- Final Fantasy X: The grandaddy of them all, FF X took the greatest fantasy series of the original Playstation and gave it even more graphical heft. In fact, having gone back and played the game again in preparing this list, the graphics still took my breath away. If you turned on your TV and saw some of the cut scenes there, you would think you were watching top-notch animation. Its that good. Its better than most Saturday morning cartoons by far.
- Dragon Quest VIII: The first of the DQ series to appear in America for the PS2, DQ VIII presents a fascinating world, four interesting characters and as wide an array of adventures and side quests as FFX. Just for the sheer value and production value of the game its worth an entry, taking about 100 hours to complete a full game (assuming you let yourself get sucked into those sidequests).
- Shining Force II: Going verrrry retro here. This is the game I keep my Sega Genesis around to play. Its that good. With numerous party members to choose from, each with their own advantages, this game combines the RPG elements with the strategy elements in a mix that is still, despite the lack of modern graphics, an enjoyable way to pass an evening or three.
- Final Fantasy VII: This is the game that revolutionized consol RPGs. The graphics are still first rate, especially the backgrounds to the various locations you visit, which are just gorgeous. This title marked a departure from previous Final Fantasy games with more elaborate cut scenes. These will continue to grow and evolve to the point that FFX will actually contain mini-movies, especially for the introduction and end sequences of games. Some don't like it but it gives a proper set-up to the stories of these games. About the only drawback imposed on FFVII and FFVIII by the technological limitations of the original Playstation are that these are multi-disc games. Still worth a spin.
- Champions of Norrath: This game took the gorgeous look and Diablo-esque gameplay of the too-short Dark Alliance and added a lot more to do while exploring the world of Norrath, where the Everquest MMORPG is set. Instead of the meagre 10-15 hours that a game of Dark Alliance could take, here you're looking at closer to 50, making this a much better, deeper play experience.
The Square Enix Kingdom Hearts I and II RPGs are both worthy of inclusion in this list in terms of game play, length, graphics and story. But adventuring side by side with Donald and Goofy in worlds drawn from both the Final Fantasy series and various Disney movies isn't really my cup of tea. If its yours, then Id recommend those games as well, since the bleary eyes of my family attest to how good and addictive they can be.
Next time we'll look at Computer RPGs