I did a rant recently on The Magic of Scheherazade, and the many ways it was really noteworthy for its time (and the fact that it STILL has some aspects that are creative and different even in the present day), and it was fun. So hey, why not look at another laudable, ancient RPG? An even older one, this time!
When it comes to console RPGs, Phantasy Star 1 for the Sega Master System is one of the oldest to be found. I actually never owned a SMS, myself, and only played PS1 for the first time half a dozen years ago when it was rereleased on the Gameboy Advance. But once I finally did play it, something like 20 years late, I was reasonably impressed with it (and I didn't have to worry about the feeling coming from any sense of nostalgia)--Phantasy Star 1, I found, was quite a pioneer for RPGs in several ways.
One of the earliest RPGs to feature a world map--multiple world maps, in fact. One of the earliest RPGs to give its cast personalities shown through game dialogue. First Science Fiction RPG. All pretty important moments for RPGs. There are 2 aspects of PS1, though, that I feel were its most important contributions to the newborn genre of video game RPGs.
The first is the cut scene. While not totally unknown before the Playstation 1 era of RPGs, proper cut scenes, now a rather huge part of console RPGs, only became commonplace once RPGs hit the 32-Bit scene.* Additionally, most of the times prior to the Playstation-Saturn-N64 where an RPG had a cut scene, it was almost always just reserved for the end, which hardly qualifies it as a cut scene at all. I mean, sure, early RPGs like Startropics and Crystalis had endings with art scenes shown, but a player kind of expects that an ending should pull out all the stops, and it's just one, final place. Phantasy Star 1, on the other hand, has a small handful of cut scenes scattered throughout its adventure's span, seen during the story's most important moments. They're humble, to be sure--scenes of art depicting game events and characters that have to make do with a very limited set of colors and graphical capabilities--but they're certainly not bad, and just the fact that a game on the archaic Sega Master System has them, in multiple instances, is quite impressive. It's not that other old RPGs don't make a try at this sort of thing on occasion--as I said, I recall the endings to Crystalis and Startropics 1, both NES games, having comparable scenes in them...but to my knowledge, PS1 came before them, and was the first to actually include these scenes during the course of the actual game.
More important still to me is the fact that Phantasy Star 1 is, as far as I am aware, the first console RPG--possibly the first video game RPG, period--to star a female protagonist. In 1987, a female protagonist for any video game was almost unheard of; it had only been the year before that the gaming world was blown away by the revelation that Metroid's Samus was a woman. I'm pretty sure that having a heroine was something the RPG genre hadn't made any serious attempt at before PS1, so that's quite something. What makes it even more noteworthy is that Alis is actually a protagonist with a bit of depth, having motivations to go on her quest besides just being unable to deny the whimsical commands of the person holding the controller. A main character with any sort of personality and depth of character was uncommon back then, when RPG characters were most often standard silent protagonists. So not only did PS1 have a female protagonist, but it made her one of the best main heroes of her generation of RPGs. That's worth some recognition; it would be a while before RPGs would see any significant number of leading women, and also a bit of time before the idea of a protagonist that has any sort of plot relevance would take hold in RPGs.
That's about all I can think of, but I'd say that's certainly enough. From the smaller details to the way it pushed the envelope in quality of story telling, Phantasy Star 1 was a trailblazer for the RPG genre, and I say kudos to it for its contributions.
* This depends, of course, on how you define a cut scene. Technically speaking, you can say that any scene in an RPG where you don't have regular control is a cut scene, and so, given all the story events and dialogue of any given Role Playing Game, at least half the game is a series of cut scenes. But that perspective is lame and uninteresting. When I say a cut scene, I mean a part of the story being told in sequential art, animated FMVs, real-life video, that sort of thing. Something special, different, a part (hopefully) so important that it has to be shown as well as possible through art beyond the game's regular capacity.