Monday, March 15, 2010

Know Your History: The RPG

Test running this for eventual submission at TrueAchievements as a running series

My first exposure to Role Playing Games was with Dragon Warrior 3 for the NES back in 1991. My uncle brought it over when he watched my brother and I for the weekend, so I had a first row seat for his fight against the Orochi. On screen, all I could see where the enemies sprites, which would flash when successfully hit by your invisible party, but in my mind, it was a swirling melee with the fighter and soldier characters at the front lines, the wizard behind them flinging ice spells and the hero, decked out in blue and green armor, plunging his sword into the neck of the Orochi and bringing it down. From that moment, I became a fan of Role Playing Games forever.

What appealed the most to a young Dog of Thunder, was leveling up my characters, finding new weapons and armor, that constant forward progress. Even in the fourth grade I was hooked on getting to that next level. I did not even need anything major, just an extra 10 HP, some more STR and maybe some LUCK (always the most useless stat, always.) Character progression was, to me, more important then the story or the graphics. Video games were simpler back then, where if you wanted persistent character progression, you would only be able to play an RPG.

Take a look around today then and find me a game that does not use elements of the early RPGS. Modern Warfare took the concept of leveling and experience to a whole new genre, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a straight up hack and slash title with an XP bar and a skills system. Even Sports games, such as MLB 2k10 and even Madden have begun using leveling systems for their characters. What happened?

When did the defining feature of the RPGs of my youth become so commonplace as to be cliche? Where was the tipping point? Was there one moment when the industry sat up and took notice of all the things that RPGs were doing right? Just how much do modern games owe to the classic RPGs of the 80s and early 90s?

Modern RPGs are understandably influenced by the classics. If you hate the segmented story telling of Final Fantasy 13, then you need to go back to 1990 and Dragon Warrior 4, the first RPG to introduce the concept of separate chapters for separate characters alongside a combat system where you controlled just the main character and set "Battle Options" for your allies. Choosing from "Offensive", "Defensive", "Converse MP", "No MP" and the like, Dragon Warrior 4 has more in common with a RPG released 20 years later then it did with Dragon Warrior 3.

Join me then as I take a modern game, and go backwards to the origin point. Learning along the way where all these features and concepts originated. By knowing and understanding the history of what came before, can we truly appreciate where we are now, and where we are going.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

King Arthur And The Knights of Justice - Complete Series on DVD!

King Arthur and the Knights of Justice

Oh how I loved this series as a kid. Okay, maybe not the series per se, but that bitchin' theme song. Yes, I just used the term "bitchin" and yes, this is a perfectly apt time to use it. The song starts off with Merlin explaining in about 3 seconds the entire plot of the series, and then the killer guitar riff starts up. All the best cartoons can be summed up in 3 seconds. For example:

King Arthur and the Knights of Justice: "From the field of the future, they come to save the kingdom of the past." Done.

Transformers: Giant robots transform into vehicles and shoot each other.

Pinky and the Brain: One is a genius, the other's insane, together they try to take over the world.

Coyote and Roadrunner: Coyote tries to catch Roadrunner.

See? It works! Try explaining something like Yu-Gi-Oh! in 3 seconds and see what happens. Can't do it. Because Yu-Gi-Oh sucks. I'm onto something with this 3 second theory. Anyways, King Arthur and the Knights of Jsutice, come for the amazing introduction, stay for the way cartoons used to be. None of this anime in everything crap, just classic saturday morning cartoon.