While we here in America were grinding our way through first-person mazes filled with gelatinous cubes in Wizardry and exploring the depths of Lord British's psyche in the Ultima series, our game-making brethren in Japan were taking the role-playing genre in bold new directions. Instead of being dungeon crawls laboring under the spectre of Dungeons and Dragons, Japanese role-playing games or JRPGs were epic adventures with dynamic, colorful characters and long, complex plots - the "role-playing" was less in creating a character than in being drawn into the personalities that the game provided for you and kept playing by the compelling stories. And when these games hit America, a whole new audience was born. The golden age of the JRPG is yet to come, with top titles being readied for the next-gen systems, so let's take a look back at the shining stars of the genre so far.
Feature by K. Thor Jensen.