Almost a month ago, Persona 3: FES was released. It not only contains the definitive version of my favorite RPG, but it has an extra “epilogue” chapter as well.
This is a cause for much rejoicing. I started playing it immediately, and so far I’d say I would pay the $30 just for the improved first game. But herein lies the problem, and the crux of this article: It has been a month and I am still playing it. Not only that, I’m still in the first section; the remake.
I love RPGs. I love playing lots of RPGs. But I also like having time for other, trivial things, like working, sleeping, eating, and the occasional shower. Most games in the genre are long; sometimes the length necessary for fleshing out the story, but more often it is just padding. Over the past couple of years alone, I’ve completed more than a few RPGs that clocked in at 60 or more hours. While I like a great story, I also like to finish the stories and this kind of length just isn’t very conducive to that.
So here I’ve put together a few suggestions of games that aren’t quite as insurmountable in scale. And it goes without saying that because I recommend these games, they all have good music. Playing through all of these in succession would take me about as long as Persona 3.
Final Fantasy Legend: The first Game Boy RPG may not be the most complex game, but there are still a few good reasons to recommend it. First – it’s among the shortest on the list, at a little over 10 hours long. It is exploration-oriented and the tower around which the game revolves has more than a few mysterious rooms that serve no purpose other than to give the game atmosphere. Practically no characterization, but who cares when most of your party is disposable? If there’s a weapon you can think of, you can get your hands on it – you may well be chainsawing through wizards or gunning down dragons with heavy artillery.
Suikoden (1 & 2): Both of these games are short and sweet. If you haven’t played them before, they may take you 20 and 25 hours respectively – if you really take your time. Each has a huge cast of characters, many of which are entertaining, in a semi-realistic setting. These two are miniature war epics, so you can expect larger-than-life heroes with reasonable motivations. What’s more, they build on each other somewhat – though good separately, they are even better when played in succession.
Good news – the first Suikoden is rumored to be coming out for PSN sometime soon.
Bad news – Suikoden 2 is very expensive.
Persona 1: Unlike its incredibly lengthy successors, the first entry is surprisingly short. I finished it in around 25 hours. Great characters (including a particularly good villain) round out an original story and atmosphere, but battles are unnecessarily complex. It’s a pretty rare and expensive game, but Atlus has been kind to us lately – perhaps they’ll negotiate a PSN deal?
Destiny of an Emperor: If you like to fight, fight, fight with a whole ton of names, a good deal of strategy, and a dozen or so ruthless warlords, here is the NES game for you. Based in an alternate history of Three Kingdoms where the “good guys” do everything and can’t be beat, it’s light on plot. It does have recruitable enemy generals and some hidden content, though. Because of those features and the very fast pace of the game, it remains pretty accessible today.
Chrono Trigger: I generally avoid the “usual suspects” because if you are on the internet, you read a dozen recommendations for them every day. Chrono Trigger really is great – even Jay agrees! CT may well be the longest game on the list, but its pace and overall quality stand out. If you can, play the SNES version since the PSX remake has annoying load times.
These are just a few of the short RPGs I’ve enjoyed. If you branch out into the 30+ hour range, dozens of RPGs would join this list. Thankfully, we haven’t seen many that are longer than Persona 3. While I like the idea of a game that would use over a hundred hours to develop a really amazing story, I don’t know if I could bring myself to play any game for that long.