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RPG Golden Age Syndrome - Editorial

InstaTrentInstaTrent OpinionatorRPGamer Staff
edited May 2013 in Latest Updates
We all love the feeling of nostalgia, but is it a double-edged sword? When we hold the past in such high regard, is our vision of the present skewed?

EDITORIAL
"To tell you the truth, I like drinking tea and eating fresh vegetables, but that doesn't fit with my super-cool attitude. I guess I have to accept this about myself."
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Comments

  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Pretty much what I've been saying, although I tend to use that argument with the Golden Age of Cinema. A lot of people act like those movies were so great. I like to remind them only those movies good enough to be remastered are available these days. Of course it looks like that age is so great. Only the good movies were remastered! Nobody cares about the average, mediocre, and crappy movies.

    I like to think the SNES era was the golden era for RPGs, but not because all of my favourite RPGs come from that time (actually, my top 3 come from the PS era). There was more room for experimentation back then, and hard games were perfectly okay. The fact nearly everything Square and Enix released was gold helps a lot. Playstation era was pretty darn good too.

    You know what this era doesn't have the "golden era" did? Reliable developers. Sure, there have been lots of high quality RPGs across all platforms, and the rise of indie development has done great things too, but these days there is a lack of consistency. Either the sequels are too safe or the changes don't work. Great RPGs are often followed by lackluster follow-ups. A developer can give us a great game and then throw a few crappy games at us. A rising developer can fall and be replaced by another developer within a few years, then disappear just as quickly. It's just not possible to blindly buy whatever RPG a developer throws at us any more because nobody is that trustworthy, although you guys seem to trust Atlus a good deal. And hey, quality control sucks these days.

    So, yeah, I don't have a problem with the quantity or quality of RPGs in this era. I have a problem with the sheer quantity of devs I don't trust one bit.
  • frankoyfrankoy New Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I agree with this article because I grew up on the PSone era and I have highly regarded RPGS from that console as the best. Now that I'm older and have played them again, some are still great and some did not stand the test of time. LOL!
    Although I still think that RPGs nowadays are not good because turn based era is dying and the plots are not as good as they used to be, there are still games I would like to play (i.e. Fire Emblem Awakening 3ds) but I don't know if buying a console is worth it just for one game.
  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I have to agree a lot with what TG says. But with regard to the concept of Golden Age of RPGs, I have to divide it between jRPGs and wRPGs.

    For me, the "Golden Age" of jRPGs would be everything prior to FF7. That game was, if not THE catalyst, at least a good representation of a massive shift in the jRPG genre that I felt represents a significant downturn in my ability to enjoy the games. I'm not saying that there haven't been good games since, but its the point where I feel that most of the games are just crap. I really didn't enjoy FF7 in any way, and its hard to shake the feeling that most mainstream jRPGs simply strive to be an FF7 clone. I still play jRPGs, but I frequently find myself bored and hating the game. Mainstream jRPGs are stale, regurgitating the same crap over and over, and haven't had anything new in over a decade for me. However, this is why I'm here- I've been trying to learn more about niche RPGs, actually buying my first Atlus games in the last few months. So I'm really hoping that I can learn to love jRPGs again, because I had great memories with NES and SNES era jRPGs.

    With western RPGs, they have only gotten better and I feel like we're living in the golden age now. It doesn't feel like its going to end. I loved the Ultima games, and SSI Goldbox games, Baulder's Gate, early Elder Scrolls games, etc. But I know that they don't hold a candle to how epic feeling Skyrim, The Witcher, or other modern western RPGs are. Thats not saying there isn't crap wRPGs, but I still enjoy them when I play them more often than not. I feel like I'm playing a role in the worlds in wRPGs, rather than just playing through a linear story I'm being shepherded through using various forms of deus ex machina like jRPGs tend to do.

    However, jRPG vs wRPG is more about style rather than where it was developed. I'd consider Dark Souls a western RPG despite being made in Japan, and I loved that game (series) for being something unique and new. This is a concept that would really help jRPGs - show me something I haven't seen before, and I'm not talking about tweaks in the story or mechanics, show me something I didn't expect.
  • omegabyteomegabyte He's just this guy, you know? RPGamer Staff
    edited May 2013
    Personally, I'm of the opinion that RPGs have only gotten better with time. If I had to pick a "golden age", it would probably be the mid to late 2000s, as that seemed to be the time of the largest growth, expansion, and experimentation in the genre. More games got picked up for localization, and we saw innovative stuff like Persona 3, FF12, World of Warcraft, The World Ends With You, Mass Effect, etc. Genre growth has slowed down, particularly in the AAA sector, but now we're seeing rapid expansion in the indie realm, which is bringing all sorts of new and exciting things.

    I always find it strange when people suggest to me that the mechanics, stories, or even visuals of SNES or PS1 era games are somehow better than what we have today. There are a handful of games from those eras that still stand apart as being fantastic, but most of them really don't hold up to even the mediocre stuff we see today. I would take Persona 3, Nier, Demon's Souls, Bastion, almost any of the better games from the last 10 years over even the best games in the SNES or PS1 generations. The advances we've seen in visual design, mechanical design, and storytelling in recent years blow the 90's out of the water. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if the advances we see in the next ten years blow the best of this generation away as well.
    "It's okay to fail as long as you learn that you failed!" - Neptune, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
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  • riulynriulyn Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I think my personal "golden age" of RPGs is defined as the late PS1/early PS2 only because my favorite games came out during that time. I only have an end point to my "golden age" because most of my favorite series are pretty much dead now. Otherwise I have found plenty of enjoyable games from all eras; it's just taking me some time to catch up. Maybe in 5-10 years when I've gotten through more old and new games, I'll have a different answer to the "golden age of RPGs" question.
  • ultranessultraness Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I don't think there's been a golden age of RPGs, but I do think there was a golden age of Squaresoft that ended the moment the company merged with Enix and became Square-Enix. Square released one or more great games every year between 1993 and 2002, but I don't think they've done anything nearly as great in the eleven years since.
  • retrodragonretrodragon Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    omegabyte said:
    Personally, I'm of the opinion that RPGs have only gotten better with time. If I had to pick a "golden age", it would probably be the mid to late 2000s, as that seemed to be the time of the largest growth, expansion, and experimentation in the genre. More games got picked up for localization, and we saw innovative stuff like Persona 3, FF12, World of Warcraft, The World Ends With You, Mass Effect, etc.
    This is basically exactly how I feel. I have tons of love for what I call the "Pre-FF7" days, but honestly, I think that the "Post-FF7" days have been SO much better. And besides, if you are a retro gamer like myself, you can always go back to the good old days and play the classics. But I wouldn't say that the classics are the same as the peak point in the genre, which is what I think of when we say golden age. I think the golden age happened about a year and a half into the ps2. The next gen consoles have become dominated by western games, which are getting better all the time which is actually pretty exciting despite some of the problems.

    In the end, if I had to only take one console with me on a desert island?

    PS2 hands down. Best library of jrpgs IMO, and my favorite FF, which is X. (I'm not counting a 60 GB PS3 which would obviously be better lol)
    Playing: Wild Arms 3, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Star Ocean First Departure
    www.retrodragon.wordpress.com
  • Strawberry EggsStrawberry Eggs Is Bemused Administrators
    edited May 2013
    I don't personally think there is a "golden age" of RPGs. All of my favorite games come from various eras and consoles, from back during the 16-bit era to just last year.
    " I think this is why aging makes humans die! "
  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    But with regard to the concept of Golden Age of RPGs, I have to divide it between jRPGs and wRPGs.
    I agree it's not a bad idea to separate them, but if you talk to PC fanboys, they also say the golden era of WRPGs has long since passed. Well, that's what they say anyway.
  • ChickenGodChickenGod Overdosing Heavenly Bliss Moderators
    edited May 2013
    Personally, I feel as if I have a pretty good neutral perspective on this issue, since many modern RPGs are among my favorite, yet I still adore some of the PS1 and SNES greats and miss those that lay dormant like Suikoden. Heck, I probably even lean toward enjoying the games of today more as opposed to those of yesteryear. My favorite FF is the blasphemous 13 after all, you don't get much more supportive of modern RPGs than that.

    Most people I know do wear the nostalgia goggles when it comes to gaming though. I think a large part of the problem has something to do with what TG is saying. The majority of my friends enjoy gaming, but have less time for the hobby these days. They still like to play, but a big part of their problem is they want to go with what they knew was great in the past as their next game, and often that ends up being a bad decision. One of my cousins that I played Diablo 3 with vehemently abhors the game, because his favorite game was Diablo 2 and frankly Diablo 3 had enough problems on its own that someone like me who didn't even spend much time with 2 could tell it did not carry the quality that its namesake did. Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star are other good examples. All my friends were big fans of Paper Mario, but all them really disliked Super. When Sticker Star came around, their tune changed on Super, thinking it was simply "okay" compared to how bad Sticker Star was. Now, I know we have big fans of the games I'm bashing on here at RPGamer, so let me go ahead and throw 13 out there too. We all know what went down with 13, it was a game that simply did not live up to most people's expectations. Essentially what I'm saying here is that many folks have the nostalgia goggles on because of inconsistent quality with established series. When the people I know are disappointed by the few games they play a year, its no surprise to hear things like games aren't as good anymore. Unfortunately they show no interest in risking their money on lesser known RPGs that I think they would enjoy such as TITs or Xenoblade, so they don't really get the opportunity to see that there are (potentially) quality titles out there to fall in love with.
    "Looks like Teach just got tenure!" - Teach
  • OcelotOcelot is not declawed RPGamer Staff
    edited May 2013
    Strawberry Eggs said:
    I don't personally think there is a "golden age" of RPGs. All of my favorite games come from various eras and consoles, from back during the 16-bit era to just last year.
    Yep, I'm with this opinion. There are many games I have loved since the mid-80's, and they're quite spread out across the years. In general, the quality of the game has come from the vision of its creators rather than from any particular era of RPG-ness. The Bard's Tale and Dungeon Master were some of the earliest RPGs that taught me to love the genre. The middle Ultima games were fantastic and far ahead of their time in many ways. Planescape: Torment and Betrayal at Krondor display an overall quality in writing that hasn't been matched since. Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Age: Origins both elicited very strong emotions from me in very different ways. Suikoden II and III delighted me with their casts of characters. The Witcher 2 impressed me with its branching storyline. Pokemon addicted me with its monsters and collection mechanic.

    There's never been a Golden Age of RPGs in my life. It's all been golden. :)
    Becky Cunningham, Staff-at-Large
    Twitter: BeckyCFreelance
  • PaperLuigi1234PaperLuigi1234 New Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Any gen could be a "golden age" Like trent said its all a state of mind

    Nes - first fire emblem's, dragon quest's, final fantasies
    SNES - shin megami tensei, secret of mana, chrono trigger
    psx/n64 - ff 7, persona, ogre battlel 64
    ps2/gba - growlanser, megaman battle network, ect

    and now with games like valkyria, radiant historia, legend of heroes.

    My "golden age" of rpgs has been since I was born to now
  • LordKaiserLordKaiser Under watcher Full Members
    edited May 2013
    What is happening is that when someone talks about the golden era of RPGs that person is talking about console RPGs and it's not acknowledging the existence of handheld RPGs or RPGs that are released on a console they don't own like in my case with Lost Odyssey and Vesperia.

    Also JRPGs used to be over dramatic and had apart from a turn based battle system that it's almost gone of fully mutated and Dramatic and interesting story, they had a well implemented music score that reflected the emotions of characters, Very Hard Puzzles (like Graces f Desert ruins) and secrets like a hidden switch on a wall, hidden passages etc.

    TBH the PS2 era was as good as the PS1 and SNES cuz almost all good RPGs remained on a single place.

    I never connect with American RPGs and I think it's because their characters act like normal real people and it's unappealing because I find them bland like most real people.
    Never buy a game published by D3 Publisher that is not WKCII. They cheated on their fans by releasing a game that they didn't support not even for a year and they released a rushed translation.
  • alicendriaalicendria New Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    In my opinion the 90s was the golden age hands down, now when people speak of the golden age in movies its because that age gave them the simple mechanics and basics to work on and i believe thats what the 90s did for RPGs. in the mid to late 80s they had some of our very first releases, but its the 90s that really embraced the genre.

    From the final fantasy series mastering story telling and class types to zelda and diablo with hack and slash to everquest and ultima online bringing us the MMO aspects . I would hate to base an era on FF7, i mean really people? some people forgot about chrono cross and xenogears. so many games came out of the 90s practically every game we play today are just more advanced versions.

    chrono trigger, shining force, illusion of gia, buhamatt lagoon, ultima,zelda, valkary profile, legend of mana so many i cant even list all building block games

    Now dont get me wrong, Im not saying all the best games were in that age but it gave us the building blocks we still use today and to me that signifies a golden age if there ever was one.


    and with the newbies they may not be effected to game play remember this would only include people in there late 20s because weather wed like to admit it or not there hasnt been much innovation in the past 10 years other than graphics and battle systems

    but then again how much can you really add to a car? sure you can turbo charge it add a new way to drive it and make it look alot better then the original but how much is to much? until we have the flying cars like in movies i doubt theyll ever be such a great change from the original concept.

    the only thing i expect from a new game nowdays are a good storyline good gameplay mechanics maybe something new to change up the way its played and of corse a good music track games from my golden age will always influence me on the way an RPG should be built but I love a game with the features i listed above and always will.

    lets also remember that the standard has been raised to newer developers and newer games, they do have a tough task to complete with all the new additions added to the genre and the ever evolving graphics competetion
  • watcherwatcher Veteran RPGamer Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I see it more like a golden age that morphed like the old California gold rush. First, the SNES era really kicked off the and there was so much easy gold everywhere that any idiot could find it, but as things progressed the easy gold went away and we've had to sift through more and more dirt to find it. Now there's so RPGs it's like modern gold dredging where gold is in fact plentiful, but one has to sift through tons of dirt to get it.
  • Rya.ReisenderRya.Reisender Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    For me...

    Mega Drive / SNES - few, but really awesome RPGs released

    PSX - hundreds of RPGs released, I don't think any other generation had this many RPGs, many were good, but just as many were awful too

    PS2 - fewer RPGs than previously and the quality went down a lot, a few good ones, but nothing really outstanding that I would want to play a second time through

    XBox360 / PS3 / Wii - a few really good gems released on each console, mostly early on, after that suddenly complete death of the RPG genre, only once a year a playable RPG is released and a few smaller studios toss out really horrible and generic JRPGs

    "Current RPG Age" - all good RPG developers moved to handhelds; indie developers start making better and better games (probably caused by having it much easier to make money off them: Kickstarter, XBLA, PSN, general higher willingness for players to pay for indie titles), some even manage to create games as great as during the Mega Drive / SNES era, however the amount of great games released is still too low (and there is too much crap you have to dig through before finding a gem)
  • InstaTrentInstaTrent Opinionator RPGamer Staff
    edited May 2013
    Again, the point I'm making is that the "golden age" is a self-made fabrication. People older than yourself will always say that the age before yours was the actual golden age.

    It's a perception bias.
    "To tell you the truth, I like drinking tea and eating fresh vegetables, but that doesn't fit with my super-cool attitude. I guess I have to accept this about myself."
  • PaperLuigi1234PaperLuigi1234 New Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    InstaTrent said:
    Again, the point I'm making is that the "golden age" is a self-made fabrication. People older than yourself will always say that the age before yours was the actual golden age.

    It's a perception bias.
    I agree, and I think its what people are missing. Any gen could be one for any person based on nothing more than opinion and the games they happened to play Amazing article.

    I mean this year alone we have bravely default, fire emblem, pokemon, mario and luigi, guided fate paradox, disgaea dimension 2, rune factory 4, ys celecta, smt iv, ect

    whose to say what it is?
  • CidolfasCidolfas Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Yes, there were crap RPG's released during the SNES era, but here's the crucial thing - we didn't get most of them. A huge chunk of them simply never made it to Western shores. Most of the others sputtered and died very fast, relegated to the bargain bin, and in the pre-Internet days, many of us never even knew they existed.

    Do all SNES games stand the test of time? Most assuredly not, although there are a small handful that do. The reason why they were so great is that our expectations were low. Every new innovation - dialogue trees, ATB, complex equipment systems - was a groundbreaker. Graphics improved so much with each console that it was literally like living a different world. It's impossible to relive those times because the magic and wonder is gone - there isn't really anything that games can "invent" any more, short of magic happening with Kinect-like appliances, which so far have been avoided in AAA titles. So we're in the "long tail" mode, where rather than have a few very high-profile games that absolutely everyone plays, we get bombarded by titles. Those of us with limited time or money are finding it very difficult to keep abreast of figuring out which games they'd actually enjoy.

    Speaking personally, the last game I found to be an unmitigated success in my eyes was Okami. I've yet to play any game of any kind on a PS3 which wasn't riddled with some fatal flaw, at least to me. Except possibly Portal 2, and the reason that works is because of its dialogue and (more importantly) its simplicity.
  • retrodragonretrodragon Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Cidolfas said:
    I've yet to play any game of any kind on a PS3 which wasn't riddled with some fatal flaw, at least to me. Except possibly Portal 2, and the reason that works is because of its dialogue and (more importantly) its simplicity.
    I will agree that the most recent consoles have struggled to really present an upper tier almost perfect rpg experience. I'm talking about a game that really takes the great rpg concepts from the last twenty years, and combines them with modern graphics and gameplay. Most of them have succeeded in one or more areas, but not in an altogether way.

    Oddly enough, I think perhaps the one well rounded jrpg on the latest gen console that hit all the marks for me is Lost Odyssey for the 360. (I say oddly bc its not even a sony game, and I play PS almost exclusively)
    Playing: Wild Arms 3, Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, Star Ocean First Departure
    www.retrodragon.wordpress.com
  • DravDrav A Serious Man Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Am I the only one that has an extremely low opinion of my adolescent-self's ability to critically appraise anything, and thus naturally suspicious of any game I enjoyed up to the age of 18 or so? Most of my favorite games are games I played as an adult.
  • flamethrowerflamethrower Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    There's games you liked before and like now (e.g., The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
    There's games you liked before and don't like now (e.g., Dragon Warrior)
  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I don't think it's fair to suggest there can't ever be a "golden age", and any suggestion of such is merely a bias and should be ignored. What else are we supposed to call a time when every random RPG we pick up off the shelf is so great? Are we to pretend it didn't happen when so many other agree that same time was so great?

    Sure, maybe Cid is right about so many crap games never making it, and yes, maybe it was all new and thus the thrill of discovery drove us to keep playing, but that doesn't change the fact it was a great time (for us anyway), nor can we pretend there will never again be a similar explosion of innovation. You may say we're biased, but I say you're just too pessimistic...and maybe a little bit bitter because you missed a great time. So, ha!
  • watcherwatcher Veteran RPGamer Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Rya.Reisender said:

    PSX - hundreds of RPGs released, I don't think any other generation had this many RPGs, many were good, but just as many were awful too

    PS2 - fewer RPGs than previously and the quality went down a lot, a few good ones, but nothing really outstanding that I would want to play a second time through
    I assure you, the PS2 had far more RPGs than the PSX. Something like 2-3 times as many. I don't think the PSX had as many as you think.
  • Rya.ReisenderRya.Reisender Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I said "for me". =p

    I guess it's mainly because not many RPGs made it to Europe in the PS2 era and I had a US PSX, so I could play all the imports in that generation.
  • JormungandJormungand Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    I'm not sure I should take this article seriously after reading
    The Golden Age of Television was very much the same as Radio's, but featured more hilariously awful episodes of The Twilight Zone...
    Twilight Zone? Awful? I can suddenly hear Rod Serling's voice saying, "You have just entered... the Twilight Zone." The show is a perfect counterpoint to the author's suggestion that Golden Ages are a personal illusion. What other era of television would have allowed well-written science fiction of all things on the air? Nowadays if there isn't something blowing up every act or there's no attractive young actresses in starring roles, it doesn't get aired. Regardless of genre or quality of writing.

    There was a Golden Age of film music too. Style and orchestration changed dramatically after the mid 60s, moving steadily in a direction favoring pop influence over classical roots. Old Sturgeon would have no problem proving his theory in the modern era of film music, but the 90-10 figure seems almost reversed during the Golden Age.

    The real problem, in my opinion, is this:
    There may be an emerging trend of making RPGs more commercial and action oriented...
    And what's driving it? The perception that turn-based RPGs represents a shrinking market. Which isn't true. It's certainly not a very quickly growing market, but it hasn't suddenly disappeared. Going to abandon the niche, once proud JRPG developer? Fine. But don't try and sell me a game from a traditionally turn-based franchise that has suddenly sprouted an action battle system and then say I'm letting nostalgia cloud my judgment when I don't like it.

    Action RPGs dominate the genre now, and I'm not OK with that. Maybe if they played more like Secret of Mana (why has no one plagiarized this game yet??)
  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Maybe if they played more like Secret of Mana (why has no one plagiarized this game yet??)
    You'll be happy to know there are a couple new indie RPGs on the way that play just like it. Actually, lots of indie RPGs do, but these two look like something special. Forget the names of them. Check RPGamers news archives.
  • Rya.ReisenderRya.Reisender Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    Could you possibly mean Cryamore?
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robaato/cryamore-a-true-first-class-take-on-the-action-rpg

    Or maybe Anodyne?
    http://www.anodynegame.com/

    Or even Delver's Drop?
    http://delversdrop.com/

    I think there have been plenty popular action RPGs aside from SoM already, though. Not only indie games. What about the whole Ys series? What about Alundra? Or more recent: What about Bastion?
    Not to mention all the 100+ action RPGs for iOS/Android (some of them are very close to SoM playstyle).

    The only one that really interests me personally is Radio The Universe, though.
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1548272412/radio-the-universe-0
  • TG BarighmTG Barighm Member Full Members
    edited May 2013
    No, the games I'm thinking of seemed close to release.

    Well, he said Secret of Mana, so I figured he would want something as close to it as possible, not just "sort of" close.
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