The role-playing game was invented by Americans (thanks, Gary Gygax, for "Dungeons & Dragons"), but it's always been somewhat of a niche product among U.S. video-game enthusiasts. Sure, RPG series like "Final Fantasy" and "Diablo" have their devotees, but they're far outnumbered by fans of shooters like "Halo" or sports games like "Madden NFL."
Not so in Japan, where the release of a new "Dragon Quest" game is treated like a national holiday. That's why Microsoft, which has had trouble getting Japanese consumers to buy the Xbox 360, has turned to RPG developers to help broaden its market.
The results, so far, have been mixed. "Final Fantasy" creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's "Blue Dragon" left me cold, but his "Lost Odyssey" was one of the most compelling RPGs in years. Meanwhile, the Japanese RPG masters at Square Enix and Namco Bandai have got on board with Microsoft, heralding a possible revival of a somewhat moribund genre. As someone who has loved JRPGs ever since 1988's "Phantasy Star," I'm hoping for the best.