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My 5 Favorite Things About RPGs
RPGs are by far my favorite genre of games, and they always have been. The genre has seen immense innovation over the years, as have most others. RPGs have always been my favorite games to play because of several reasons, and I have highlighted the five most important ones to me below. Also, after each point I have included an example or two about which game or series I believe handles that aspect the best. [Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for some of the games listed.]
1: Lengthy Stories
RPGs are some of the lengthiest games out there, and the developers of the games have to set a large amount of time aside to craft an unforgettable story that will keep players enticed for 30-100 hours. There are some RPGs that even if I do not think the gameplay is anything special, I would still replay it at any time due to its original and heartfelt story.
Example: Kingdom Hearts series
While the Kingdom Hearts games are not extremely long if you only follow the main storyline, the overall story about Sora and Riku’s fight against Xehanort is one with several twist and turns – some of which are more confusing than they need to be. When the first game came out, the story was seemingly wrapped up nicely, although a secret ending revealed a tease for a new game – Sora, Donald, and Goofy chase King Mickey’s dog Pluto to an ominous mansion and head inside. Secret endings like this are littered through almost every Kingdom Hearts title, and they always give a hint as to a future game in the series.
As of now, the Kingdom Hearts story has become almost undecipherable to anyone who has not played a majority of the games. The other day, I found myself explaining that Roxas from Kingdom Hearts 2 looks like Ventus from Birth by Sleep because Ventus’ heart hid inside Sora’s near the end of Birth by Sleep during the Keyblade Master’s war against Xehanort to my cousin who is only familiar with Kingdom Hearts I and II. After talking until I ran out of breath, he reminded me of how insane I sounded because I knew every little detail of certain plot elements that he never even considered or had heard about. The little details are what I love about the story, and to this day I still believe that the Kingdom Hearts series has one of the most heartfelt stories I have ever played through.
While other genres definitely dabble in the art of crafting weapons and armor for your character, I believe that RPGs do it the best. There is nothing like going around to certain areas you would have never explored otherwise to uncover some rare material that you could use to upgrade your weapon into a powerhouse.
Examples: Star Ocean: Till the End of Time / Monster Hunter
I absolutely love Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. This PS2 JRPG has some of the funnest gameplay I have ever experienced, and a lot of that is derived from its crafting system. You are able to craft basic items like medicines and weapons, but you are also able to augment your weapon with different materials to upgrade their attack power or bestow upon them certain benefits. In fact, at one point in the game, you can go out of your way to climb a certain mountain and obtain the rare and powerful mineral Orichalcum. When placed onto your weapon, it increases the weapon’s attack by a massive 500 points, and it can be added to a weapon multiple times, turning your character into a murdering machine.
Also of note is the Monster Hunter series. Although not as much of an RPG as certain other games, the crafting system put into place in Monster Hunter is definitely as complex as it would be in an RPG. There is nothing as repetitive yet fun like slaying the same monster over and over for a simple gem that has a 2% chance of being dropped. The reward for all this hard labor is usually a weapon with a higher attack stat and more sharpness so that it can slay more enemies faster.
3: Side Quests
Again, side quests are by no means restricted to RPGs, but I do think that they are most at home in an RPG or JRPG. Side Quests usually reward you with stronger equipment in exchange for doing something you most likely would not have done otherwise.
Example: The Last Remnant
The Last Remnant is my favorite game of this generation, and one of the reasons why this is true is because of its immense depth. One of the ways the game shows this is through its side quests and guild mission. Side quests are often expansive missions or battles that require strategy or brute force to complete. Guild mission, however, are smaller tasks that you never even accept – once you complete a certain task, you can simply turn it in to the guild and receive your reward. However, the rewards for completing side quests are my favorite in any RPG so far. Some Side quests give you strange key items that will play a role in a future side quest, while some other side quests give your main character, Rush, access to completely new skills. The side quests also manage to tell compelling stories every now and then, and they always give you an incentive to complete them.
4: Skill Trees and Leveling Up
Most games that contain leveling up simply give you a boost in stats upon level up. My favorite kinds of games, however, are when you get to spend skill points or some similar type of point to access new abilities.
Examples: Final Fantasy X and XIII
Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid and XIII’s Crystarium stand out to me as the best skill trees that have been designed for a game as of yet. The freedom of the Sphere especially stands out for the fact that you can really do whatever you want as long as you have the right spheres. In my experience, I followed Auron’s path to a tee and turned him into a monster killing powerhouse who stood up to anything and everything. For the other characters, I deviated from their paths slightly to give them moves they would not learn otherwise. The Crystarium gives a similar feel, although it is redone and much improved in Final Fantasy XIII-2. In XIII-2’s case, you are able to choose what role you level up at every single node, allowing you to turn a certain character into the master of a certain role or two.
5: Expansive Worlds
The world in which a game takes place is possibly the most important aspect of any game, but especially with RPGs. Developers have to craft an enticing world since the player will be spending an ungodly amount of time in it.
Example: Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII’s world is spectacular and gorgeous, possibly being one of my favorite RPG worlds ever. This world is especially intriguing to fans of the Final Fantasy Tactics games, as they take place in the same world at different times. I still remember the time I entered Final Fantasy XII’s version of the Giza Plains and was instantly reminded of Tactics Advance. Final Fantasy XII does not always get the credit it deserves, but I do not know many people who would argue that its world is not memorable. From the city or Rabanaster to the idyllic Phon Coast, I wouldn’t mind spending a lot of time in Final Fantasy XII’s world.