Do you remember much of 2003? Maybe you recall playing your PlayStation 2 or GameCube. Maybe you remember downloading low-quality mp3s off Limewire -- slowly, perhaps, if your family hadn't caught on to that "high-speed internet" thing yet. Maybe you watched Middle Eastern politics deteriorate and hoped for a peaceful resolution (spoilers from the future: Didn't happen).
And maybe you downloaded and sampled the trial version of a hyper-cute Korean MMORPG called Ragnarok Online.
Even in the early aughts, MMORPGs weren't a new concept. By the time Ragnarok Online became available to English-speaking audiences, Ultima Online and EverQuest were already making headlines about stealing away people's leisure time, relationships, and jobs. Heck, World of Warcraft was only about a year away.
But Ragnarok Online's big sprites and clever monster designs attracted fans of JRPGs, and of anime in general (unsurprising, given the game is based on the Ragnarok manhwa by Lee Myung-jin). The game's isometric perspective, colorful landscapes, and elaborate class costumes were iconic. In fact, they still are. Ragnarok Online is still active, and it still commands a dedicated fanbase.
Admittedly, Gravity's MMORPG isn't the deepest or most exciting MMORPG in a landscape that's currently dominated by the likes of Final Fantasy XIV. However, the game is certainly easy to pick out of a crowd thanks to its unique visual style.
Said visual style is why Ragnarok Online fans are currently talking about Ragnarok Mobile, an upcoming mobile iteration of the beloved MMORPG.
Obviously, a franchise as popular as Ragnarok has its share of mobile games, including Ragnarok: Path of Heroes and Ragnarok: War of the Gods. Thing is, neither of those games capture the visual style that's managed to keep the heart of the Ragnarok Online community beating for nearly 15 years. Even Ragnarok Online 2 utilizes more realistic, polygon-based visuals that failed to ensnare a dedicated fanbase (Ragnarok Online 2 went offline in its native Korea in 2014).
Ragnarok Mobile, however, utilizes the series' original visual style. Sure, the people and environments are built of polygons, but that's acceptable. What's important is that the characters have big, expressive eyes, blank faces that lack noses and mouths, technicolor anime hair, and silly hats. Going by the game's trailer, there is no shortage of silly hats. We're going to be OK.
Well, maybe. There's currently no indication that Ragnarok Mobile is coming West, though given the series' dedicated fanbase on these shores, it just might happen.
We tell ourselves that graphics aren't everything, and it's true. But the staying power of Ragnarok Online and the lukewarm success of its spin-offs is a good example of how a game's visuals can serve as a thick, sturdy chain that keeps your memories of an adventure anchored to your soul.