The Best Video Game RPGs
My liege lord E.D. calls Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim “quite possibly the greatest role-playing video game ever made,” and after reading his review and watching the trailer, I can see why. Alas, the gods of video gaming have not held me in their favor–the last video game I purchased was Final Fantasy XII in 2006–and I regret to say that I won’t be visiting the world of Skyrim anytime soon. Not for want of desire, mind you. My plate is full with…other responsibilities. Anyhow, I can neither confirm nor deny Erik’s assessment, but I have played a fair amount of RPGs over the years, and have some titles to suggest for the honor of being named the greatest role-playing video gave ever made.
First up is the best video game I’ve ever played, period: Yasumi Matsuno’s masterpiece Vagrant Story. The Playstation dungeon-crawler featured some of the most compelling fictional characters I’ve met anywhere, an unconventional and tightly-knit fantasy narrative, an eerie setting, and a script of pure writing gold. The game play was unique, versatile, and challenging. Weapons were divisible into various kinds (swords, maces, staffs, etc.), by elemental aspects, by strength against particular kinds of monsters, and by the type of damage they inflicted (blunt, edge, piercing). You could construct and customize individual weapons and use them against particular kinds of foes to improve their stats. You could also find yourself with a typically kick-ass weapon that proved useless against a powerful or even relatively weak enemy with unusual or unexpected defenses. Battles therefore involved strategy, trial-and-error, and luck. The game’s dated today, of course, but for the technology of its day, it was as close to RPG perfection as I think possible.
My second suggestion is Square’s Final Fantasy Tactics, another game by Matsuno. This strategy game suffered a little due to a less-than-stellar translation, but damn was it fun. Individual battles could last half an hour, but they’d be tense start to finish. Like Vagrant Story, its characters and story were morally ambiguous and fascinatingly so. When I first started reading A Song of Ice and Fire last year, I immediately thought of Tactic’s world of Ivalice and its political, moral, and magical intrigue.
I’d also consider bestowing the top honor upon Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI or Final Fantasy VII, but, at the end of most days, I’d have to go with Vagrant Story. But that might change some day when and if I get the chance to play Skyrim. So what other outstanding RPGs have I missed? What title would you call the greatest video game RPG ever made?