#10: Golden Sun (GBA)
To kick off the list: a relativlely underaprreciated classic RPG for a classic handheld. Unlike you may expect from handheld games, this one goes pretty deep in all aspects. The story is so rich and entangling that you'll hardly believe you're playing a game and not reading a novel. From all games in the list, this is one IS the best one storywise. I won't spoil anything, but gamers of any kind will enjoy it. You play as Isaac, the game's protagonist and main character. At the beginning, he is forced to flee from his hometown because of a storm and gets thrown into the epic plot.On the way, he gathers more unique friends and allies, alll with their own personalities. You can just keep on mixing them to create the party that suits you the best. Besides that, the game also has a solid combat system and audio that was a pleasure to the ear. But the other thing that really stood out were the graphics. This has to be one of the most visually pleasing games for the GBA. Just search for some screenshots of the game: they make other games look like Nes-quality compared to them. It may be a handheld-game, but that sure hasn't stopped Golden Sun to present everything in a grand way instead of the quick, interruptable playthroughs that are common to most handheldgames. Summing it up in a few words: think Final Fantasy for a handheld. To bad it isn't that well-known, cause this serie definitely needs some more appreciation.
This one is not like the usual RPG's: no shiny armor and swords, no dragons and no dungeons. Instead, it takes place in modern-day Tokyo and the protagonist is a teenage boy called Neku. On a day, he gets a text message which explains to him that he must begin playing 'the game' or be erased from life.The Reapers, who made the game, instruct him to fight some mysterious creatures called The Noise, who are the product of stress of work. Anyway, Neku, and the partners he meets must complete challenges from the game and battle enemies in a very weird combat system. While Neku stays in the weird ghost world, his partner must fight in the real one against enemies who exist in both! To do this, the DS uses both the D-pad and touch screen. In the gamw you must collect 'pins' that make combos possible for Neku and his partners to perform. In combat, you must then constantly switch and continue combos between the two fighters to keep them both safe from harm. It sounds complicated? Well, it is, so you can put one of the partners one 'automated' and focus completely one Neku. Offcourse it's not as great as controlling him yourself but you will want to use this because the learning curve is pretty steep. It's a pretty freaky game, but you should definitely try it out when you can.
Mario in a Square RPG? Weird as it sounds, the combination proved to be golden. SMRPG was unlike any Mario game at that time. The story this time wasn't about Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach either. Well, actually it starts out this way, but when Mario saves the Princess for the gazillionth time a giant sword comes out of nowhere and crashes into Bowser's Keep. Mario and co get flung outside and one of the most enjoyable SNES RPG's begins. After a little while the main plot gets revealed; the Mushroom Kingdom is getting invaded by a mechanical group of monsters and the only way to stop them is by repearing the Star Road (which shattered after earlier-mentioned sword came plunging through it). Mario is always the leader of your party, giving you the choice between two characters created by Square and two other typical Nintendo characters. I wont spoil anything, but saying they fulfill the role of healer and heavy hitter should say you enough. Anyone that is known with the earlier games of Square will surely recognize the set-up. In battle you can use commands as Attack, Items and Special Attacks. All battles are turnbased, but use a gimmick that will later be used in other sequels; timing your attacks. For example, pressing A just before you jump on an enemy increases the damage you deal. It's a fun and much-needed gimmick to keep the battles fresh. Mainly because the game itself isn't that hard. If only the game had contained a bit more challenge, a higher place would be assured.
Talking 'bout Mario RPG's, here's another one for you. Pushing the goofy humor known from Nintendo even more, the story makes little sense. Princess Peach visits the nearby BeanBean Kingdom and gets into trouble. The plumbing brothers are once agained summoned to save her. The story doesn't really sticks into your head, but that's hardly a problem in a game like this. The overall quirkiness of the large, free to roam BeanBean Kingdom quickly makes you forget you still have a princess to save. Bossfights are among the most amusing a handheld can offer and the antoganists sidekick, Fawful, is guaranted to put a smile upon your face with quotes like 'I HAVE FURY!'. Another thing that made the game unique was the combat system. M&L: Superstar Saga had not one, but two protagonist that were controlled by the A and B-button. This gameplay made for some very interesting situations in combat. Not only do you attack but also dodge with those two buttons. For example: an enemy attacks you with his long arms. Whenever he aims for Mario you jump and dodge with A, and for Luigi you do the same with B. During the later battles it becomes progressively harder to keep track of the brothers in the heat of the fight. Too bad that the game self is rather easy which really limits the replayabillity. The same perfect gameplay was also inplented in the recently released Bowser's Inside Story, so pick that one up when you have the change!
What a suprise, yet another list incuding EB (Mother 2 in Japan)? For a cult-hit this game sure has topped a lot of the lists here. But then again, how can you NOT include one of the quirkiest RPG in history? The story alone, a young boy armed with only a baseball bat goes on an journey after an insect from the future warns him from the apocolypse. Ness, the young boy, travels through a world that parodies a lot of American pop culture. Even going as far as the Happy-Happyisme, a religious cult that tries to paint every blue because it will bring 'true happines'. Once you've seen these idiots, you'll know that EB is the weirdest game you've ever played. But under the happy-go-lucky front lies a pretty dark story, especially if you're familiar with the first game in the series, Mother. The apocolypse, as mentioned before, comes again in the form of Giygas the Universal Cosmic Destroyer, the main antogonist of the series. His name might be hilarious, the final fight against this 'thing' (it's pretty hard to define what he is, actually) is one of the darkest in gaming history. Assuming you dont go to Gamefaqs directly, then figuring out how to beat him is one of the most satisfying moments ever. This game had me smiling during the entire playthrough. The developers have somehow pulled it off to make every ounce of the game just as enjoyable as the rest. You may not remember it for the graphics (which are not that good, sadly) or the epic plot, but the overall quirkiness is bound to stick into your head for a long time. The only reason I didn't put it higher upon the list is the limited sales back then, which makes it quite hard to get your hands on a copy nowadays. A shame that is, really.
Take a famous Italian plumber, put him into a paper world and mix the whole thing to an RPG. The result: Paper Mario. The original for the N64 pulled of the trick before this one, but TTYD improved the formula even more and tilted the whole roleplaying aspect to higher levels. It sticks to its roots, featuring Mario again in a turnbased RPG with a twist. First of all, if you think you can just choose an attack and sit back then you're wrong! With all kinds of gimmicks, like timing a jump attack or holding the control stick before you strike with a hammer you can increase the damage you deal (which came from the before mentioned SMRPG). Ofcourse, by pressing buttons at the right time you can also defend or even counter your enemies attacks! This innovative way of fighting keeps every battle fresh and challenging. Besides that, Mario also gets joined by other party members with their own special abillities. For example, you have a Bomb-omb which blows stuff up, a baby yoshi which swallows and spits out his enemies and a cloud-like ghost who harnasses the power of the wind. Using the right party member is important to suceed but not the most prominent aspect of the battle. That place is taken by badges. With badges you can increase attack power, use more items in a turn and many more. A good-equipped Mario can take down almost anything. And last but not least, the leveling. Every enemy gives you star points. When you've collected 100, Mario levels up and you're faced the choice between increasing health point, flower points (needed for special attacks) and badges points (you'll need those to wear badges). all this made the game pretty divers, and you can probably play through it a few times and not getting tired. The only reason I did not include its succesor Super Paper Mario is that it focussed more or platforming then the first two.
And now for something completly different. You know, every time you die while inside a dungeon or battling a strong foe? Having to do all that trouble to revive you fallen partner? Luckily for you, Fire Emblem saves you this problem. In fact, dont worry about dying at all! Once that anoying rogue is gone, you'll never have to worry about him again. Indeed, once a friend has fallen in Fire Emblem he's gone for good. This fact made the FE series quite hard to get into for some, and others stepped out quickly because of the frequent reloading that is almost bound to happen. After all, losing that healer to three mobs just before a bossfight made people shut off their consoles in anger more then one time. But, if you can get over this and are not afraid of a challenge, then FE is definitely the game for you. Unlike most other games on the list this one is a tactical RPG; instead of just fighting you'll have to control your party members from above. Placing the right class on the right place (i.e. ranged combatants stays back, warriors go to the frontline) is the key element to win. Combine that with the sublime millitary-themed storyline and you'll soon feel like your controlling your own squad of medieval warriors in a quest for victory.
Now if only we could go back into time, eh? Being able to change the past and affect the future were exactly what defined this game. The game is pretty heavy storydriven, and luckily the plot is perfect. The protagonist Crono and his friends Lucca and Marle are slung into the past by the failure of Lucca's new invention. After they almost screw up the past, they warp to the future which is pretty much, well, completly destroyed. The rest of the game the party tries to find out and stop what menace has created such destruction, in which they travel to various time periods. From the mighty dinosaurs in 65.000.000 BC to the shiny knights in the Middle Ages, almost every timetravel cliché is performed. The fighting is performed in a kind of semi-realtime combat. All battles take places on the map you've encountered the enemy on, no special fightingscreen is being loaded. Everyone in the fight can choose one action to perform, after which a meter gets drained and slowly fills up. When it's filled you can attack again, which made the game feel like you were in realtime combat instead of a plain turnbased fight. Another thing that's really nice, and draws upon the timetravel concept, is is that you can alter the future by changing the past. By example, making one of your party members stay in the Middle Ages to start cultivating a forest ends up with a lush woodland in the present day. More about the game I dare not to say, Chrono Trigger is enjoyed at its best if you discover everything for yourself. Besides that, both the graphic and audio are perfect aswell. Without a doubt one of the best Snes games released ever, certainly a must-have if you crave the old epic fantasy RPG's.
Man, this one was a tough choice. I really wanted to put it on the number one, but ToS just didn't make enough impact for that. A shame actually, this is not only one of the best games for the purple gamebox, it may be one of the best of its time. As we all know from the Tales of.. serie, a epic plot and a huge world to explore is to be expected. ToS gave this, and many more. Without spoiling to much of the story, I can tell you I've had never experienced such a twisted plotline which continued to captivated me. It starts out as protagonist Lloyd and his friend Genis are banned from their hometown and decide to follow their friend Collete on her journey to restore balance to their world. Sounds cliché? I thought so to, but after you think your quest is nearly finished, a massive plottwist occurs and you'll find out the game has just started. And the storyline isn't even the best yet! Instead of the usual turnbased fighting you can control one of your part members and fight realtime. You can link spells and attacks to the B-button and control stick to create your own fighting style? Want to end your combos with a heavy smash, or try a strong shockwave which can hit multiple enemies? It's all your choice. The realtime combat made the game a lot easier to get into if your not a RPG-freak. Some people say this made the game more of a buttonbasher then a RPG, but all the other classical RPG-elements (equipment, healing items) are present to so they don't really have a reason to complain. I can tell you this, if you own a Gamecube then this is definitely a game you want a copy of. But what game could rob this gem in the crowd from it's number one place?
And now for the number one. Seriously, how could this one be anything else then Pokemon? This game marked the start of a whole new generation, ranging from the games to the anime and the merchandise. An explanation is not needed, unless you've lived under a rock you WILL have heard of the fabled pocket monsters. While the opions are diverse, nobody can deny that Pokemon started something big. I could have chosen any of the first three games, but the Gold version stars Pokemons most famous, Pikachu.The concept of the games stayed the same, you start out as a beginning trainer who's dream it is to catch all the Pokemon and defeat the Elite Four. After that, some legendary Pokemon appears which you'll offcourse, want to catch to. Once you've finished the game, there are always your friends that claim their set-up is better. Take your trusty team of monsters and show them who's boss! And again, and again, and again. Nintendo also had some tactic in their games, putting in some Pokemons which didn't appear in the other version(s). Now go apologize to that friend and see if he wants to trade his Rattata for your Dugtrio. Every new generation kept this formula, adding some more of them pocket critters and maybe some gimmicks. Maybe it's because the series never tried to pull off anything risky that it still is as populair as it was back then. Love it or hate it, Pokemon is still one of the best-selling mainstream RPG's up-to-date. For that, it deserves to be at the number one spot.
Whew, that was one huge effort to pull off. Looking back, it''s even more text then I first expected. If you managed to read all the way through it, kudos for you! Well, it was nice to write about all these games and looking back just makes a gamer more anxious for great titles that are yet to be released. I'm still not sure if this is the right order, but that doesn't matter anymore. Just to let ya know, if you ever have the change to play any of these, don't doubt but do it. That kinda was it for now, my finger are tired of too much ticks on the keyboards so see ya next time!
List by Rikashi (12/22/2009)
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