Although the Role-Playing-Game genre has been around for a long time, I didn't care about it till the mid 1990's. Before this era I was very hooked of the 1-on-1 Beat-em-up's like Streetfighter II (Turbo), Fatal Fury and the KoF series.
The following RPG-timeline describes the developments from 1992 till today, with spotlights on the classics on the SNES.
In the fall of 1996, it was like I stood up on a day and must have thought there must be more than no-thinking games like SF etc.
So I bought Secret of Mana, which I also purchased a few years earlier, but swapped it for another game due to not understanding the RPG genre.
I was hooked again and the RPG virus never left me since. Because it was also fall in the lifespan of the best gameconsole ever, the SNES, my brother and I were hunting for all the greatest RPG's on this system for about two years.
The result was a very impressive list of great RPG's. Most of them were in new condition.
A unique feature at the time for Secret of Mana (16-Meg) was the real time action where most of the rivals were menu-driven or turn based. The latter method was because of the limited processing power to realise real time action. There was also a 3-player mode which gave the players more fun. My brothers and I are still playing it nowadays!
Father of the SNES RPG is without a doubt 'The legend of Zelda III - A Link to the past' (8-Meg). In those days - and still- a fantastic in-depth story with lots of action released by Nintendo itself.
Squaresoft (Good old times without Enix) was already a specialist in RPG's and had released Final Fantasies 1 -3 for the NES. Though the story of FF IV (8-Meg) was very good and today's classic, the graphics were reminding of a pimped NES. Till winter 1994, Square releases her Golden Egg - Final Fantasy VI (FF III in the US) with rendered graphics, great music and a epic story stored in - at the time huge cart - a 24-Meg cart. Since then Square's star has rised to heaven and the following succes were even greater. This time, there was besides the turn based, the introduction of active time battle, better known as real-time battling menu-driven. In 1994, just after finishing FF VI, Hironobu Sakaguchi put together the so called dream team consisting Yuji Horii (Dragon's Quest), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) and Sakaguchi himself to work on a project which turned out to be the best RPG ever - Chrono Trigger (32-Meg!). Aside of them, there was the debut for music composer Yasunori Mitsuda. It was a gamble, but it turned out fantastic. Mitsuda asked too much from himself and suffered from exhaustion. Nobuo Uematsu finished his soundtrack with a few tracks, but Uematsu states that the credits goes to Mitsuda.
This game was special because it didn't had to change the field screen to action/fight screen. A few extra menu's appeared when confronting the enemy and there was a smooth transition in the music. The unique style for the Chrono Series was also the Tech-ability. Depending on which character you were using, you could spread a great arsenal of magic and fighting combo's, just fenomenal! Of course the active time battle system was featured here.
Besides of all, there were multiple endings, depending on what kind of decisions you had made in the past. Now this is Chrono (time) Triggering at highest level!
The new game+ feature boosts up the replay value. You can replay the game without searching all the valuable items/ techs once again.
Later in 1999 Sony would also release a 'sequel' named Chrono Cross. This is not a really sequel, because it has no direct connection to the events of Chrono Trigger, but takes place in the same universe about 20 years later. The extra dimension of CC was that it also junps to parallel universes, which explaines the title Chrono Cross.
Due to the arrogance of Nintendo to keep the support of cartridges, Squaresoft switched and gave the licenses to Sony to release titles for the Playstation. This is because the CD-rom (and later DVD-rom) could store much more data, which gave more opportunities and possibilities.
The results are known, FF VII till FF IX were cashcows for Sony. Many people claim that FF VII is one of the best episode that has been made. It was a high quality title with a good in-depth story. For me, FF VI is still the one above all, nothing beats the 16-bit era. FF VII & FF VIII was a little change in tactics and technical choices. The party you were playing consist 3 characters. Why Squaresoft made this choice is unknown. In FF IX was a return to the roots.
The characters were more animated like and the music is familiar with the pre-32 bit era. The party you're travelling with consists 4 characters, like before.
The summons are mostly the same as in FF VI.
In the early 2000's Squaresoft merged with Enix, it's rival company, to the biggest console RPG developper. The merger is comparable with that of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in the aviation-world.
Critisism said it hasn't brought that good to the development of the products, I agree. The saga continued on the PS2 with FF X to FF XII. Now in March 2010 the 13th episode awaits for the PS3.
Do you look forward to Final Fantasy XIII?
A few titles (brandnew) acquired during our hunt late 1990's:
Chrono Trigger, FF III (US), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Super Mario RPG, Breath of Fire 1 & 2, Lufia 2, Terranigma, Illusion of Time, Seiken Den Setsu 3 (Secret of Mana 2), Treasure Hunter G, Romancing Saga 3.