There are many that feel that the only true RPGs are the classic, turn based, sprite infused, Japanese style RPGs. Now J-RPG is almost a dirty word since a vast majority of them that come out of Japan are piss-poor, terrible, games. Sorry, but it’s true. Star Ocean: The Last Hope doesn’t hold a candle to Mass Effect. But as much as I do love Mass Effect, it’s just not the RPG I want. It’s a great game, but I would never put it at the top of my favorite “RPG” list. Lost Odyssey was a good shot, but what’s that, 1 game? 1 good true RPG for an entire console generation. One answer to this problem has been RPG Maker.
RPG Maker has been around for quite awhile now and I just wanted to introduce everyone to the library of community built games out there. I’m not talking about the RPG Maker games that were available for PS1 and PS2. Those were cool ideas, but since the internet wasn’t readily available to those systems, those programs could never reach their true potential since you couldn’t really share this information with a widespread audience.
I was first introduced to RPG Maker with RPG Maker 2000. This fantastic program made it very easy to create your own 16 bit RPG. It came with a ton of preset tiles, characters, sprites, sound effects, music, etc. and a bunch of tools to help you create your own. Plus fan made websites began sprouting up with full games they made you could download for free, or extra tools or tips you could use to build your own game. RPG Maker VX is the current iteration of the series, which is no longer free unfortunately. Actually, I’m not sure if RPGM2k was ever free, I just remember i didn’t pay for it. Anyway, if you want to get the older version, it’s still available and easy to find. If you want the most recent version, you can get it from the official RPG MAKER website. They do at least give you a trial period if you just want to check it out.
All that said, here’s a list of games I feel are most notable:
First Fantasy: Endless Nova
This is the game that introduced me to RPG Maker. I don’t remember the specifics, but I know I was doing a search for Final Fantasy stuff and I stumbled across this. “What’s this?!” I exclaimed, and frantically located where I could download both the game and the program to run it. Endless Nova really has nothing to do with the franchise, other than that its creator thought the game they were making was worthy of sharing the Final Fantasy title. Honestly, it’s a pretty damn good game that could easily follow in the footsteps of its SNES brethren. It is of course much shorter, has some spelling errors, and doesn’t have the privilege of being touched by Nobuo Uematsu. However, the intro screen has a midi version of the Serial Experiments Lain theme song. Not that I’d compare that to Uematsu. Abandonia everything you need to play it HERE.
Barkley, Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa
Yes, this is the title and yes, the game is as awesome as the title. By far my favorite on this list. First, a quick lesson; Gaiden translates into english as “tale” or “side-story”, usually used when a story has a spin-off from its original but not necessarily a sequel. For example, Joanie Loves Chachi, a spin-off from Happy Days, could alternatively be called Happy Days Gaiden. Also, saying the word as “GAY-dun” is wrong. The appropriate pronunciation is “GUY-den”, so please correct yourself. If it sounds like I’m being pushy, I am. We Americans have been saying Ninja Gaiden wrong for over 20 years now. It’s time to make a change. But I digress… Barkley, Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden follows the story of Charles Barkley and his son, Hoopz, years after basketball has been outlawed due to the catastrophic Chaos Dunk, a “jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order”. His former fellow pro B-baller, Michael Jordan, is now part of B-Ball Removal Department, and where they were once rivals on the court, their rivalry now threatens the life of Charles and his son.
If this all sounds insane, that’s because it is… INSANELY AWESOME! Don’t let the ridiculous premise fool you. It’s not all just jokes and silliness. this is a very well put together game. Tales of Games Studios is responsible for this instant classic and it’s obtainable HERE
The following can all be obtained from the RPG Maker VX Community:
Unlike the rest of the games mentioned today, this one isn’t free. It’s not too expensive, only $14.99, but still a bit much for an indie game (there is a free trial at least). Why isn’t this one free you ask? You’ll see once you play it. The level of production that went into this game far exceeds any others and they used way more than the tools that are supplied with the program. All of the main characters are created from scratch. It has a well written storyline set in a Steampunk universe. I think this game could have easily been a console original.
A Japanese only Square Enix production for the Super Famicom. Radical Dreamers was a side story for Chrono Trigger and served as the inspiration for Chrono Cross. Much of the music and characters featured in Radical Dreamers appear in Chrono Cross. Although there was never an official English release, translated roms are available. So if there’s a translated rom for it, then why did someone make a version with RPG Maker? That’s because it’s a text based game that kind of reads like a choose your own adventure book. The goal of this project is to capture the feel of a true Chrono Trigger sequel as much as possible. It’s too bad that it’s never been completed. Or if it has, then I am painfully unaware and somebody, PLEASE, send me in the direction where I can find it.
These are notable enough for at least a quick mention:
Tales of the Drunken Paladin – This is your classic 16 bit, turn based, fantasy RPG, only it’s not. It plays like one and looks like one, but doesn’t have the sensibility of one. Absurd character names, contemporary dialogue with a silly tone, and a story where the main character is a cross between Joxer from Xena and Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. That may not be entirely accurate, he’s a better fighter than Joxer.
Kingdom Maker - Interesting program used to make something apart from an RPG. Part tower defense, part city builder. I don’t know if this game is technically complete or not though, but it seemed kind of bland. Liked the concept though.
Ghostbusters – Too awesome not to check out. The developer used a lot of art from the comic books and did a good job of doctoring the sprites. Battles are fought Dragon Quest style.
The Silmarillion – Nirnaeth Arnoeidad – As far as I know, there has never been a game about The Silmarillion. As a Lord of the Rings fan, I was very curious about this one. I’ve never read The Silmarillion in its entirety so I really don’t know how accurate the game is. It’s an interesting story though if you’re a fan. Lots of backstory about what happened many, MANY years before Sauron became the all powerful dark lord. Only downside of this game is that the backgrounds are extremely bland and makes it feel incomplete.
Valhalla – A card battle game. Wasn’t really my cup o’ tea, but it was interesting to see someone make a card game out of an RPG mechanic.
I too had my own RPG years ago,simply titled, Mr. T’s Adventure. You played as Mr. T and one morning you awaken to find that your gold chains have been stolen by some fiend. Mr. T roars in anger, chugs a whole carton of milk and throws it on the floor shattering it (yes, shattered a carton, for Mr. T is such a man of brute force, and his rage so furious, that he can shatter cartons), gets in his van and then the adventure begins. Months into its creation, my computer broke down and I was unable to recover the data from my hard drive. I did have back up files, but somehow they had become corrupt. I guess the universe didn’t want this game to exist. I was too heartbroken to ever remake it, thus this adventure never came to fruition.
At first I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the OUYA, but it’s starting to look like a pretty legit system. What’s OUYA? So glad you asked. It’s a console in the making that breaks away from “The Big 3″, using an android based, digital download format, that will be playable on your TV.
I’m still a little conflicted though. I suppose it really depends on where the video game market goes and how well they execute their format. Will this be a commercial success? I really don’t know. But I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be either. A “commercial success” can often feel soulless and cheapened. It also kind of feels like they’re trying to sell us something that we already have. It runs on android. If I really wanted to I could hook up my android tablet to my TV and a controller to that. Granted not all games could work this way, but this is one of their main boasts. Well I can already do this. I’m also not the biggest fan of digital download. I prefer to own a physical item. If they’re going to be selling console class gaming, I’m sure they’ll be more expensive than your typical app store game. And then you’re locked in. No returning it, no selling it when you’re done, no lending it out to a friend.
On the other hand, Brian Fargo is absolutely right. Console gaming is where REAL games are (I totally agree. I’ll be the first person to tell you iPhone games are trash), however, you need to be a big name to make any sort of money. Actually forget that. You need to be a big name to even be considered for making a game for a console. Unless your game is going to make $4mil in it’s opening week, EA and Activision don’t want to know you. And this is why I most certainly will be getting an OUYA. Indie developers of all kinds will have easy access to releasing their games on the OUYA format. And since it’s a console you play on your TV with a controller, not a clumsy, on-screen, touch-sensitive pad, it will feel more like a real gaming experience.
Most recently OnLive and more importantly, Square Enix have jumped on board. That was the moment I was sold (trying so hard not to be a Square Enix fanboy). I had already put my backing into the project, but it was when I got this news that I no longer felt like it might have been an iffy decision. They’ll have available at launch, a remake of Final Fantasy III. Not the American III, which is really VI. But the one that was only released on the Japanese Famicom and had the DS remake back in 2009. Don’t expect a straight port either. Apparently it will be a full HD console remake from the ground up.
You don’t have much more time to get in on the ground floor. They have about a week left for backers to get on board. It’s only $99 for the console and a controller when it releases. They’re already well over their goal, so this is happening. The OUYA could very well change the face of the console gaming market. We’ll see what happens.
OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console <—– The OUYA Kickstarter page
First off, you have to love the box art, reminiscent of Capcom’s NES days. I’m immediately reminded of Little Nemo the Dream Master, though Cthulhu and Nemo have naught in common. Cthulhu Saves the World is the second game developed by Zeboyd Games. Much like its precursor, Breath of Death VII (also an awesome game to check out), Cthulhu is imagined in amazing 16-bit graphics, taking us back to a time when RPGs ruled the home gaming console.
Games don’t really seem to fit cleanly into one specific genre anymore. Call of Duty is the most popular FPS ever, but it does have RPG elements to it. You level up, acquire new skills and weapons, gain experience points. Then we have the biggest RPGs like Fallout and Mass Effect, which are basically RPGs turned shooters. The line that used to so clearly define the genre of a game has been blurred, almost completely erased even. Not that I have anything against any of those games, but I like my turn based RPGs dammit! Alas, they are a dying breed. Developers don’t really make them for consoles anymore, because unless you’re a Square Enix fanboy/girl, you want immediate action and swift gratification, which has been the standard for this generation of consoles. I get it… I mean there’s a completely valid reason; video games are more of a “business” now than they’ve ever been so they only push what sells. But that’s exactly why I wanted to review indie games in the first place; As much as I love video games, the artistic endeavor is often cast aside for the commercial product. Over commercialization of anything will ultimately cheapen it. It’s all about how much money they can squeeze out of a franchise. How many Tony Hawk games are there? How many are actually any good? So where have the good traditional RPGs gone? They’re out there, just not so mainstream as they used to be.
Cthulhu has definitely been one of the most undersaturated monsters in the media. Vampires and Zombies are so commonplace, they might as well be a friendly neighbor. How many about Cthulhu? Aside from that one South Park episode, I can’t think of any. Though he has been a familiar face in the gaming culture for years. There have definitely been games about him, but never with him as the star. Cthulhu could not slumber forever. Through the unfathomable power held by the Great Old Ones, Cthulhu has risen from the murky depths and stepped into the limelight. I think once you have a plush novelty doll of yourself, you’ve made it. Would H.P. Lovecraft approve of this game? Is this a bastardization of the Cthulhu mythos? Yes, and it’s good.
The first 5 minutes of the game introduce you to one of the most ingenious plots a god could muster..but not really. Allow me to explain. Residing in his underwater realm of R’lyeh, Cthulhu finally awakens to embark upon his destruction of the world. His plans are immediately thwarted as a mysterious stranger appears somewhat arbitrarily and easily strips Cthulhu of his power. Only by becoming a true hero and saving those in need will he be able to regain his lost power in order to destroy the world. Sounds kind of counter productive doesn’t it? Anyway, thus we are thrust into the game. I really don’t want to give anything of the story away because afterall, RPGs are mainly about the story anyway. Trust me, it is truly entertaining, humorous and just a solid good old school RPG. The dialogue is particularly light considering the cosmic greatness that is Cthulhu, and consists mostly of witty banter. So don’t expect a convoluted adventure, question the meaning of ones existence, like most of the Final Fantasy games. Gameplay is pretty much straight out of NES and SNES Dragon Quest, though with more leveling up options. Depending on your playing style, the game will take somewhere between 6 – 10 hours. Also, it seems a main battle mechanic is to make things insane. I for one am totally for anything that promotes insanity.
I would also like to quickly address the games credits. In the “special thanks” section of the credits, they list Kainazzo, a boss from Final Fantasy II, and the lowercase letter ‘e’. Maybe they thought they could sneak those in there because no one ever reads the credits. But I do!
Available for XBOX Live Arcade at 240 MS points, or on Steam you can get the Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World bundle for just $2.99. You cant go wrong. So do it. If you don’t, you’re basically admitting that you don’t like good games.
Of course I wouldn’t leave you without a chance to see the amazing theme song trailer.
As always, please don’t forget to share this post.
Thanks for reading!