If you thought the answer to this topic was gonna be racing or cooking sims, well…you’ve clearly not been paying much attention to Grinding Down. I’m all about the roleplaying games, but it did take me some years to really get into the genre and stay there, as many JRPGs almost ruined me, as they have almost ruined others before me. Thankfully, standout titles like Suikoden, Suikoden II, and Final Fantasy VII literally blew my genitals, taking me from teenhood to manhood in a matter of dozens of hours, thanks to intricate plots, fantastic battle systems, soaring sounds, elegant pacing, light grinding, addictive gameplay, and endings that still resonate with me to this day. Plus, y’know, they let me play a role in their worlds.
I’ve always been a big reader, and much of the credit can go to my sister Bitsy who, from an early age, passed along books she had already read to me. Many of these turned out to be fantasy novels–works by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony (oh my), and Anne McCaffrey–and it wasn’t too hard to leapfrog from them to more “adult” work, devouring things like The Belgariad series by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and stuff by David Gemmell. Throw in the classics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the entire Discworld series, and well, I was hooked on stories.
And here comes along a genre of videogames that promises epic stories…and more! The majority of RPGs, more often than not, at least five or ten years ago,
were fantasy-themed. Sure, there’s the occasional sci fi-themed RPG, and many could argue that Final Fantasy VII is more space and metal frames than swords and dragons, but these videogames gave all their love to royalty and kingdoms and knights and dragons and magic spells and small-time villages trying to make ends meet before war destroyed everything everywhere. So I ate it up, even the bad meals like Beyond the Beyond and SaGa Frontier. It didn’t matter–I just wanted to be in a realized world, growing as a character, growing into a story.
Character customization is not as important to me as character crafting is. Whenever a new RPG begins and you’re given the chance to mold how your dude or dudette looks, I click around, raise their cheekbones, lighten or dark their skin, find a cool beard, and call it a day. I can easily see that hours upon hours can be spent noodling with dozens of options, but that’s not important to me. Once we’re in the game, spending skill points or focusing on this spell or deciding what kind of armor Mini Paul will wear are the bigger decisions.
While RPGs are my favorite genre, this also can be problematic. On average, a RPG can take around 30 to 40 hours to complete. However, having an addictive personality, I end up playing most RPGs for double that. See: 130 hours logged so far in Dragon Quest IX, over 100 hours for Fallout 3, eighty+ hours for Fallout: New Vegas, and so on. Playing more than one RPG at a time is like juggling balls of fiery acid with no gloves, and yet it’s something I simply can’t avoid.
Last year, I needed a break between some RPGs I was eating up, and so I picked up Mini Ninjas for the Xbox 360, thinking that an action title would be a good change of pace. I completed the game in under five hours. That’s it? I’ve played prologues in RPGs for longer than that (think Suikoden V, people), and I was a bit taken aback at how much quantity I look for in a game these days. Quantity over quality, especially when discussing bug-ridden games like the Fallout series. I don’t care how broken they are…there’s so much stuff to do to distract me from such bummers.
But yeah, RPGs. Love ’em. Always will so long as they continue on, which we all know they will. Can’t wait to see how big and massive Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is gonna be, as well as the multiple choice quiz that is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Sorry, upcoming Cooking Mama 4 for the 3DS…I DON’T GIVE TWO STEAMED CAULIFLOWERS ABOUT YOU.