Octopath Traveler is out now. Some will say its a love letter to Final Fantasy VI, others the SaGa series. The reality is somewhere in between, apparently.
You can check out Nadia's in-progress review of Octopath Traveler as you're loading it up on your Switch. And in the meantime, we're curious about this for this week's community question: What's your favorite sprite-based RPG from the 1990s or 1980s? You know, the type of RPG from the era that inspired Octopath Traveler so heavily. Let us know in the comments!
Anyone who's ever listened to Axe of the Blood God knows that Valkyrie Profile has a special place in my heart. Originally released in 2000 (okay, that's not the 90s, but whatever), it was a uniquely structured RPG with some fantastic vignettes and lovely artwork. It features Lenneth, a valkyrie who is tasked with recruiting fallen warriors for Odin's war against the Vanir ahead of Ragnarok. As the game progresses, she slowly uncovers the secret of her identity, and either breaks out or dutifully follows her orders.
What I like best about Valkyrie Profile is the way that it encourages you to break away from the parameters set for you. If you do what you are told, you will ultimately be congratulated and the game will end. It's only in going against Odin's explicit instructions that you're able to earn Valkyrie Profile's best ending. And what an ending it is.
In the meantime, Valkyrie Profile features many fantastic and tragic vignettes, which are defined by their heartbreaking deaths. My favorite is a running story of a group of adventurers who die one by one, ultimately leaving only one hero to carry on for the group. That she is never able to rejoin her comrades is perhaps the saddest moment in a game full of them.
Valkyrie Profile never sold particularly well, so it's mostly forgotten these days, and its lengthy non-interactive vignettes make it slow-going for curious newcomers. But to this day it's perhaps my favorite game of all time. It's a shame we'll probably never see anything like it again.
Huh. This is a surprisingly hard question for me. There are a few games I love that count as RPGS, but I think of as other genres, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Secret of Mana. Xenogears is somewhat sprite-based, even if the second half peters out hard. If I go way back on consoles, there are other titles that come to mind like Grandia or Valkyrie Profile. If I do that same on PC, there's Baldur's Gate 2, Icewind Dale, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment. Hell, I really love Final Fantasy V over some of the other sprite-based FF because I'm a big fan of the job system.
Like, does Castlevania: Symphony of the Night count as an RPG? If so, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is probably one of my favorite RPGs of all time. If Tactics counts, then Disgaea, either 1 or 5, is way up there for me. If you can't tell, I'm really struggling on this one to pick just one game.
Eh, I put all the games on a chart and had a website pick a random number. The winner was Baldur's Gate 2, which was #5 on the spreadsheet. So there you go.
I'm going to go with Final Fantasy VI for the SNES, which features the very art style Octopath Traveler aims to emulate. Up until the sixth installment, Final Fantasy games looked pretty good, but Final Fantasy VI's huge and detailed enemy sprites still shine. I love summoning Espers just to get a look at those beautiful designs.
Chrono Trigger has to get an honorable mention, of course. Its enemy sprites aren't as huge and detailed as Final Fantasy VI's, but they are animated. That was a big deal at the time. Chrono Trigger also crafted a unique look for every time period you visit. Sometimes I think about the work that went into that game, and then I feel like just sitting down and being quiet for a long time.
As one of the youngest members of the team (Matt and Hirun are younger than me, Jake's the same age; so it goes), my history with the sprite-based JRPGs of yesterdecades is servely lacking. I've never played the majority of The Greats (Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, basically anything Nadia or Kat would consider a favorite game). While I wouldn't call the following my absolute favorite JRPG from that era, I will go to bat for it. Of course, I'm talking about Final Fantasy V.
I played Final Fantasy V on the Game Boy Advance, long past its lifetime on consoles. It's kind of the perfect handheld game too; it's light on story, big on systems and jobs. It's one of the rare games in the Final Fantasy series that situates its gameplay as more important than everything else, and it's excellent because of that. It has immense replayability precisely for that reason. After Kat plopped it on our ongoing Top 25 RPGs list a couple weeks ago, I've really been feeling the itch to play it again too. Sorry Octopath Traveler, you might have to wait a bit.