Welcome! The title of this blog is taken from the victory screen of Tactics Ogre — it sums up to me the essence of an SRPG, that feeling of accomplishment and relief you feel upon finishing a stage.
The first SRPG I played was Shining Force (on Genecyst!), but I only played a bit of it. Several years later I played Final Fantasy Tactics, and I fell in love with SRPGs. Since then it’s been my favorite genre, but there are so many that I haven’t played. Thus, this blog was born!
This is sort of a companion blog to my other project, superfamicomrpgs. The goal is to play through all the SRPGs developed in Japan for consoles, in chronological order.
If you want all the technical details, read below the line. I have done an exhaustive search of Retro Game Fan and Game Data Room along with help from youtube and GameFAQs to find games that fit my personal definition of the SRPGs I like to play. The first one I was able to find was indeed Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light for Famicom, so that’s where I’ll start. The next post will be mostly background and information from the instruction manual, then I’ll begin.
Here’s a list of games current through 2019 (at the time of posting).
Below the line is some tl;dr rules and procedures stuff.
What qualifies as an SRPG
The definition of an SRPG or TRPG is elusive, and especially with older games you see a lot of disagreement on what qualifies. For instance, the Retro Game Fan site above lists Langrisser I as a strategy game and Der Langrisser as an RPG. The following definition is not intended to be absolute, it’s just a description of the type of SRPGs that I personally like to play. For me, there are two things that an SRPG needs to have:
1. A narrative. That is, the game can’t just have an end goal (as in Nobunaga’s Ambition or Romance of the Three Kingdoms). This also excludes games that have campaign modes which are just a series of maps with no narrative framework or connection between the maps. “Play major battles of World War II” would not count here either. The story doesn’t need to be deep, but it has to be there.
2. Individual characters that can be developed by the player. At least some of the player units need to be individually named characters with some kind of presence in the story. Generic troops are fine as long as they’re not your whole force (Ogre Battle, for instance, has a mix). This also excludes some of the SD Gundam G Generation games because the story characters aren’t actually in your squad, and the named characters you recruit for your permanent squad are not in the story.
The “development” part means that you need to be able to level or grow your characters in some way — traditionally that’s an XP level system, but other ways are possible. It doesn’t count if everyone gets stronger just by completing maps, in a fixed way that means every player has exactly the same squad on any given map.
A few additional small points:
- Standard RPGs with battles on a grid (e.g. Ultima III) do not count. Neither do games with card systems like YuGiOh.
- I’m only doing console games, although that includes ports of computer games.
- I’m only doing Japanese games, so no Heroes of Might and Magic or the like.
Now, these rules are really just guidelines — I may skip a game if it technically qualifies but still doesn’t really seem like an SRPG to me, or if it actually doesn’t qualify but I just want to play it (e.g. the Atelier games, which are more like “simulation” RPGs, and Sakura Taisen).
Here’s a list of games current through 2019.
Unlike my companion Super Famicom blog, I will be playing games that were officially released in English. However, I will play all games in Japanese.
There are a large number of remakes and ports of these games. The general principle is that I will play the original version of the game, unless a superior port was released around the same time and without major changes. A good example of this is the PC Engine version of Langrisser, which is the same as the Mega Drive version but with better quality music and some voiced cutscenes. On the other hand, the DS version of Fire Emblem 1 is 18 years later and introduces significant gameplay and graphical changes.
When I reach a remake in the timeline, I will at least play it for a short time just to compare the remake with the original, but I’ll only play the whole thing if there’s a good reason to do so.
I will be playing these games (at least in the early stages) on the most accurate emulators I can find, which are the following:
- Mesen (Famicom)
- Gambatte (Game Boy)
- bsnes-mcfly (A fork of higan/bsnes)
- Genesis Plus GX (Mega Drive/Game Gear/Mega Drive CD)
- Mednafen (PC-Engine, Playstation 1, maybe Saturn?)
I will use the speedup/fast forward functions to deal with unskippable battle animations or long enemy turns, but I will not cheat with save states……most likely.
My general practice for playing SRPGs is to use walkthroughs for factual information (hidden stages, recruitable characters, good endings, etc.) but not for strategy information (which units are the best to use, which enemies to watch out for or what techniques to use to beat them, which route is the best, etc.). This does sometimes warp the experience a bit because occasionally there are hidden characters or items that break the game, but on the whole I have more fun playing the games this way.
How long to play each game?
In theory, I would like to complete each game. However, there are two instances where I might abandon a game:
- I’ve played the game for a week, and it’s a bad game.
- Many of the games, particularly early ones, have no way to go back to previous maps or to grind levels. So it’s possible to play badly and get to a point where you are going to have to start the game from the beginning. If this happens, I may either abandon the game entirely, or put it aside and come back to it after a few more games.
In principle I’m only going to play each game once, even if it has multiple paths or endings. Depending on the game, though, I might play multiple routes, or I might play a second route when I reach a remake of a game (e.g. play one path on Der Langrisser and another path on Langrisser II for Playstation).
Could you share list of games?
I am curious how many PlayStation 1 SRPG-s are in total. Only played Arc the Lad (I – finshed, II – stop at half game), and Saiyuki: Journey West (great game but long battles), and Final Fantasy Tactics only played few missions at start.
I will try to do that — I have a very rough document that has the SRPGs I have found up through 1999 although many of them are questionable. It's not on google doc yet but I'll do that.
Love what you are doing here. Can you add a numerical rating/review/system to the spreadsheet of each game you play/have played? I would really like it and guess others may benefit.
I have played a ton of SRPGs over the years but am looking for any hidden gems I maybe missed. So, please keep up the great effort and thank you for doing this!
I tend to not like numerical ratings but I probably should do something like that — at the very least some kind of general idea of whether the game is good or not.
Thanks for the comment.
I notice on your spreadsheet you've skipped Dark Wizard for the Sega CD for not being a Strategy RPG. Wondering the thought process on that as it's pretty much a fire emblem like game with a story. It's actually a great game.
So this was very close, and I think it's right on the line of what is an SRPG and what is not for me. Having mostly generic troops is a minus, as is the lack of story development during the game (I think?) In the end, because it's available in English and also is a very long and slow-playing game, I decided to skip it.