How I Got Into RPGs

OK, so you’ve got your hobbies. But have you ever thought about why you enjoy them or how you got into them? Gaming is one of my “hobbies” in the sense that I enjoy spending time and money on it. Role-Playing is my favorite genre of video game. How or why did I become a fan? Read on.


Act I

My gaming started in the 80’s with Atari and Nintendo. It wasn’t until circa 1994 that I ever played an RPG.

I had a little money saved up and one day was at Walmart browsing the shelves in the Electronics Dept. The hunt: find my next Super Nintendo game to play. Being a teenager then, I didn’t come by money often. So my next game cartridge was a serious purchase; it had to count.

But I didn’t have the internet back then to tell me which game might be worth it. The best I could do was walk over to where the magazines in the store were and hope to find an article on whatever game I might want. I did have a subscription to Nintendo Power at the time, which was my only real guide.

So I was scanning the box art of each SNES game at Walmart. And there was one game that stood out from the rest due to its relatively simple design. It looked serious, refined, and mysterious. It said to me that it was special. That game was Final Fantasy III.

I mean, surely any game that uses roman numerals in the title had to be remarkable. Final Fantasy, The Third.

On top of that, I swear it was priced at a whopping $70. Even now, that’s a high cost for a top-tier video game. So the box art, title, and price convinced me that the game was going to “change my life” or at least make me happy for a while.

Final Fantasy III Box Art
Final Fantasy III Box Art

Act II

After I got home and first tried to play it, I was not happy. Instead, I was totally dismayed. What happened?

I recall the opening screen, the descending view over clouds sparked with lightning, and the ominous 16-bit organ music building up. Then the fancy game title rose, backlit by flames! What an impressive intro!

But then I tried the gameplay. It was like eating vegetables. Bitter. Yuck! This game was supposed to be good for me, but instead it seemed to be a major let-down. What is this thing? I felt robbed. And there was no getting my hard-earned money back.

Like I mentioned, I had never played an RPG before. FFIII (what was truly FFVI) is one of the best JRPGs ever, and it was a pretty hard-core one to start with.

And I just totally didn’t get it.

I was exploring a town with my sprite-based character who couldn’t jump like Mario or shoot like Samus in Super Metriod, and all I could do was talk to people. Boring.

But then, while walking around, sometimes I would suddenly be jolted into a “battle-screen” lined up with enemies. I had to wait my turn to pick an action…from a menu. The choices were weird. And if I won the fight, my sprite-person would dance and I’d get weird point things and money.

And the process would repeat. Random encounters were annoying interruptions. The classic gameplay that traditional JRPGs are known for was too foreign to me.

To make things more frustrating, all the gameplay weirdness was supposedly tied together by an epic unfolding story. But it just seemed out of reach, a story you must play out for hours and hours, sort of solving it like a puzzle.


Act III

Thankfully, I had something more valuable than the $70 dud of a game. I had a friend. He had already been into RPGs. So he told me to bring the game over and he would teach me how to play it. Sure, what did I have to lose?

This is a very fond memory of mine. I sat on the floor with my friend as he walked me through the first part of the game. He explained the basics while showing me how it all worked and was supposed to play out. I watched. I asked questions.

My friend encouraged me and was happy for me to have such a cool game to play. (Later, he let me borrow his copy of EarthBound. Wow! The box had scratch-n-sniff stickers. Such a fun and cool RPG.)

After a while, my understanding of the game grew. The basics were simple enough. You had to level up your character over time with experience. There were many stats you could affect! This wasn’t as simple as growing from small Mario to big Mario in an instant with a mushroom. This was realistic growth!

I also recall being particularly impressed by the freedom to choose a cool magic-based attack instead of a physical attack in battle mode. There were options!

The strategy of battle pulled me in. Not only could I choose magic over sword swinging. I could choose a type of magic, like fire versus ice. And the choice made a difference; it all depended. Then I learned of greater choices like Fire2 versus Fire1. I could do more damage at once, and the magic looked more awesome!

And all that hooked me. The depth, the options, the battle strategy. But then, what reeled me in was the grand story, the world building, the many characters you could play as. You played many roles!

Ah…click! A role-playing game.

I beat my first RPG, Final Fantasy III, many weeks later. It took that long to progress through the story – and what a story! To this day, it remains one of my favorites. Grinding and all.


Begin Final Act

Final Fantasy III was a big investment for me as a kid in several ways. A high purchase cost. Weeks devoted to playing. Pushing through its challenges. What was almost a total let-down turned out to be one of the best game pay-offs ever!

An RPG fan was born.

Final Fantasy was the only RPG franchise I knew back then. I went on to play FFVII, VIII, and IX on the PS1. I also played EarthBound and Super Mario RPG on SNES. DragonQuest wasn’t on my radar.

Over the years, I sought out other RPGs; it’s my favorite genre to this day. As an adult with kids and a full-time job, I don’t get to escape into video games quite like I did in my youth. But I do find time to role-play.

These days, I’m pursuing RPGs more like a hobby, collecting promising titles in my backlog and anticipating new ones as they’re released. At night after the kids are to bed, I like to immerse myself into whatever current RPG I’m playing. As of this writing, I’m 42 hours into Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on my Nintendo Switch. It’s a gem!

A good RPG might be more important to me now as an adult versus when I was a kid. Why? Because as one with a life full of adult responsibilities and stresses, video gaming is a helpful way to escape into some fun. And the immersive world-building and story-telling of an RPG is one of the best forms of escapism to enjoy.


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Quantity Or Quality In An RPG

Would you rather have a good 100-hour RPG or a great 50-HR RPG? Your answer might depend on your availability; time is a limited resource. In my experience (XP level 43…), I would prefer a shorter yet better role to play. But I can see how one could go either way.


One one hand, like a long-form novel, a good RPG sometimes can take a few hours to get going. You might spend several play sessions wondering when the in-game tutorials will end or when the world really opens up to explore. And once you get comfortable with the game mechanics, then you might feel that you’re finally connecting with the characters.

This can take considerable time to develop. It depends on the story the game is trying to tell; it could be deep, broad, or both. Of course, it also depends on the technical and artistic abilities of the game developer to spin a good yarn made of ones and zeros.

Let’s say a good RPG averages around 50+ hours just considering the story-telling. Would a longer time-sink be better? Or would a succinct and brief RPG pack a better punch? Because sometimes, cliche or not, “less is more.”

After you’ve invested many hours into a good RPG, and have connected with the characters and themes, and are immersed in your substantial role to play – you have all the XP – what else do you want? You want a great pay-off!

If the story is great and is also told well, then you might find yourself in a catch-22. You want to hurry up and see how the exciting story ends! How do the plot-points connect? How do the characters’ story-arcs play out? But you also want the game to never end because it’s so good! When you’re enjoying a good thing, it often ends too quickly.


There’s more to the RPG motif that severely affects both the quality and quantity of a game. Grinding.

Some players accept grinding – rote, necessary, and repeated ad nauseam battles to slowly rack up all-the-points (XP, JP, AP…) – as inevitable to some degree or another. But other gamers decry the grind as a deplorable staple from traditional RPG’s past their prime. The grind is a vestige to cut off and live without.

To that, I say a modern RPG can offer balance. With the large number of ports and updated editions of past games, there have been quality of life improvements to mitigate grinding. For example, 2x or 4x battle speeds; a toggle switch to turn off (or increase) random encounters without waiting until 40 hours into the game to find the item that enables such conveniences. Or better yet, encounters that – get this – are not random!

RPGs today should include these mechanics from the start, along with being able to change difficulty level on the fly throughout the entire game. Some modern RPGs already do this, which is likely one reason why there’s been some resurgence in the genre.


Another aspect of an RPG that affects the quality level is directly correlated with quantity: the number of optional side-quests and bonus content. Assuming that these features exceed mere fetch-quests and are done well, they offer to the role-player an opportunity to go deeper into a broad story.

Let’s say you love a supporting protagonist and want to learn more about their backstory. How cool is it to choose to explore a 10-hour sub-plot centered on that character? If this was a more prominent trait in RPGs, and you had the time to spend on it, would you?


Finding the ideal RPG formula is a challenge for any game developer to be sure. And finding the perfect RPG as a player is equally elusive. But in our day, we’re closer than ever to enjoying these role-playing goals. A balance between quantity and quality is a worthy endeavor.

Since my play-time is limited, I lean towards quality escapism over quantity.

I admit, though, that I tend to undermine my enjoyment of whatever current RPG I’m immersed in by craving the next new one on my backlog. But that’s another story.


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Better Gaming Through Broader Story Telling

A hallmark of good entertainment is a compelling story. In a video game, a background story is sometimes used to merely support the game-play. But in role-playing games (RPGs), the story is forefront, giving the player an immersive role in a grand story-arc. So I was excited and surprised to discover an RPG video game with a story so important that it spans across mediums.


The promising RPG I found is waiting on my backlog: Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition.

I’ve been looking forward to playing this game for a while now. It ticks all the boxes that almost any RPG fan would crave; good story is one of them. And it will be my first “Tales of…” game ever. As part of a long-standing and successful action-RPG franchise by Bandai Namco, I can’t wait to dive into it!

But to sweeten the deal, I found more to the story. Literally!

Thanks to Amazon’s smart suggestions, while shopping the website recently, I stumbled upon Tales of Vesperia: First Strike (check it out on Letterboxd). It’s a movie prequel to the story found in the game. Wow!

Wait, what? Based on reviews, I learned that this movie sets up the video game by telling the back story of some of the characters. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this kind of expanded story-telling before, other than a book/movie tie-in. This is a video game/movie tie-in!

I’ve got to try this new experience, so I bought the movie right away. And now, instead of looking forward to only the video game, I’m also eager to see the prequel story set it up. It should make my role in the RPG more immersive and satisfying.

I never expected an RPG to be enriched by a movie complement. So, yeah, I’m pumped about it. It’s exciting to find new stuff like this. And what impresses me, too, is that a company cares enough about a franchise to create its art in multiple formats for the sake of good story-telling.

Through the mediums of both movie and video game, I hope to connect with the world and characters in Tales of Vesperia more deeply and be moved more emotionally while playing the RPG.

Are there other movie/game or book/game tie-ins to find? Hope so!

Anything to make a good RPG great and the role-play more immersive, bring it on.


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Playing All The Roles

Hey blog buds and fellow web surfers, I hope your holiday season is cheerful. In my time off, I’ve been able to get more work done around the house (project backlog) and also play Nintendo! Fun times of escape going on here. So many good role-playing games! So allow me to explore, expound, and exclaim a bit.


Roles Played

A quick review of RPGs I finished this year. Winter started with Pokemon Sword. Next, Octopath Traveler (this is one I’ve yet to complete). Spring and early Summer were filled with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and reading a bunch of books – so no RPGs then.

But late Summer and Fall were fantastic. I re-finished Final Fantasy VII. Then I finally played and finished, for the first time, Final Fantasy X – HD Remaster.

That’s a lot of RPG goodness!

To see all the RPGs I’ve played to date, go to my Grouvee list.

Role Playing Now

The current RPG I’m playing, which I started this Fall, is none other than Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. In short, I’m around 20 hours into it, and it’s marvelous! I’m SO enjoying every bit of it! And there’s still much great stuff in the game to look forward to. This game deserves its own full blog post!

So that’s 5 RPGs I’ve played this year – lots to like – yet I can’t resist also looking forward to many other RPGs on my backlog – so many good ones, so little time!

Roles To Play

Next on my to-play list is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. What will be my first Tales game ever, it’s an action-RPG like Ni No Kuni, also with an anime art style. It will be cool to compare the two once I’ve played them.

After that, oh my, it’s hard to choose. I plan to go back at some point and enjoy finishing Octopath Traveler – it’s a great game!

But Square Enix is releasing a new turn-based RPG early next year: Bravely Default II. It looks like I MUST play it! If I don’t, it’ll be one that I wish I hadn’t passed up. So I’d like to grab whatever special edition may be released for it – a physical copy.

There’s also the much loved and lauded Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition action-RPG. It originally came out on the Wii; I’ve never played it! But I have played about 20 hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I have an idea of what it’s like. It should be awesome, so I’ve got that on my wishlist too.

Lastly, I might also play one other biggun’ – Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is grandiose! It would be my first ever DQ game. Slimes! Yeah, I’ve got to play this one too.

So I guesstimate I have about 330 hours of awesome roles to play in 2021:

  1. Ni No Kuni – 45 hours remaining
  2. Octopath Travler – 25 hours remaining
  3. Tales of Vesperia – 60 hours
  4. Bravely Default II – 60 hours
  5. Xenoblade Chronicles – 70 hours
  6. Dragonquest XI – 70 hours

Yeah, wow! And I’m not really in a hurry. I enjoy immersing in the gameworld, taking on the role of hero, growing characters, discovering secrets, solving puzzles, battling monsters, applying strategy, and usually saving the world from evil catastophe.

By the way, all these games are on Nintendo Switch. And besides the games above that I plan to play in the future, there are more RPG options! For example, I already own Final Fantasy X-2 and Legrand Legacy: Tales of the Fatebounds; I can give those a try. And I’m also interested in Trails of Cold Steel III and Star Renegades.

So anyways, 2021 is looking promising, at least in virtual reality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in the new year? Let me hear it in the comments below!


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Final Fantasy Role Play

Hey fellow web denizens, are you ready for Summer to end, anticipating Autumn and cooler temps? I am! Halloween stuff and pumpkin spice is already popping up in stores!

Summer found me reading several books until recently. I’ve been finding my stories in another medium: video games. I decided to dive into one of my old faves, Final Fantasy. A good ol’ JRPG!

This post is kind of a response to a couple posts I published last year about Final Fantasy here and here.

I was impressed last October with the new Final Fantasy VII Remake coming for PlayStation 4. I wondered then, would I buy the console just to play the game!? And if so, would I play through the whole game like I first did back around 1997. Answer: no and yes.

Final Fantasy VII

Instead of a PS4, I bought a Nintendo Switch last Christmas! And I’ve now played through Final Fantasy VII (the re-release version) after many years and many attempts at replay. Since first finishing the game in the late 90’s, I restarted it several times but was never able to get through it. Until now!

There are several plot points and events in the story of the game that I didn’t remember, so I relived it both afresh and with nostalgia – it was fun! Yes, the graphics are dated, but the nostalgia factor for me made it enjoyable. When it first came out, the game was impressive on the PlayStation (PS1)!

What made FFVII so impactful circa 1997 was its over-the-top visual storytelling in a video game. It blended full-motion CGI video with pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D polygonal characters in a seamless way, within the tech limits of the time.

While the storytelling was spectacular, the story itself was, dare I say, epic!

You literally must save the entire planet with all its inhabitants from total destruction and utter ruin. No big deal though, right?

Squaresoft (Square-Enix) had a knack for huge stories with existential overtones. They’re full of drama, tragedy, betrayal, love, camaradiere, danger – all the stuff of relationships. There are plot twists and turns. And like the JRPG genre Final Fantasy is in, there are often well developed character story-arcs. And of course, lots of magic and action. (Summons!)


This Summer, finishing FFVII for the second time was more than a mere fun replay. For me, it became a stepping stone on a path I never finished. I went back a little before I would go forward.

The path started in the 90’s with FFVI on SNES, then jumped to FFVII on PS1. Next, I played FFVIII and FFIX, also on the PS1.

The next FF installment, number ten, debuted in 2001 on the PS2, a console I didn’t own. So I never played Final Fantasy X but have always wanted to.

And now I’m finally playing Final Fantasy X for the first time!


Final Fantasy X

FFX is nearly 20 years old, but to me it is brand new! I read some reviews (no spoilers!) about it and was pretty stoked. It’s one of the best in the long running FF franchise. Here’s a salient quote I found:

“Whereas many of the previous Final Fantasy games were games with story elements, this is a story with gaming elements.”

Hear that? FFX is big on story – like reading a book!? Sounds good. Although it might be more like an audiobook since the dialogue is full of voice acting, a first for FF games back in the day.

The only real downside I’ve read about FFX is that the game, driven by a great story, is more linear than previous FF games. But I think that straightforward approach will help me play through the game. So bring it on.

In the Final Fantasy franchise, there’s always been a steady progression in Square-Enix’s ability to cinematically showcase the story with advancements in graphical quality. I enjoyed the visual experience starting in the 16-bit era with FFVI (FFIII SNES). It got remarkably better with FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX (PS1).

Now that I’ve started FFX, I’m super impressed with how much Square-Enix has improved everything. And I’m lucky, since waiting almost 20 years to play FFX means I not only jumped from PS1 to PS2 level pizzazz, I jumped to the high-quality version with the FFX HD Remaster!


So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, geeking out on gaming. Overall, I’m consuming more content than creating it. That happens. The scales tip from one side of the balance to another.

For now, I’ve got to save the world again from crazy-bad destructive forces. Wish me luck!


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