B.0. GAMEPLAY - 8-BIT
IntroRPG Games are played because of various reasons. The plot and the fate of the characters is one of the carrots that pull us into finishing the game. But there is other carrot that is essential: gameplay. RPGs are usually looong games, and developers must create new problems or give the player a broad set of choices in order to entertain him/her until the very end. In Japanese-style RPGs, the gameplay haven't changed much, but there is an evolution from the very first games to the actual ones.
This is the first part of a series that review the innovations that every mayor japanese-style RPG introduced into the genre. This particular appendix will cover the 8-bit games, created for machines such as NES, SMS, or MSX.
This guide will only cover "basic" CRPGs, not strategical and arcade ones. Games from companies like Falcom (Ys) and Microcabin (Xak), or the Legend of Zelda Series will not be commented.
GamesDragon Quest I / Dragon Warrior I - 05.27.1986
(Party): You have only one avatar in your party.
(Combat): Enemies appear alone. Status ailments (silence) can be inflicted to the enemies.
(Level Up): Avatars automatically level up. Magic is learned in certain levels.
Dragon Quest II / Dragon Warrior II - 01.26.1987
(Party): Your party can have more than one avatar. Their stats and abilities (i.e. magic) are fixed (The princess is a wizard and in the course of the game is always a wizard).
(Combat): You fight against groups of enemies.
Final Fantasy I - 12.18.1987
(Party): The player can create his own party from a certain set of classes: Fighter, Black Belt, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage, where every class has certain characteristics of their own and different stats. There is no restrictions on the number of different classes inside of the party (4 fighters is an allowed combination), thus the game experience can be made different (in terms of pure game mechanics).
(Level Up): Avatars automatically level up, but magic must be bought. Some items have also magic.
(Field): Use air vehicles such as the airship.
(Quests): Some quests are optional (i.e. the castle of ordeal, for getting the rat's tail and change your class).
(Secrets - Extras): Fun stuff such as the mini-game in the end.
Phantasy Star I - 12.20.1987
(Party): People has names, and an history behind.
(Field): Use land vehicles such as the hovercraft.
(Secrets - Extras): Full screen images for cutscenes.
Dragon Quest III / Dragon Warrior III - 02.10.1988
Final Fantasy II - 12.17.1988
(Combat): Status ailments inflicted to the party.
(Combat): Rows (People in the back row can only be attacked with magic).
(Level Up): Avatars level up depending on their actions. You attack a lot? You will attack better ^_-.
(Quests): You must learn "words" (memorize them) in order to advance in your adventure. You also have to "show" items sometimes.
(Field): Special "disposable" land "vehicles" (chocobos!).
Emerald Dragon - ??-??-1989
(Combat): The party makes their decisions by their own.
(Combat): The party can move over the combat field.
(Field): The world map is unified: towns and outskirts are in the same map.
Dragon Quest IV / Dragon Warrior IV - 02.11.1990
(Combat): The party makes their decisions by their own, and the player can influence their actions through the tactics system (conserve MP, attack,...).
(Combat): Special: Tarot Cards - Chance (random effect).
(Game Structure): You "raise" your party members separately, and after the group is formed.
(Quests): Casino (earn money by machine slots or poker), Coliseum (fights with other enemies for rewards), treasure hunt (medals-for-rewards).
Final Fantasy III - 04.27.1990
(Party): The avatars can switch between classes - depending on their "capacity".
(Combat): Steal items from enemies. Summon beasts for nice animations and special attacks.
(Field): Item warehouse (fat chocobos).
ThanksRpgclassics.com - Information
Gamefaqs - Walkthroughs
RPG Gamer - Screenshots
Mobygames - Information and Screenshots
The Second Dimension - Emerald Dragon source