rewards.

    At any rate, keep up the good work. I’d love to hear how your thoughts on RPGs grew and changed over the various console eras.

    1. Nester-Lvl

      Glad you liked it!

      Yeah, the amount of commitment and involvement required is one of the big reasons I I’m wary of RPGs (or any “big” game) these days. Sometimes I am in the mood for something fairly substantial (like Zelda), but then the concern becomes whether the time spent on it involves doing something fun and interesting, or repetitive and tedious. I tend to think of the latter in relation to RPGs.

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