Role-playing games have been around longer than the grilled cheese sandwich, a fact we all know but none of us can truly prove. However, one thing we can prove is that role-playing games have been a major part of Sega’s history from Black Onyx on the SG-1000 to their recent releases of Phantasy Star Portable 2 and Resonance of Fate on modern consoles.
In this list we attempt to take a look back and pick our favorite RPG’s that appeared on Sega’s consoles or were published by the company we all know and love.
Hit the jump to read on!
10. Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
Pat Reddick: Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed that Sakura Wars: So Long My Love is so far down on this list. While making a top 10 list is an achievement regardless of where on that list the game is located, I feel that this game could rightfully be placed much higher. I understand, however, that the story-heavy, visual novel-esque non-combat portions of the game are not everyone’s cup of tea. This is a shame because even the “boring” parts of Sakura Wars 5 are highly enjoyable. The game featured dialogue choices that affect the story years before Western RPGs made it an essential feature. The game also features several non-tolkenized persons of colour and at least one character with a non-binary gender identity. This kind of socially progressive character depiction is still not commonplace in gaming and I think it’s a treat to know of a game that sets the standard so high.
The battle sections are never a disappointment either. Combat is an interesting fusion between real-time and turn-based action in which you’re free to move around and attack characters or use special moves. The game requires a great deal of strategy in these sections in order to succeed. Often I’ve lost a battle for making one too many bad moves. It’s easy to identify what you did wrong and then correct it, however, so the combat never gets frustrating.
The only fault against the game I can think of is the fact that it is very much a product of it’s era. If you feel that you couldn’t enjoy a game from 2005 anymore, you’re probably not going to be into this game. However, I think if a new Sakura Wars were to be made and localized for North America it would appeal to any RPG fan.
9. Valkyria Chronicles
Sven Wohl: This is one of the few JRPGs of this generation that has gotten quite some critical acclaim. It’s easy to see why: Awesome Anime-graphics, great voice cast, a deep story with interesting characters and a combat design that hasn’t been seen before make this a very interesting game. Add a setting that is rarely picked by JRPGs and you have an all-time classic on your hand!
8. Magic Knight Rayearth
Mike Kyzivat: This was a great game back at the end of the U.S. Saturn days, in fact Magic Knight Rayearth is the last U.S. release for the Saturn system, luckily it is a good one. The basic premise is you play as three high school girls on a field trip to the Tokyo Tower in Japan, when suddenly you are transported to a strange world with magic and monsters called Cephiro. This world (much like fantasia in The Neverending Story) runs on hopes and dreams, and little kitten smiles. But the princess of Cephiro has been kidnapped by her own high priest Zagato. So guess who’s responsibility it is to save the princess and restore Cephiro to the beautiful place it once was. Just like Cephiro to farm it’s work out to foreigners, am I right Cephirians?
Anyway the game play is very similar to the Legend of Zelda series, except that you have all three girls in your party at once. There is the character you are currently using in the front and then the other two flank the main character on either side. With the press of a button you can switch between each of the three characters, each with a different weapon. Your choices are a bow, sword or a foil (look it up) each with different properties and distances to their attacks.
The graphics while old school, are very vibrant and detailed. It is all done in 2D from a isometric point of view. There are lots of bright colors filling the screen, but it’s not enough to make you sick, just enough to look great. Most of the cut scenes are taken straight from the anime that was produced for the original manga, so if you have already seen the anime there is nothing special about the cutscenes here The publisher, Working Designs, did include a whole section in the manuel devoted to the differences between the manga, anime and the video game, which is an interesting read.
Wow, is this game expensive on Amazon!! It’s a good game, but it is not worth the price of an xbox360. I’m also not sure it is worth the used price of 80 dollars, as it is a very straight forward RPG, you level up at certain points in the game rather then grinding for your HP. If you are interested in this game, I’d watch some youtube videos before you plop down 3 hundos for this game. But in it’s defense it does have a foil metallic cover.
7. Grandia 2
Josh Newey: There’s no denying that Grandia 2 suffers from just about all of the JRPG model’s most infamous flaws. Still, overwrought story and wisecracking, spiky-haired protagonist aside, this colorful and engrossing adventure easily stands head and shoulders above almost any other RPG on the Dreamcast. This is thanks in part to the game’s refreshingly unique battle system, which deftly mixes standard, turn-based fare with limited open movement, giving players an extra modicum of control and instilling confrontations with a sense of fluid strategy that most RPGs of the time lacked. Even after all these years, I still approach grinding in Grandia 2 with a sense of excited anticipation—and that’s saying something. Combine this with a vibrant and eye-catching art direction that has aged better than almost any other game on the console, and you’ve got a game that stands out not only as a great representative of its genre, but as one of the most polished and enjoyable must-play titles in the Dreamcast’s entire library.
6. Phantasy Star
Flake: Gameplay wise, there is nothing much to write home about with Phantasy Star – we are talking console RPG’s, after all. The gameplay is about as intense as using an ATM. What makes Phantasy Star so amazing is how it stood out in a time where every game involving a sword and a menu did its best to offer diet-Dungeons and Dragons. Phantasy Star took the RPG archetypes and threw them out the window.
In terms of setting, Phantasy Star is the game that Final Fantasy wishes it could be. Where as pseudo-futuristic, japanese cartoon crap has made Final Fantasy into a joke these days, Sega got it right with Phantasy Star and they did it over twenty years ago. Phantasy Star is a game about space colonies, mutants, planets, and interstellar bad guys. Alis, the main character, is a cyber sword swinging future woman (fully clothed, to boot) on a rampage through first person dungeons and space ports, looking for revenge. The Algol solar system is brought to life by a great sound track, memorable storyline, and excellent fully drawn cut-scenes. Phantasy Star was ahead of its time and has been copied with sparing success numerous times over the past twenty years.
If there is anything bad to be said about the original Phantasy Star it is that hardly anyone has played it. It really is not a mystery why, though. Phantasy Star was marketed at about $70 – $80 USD. In today’s money that is nearly $140 USD. No one could afford it! I myself did not know it was a thing that existed until I read about it in Electronic Gaming Monthly #100, nearly 10 years after it came out.
5. Phantasy Star 2
Sven Wohl: While I haven’t palyed all that much of it, Phantasy Star 2 has already two things going for it from the get go: It has a Science Fiction setting, which still isn’t all that common and it’s a 16-bit JRPG. You know, when the genre was pretty much at its best. Yes, there is a lot of grinding and the story is somewhat minimalistic but it’s still a lot of fun and still worth checking out.
4. Panzer Dragoon Saga
Scott Morrison: Panzer Dragoon Saga did something that few RPG’s have been able to do: keep me interested for the entire game from start to finish. Many RPG’s from my experience have involved grinding I was unable to handle, or so many optional side-missions that I felt overwhelmed to put in the amount of commitment required. Panzer Dragoon Saga was interesting from beginning to end for so many reasons. The amazing world created by Team Andromeda was that of a post-modern wasteland with hints of some sort of worldwide catastrophe just short of the apocalypse. If I could describe the world in a phrase it would be “steam-punk desert anime.” The wide-open landscapes were very captivating by Sega Saturn standards and truly exhibited just how vast the world of PDS was. The captivating concept art for the game has served as my desktop wallpaper more often than any other video game to this date.
The most appealing thing of PDS was the varying gameplay. The battle system was a form of on-rail shooting found in the first two Panzer Dragoon games, but with more freedom. By being able to fly around enemies in 360 degrees, one would have to find the enemies’ weak spots in order to exit battle victorious, with the hopes of achieving a decent “grade” to earn better items and more money. The charging action bar added a bit of intensity during battle, which would then be rewarded with screen-filling special attacks incorporating lasers, flying discs, bursts of light, and more. The second part of gameplay still took place on the dragoon’s back while players would fly around the world freely to find items, doorways, enemies, and other secrets. The third part of gameplay actually took place on foot as players would guide the game’s hero, Edge, through towns to talk with people, buy/sell/trade items, or just explore the culture of the world.
The cut scenes for PDS were also entertaining to watch while listening to the language created specifically for the game. In a time when CG cut scenes were so different from gameplay graphics, these cut scenes felt like a movie when they would sometimes last for 5-10 minutes. While the cut scenes could be lengthy at times, it was more of a reward than anything after your epic battles on the back of your dragoon. I can only hope that somehow this game gets an HD upgrade not just because of the game’s rarity, but also because any RPG fan should have the ability to become engulfed by the world of Panzer Dragoon Saga.
3. Phantasy Star Online
Flake: Phantasy Star Online is that RPG for all of us kids who grew up and lost the patience to scroll through endless menus. Sega smashed dungeon crawling and stat based gameplay into an awesome game, infused with the same futuristic, space adventure themes that made most of the Phantasy Stars so memorable. Yes, I said ‘most’. Phantasy Star III sucked. Phantasy Star Online is all about laser swords, ray guns, space stations, and robot hunters.
PSO is infinitely playable, even single player. Good thing too, since the online component has been officially discontinued for all versions. PSO really comes alive when you add more players; Suddenly team work, resource sharing, and not trolling your partners too fiercely become elements to take into consideration. Today though, gamers looking represent Pioneer 2 with a friend are stuck with local co-op on the Gamecube version. The hope is that the upcoming, true sequel to PSO will make it out of Japan.
2. Shining Force
Pat Reddick: Given the rate at which RPGs age relative to other genres, I think it’s a huge compliment that Shining Force is so high on this list. At almost 20 years old, this strategy RPG remains enjoyable for the RPG fan to this day. This is even more of an accomplishment when you consider the glaring problems with the translation. Hell, the main character’s back story was entirely left out of the North American version of the game! The characters who made it into the game are all original, and though some matter less, none are generic faceless robots you might find in some other SRPG games. The game does feature your standard grid-based battle field and turn-based combat, but it executes it so well that it doesn’t feel boring. Outside of battles the game allows you to explore town, buy stuff for your army, interact with people, find treasure and all that other fun stuff. Another great thing about it is how accessible it is both as a game and as a product. You can jump right into the game without feeling lost regardless of your RPG experience. It’s also available for just about every system ever. As a Sega fan I can’t think of any excuse for not at least giving this game a try.
1. Skies of Arcadia
Elliott Riggen: I can’t remember the last time I’ve played a 60+ hour RPG all the way through twice, in fact I can only think of one….Skies of Arcadia. The best RPG, in my opinion. Just the variety in the game alone is impressive, with ship battles, standard turn based battles, group attacks, and color coded weapon system all wrapped up with up-gradable ship