The original PlayStation (and indeed the PS2) had a wealth of role-playing games on them… With hundreds of different games to choose from, us fans of the genre were spoiled for choice. Back in the day, before I had even thought about collecting games, I had a huge amount of the PSX RPGs. My childhood bedroom was stocked full of them!
Of course, being the young child I was, I ended up trading most of them in, and now the rest are currently in storage at my in-laws house in Turkey… But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss playing them. So, I thought I’d start 2018’s collection of Top 7 list posts off by counting down my personal top 7 favourite PSX RPGs! So, with no particular order (because it is so hard to put them in one), here we go.
Final Fantasy Tactics
We’ll start with the probably the most obvious RPG series to have on a list like this; Final Fantasy. However, we’re not going to be talking about the most obvious one that everyone always goes on about (but you can read my opinion of FFVII here). Instead, we’re going to be looking at Final Fantasy Tactics, an oft forgotten gem in the series that is most deserving of your attention.
Rather than being a turn-based J-RPG like the rest of the series, Final Fantasy Tactics is instead a tactical RPG like Disgaea or Super Robot Wars. However, don’t let this fool you; FF Tactics is as much of a Final Fantasy game as you’ll ever get!
The story is probably one of the most in-depth in the series; dealing with political strife, social class issues and religion, the game’s plot is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Sorrow and heartbreak follow the characters wherever they go, and the game tells the story of a nobleman branded as a heretic who fights to save the world from a corrupt church run by men seeking the power of demons.
Oh, and the gameplay and customisation is beyond amazing as well! Final Fantasy Tactics, to this day, is my favourite in the series!
Going back to a more traditional J-RPG now, Suikoden 2 is a masterpiece of truly epic proportions… I mean, this game has over 180 characters that you can recruit into your party… 180! But getting all of them is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. This is because who you can recruit (and how the story then progresses) is based upon your actions and choices through the game. Forget the handful of endings that Fallout gives you; Suikoden 2 is a true example of choice-driven gameplay and story.
The battle system is also really fun, with some characters being able to do joint attacks when they are together in the active party. On top of this, the base storyline will capture you immediately and hold your attention completely with twists, turns and some really memorable NPCs and characters.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, it should come as no surprise that Koudelka is on this list. I mean, you can check out my actual review of the game here and see how much I love it. To be honest, Koudelka is probably my favourite game ever made. It is a unique blend of Survival Horror and tactical RPG that has yet to be equaled (or even really attempted again). The soundtrack is awesome, and completely different from anything else you’ll have heard.
The storyline is also really amazing, set in a gothic monastery in Wales of all places! And considering I’m part Welsh, that really struck me.
For the time, the graphics are very good as well, if that matters to you. Koudelka is one of the finest examples of game developers daring to try something different. Rather than taking the easy road and following everyone else, Sacnoth created a one-of-a-kind game that you are doing yourself an injustice by not playing.
For those of you who had a SNES, you’ll naturally have heard of Chrono Trigger. It was a brilliant game, and it spawned a sequel on the PSX; Chrono Cross. This time, using the PlayStation’s increased power, you got to explore the Chrono world in 3D. Also, similar to Suikoden, your actions and choices changed who you could recruit to your party and how the story played out. The difference here, however, was that you couldn’t recruit everyone.
This meant that the replay value of Chrono Cross was through the roof, as you could keep enjoying a vastly different storyline, witnessing alternate events each time you played through the game!
On top of that, the vibrant world and well-rounded characters meant that Chrono Cross was a joy to play. Everything felt so lively, even with a very dark story about inter-dimensional travel and the end of all human and human-animal hybrid life on the planet.
The Legend of Dragoon
Moving on to another masterpiece of gaming creativity, we have The Legend of Dragoon. If you want to know how good this J-RPG really is, then you just have to look at the nickname it earned; “the Final Fantasy VIII Killer”. To even play with the idea of a game being called that and living up to it sounds insane. However, The Legend of Dragoon was 4-discs worth of utterly outstanding gameplay, intricate fantasy storyline and insanely strong character writing.
On top of all this, the “Addition” system added combo-style abilities to the traditional J-RPG battle system, making it feel far more interactive than other J-RPGs both at the time and to date.
In fact, the sheer fact that this game is now worth over £100 should say exactly how amazing it really is. The game has become so rare because people who play it don’t part with it. Unfortunately, I lost my copy of the game whilst moving abroad, so I’ll be looking to get it back into my newly christened collection as soon as possible.
Set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics, FFXII and FFXIV, Vagrant Story is another very different RPG. In fact, it is so different that it is really hard to explain. Rather than controlling a band of heroes setting off on an epic adventure to save the world from a big bad, Vagrant Story is much smaller in scope. You control a single man, Ashley Riot, as he explores the city of Leá Monde and the underground catacombs, combating an evil cardinal who seeks immortality.
The battle system, however, is where the game really stands out. At a time where RPGs were basically limited to turn-based menu battles where you could attack or use magic and just select the target, Vagrant Story took a different tact. You could actually choose which areas of your enemies’ bodies you wanted to strike. This added a huge amount of tactical thought to each battle, and made the game all the more brilliant.
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete
Okay, so the last one on this list is a remake, but it’s my list and I’ll include it if I want to! Lunar 2 was originally released on the Sega CD and was a huge success. So much so that they remade it with improved sprites and better voice acting (yes, there’s voice acting in a J-RPG). They even added fully animated, anime style cutscenes to the game to make it even better!
If ever you wanted an example of a remake that manages to retain the true essence of the original whilst improving it in almost every way, this is the game for you. I fell in love with the game when I got the collector’s edition, which comes with the soundtrack, a necklace, cardboard statues and more. However, as with The Legend of Dragoon, I lost it during my move abroad. The collector’s edition is now very highly valued, so if you ever get a chance to get it, don’t miss it! This is an amazing game that you’ll almost certainly love as much as I do.
And That’s All Folks
Those were my personal favourite PSX RPGs. However, there are tonnes of them out there, so naturally I’ll have missed some that you guys really enjoy. With that in mind, why not name your favourites in the comments below?
That way, we can all help each other to discover some absolutely amazing games!