Nov 292012
 

On Twitter today, I posed the question – what is your favorite 16-bit RPG? I got many responses, but by far the most popular answers were Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy IV (in that order). Now, you could argue that these three games were the most popular responses because they were all flagship titles for the most popular RPG company at that time, but let’s take a look at some of the similarities that they share between them.

All three games had…

cutting-edge graphics (for the time).

fantastic soundtracks.

memorable characters.

fast pacing.

easy-to-learn gameplay (standard RPG gameplay with maybe one or two special features).

variety in scenarios & locations.

I definitely think there’s a lot that modern RPG developers could learn from these timeless classics. Present your game attractively (both the visuals & the audio). Fill it with strong characters. Don’t waste the player’s time either with filler or with having to learn overly complicated systems. And finally, keep the situations and scenarios of the game interesting and varied from start to finish. Do all that and you’re well on your way to have a superb RPG.

 Posted by at 1:44 pm

  4 Responses to “What can we learn from the most popular 16-bit RPGs?”

  1. I think another thing to keeping your players interested is a deeper customization system. The best example I can give, well examples, would be something like Final Fantasy 10’s grid system and all but the latest star ocean’s systems for doing more than just fighting and reading story. Better example of that last point is Star Ocean 2 on the playstation 1. Its tradeskills and bonus abilities were extremely deep and actually a ton of fun to play with. You could create orchestral music that gave you benefits while it played. You could blacksmith gear together. You could create items that helps with things such as thievery, or helped passively in combat. You could cook, summon a bunny to travel without random encounters, make jewelry, and on and on and on. Due to how deep that system was, and the fact that it also upped your actual stats if you leveled those various things up, I spent a lot of time playing with it.

  2. I remember trying to order the sound track to Final Fantasy 3 (its 3 thats what it said on my box) from the strategy guide in the late 90’s. They wrote me back, including my mothers check, saying they had ended business with Nintendo and no longer had copies of the sound track. I was heart broken.

  3. Although not present in FFIV (unless you count the pink tail sidequest), both Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI have points at which the player is set free to explore the world before they head to the final dungeon to beat the Big Bad.

    At this point – Destroying the Black Omen in CT and obtaining the airship in WOR in FFVI – the game’s main plotline takes a backseat to more free-form world exploration and a variety of sidequests and dungeons. I think pretty much every Square game since has done this to a greater or lesser extent, and it’s definitely one of my favourite aspects of JRPGs.

  4. I think that the Music is what makes a scene really memorable because it conveys the feelings one should feel on a different level. E.g., in this Final Fantasy VI Video (Warning: Major Spoiler), the music (at about 4:40) sets the mood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok6qjPj7O3g

    I’d also refer to Monkey Island 2’s iMuse system (which had individual instruments fade in/out or change speed, very nicely done when entering the swamp and rowing towards the voodoo lady house).

    One other thing: These games didn’t have voice acting. I think that voice acting really hurt especially JRPGs (especially the female characters, very obvious in Star Ocean: The Last Hope). Look at some of the writing for Yuffie or Selphie in Final Fantasy 7 and 8, then imagine it voiced. I think that the characters were alright if a bit quirky, but with voice acting I think they would be downright annoying. But even Cloud has some cringe-worthy lines that just work well when read but not when spoken.

    Even in the old age of 8-Bit mostly text based RPGs, clever sound design added more than better graphics to the atmosphere and mood. There is a reason OCRemix and Orchestral Arrangements of the music is so popular, because Terra’s Theme immediately brings back that feeling I had when I saw the Magi-Tek armors walking through the snowfield in glorious Mode 7.

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