At the beginning of the year, I was a little RPG averse, yet still interested in dipping my toes back in the waters. I explained my feelings in a series titled RPG Reflections, of which RPG Journal is an extension. But the time seemed to be right to give the genre a new chance. I had gained interest in games like Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story thanks in part to Operation Rainfall, but as it turned out, I ended up diving back into RPGs more deeply than I had planned.
Was the “Summer of RPGs” a success? Let’s take a look back at the ones I’ve played so far this year.
Ys Book I & II
This was a download from the Wii Virtual Console. The Ys series was always a little mysterious to me, as it seemed to exist in its own world apart from contemporaries like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Ys did its own thing, and the Turbo CD port was revolutionary for its time.
I considered this to be my appetizer to the RPG main courses that were yet to come. I can’t deny that if I had played this back in 1990, I would’ve been completely blown away. The music is still some of the best of its era, and the anime portraits and cutscenes were a nice touch. The game, however, felt a little dull. I found myself getting very impatient towards the end, and was glad just to get it over with. It did not instill much confidence for the games I had yet to play.
Still, I don’t mean to slam a series as respected as Ys. I’m glad I tried it, and I might be willing to give more recent versions another chance, but I don’t think this one was for me.
Now we’re getting serious. I really underestimated this game in terms of depth. My perception of Japanese RPGs had become one of linearity and restrictions. I half expected this game to practically play itself. How wrong I was!
Xenoblade is overwhelming! The world is extremely large, with so many characters, and tons of things to do. The gameplay system is highly complex, overflowing with options and minute details. While it took me some time to wrap my head around it all, I was ultimately really happy to find a JRRG that actually felt like an RPG, and not just an interactive novel.
This is a remarkable game, and I’m glad I didn’t let it slip by. In fact, I’m still working through it!
Ultima VI: The False Prophet
This is a little random. It certainly was not a game I had initially planned on playing, but I had always been interested in the Ultima series, and I even owned the Ultima Collection since 1997. The problem is, I never really got too far into many of the games, but it was always my intention to give more of them a proper playthough at some point. That point sprang upon me rather spontaneously, and here we are!
Ultima VI is probably the oldest game in the series that still somewhat holds up to today’s standards in terms of playability and presentation. Still, it took some patience, and a walkthrough, to get through it. While I was kind of glad to be finished with it, I was also ready for more. No regrets on this one. I can finally cross it off my bucket list.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate
Continuing on from the last game, Ultima VII is a mixed bag. It’s technologically clunky by today’s standards, but still a remarkable achievement in design and execution for it’s time. Once again, I used a walkthrough (I’ve never beaten an Ultima game without one), but relied on it far less. I think I agree with the masses on this one being the best in the series.
The Last Story
I’ve only just begun this one, and it seems to conform more to the linearity and scripted nature I tend to expect from JRPGs, but that doesn’t mean I’m disappointed by it. I knew long before playing it that it was not going to be “Xenoblade 2,” and the game has plenty of its own merits. It has a great atmosphere, the combat is really fun, and roaming around Lazulis City gives off a slight Shenmue vibe (always a big plus in my book). I need to get further into this one, but it’s off to a great start!
I’ve had generally positive experiences with RPGs this summer; enough so that I’m looking forward to playing more. I’ll definitely be continuing with Ultima, and I’ve got others in consideration as well. At this point, I think I’ve reacquired my taste for RPGs.
I declare the Summer of RPGs a success!