…well, at least for me anyway. I have never claimed to be the biggest role-playing gamer, but at times of my life I have been so more than others. Back in my early teens, my brothers and I owned a Commodore 64. That was our gaming system, and thanks to a little ‘help’ from some friends we had quite a gaming library. But probably the best of the best games back then were the RPG’s. These were some of the first to hit the market and were very solid, even by today’s standards. These were not your typical J-RPG’s (Japanese/Eastern), these were the wild west’s first forays of gaming adventures. Questron, Ultima’s III-V, Autoduel, and Wasteland (father of the Fallout series) were where I cut my teeth with RPG’s. These experiences and gaming styles are why I have such a fondness for the western product. But, as I got older and moved away from home I moved into the console era, where for me the allure of the RPG was not as strong as this is where the western RPG went to die during the 90’s. It would be some time again before the genre would capture my attention.
I try not to speak outside the (X)box in this blog, but in order to tell my story I need to talk about the Dreamcast. For me, the Xbox was the spiritual successor of that system. Unfortunately, the DC was doomed in the face of its competition, making way for Microsoft’s titan to carry the torch going forward. While the DC died an early death, it a a full lifecycle of first-class and unique titles that people still talk about years later. For me to re-embrace the RPG genre it took the one-two punch of Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia to make me play and complete epic adventures once again. While these games are not of the western school of gaming, for me they offered great new mechanics and adventuring that for me was closely related to what I loved about RPG gaming. Skies was a grand adventure that took combat from the ground level and put you in the open air with huge ship to ship battles! Combine that with the ability to explore the lands and skies of the game quite freely, you had the makings of a classic RPG from Japan with western sensibilities. Grandia II leaned towards the traditional Japanese game style, but what I loved about that games was the pace of the combat. It was pseudo-realtime and kept you on your toes. I really enjoyed these two games, but it would be several years before the RPG would come back front and center.
*Continued in Part II