Kenneth Whitten's RPG Reviews

Being a list of all the RPGs I own with a brief review and opinion on each.

Sony PlayStation

Being the system I have played games on most recently, time has done little to dim my recollection on these games, so they will be the first to be posted here.
Gary Steinman of OPM has his own list of minireviews of all seventy-eight of the PlayStation's RPGs, which I have made a transcription of here.

Alundra: Fairly good game. More or less run-of-the-mill fare in terms of gameplay. Good story, too.

Alundra 2: Bears no relation to Alundra save for the title. Even done by a different company. Over-stocked with puzzles, many of which require jumping.... and jumping, and jumping. Fairly decent story. I liked the game for the game, but replaying it does NOT top my list of "things-to-do". Difficulty factor is just too much to put up with.

Arc the Lad Collection (TRPG): A three-game set ported over by the wizards at Working Designs, these are Tactical RPGs, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Vandal Hearts. The first game is short and really nothing special, but serves as a good prologue to the second game. Arc the Lad II is an incredible TRPG - with many elements of an actual RPG - and a long story that starts off good, slows near the middle, then picks up more and more the closer the end looms. It has a great many features its predecessor lacked, all of which are great. Most notable is the Arc Arena Monster Tournament, a side game included with the collection that uses the data from your Arc 2 game, gives you access to a great many of Arc 2's features (useful if a certain feature is temporarily out of reach for some reason), and the Monster Tournament itself, where you can go up against preset battles to win rare items, or, by having a second player load their own Arc 2 data, you can run a head-to-head TRPG battle, a feature TRPGs should have had long ago, in my opinion. The series then moves on to Arc 3, which has a plot fully as grand as Arc 2's, but likewise takes some time to unfurl. Arc 3 take many of the features of Arc 2 - such as item synthesis and the Hunter's Guild - and brings them to new levels, and it adds a few features of it's own. All in all, I'd be hard pressed to choose whether I like Arc 2 or 3 the best, but I think 2 just inches 3 out. (Apologies for the sheer length of this one, but it is essentially three and a half reviews at once.)

Beyond the Beyond: One of the first RPGs for the PSX, it's no surprise this looks like it could have been on an earlier console. Graphics are very reminiscent of the "Shining" series of games (Shining Force, Shining in the Darkenss, etc.) -- so reminiscent, in fact, that I wonder if they're done by the same people. I liked it for it's niftiness factor, but it's generally not a well-recieved game from what I've heard. (In fact, the people at OPM dub it one of the worst RPGs on the system.)

Breath of Fire III: Cool game. Lots of optional subquests, great story, all-around good game.

Breath of Fire IV: Same comments as for 3, even though the story is different (but it's still great!). The BoFs on the PSX rock muchly.

Brigandine (TRPG, sort of): "Sort of" means it's a cross between an RPG, a TRPG, and a strategy war game. You pick one of five countries and unite the Continent. Very nicely done battle system and character advancement system. In the off chance anyone's played Dark Wizard (for the Sega CD), think of this as similar in battle mechanics, while completely different in plot and in other things. It rocks.

Chocobo's Dungeon 2: Rather kiddie-fied roguelike-like RPG. It's OK as an entertaining diversion, but I probably wouldn't recommend it as a serious game.

Chrono Cross: Very good game. Sequel to ChronoTrigger, but can be played as a standalone (you'll "get" more if you've played CT first though). Has more than it's share of secrets, most of which are, or have to do with, the large army of recruitable characters (44 -- collect them all!). Rather, don't collect them all, unless you're a completionist (like I am when I replay a game). You actually need to go through the game 3 times (via NewGame+, of course) to accomplish it. But if you're just in it for the game, and not trying to track it all down, this is a very good game.

Crusaders of Might and Magic: CoMM is very linear with, afaicr, no sidequests. Good story, though, and interesting game mechanics. Most (if not all) conversations are done in actual voice, too. Nice touch, there. I think it's a pretty OK game, but not one of my favorites.

Dragon Warrior VII: Quite possibly, one of the most entertaining games I have ever come across. Takes many old-school elements that characterize the NES Dragon Warrior games, but with PSX sound and graphics (although the graphics retain the old-school "superdeformed" look). While I personally have no quarrel whatsoever with this game, I have heard and read that some gamers find the old-school combat and menu systems to be detrimental to overall quality. I did not find them thus, so it's simply a matter of taste. There is enough in the core story alone to keep someone at this game for about 100 hours (high even by RPG standards), and enough sidequests to double that! (I have personally clocked over 240 hours, but have decided to take a break rather than finish tracking down everything - it is truly a tall order, and for the rabid completionist only. Many of the sidequests are not remotely as fast-paced as some of the more notable parts of the main story are.)

Final Fantasy Chronicles: FF4 (FF2 SNES) and ChronoTrigger. As with the FF Anthology (next entry), this is a remake of two SNES classics. Unlike the Anth, there are notable differences from the original versions. In the case of FF4, the game is quite an improvement over the original -- many things taken out of the US release (called "FF4 easytype") were put back in, and the translation was wholly redone -- few lines of text in the game are as they once were. Also, as befits the designation "hardtype", this game has grown considerably more challenging in certain areas. And as for ChronoTrigger, it is essentially the same game it was on the SNES. A new ending has been added (lose vs. Magus at his Castle), and there is a bonus mode (akin to, but not the same as, the one FF6 has with the FF Anthology) as well. Also, several anime cutscenes were added into the game at various moments (some of which are really good). The downside to FFC-CT is that when switching into and out of battle mode, there is a noticeable disc load time involved, absent in the SNES version (of course). While this is usually ignorable (it doesn't lag things too much), it DOES cause noticeable lag times in certain quest events that invovle multiple successive battles (it accesses the disc to exit and enter EACH battle). Despite this flaw, I still consider the game worth it, especially if you have neither game in their SNES incarnation.

Final Fantasy Anthology: FF5 and FF6 (FF3 SNES). Five was never released in the states (unless you are an evil emulation person :) ), and there are some nice touches added to both (opening and closing FMVs, and an "Extras Mode" for FF6, which I will refrain from spoiling for you). Oyeah, and the music disc. Gameplay, graphics, and sound are all SNES quality. If you've played both already, you don't need this, but if you don't want to emulate FF5, this is your game.

Final Fantasy VII: Is there a PSX gamer alive who does't know about this game? Some love it, some hate it. Myself, I think it's a good game.

Final Fantasy VIII: Another good game -- heck, I haven't met an FF I didn't like, myself. But again, it got mixed reviews by the public.

Final Fantasy IX: Yet another FF masterpiece, and generally recieved that way, too. Filled with more secret extras that 7 and 8 combined (at least, it seems that way), it's either a completionist's dream (if they like a challenge) or nightmare. But the game itself is enough to keep anyone in, as well.

Final Fantasy Tactics (TRPG, of course): Fairly good TRPG, tedious at times (especially building up levels and skills), with a Job Skill system that makes FF5's look like child's play. Great storyline, though, which more than makes up for the tedium. I like.

Grandia: Good game, good story. Nothing too outstanding (although the story gets very good at times). A few sidequests open up in the later stages, and are quite challenging (one, quite hidden; I myself didn't find it, and only learned later via the OSG). Pretty good.

The Granstream Saga: Very linear, but VERY cool.Storyline is standard save-the-world stuff (when isn't it?) but the gameplay is nifty.

Guardian's Crusade: Just typing those two words made me cringe. This is the most dumbed-down, kiddie-fied game in all EXISTENCE that has the audacity to pass itself off as a RPG. And technically, it IS an RPG.... a very BAD one. The story is *almost* good, but the graphic look, the gameplay, and hordes of other things have insured I will not replay that game.

The Legend of Dragoon: Despite its detractors' claims, this is a pretty good game. Nothing exceptional worth noting, but nothing bad, either. Getting the timing of the attack combos, however, is a pain. But the game's OK.

Legend of Legaia: While its look has been compared to Wild ARMs, and it's combat style to Xenogears, this game is all its own, and quite good, too. Great story, a very interesting magic system, and enough secrets to satisfy the completionists (although one in particluar will have them howling by the time they finish getting it). Great game.

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete: If you never get another game, get the Lunars. Both are VERY good, VERY fun, and VERY entertaining games. The stories are to die for, and since it's by Working Designs, you will find several humorous anecdotes in various Generic Townspeople's conversations. And DO try to buy this new, with all the trinkets. Very nifty.

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete: I give this game almost as much praise as SSSC. It even has more trinkets than SSSC does. WD did make one slight error in the remake (but I can't tell because it's part plot-spoiler), however, and there are certain elements of the game which I would have preferred had not been changed from the Sega CD version, but they did almost as good a job remaking this as they did with SSSC.

Shadow Madness: Somewhat decent game. Nothing really worth commenting on, good or bad. It's just OK.

Star Ocean 2: The Second Story: As this is my latest new game, this is a placeholder entry. Looks good so far.

Suikoden: Fairly linear, but with a VERY riveting story. A bit different than most RPGs you'll play, but it remains a great game in my mind even after however many years it's been out.

Suikoden II: Almost as linear as S1, this time the story is even MORE riveting. This is yet another favorite of mine. Plus, for those who have a S1 savegame right at the end, you can open a hidden secret in this one.

Tales of Destiny: While somewhat kiddie-fied in appearance, the story and, indeed, the game overall is very good. I like.

Tales of Destiny II: (That title both amuses and annoys me. Amusing, for it is the *third* game in its series (Tales of Phantasia never made it stateside), and annoying because it was originally slated to be called "Tales of Eternia", a much cooler-sounding name.) Anyway, on with the minireview. Very nice game. It took everything that was cool about Tales of Destiny and improved upon it. Most notably, the battle system runs smoother and its AI is far more customizable, allowing you to better control how your allies will act in a fight. Certain new features were introduced (such as an entirely different magic system), and existing ones altered (the way in which food is used to heal the party, for example), and the plot, of course, is entirely different (like the FF series, the Tales series consists of standalone games, not direct sequels in story). A well-balanced game: enjoyable to play, a modest amount of sidequests and minigames (and no minigames are plot-pivotal), and a nicely-done story. This one's definitely one of my better games.

Threads of Fate: Rather short and simple, but somewhat nifty. The most noteworthy part is that you can play as one of two characters, and the entire story is different (but parallel) for each. Assuming you go for this game, make sure to play it both ways.

Vagrant Story: A VERY good game. One of my all-time PSX favorites, perhaps one of my overall faves. Depending on how you play it, it can take a short time or a long time. Riveting story, a fair degree of nonlinearity, and plenty of secrets, this game has something for everyone. Unless you want an overworld map; this is sort of a dungeon crawl RPG. (Technically "large ruined city" crawl; the place is immense.) Has a sort of "New Game +" mode such as the Chrono games do, which unlocks some of the most secret areas in the game, including an optional superboss. I recommend this highly.

Valkyrie Profile: A very well done game based on Norse mythology, this game has three endings (Good, normal or bad), a secret dungeon (accessible only at Hard difficulty), and plenty of characters. The story is quite intriguing (and, betimes, convoluted). A very good game, in my opinion. (Note: Norse mythology buffs be warned: the mythology presented in here has a few errors ranging from small to glaringly large. So don't expect everything to be "from-the-book".)

Vandal-Hearts (TRPG): It's an OK game, but it's the least of my TRPGs for the PSX. As with Shadow Madness, "It's just OK".

Vanguard Bandits (TRPG): A TRPG by Working Designs (with all the benefits that brings), containing a very good storyline (or three), mechs (mechs are cool), and five different endings! Definite replay value there, especially since the endings can unlock secrets in the Options Menu. Possibly the best of my TRPGs, although Brigandine is pretty darned good too.

Wild ARMs: Very good game. Great story, a modest number of sidequests, and cool gameplay. An oldie (ranking with BtB, FF7, and Suikoden in age), but most definitely a goodie.

Wild ARMs 2: Another very good game, and in many ways better than its predecessor. The world is almost entirely different, the plot IS entirely different, so this game could be played as a standalone if desired. The gameplay is almost identical with the familiar menu and battle interfaces, but a few new ideas were tossed in. The world is larger and has plenty of secrets for those with a sharp eye (and I found ALMOST all of them on my first run through). Another Kenneth Whitten recommendation.

Xenogears: Magnificent game, ALMOST all-around. The story is splendid, the gamepley is great, the mechs are cool, and there are a fair amount of sidequests (half scattered through the first disc, the other half all bunched up RIGHT near the end). So why the 'almost' caveat? The bulk of the second disk is EXCRUCIATINGLY linear, and in some parts, you'll just be watching the text go by. Other than that flaw, however, Xenogears is a great game.

Super NES

Being second only to the PlayStation with regards to quantity and quality of RPGs, this one will be the next I post reviews for. (Update: I'll have to refresh my memory on most of my SNES games, sorry for the continued delay.)

Playstation 2

So far, I only have one game to my PS2 reportoire, and that is FFX. There are, however, a few other titles I have my eye on.

Final Fantasy X: As with Nomura's previous two FF installations, FFX gets the mixed reviews. And as with the same two games, I liked it despite popular opinions. I am not without gripes, however. While I do not think the voice acting is as deplorable as most say, I cannot say that I agree with the concept of fully vocalized RPGs. Aside from that, I have no real complaints with the game. The story is a bit too convoluted, perhaps, but mostly good. (For some reason, FF plots seem to get more and more philosophically involved with each installation. It's getting taken too far now.) And the Sphere system most complain about was nothing to me. I have adapted to Materia, Junction, and many other game systems; this is just another. Overall, an above average game, better than many, but not cream of the crop.

Suikoden III: This third installation is markedly different than its predecessors in that the game is very much NON-linear. The gameplay is much the same, although the battle system was slightly altered (and not entirely for the better). Epic battles were completely redone, and are rather interesting to run. The story itself is just as epic as Suikoden II's, which is to say, extremely cool. I did not see as much evidence of crossover from Suikoden II as that game saw from Suikoden, however. Overall, I judge this game to be about as good as Suikoden II; each game is better in some areas, but it all sort of balances out. Yet another incredible game in the Suikoden saga.

Sega CD

The first CD-based console to my knowledge, the Sega CD was, sadly, ill-fated in being somewhat ahead of its time. Despite this, there are a few games that I enjoyed greatly.

Dark Wizard: Like Brigandine (mentioned under PlayStation games), this appears to be a cross between an RPG, a TRPG, and a strategy war game. However, Dark Wizard leans more on the RPG aspects than Brigandine did. The battle mechanics and gameplay are just as good, if not better, and the story is cooler besides. Add that this game stands the test of time, and we have an excellent game here.

Eye of the Beholder: A port of the AD&D dungeon crawler for the PC, this game ends up much the same as its PC counterpart. Although it has speech for certain lines in the game, and an automap feature. Oddly, I seem to prefer the PC version. Even more odd because I haven't beaten that, and I have beaten this version. Despite my personal preference for the PC version of EoB, it is still a rather good game on the SCD.

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue: In a word, astonishing. THIS is what the Sega CD was meant for. Working Designs knew it. Deep, immersive RPGs that only a CD could carry. The world of Lunar, while not up to the graphical standards of its PlayStation remake, still looks incredible. It is still the immersive land we knew before. The gameplay is just as good. The characters are still as vivid. And in some ways, the SCD version of this game actually is better than its remake. As I said in my entry for said remake, there are some game changes I would have preferred they not made. Truly, this game was far ahead of its time, and is clearly the best game in this section.

Shining Force CD (TRPG): The first TRPG I had ever played, I was rather disappointed with this game's linearity the first time I played it, due to my ignorance of this subgenre. Far more recently, with several other TRPGs under my belt, I decided to give this game a replay, and was far better able to appreciate it. Being a 16-bit game, it cannot do as much as PlayStation's TRPGs can, but what it does do, it does quite well. While it is more linear even than other TRPGs, SFCD still has a fair amount of game to it. There are three different adventures, although the third is rather short, and the cast of characters is possibly the largest roster I've seen in a TRPG. And while it does not have as many options in combat as modern TRPGs, it allows up to twelve combatants in the battles, whereas modern games seldom even approach that number. All in all, this game is a solid early TRPG, and quite good.

Sega Master System

Sega's 8-bit system is the first console I have ever had (and it astonishingly is still functional), and my passion for RPGs found its roots in this time.

Miracle Warriors: A gem of a game, but sadly, it is an overlooked gem. While many people who don't even have a Master System could tell you about Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors is known to scant few. And while it cannot hold a candle to today's games, this was a very good game in its time. While the plot is considerably spartan even for its time, and there was less to do, there was nonetheless a certain "fun factor" to playing this game. The game world, while hardly able to be called immersive, was fun to explore. These and other things lent a certain charm to this game in my opinion. While Miracle Warriors is hardly able to stand the test of time, the way Phantasy Star did, this was still a very good game in its day.

Phantasy Star: Ahh, Phantasy Star. The original RPG. Well, stateside, anyway. By far the cream of the SMS crop, the first game of the Phantasy Star series even managed to surpass some of the NES's flagship RPG titles, such as the first two Dragon Warriors (maybe 3; I'm undecided) and even the original Final Fantasy. The world of Phantasy Star is incredibly well depicted, considering the limitations on 8-bit games. The story was very nicely done, and all the elements that people look for in RPGs today can be found in this game. An impressive game, then or now, Phantasy Star can truly be said to have stood the test of time.

Ys: The Vanished Omens: Another series-starter, Ys is a nice, simple, straightforward, all-around fun RPG. Or is it an aRPG? It appears to have the same sort of reliance on action-based gameplay that you can find in such games as the Zelda series. Which makes it rather a fun game to play. Not really much to add beyond that. Nice story, despite the simplicity of its delivery. Overall opinion: average, yet fun enough to be good.

Future systems which may see entries here (in order of likelihood):
Genesis, NES, N64, GameBoy, Game Gear

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