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Feb 16 2006
By: thebaldduelist~ Treasure Hunter 6975 posts

Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

19 replies 1 views Edited Feb 16, 2006
Ok this is one I want everyone to think about a bit. We all talk about how we thought so and so RPG was great, or better than that one, or it stunk compared to this other one that was great that it wanted to be like. Obviously what makes one RPG great to someone is a matter of opinion, but what the topic wants to know (yeah the topic wants to know, not me... lol) is how you arrive at the greatness conclusion? When does an RPG reach that point for you? What factors come into play? What notions get in your head? Calling something great is a big compliment, so what does it take to get that kind of a compliment from you? When replying, keep only yourself in mind. This thread isn't about RPGs that many feel are great, it is about discussing what it takes for you to call an RPG (not one particular RPG either, the genre as a whole) great and mean it.
For me, it's a bit tricky. I am very easy to please when it comes to my RPGs. Everyone knows someone that is very hard to please and when they say they liked something, you think well if they liked it, then it must be good. I am the opposite. I'm the kind of person that seems to like almost every RPG I play, so when I say I didn't like something, it had to be bad, right? Of course not necessarilt because it is all opinions, which are not facts. That makes it hard, because it is very easy for me to throw around the terms great and I love that game.
It's not really the little things that get me either. My attention usually draws straight to the battle system. I WILL be spending the most time here, so naturally this has to be the most important part of the game for me. A battle system needs to be functional, but fun and it need not be complicated. It can have it's own little twists, so long as they do not slow down the pace.
Humor will get me every single time. Sure a good story is important, but humor is just special to me. When an RPG makes me laugh on a regular basis, it has impressed me alot. However if all the game is, is funny, but not fun to me, then I wouldn't call it great.
Good exploration is another thing I consider. I don't care for non linear games and I do not believe that linear = boring either. What I look for is the game making me have to go from Point A to Point B but not minding if I take my time getting there and see the sights. I prefer the overworld map, but I can deal with the point to point movement if the game is fun enough.
I don't go into my RPGs looking for flaws. I evaluate as I go. Because I'm not looking for flaws, I can more easily overlook the ones that WILL be there. Naturally a major flaw will detract from the game and possibly ruin the experience, but if I can live with it, than I can still call a game great. I'm also not stuck in a it has to be 2D, it has to be 3D, it has to be old school, it has to be new school rut. I am up for just about anything in an RPG, so long as I am always playing and not watching for more than a little while.
Most importantly, the overall game has to feel fun. Over the years I came to realize that. I have enjoyed some RPGs that had yawnfest stories, yet I always preached that the story was the most important thing. But when I actually took a small amount of time to think about my own tastes, I realized it wasn't true for me. I play RPGs because they are the most fun to me, they are supposed to be games, not necessarily epic stories. (for me a good story and characters I can care about are just icing on a cake that may or may not already be good)
So for me, a fun RPG is a great one. An RPG with a battle system that really works for me is a great one. A humorous RPG can be a great one, although usually when combined with other factors. True, it doesn't take too much for me to have fun with an RPG, but I consider myself lucky in that regard.
So let's see how all of you measure RPG greatness for yourself.

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Treasure Hunter
Registered: 11/21/2005
5401 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006
Great topic, thebaldduelist!
What makes an RPG great to me is mostly excellent gameplay and story. 
What I like is an RPG with a fun battle system to me.  I largely prefer fun and unique/different battle systems than the traditional systems.  For example, I like the ATB Job system of FFX-2 better than the CTB system of FFX.  I also like Baten Kaitos' battle system, because it's very creative, new, and unique.  I also like a wide variety of ways to fight.  This is one reason I like FFX-2 (dresspheres/jobs) and DQVIII (different kinds of weapons and abilities for those weapons, almost like a job system) so much.  If a battle system is engaging and highly customizable as described above, that is a HUGE plus for me.
Another must have for gameplay is sidequests.  I LOVE sidequests and doing everything in an RPG I can other than the main plot.  I like compelling sidequests like secret dungeons and battle arenas.  Again, FFX-2 and DQVIII come to mind as having many and great sidequests.
As for story, it must have an emotional story with a world-threatening plot (most RPGs have this), but it must also execute it really well (not as many RPGs).  For example, in FFX, I could really get to know each of and every one of the characters, and while there was an emotional plot between the characters, namely Yuna and Tidus, going on in the background, there was a worldly plot (Sin) that was taking place at the same time the characters were going through their various trials.  I'm drawn most to RPGs that have a very deep storyline and main plot, and at the same time, playing out a deep emotional plot among the characters that ties directly in with events happening in the world around them.  FFVII also comes to mind.
For graphics, I want graphics that match the overall theme of the game, the theme of both the story and gameplay.  I like two kinds of graphics: "real-life" and anime.  For "real-life"-like graphics, it must be realistic like FFVIII, FFX, and FFX-2.  It must look like the people would actually look like that in real life.  If a game has this kind of graphics, I prefer it to have more of a "technologically advanced" feel, such as FFVIII.  For anime graphics, it must have a pure fantasy feel.  Tales of Symphonia comes to mind, because I loved the anime fantasy feel it brought.  For any fantasy setting, I most always prefer it to be in anime.
Most of the time, I prefer non-linear games, because I like to spend hundreds of hours with my RPGs.  If a linear game is as great as FFX though, I'll still like it.
I'm also fairly easy to please when it comes to RPGs.  I have yet to play an RPG that I didn't like.  I've only played FFVII, some of FFVIII, FFX, FFX-2, Tales of Symphonia, Baten Kaitos, and Dragon Quest VIII, and I like them all.  I've played some of Star Ocean: TtEoT, and I'm sure I'll like that too.  Sometimes I feel like people don't take my opinions seriously, since I am new to RPGs, so they think I don't know what to look for in an RPG and what makes it great.  I think I'm quite knowledgeable in RPGs, it's just that I like the genre so much that it's hard for me to be displeased with an RPG.
Overall, I put gameplay as the most important factor.  While I LOVE an emotional and great story, what's more important to me is that the RPG is fun.  For example, Dragon Quest VIII doesn't have one of the best stories I've seen, but it is extremely fun to me, which is why I praise it so much.
Simply, the game must be pure fun.

~ Credit to MaggIvy for making me this beautiful sig! Thanks! ~
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Treasure Hunter
Registered: 08/20/2003
6312 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006

It's because that if I can go through hours and hours of puzzle solving, character building, story twists and turns, item collecting, boss battling, characters death, realizations, emotional up and down rollercoaster of a game and come out at the end and still feeling I could have done more of something and I wanted to see certain things over again I would certainly call it (On a personal level) one of the greatest RPG games of all time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it isn't the graphics, it isn't the hype, and it certainly isn't the battle system that makes an rpg. It's first and formost the story the will make or break an rpg in my eyes. If it doesn't hit home there it can no longer be considered an Rpg to me.

Message 3 of 20 (1 View)
Registered: 07/30/2005
49 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006

For me I feel the battle system is a big thing in my rpg world and of course story. I like it when the battle system is different i.e Grandia II (amazing battle system) and Tales of Symphonia.  These games make the fights look that much more impressive with lavish combos and stunning visuals.  Now I'm not saying its all about graphics but it helps.  At this current time I'm playing through Tales of Legendia and at first was unsure of the battle system but now I'm spending time looking for fights where as in some rpgs you try and avoid fights because the system is substandard or similar to something you've played before.  Characters are also a big thing I like the whole father son relationships in most rpgs and of course there is always a love interest possibly a love triangle.  All these in turn for me make a great rpg.

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Uncharted Territory
Registered: 07/31/2005
1922 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006
(As posted at TMP)

For me, RPGs are a tough bite to swallow. Unlike most others here, RPGs are not my favorite genre of games. I enjoy FPS's like Ghost Recon more. I enjoy Racing games like GT4 more. It is only since I have stopped playing these games (literally forced myself to stop), that I am trying to get into RPGs more. I have always wanted to get into the genre, it just took me a long time is all.

When I play any game, I want it to be fun. From my experience with the RPG genre, I have found that most RPGs are not fun. So then why do I even try to keep on playing games in this genre? I like the stories.

In order for me to like an RPG, the game has to have a great story. The story and adventure is the most important thing to me. I want to save the world and defeat the odds to become a hero. I want to experience loss and gain. I like tragedies. I enjoy victories.

The battle systems in most RPGs are not fun. I like casting a black magic spell just as much as the next person, but it is hard to compare to the thrill of getting a good kill in an online FPS deathmatch. The only way a RPG battle system can keep me hooked is to give me something to think about. I don't want to mash the X button over and over again, it is boring. That is why I like SRPGs.

Final Fantasy Tactics is amazing to me. The game had a good story, and the battle system got me hooked. I have since picked up some more SRPGs that I have yet to play like Disgaea and Fire Emblem (GCN).

That is about all I have to say about this. This post was kinda a ramble, but it says what I want it to.

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Treasure Hunter
Registered: 05/16/2001
6969 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006
My first RPG was Super Mario RPG, and after that was FF7. SMRPG is what prompted me to even look at FF7, and to this day I love SMRPG for the gameplay, the story and for the nostalgic value. Despite playing RPGs for about 10 years, I'm still not sure what I like in a game or RPG.

SMRPG is incredibly simplistic and typical of RPGs. It is the essence and the shell of all RPGs that exist. It is a popular theme in non-FF RPGs to have a "Lassie" main character. The character never actually says anything, but there is assumed dialouge through how the other characters react, and through the main characters motions (nodding, jumping, etc). SMRPG has basic STR, VIT, SPD and MAG attributes, a weapon and 3 accessories, and skills that you learn by leveling up. Each character has thier own unique skills. The battles are turn based, with timed hits and shared MP to keep things interesting. The story is very liner, where you move from one point to another on the world map, as you set out to collect the 7 stars. I think what makes the game work, is its overall presentation and assembly. They brilliantly incorporate the Mario, Bowser and Peach story into a new world with additional characters. The application of Mario's world into a RPG atmosphere is done very well, and with a fair share of humor, its suddenly a well polished RPG.
The game is simple, avoids a lot of unessessary numbers and excess fat.

Aside from SMRPG my most memorable RPGs are:
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy Tatics
Breath of Fire 3
Breath of Fire 4
Front Mission 3
Vagrent Story (action/RPG)
Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Chrono Cross

Looking at that list, I think I perfer the simple, well built RPGs. Shadow Hearts I found to be just downright clever. This reminds me to do something one day... I want to play through FFX and BoF4, and see if there are any more simalarities outside the world map and battle system. I loved BoF4, and enjoyed FFX but FFX just didn't feel the same to me. I think in the end, it just comes down to the presentation and overall assembly. A game can lack in areas if it does it on purpose. If you play Shadow Hearts expecting a deep and serious story, with an engaging love plot... you'd normally be dissapointed. But since the game handles just about everything in such a humorus manner, its easyer to overlook things that might be "wrong" (the subtitles...). FFIX has a shell of a game too, but is still well done. The battle system uses FFs classic ATB, a simple way of learning skills, characters as jobs, and so on. The game has a true fantasy/medival feel. Shadow Hearts takes itself at face value. Its a game that takes place in world history, and never tries to pass off as a fantasy game, which I think I FFX was doing. It had more modern aspects, but tried to pass off as an medivail game. It was still very entertaining though.

Because I find it hard to pinpoint what I like, I can spend 30 mins at the game store and just decide to not buy a game, because I simply don't know what I want... I just know I want something. :smileytongue:

Message Edited by Mastervivi on 02-16-200603:55 PM

Message 6 of 20 (1 View)
Treasure Hunter
Registered: 11/23/2003
5092 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006
A battle system that is deep and allows for lots of customization.  If the battle system is too simplistic then by the time you're midway through the game it'll have become boring as hell.  Along with this I would include job classes with lots of job abilities.  I will play a game once just for the battle system.
Storyline and characters.  For me to replay a game, it has to give me something I can sink my teeth into.  The characters have to have some depth, the story has to make me care about what happens to them, and I want some issues to be raised that are actually meaningful. 
That's basically it, but the number of games that meet my criteria are few and far between.  Fun is a relative term, but for me a game is fun if it can keep me absorbed, that's why I ask for deep battle systems and deep story lines.   
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Fender Bender
Registered: 05/17/2004
4200 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 16, 2006
~*** AS POSTED AT TMP ***~

For me, it's actually 100 times simpler than most people that know me will think it is..

A Great RPG = An RPG that is above average in EVERY category and an absolute BLAST to play from start to finish.

In my history of RPGing, I've played 2 games that fell into this category and I am currently playing 2 that will most probably fit into the great category.  

I'm a stickler for calling games great.  Great is not a word I just toss around.  I am much more scrutinizing than the general public.  Like TBD I don't look for flaws when I play.  They are just always blatently obvious to me. 

The Great Games are:

Secret of Mana (All Time Favorite)
Final Fantasy IV
Chrono Trigger

Why is Final Fantasy VII not on there you ask???  Here's an example so you can see how my judging works:

Final Fatasy VII comes out of the gate AWESOMELY.  But by the end of the game, I was just ready to get it over with.  It was not even fun for me anymore.  Actually it had lost most of it's steam by disc 2 IMO.  Most RPGs I've played, even the ones that have potential for greatness, fall into this category.  I call it, the lack of endurance syndrom.

A Great RPG will be just as fun at the end as it is in the beginning.  That's the main thing I judge on.  All the other categories just have to be better than most but not the best.

Example:  Xenogears does not have the best battle system in the world, but it works, it's fun, and it does not drag out the fights.  So this one (which I'm currently playing) still has potential to be great because I am still enjoying it and all the categories are above average IMO.

FFX-2 is one that had potential to be great because the combat system was one of the best..  But once the horrific overall gameplay set in, it destroyed its chances.  I actually cussed out the game as I watched the ending sequence because I was so glad to get it over with. 

Last example.  Morrowind on Xbox:  EVERYTHING about this game was great to me.  Except the load times.  I have not played that game in 6 months because of the load times.  I literally do NOT have enough time after work to play it because the loads take so long.  That discourages me from playing it.   Another "coulda been great" that fell just a tad bit short.

There you have it!!!!!

Digikoto is no more... But you can keep up with my blog for the latest and greatest in gaming, music and entertainment editorials...

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First Son
Registered: 08/27/2003
16 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 17, 2006
The RPG that began to open a whole new, beautiful world up to me was Phantasy Star II on the Genesis. At that point, I'm pretty sure I was still a bit young to truly appreciate the direction my gaming habits were heading. PSII was sort of a primer and I really enjoyed the battle system. Now, you've got to remember, having a player vanish from sight and then seeing the slashes over the enemy as if they were being struck was action back then!  The exploration mode gave a 2d version of a "pseudo 3/4-view" of sorts which was a huge upgrade over older titles such as Final Fantasy. A few years later came PSIII:Generations(which I wasn't as crazy about but still played), and then it happened. Now, those of you ages 27+ will remember EXACTLY what I'm talking about when I say "Sega Channel". For those of you who DON'T know- for $12.95 per month through the cable company, you could download games to the special cartridge adapter that screwed into the cable line. There was only one catch- if you were playing a game that would've had the lithium battery for game saves in the retail version, you would have to load it every other time to keep your game saved. If you were playing game A but meanwhile wanted to play game B, you would have to download A again directly after to maintain your save. This is how I finished the RPG that shot the genre's arrow directly through my heart. It was $80 in the stores. You know what I'm talking about- Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millenium. Man, this game had it all. No more cheesy scratch marks- your character appeared in front of the enemy and attacked! Also, there were an unheard of 5 characters in your battle party. The story was great, the length was incredible(for the time), and the art dirction was like watching a comic book. With all of those positives, that still wasn't the clincher for me. The best part were the macros. There was a list of presets that you could determine when one spell or attack just wasn't enough. Check out a few of my faves:
Crosscut + Efess = Grandcross
Death + Illusion = Lethal Image
Now, before the flames heat up, I know combo attacks have been done since then- that was just the first time I had ever experienced them(and that may have been their origin; I'm not sure). Plus, Wren- one of the baddest-assed characters EVER. Period. PSIV was just and overall epic experience for me and it is the benchmark by which I measure every RPG I play to this date. So often do we see games with great potential suffer from budget or time restraints these days. If it isn't bad voice acting it's an ending like "You have saved the world. The End." That's no way for anyone to spend 40+ hours. I actually don't mind shorter games in this genre if the production value is high and mechanics are tweaked to near perfection. Bottom line is, I guess, that if you can't wait to get home to play it, think about it while you're at work or school, and dream about it while you're asleep, then you're playing a great RPG.

Message Edited by {JSS}LiFe-LiKe on 02-16-200604:11 PM

Message 9 of 20 (1 View)
Registered: 01/05/2005
742 posts

Re: Measuring RPG Greatness (On a Personal Level)

Feb 17, 2006
I am fair when I review a game.  I try to put "Favorites" aside, and I rate it fairly.  For instance, I gave Radiata Stories a C+, even though it is one of my favorite RPGs.  I don't let favoritism cloud my judgement towards the actual game.  I gave Final Fantasy VI an A, but it isn't my favorite RPG. 

I judge an RPG on every category equally, although I tend to stand away from the graphics department a bit, since that usually doesn't matter unless it effects the gameplay.  However, when playing "Favorites," I tend to go by these rules:

  Doesn't matter, just as long as the graphics don't give me a headache (i.e. Xenogears, Earthbound), and as long as it doesn't effect the gameplay (i.e. Kingdom Hearts, Star Ocean).  A game with great art style really adds to the game, and I love a great art style (Legend of Mana).  Overall, though, graphics don't matter much to me.

  It doesn't matter to me all that much.  As long as the battle system isn't terrible (like Kingdom Hearts, Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Legendia), then I am happy.  I like a lot of sidequests (SO3), and I love it when your characters are very customizable (LoM).  If the battle system, out of battle controls, and the rest are managable, then I won't care what the gameplay is like. 

Story:  Most important aspect in any RPG, in my opinion.  If an RPG has a crappy storyline (Kingdom Hearts, Tales of Symphonia, Final Fantasy VII), then I will hate the RPG altogether.  I also really hate unoriginality when it comes to storylines, which is one reason why I hate FFVII, and a lot of the Tales titles.  Characters also have to be good, and the same "Unoriginality act" mentioned above applies to the characters, too.

Music:  Second most important thing in an RPG.  Simply put, having a crappy soundtrack will really ruin an RPG (or any game for that matter) for me.  If soundtracks are at least decent (FFV, Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, Sword of Mana), then I won't dislike it too much.  But if a soundtrack is so god awful (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Kingdom Hearts, Tales of Symphonia)  that I have to turn down the volume, then I will get mad.


1.  Story
2.  Music
3.  Gameplay
4.  Graphics

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