I’m going to try to do a wrap-up post for each year I cover, although as the years get more stuffed with games I might have to do half-years. We’ll see. Since 1990 had only one game, I decided to do 1990 and 1991 together.
My list had seven games from this period: Fire Emblem, Little Master, Super Robot Taisen, Langrisser, Lady Phantom, Ninja Burai Densetsu, and Super Robot Taisen 2.
The most notable thing about these games is that they all lean heavily towards the strategy side rather than the RPG side. All of them are single-path games with one stage after another, with only Little Master allowing for repeating stages. The RPG elements are limited — only Ninja Burai Densetsu has any gameplay outside of battles (you can walk around in the towns and visit houses and shops). Most of the games allow for one piece or no pieces of equipment.
But three strong franchises started here — Fire Emblem and Super Robot Taisen are still strong franchises 28 years later. Langrisser did not have quite as much success but has still had a respectable string of games.
Also there are bigger things on the horizon. By the end of 1991, two companies are developing games that have a much stronger RPG element to them, and we’ll see those as the next two games on the blog (Fire Emblem Gaiden and Shining Force).
Unfortunately none of the games from this period are strong classics, in my opinion. The ones I enjoyed the most were Langrisser and Fire Emblem, although I did play a 1993 remake of Langrisser. Neither game is a masterpiece, and I think both are worth playing mostly to people who really like retro games or want to see the origin of these franchises. Langrisser is probably the better game.
Finally, this period has been pretty well favored by fan translators as well. Out of the 7 games, one has an official release and 4 have fan translations, leaving only Lady Phantom and Ninja Burai Densetsu. As I understand it, PC Engine CD games often present difficulty to fan translators because the voiced cutscenes rarely have subtitles, making it hard to do any translation of the dialogue.
On to 1992!