So I finally got a hold of Dragon Warrior 7 for the PSX, a game released in America at the worst possible time -- somewhere around the time the PS2 had come out and a few months before the graphically superior Final Fantasy X. And sadly, no one gave a care for it, (at least in America) and most reviews spent a large amount of time bemoaning how ugly it was, and pretty much ignoring everything else, such as the fact that it had a truly epic story, an amazing class customization system, a massive world, great boss fights... y'know, stuff you want from an RPG. But, hey, graphics.
And playing the game (which is great if you have the desire for some classic RPG goodness) I've come to -- quite sadly -- realize that never again will an RPG like this be made. It's low on graphical fidelity, the presentation of combat is archaic, it takes eons to get going. These are all qualities you won't ever find in a present day RPG, whether it be W or JRPG. But this game, man, it's truly epic in every sense of the word.
Let's face it, RPGs used to be designed solely for the player who has a lot of time on their hands and is more than happy to sink 100+ hours into a single game. (You might call them nerds.) I can recall my HS days where I'd look forward to the weekend just so I could put some solid hours into FFVII. I was more than happy to spend hours and hours on these games.
But the market has broadened, and now designers are thinking about players who don't have time to wait for things to unfold, they want the action presented now, or they'll go do something else, like play an FPS or something more twitchy. Which sort of goes against everything that makes RPGs great, and why games like Dragon Age 2 and Final Fantasy XIII don't work, because in a foolish attempt to draw in these non-RPG fans, they're essentially gutting the entire foundation of what makes an RPG and RPG. It's like they've baked a cake, but it's just a pile of frosting.
I mean, I don't even know who asked for this change? A corporate suit at EA I guess. And bringing up FFXIII isn't really fair since that series has been pretty sub-par since 20 hours into FFXII when Sakimoto (the last man to possess any creative talent at SE) bailed on the project.
Looking at Dragon Warrior 7, it was designed in a world where designers made one game, worked a long time on it, and had the goal of giving the player as much content as they possibly could, because the idea of milking the consumer with subscription based MMOs hadn't quite come to fruition yet. (DW7 was released about 4 years before WoW.) And also because there was simply no other way to do an RPG. RPGs are big, involved, a bit slow, and players loved them that way.
But DW7 is a fully involved experience in the way few modern RPGs attempt to be. Playing it, you really feel like you're undertaking a grand adventure, that you're exploring a massive world, that everything is larger than life. Hell, the first battle comes 3 hours into the game, and I think that's great! It's a huge moment for you and your character when those first three Slimes approach. Everything is given added weight through this slower and more considered approach. You don't simply appear on screen and start flipping around and throwing fireballs.
The game goes out of it's way to establish a setting and an idea that you're a small, insignificant fisherman's son who is growing and setting out on adventures that are larger than you are. I mean, as an RPG player, there isn't much more I could ask for. This game is an homage to what makes an RPG so fun -- the adventure!!!
Of course, you could argue that MMOs offer a massive world to get involved in, where you can sink not 100 hours, but 10000000!!! But let's face it, the MMO experience is hollow and bland, and can't hold a candle to a true RPG adventure you might find in Baldur's Gate 2 or Dragon Warrior VII.
Hopefully we start to see designers get the idea, and that RPGs return not necessarily to the old ways (I'm all for innovation) but that designers realize that RPGs are friggin HUGE, very complex, and take a lot of time to finish (if done right). You simply can't ignore this stuff and expect to create a satisfying RPG.
Perhaps Project Eternity (and other amazing Kickstarters) can manage to flip the tables. With a large amount of players seemingly dissatisfied with modern RPGs, they might be able to accept slightly less lavish graphics for a more fleshed out experience.
Or at least this is what I dream would happen, in a far-off fantasy world...