For the most part I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what an RPG is without using an objective criteria — I can tell the difference between a simulation game and a strategy RPG, and an adventure game and a regular RPG. Action RPGs are where I’m rather unsure.
My gut feeling is that Secret of Mana is an RPG whereas Castlevania II is not. But I have a hard time coming up with any objective criteria that would exclude C2 but not SoM. Both games:
- Have level advancement
- Are not linear, but require exploration
- Have “safe” areas like towns
- Have equippable weapons and shops