NOTE FROM...THE FUTURE: It has been a long time since I made this rant and I clearly knew just about nothing about the Western RPG scene, nor even very much about the games I spoke of here. I leave this rant here for posterity, and to remind myself that I can make some shitty rants if I'm not careful, but overall you should just ignore this. Or read it if you want to laugh at what a doofus Past Me was. Seriously, I just read this thing and I shake my heard because I clearly just don't know a goddamn thing I talk about here. The level here of ignorance of the subject matter is almost as bad as the Nostalgia Critic's review of Sailor Moon, for Christ's sake.
Well, okay, maybe this rant isn't anywhere close to as embarrassingly ignorant and foolish as that. But it's still bad.
You know, everyone goes on and on about Japan's games and RPGs. And granted, they DO own the lion's share of the video game market, so it's natural that most of our gaming exposure is going to be to their titles. Still, there's a rather unfair stigma against American-made RPGs, I've noticed on a few occasions.
The most likely culprit for how this happened, of course, would likely be Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Though by no means the worst FF out there (stomaching 5, Legend of the Crystal, and 10-2 is much worse), it's still infamously bad, and the first US-made RPG to get any major attention that I'm aware of. I will admit, of course, that Trippy has a point in saying that it makes no pretenses about being better than it is--it's not trying and failing miserably to convince you that it's a deep and serious game, like FF8 or any of the other worse FFs I mentioned above. Does this make it any less of a suck-ass failure? No, of course fucking not.
But you know, FFMQ aside, the US has made some pretty damn decent RPGs, too. Secret of Evermore comes to mind first. Now, there are a lot of haters for this game, and I really have never understood why. Its graphics are very nice, its gameplay is good, and most importantly, its writing is really great. It's a humor RPG with a small, fun plot and amusing characters with a wacky sense of humor and the creativity and writing to back it up. Like a fantasy Earthbound, only actually fun to play. And the music in it is a fantastic contrast to the general feel of it, too, appropriate and mystical quite often even while your hero cracks wise about B-rated movies.
Then there's the Knights of the Old Republic series. Tired of seeing a bunch of dumb anime kids running around? Want to see an RPG on a REAL epic story? Don't get no better than Star Wars. As you save (or condemn) the galaxy thousands of years before Yoda first sat on a lily-pad, you also learn about The Force's every intricate detail and, through realization that The Force is simply a higher metaphor for humanity and life itself, explore dozens of philosophies. All, of course, while wielding a fucking lightsaber, coolest weapon to ever be conceived.
And finally, there's my favorite one to mention, the Fallout series. Goddamn. Words always fail me. I've been replaying Fallout 2 for maybe the 20th time, and I'm STILL finding tiny hidden references and details and secrets I haven't before. It's a series that may very well never get old no matter how many times you play it. Its plot is unobtrusive yet heavy, its characters interesting and fun, and it has so many fun and hilarious references to American culture and even history while perfectly meshing an apocalyptic future with a 1950s feel that you could probably very well say it's a series made as a testament to America itself.
So yeah. It doesn't happen too often, but when someone talks about the US being shitty at RPG-making in comparison to Japan, it does annoy me. Japan might have made the best ones so far (barely), but there's really no more an RPG quality gap between the US and Japan than there is an animation one--the US just doesn't seem very often really try for a really high-quality product, is all. But when it does, it sure as hell delivers.