RPG DNA: Games That Shaped Us – Part 3
Some of our writers here at SwitchRPG have used this article series to offer readers a glimpse of what some of their genre favorites have been in years past. Similarly, the “RPG DNA” series is an opportunity for our staff to highlight some RPGs that we consider to be so great that they shaped our respective gaming paths and preferences. These are the RPGs that defined me, and ultimately led to my addition to the staff here at SwitchRPG!
Final Fantasy IX
As you’ll hear later in this piece, I was playing RPGs on the SNES as a kid well before I knew what an RPG actually was. FFIX came along at the most opportune of times for me, as I had reached a lull in my adventures as a gamer. I played Final Fantasy VII and didn’t like it (gasp!), and had skipped FFVIII entirely. The only game I played to completion throughout this phase was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I was beginning to believe that gaming was only a phase that I was outgrowing in the favor of extracurricular activities like basketball and golf.
Then the day came that I first saw the TV ad for FFIX. I had never seen such crisp and beautiful CGI footage. I couldn’t resist giving the Final Fantasy franchise one more shot. As the cliche goes: the rest is history. The game was beautiful to play, look at, listen to and even think about. This was the game that I faked sickness in order to stay home from school and play for countless hours. The greatest story I’ve ever played, most unique cast of characters, and a title with an addicting synthesis system. My love for RPGs was a mere dwindling ember, but FFIX built it back into a raging inferno. Final Fantasy IX released on the Switch last year- is it a perfect port? No, but the game itself will always be great. You can read our review here.
Remember my earlier mention of loving SNES RPGs before I actually knew what a RPG was? I present Exhibit A: Chrono Trigger. I stumbled upon this masterpiece while crying in my local Movie Gallery. My heart was broken after someone else had rented the only copy of Spiderman: Maximum Carnage. I settled on a game with a case that featured a kid with crimson hair, a frog with a sword and a vampire (maybe?) on the back. Thank goodness Maximum Carnage was gone that day.
I never actually completed Chrono Trigger on the SNES during my rental. However, I did revisit the game later on the PSX as part of the Final Fantasy Chronicles compilation. By this point in time, I had learned that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama had designed the characters of Chrono Trigger, and this furthered my obsession with the game, as I have always been a DB fanboy. My love for Chrono Trigger inspired me to write an essay in college in which I detailed how games have served as an escape from reality for those who play them. The title of the essay? “From The Millenial Fair to The End of Time.”
Didn’t expect a sports game on here, did you?! Like a true dad, I often wish I had just a small portion of the money that I used to pay for batteries to power my GameBoy Color siphoned back into my checking account. Mario Golf fused the double tap golf swing mechanic with RPG elements and proceeded to pioneer the sports RPG sub-genre. The game featured numerous secrets and unlockables to enjoy as you progressed, and I became addicted to finding the “secret” routes to take on various holes that-if performed correctly- might shave a stroke or 2 off of the hole. It was the little things that made the original Mario Golf so great. The game was re-released on the 3DS eShop in 2015, and is still just as fun today as it was in the 90s.
I had just experienced the wonder of Final Fantasy X on the PS2 and was certain I couldn’t find another RPG on the console that could compare to the title I had sank over 55 hours of my life into. I was wrong. The clerk at the gaming store even attempted to warn me that Grandia 2 was a masterpiece on the Dreamcast, but was compromised by bugs and glitches on the PS2. I went with my gut and bought it anyway, and even though I did experience some slow down and glitchy cutscenes but I was too mesmerized by the innovative battle system and compelling story to notice.
While battling in Grandia 2 remains turn-based, your party members are mobile, and their proximity to the foe has to be taken into consideration while choosing the most effective attack. There are basic attacks that weaken the foe, critical attacks that interrupt the enemies attack gauge, and beautifully animated spells. I began playing Grandia 2 in an attempt to alleviate the absence of FFX, but I never expected that I’d enjoy it even more. Grandia 2 is currently available on the Switch as part of the Grandia HD Collection. These are 2 outstanding RPGs that you need to experience.
Level-5 is responsible for two marquee franchises that most familiar with video games will immediately recognize: The Professor Layton series and the Ni No Kuni series. However, the developer and publisher managed to make waves on the PS2 with Dark Cloud well before either of those series existed. My love for Dark Cloud was definitely not a result of the battle system, which was somewhat clunky and featured something I absolutely loathe in RPGs: weapon durability. Dark Cloud makes this list due to the incredibly addictive geomancing system that goes hand in hand with a story that requires the majority of the world to be rebuilt.
Rebuilding the world requires the young hero to explore dungeons to obtain key matter and structures that are necessary to the project. What makes the mechanic addicting is the ability to rebuild the world as you see fit. The player is required to meet a few requirements for NPCs, but this always leads to unlocking something convenient for progressing. I’m not sure why Level 5 chose to abandon this franchise, and I would love to see it return on the Switch, as the touchscreen would be absolutely perfect for geomancing.
Parasite Eve 2
One of Square-Enix’s lesser-known IP’s, Parasite Eve is fondly remembered by those who ventured into Aya Brea’s mitochondria altering, survivor horror experiences. Though the original was an amazing, movie-like gaming experience, the sequel ramped up the action by quickening the pace of battle and telling a story that continuously provided twists and revalations. The fear factor was real and made even more spooky by the beautifully rendered CGI cutscenes. On another note, I am not ashamed to admit that Aya Brea was my first “gamer crush.” Laugh at me if you want but she is hotter than her Mitochondria. Deal with it.
There we are! The RPGs that shaped me. These games will ways hold a special place in my heart, as I truly don’t believe I would be as avid a fan of video games- or the writer for this site- that I am today without them. What are some of the games that shaped you, and how did they impact your taste? Feel free to leave us a comment below, and if your tastes are similar to my own, be on the lookout for my future reviews and articles!