Last modified 10/16/2021
There are already a number of blogs devoted to RPGs, both console and computer. This blog will attempt to fit into a niche that’s not fully covered by any blogs I’ve seen so far — games that were only released in Japan. I’m able to read Japanese so I hope that I can bring attention to some of these more obscure games. I’m going to begin with the Super Famicom simply because I think that was a “golden age” for a certain style of RPG that became less common in the next generation of consoles. If I ever actually finish all the SFC games I might go on to other systems, but for now this seems sufficient.
Therefore this blog will focus on Super Famicom RPGs that fit these three categories:
- Were only released in Japan (fan translations don’t count)
- Are not ports or remakes
- I have not played before.
Basically if a game fits all three of those criteria I will definitely play it. Otherwise I might skip it; it depends on the situation. There are some games that did see a western release that I never played, but that I’ve always wanted to (e.g. Lufia 2). I definitely don’t want to play bad ports of Western CRPGs, but something like Cyber Knight, which was an enhanced port of a computer original, is fine.
I make one post a week on Saturday or Sunday. If I am playing a strategy RPG on my other blog, I will generally make some kind of other post (like a quick play of some other retro RPG).
What is an RPG? This isn’t something I’m going to try to define. I’m going to rely on my 30 years of experience playing console RPGs and just use my own judgment. I’m always willing to hear arguments for why a game I didn’t play is actually an RPG.
My list of games comes from a nicovideo series showing short gameplay clips of all the Super Famicom games in release order. I also consulted a Japanese list in case I missed anything, but that list has a much wider view of an RPG than I do. They include what I would consider adventure or simulation games, and also some action games that have only very tenuous RPG elements. Anything on that list I don’t play, I’ll explain why when I get to it.
How long will I play each game?
I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this. In theory I would like to complete all the games, but this is supposed to be for fun, not masochism. If I get to a point where I think I’ve played the game enough to make a final evaluation, and I’m really not enjoying it at all, I will move on.
Another important consideration will be the accessibility of the game in English. I will be more likely to abandon a game if there is a translation patch and/or English walkthroughs. For instance, you will see that I skipped Dragon Ball Z after one post. The game was OK but not great, and I was going to have to restart from the beginning. I chose to move on to the next game because there are multiple translation patches and walkthroughs for the game.
Ultimately I decided on this rule — if a game had an official release in English, or if I’ve played it before, I can approach it however I want. If a game has a translation patch, I may skip it if it’s especially bad or not fun. If there is no patch, though, I have to play it to the end. As of yet I haven’t had to violate this rule although a few times I’ve come close.
Will I use walkthroughs, or emulator features? Most of the retro game blogs I’ve seen have a no-walkthrough policy. I’m less strict on this. I will not play a game following a walkthrough step-by-step to find all the hidden secrets and best tactics against all the enemies. However, I will use a walkthrough for the following:
- Instructions for how to play the game
- Major secrets like “good” endings, bonus dungeons, or hidden characters
- Lists that give stats for weapons, items, spells, etc.
However, if I am not enjoying a game to the point where I’m having to force myself to play it, I may use walkthroughs more extensively so that I can get through the game and move on to something else. The same applies to save states.
The emulator speed-up feature I’m more willing to use since a lot of older games have needlessly slow combat systems. I’m not a purist when it comes to playing games from this era. (In the early days of the blog I had a “one week rule” where I couldn’t use any emulator features for the first week, but I abandoned this. It depends on how crappy the game is — if the game is garbage I’m willing to use save states and speedup.)
I stopped doing review posts after the first couple of years, but I’ll leave this here to explain the ratings for those posts:
[Finally, this is the rating system I’m going to use — I’m not going to give numerical reviews or grades, just an overall impression. I will also try not to use big spoilers in the review.
Story/Characters: I’m not as big on story as a lot of RPG players are, but it’s still nice to see a decent one, and interesting characters.
World: This is the general feel of the game world. Is it generic fantasy? Does it just seem like random towns and dungeons slapped together for the game?
Game Flow: Does it feel like you’re progressing through the story? Things that would subtract from this category would be large difficulty spikes requiring grinding, or long dungeons/fetch quests that get tedious.
System: What is there to do in the battles besides mash A for “attack”? Can magic users actually do anything? Is there anything outside the battles other than standard town/dungeon exploring (minigames, puzzles, complex NPC interaction, etc.)?
Side Quests/Optional Content: In the SFC era this wasn’t the mainstay of RPGs that it later became, but there are still plenty of RPGs that have some.
Interface: Is it easy to navigate the menus? Equip things, use spells, etc?
Graphics/Sound: Judged by the standard of the SNES, of course.
If you are trying to find out whether a game is worth playing, I recommend reading the first post and the review.]