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"TRPG" redirects here. For Tabletop role-playing game, see Role-playing game.
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A tactical role-playing game[1][2][3][4] (abbreviated as TRPG; sometimes referred to as strategy role-playing game, or SRPG)[5][6][7][8][9] is a type of video game which incorporates elements of traditional computer or console role-playing games and strategy games. In Japan these games are known as "Simulation RPGs" (シミュレーションロールプレイングゲーム?),[10][11][12][13] a designation which might seem peculiar to native English speakers. This stems from the Japanese usage of "simulation" as a short hand for "strategy simulation game".[citation needed] Further, in Japan, the term TRPG refers exclusively to tabletop role-playing games.

Game design

This sub-genre of role-playing game principally refers to games which incorporate elements from strategy games as an alternative to traditional role-playing game (RPG) systems.[14] Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies.[14] And like other RPGs, death is usually temporary. But this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid.[14] Unlike other video game genres, tactical RPGs tend not to feature multiplayer play.

A distinct difference between tactical RPGs and traditional RPGs is the lack of exploration. For instance, Final Fantasy Tactics does away with the typical third-person exploration to towns and dungeons that are typical in a Final Fantasy game.[15] Instead of exploration, there is an emphasis on battle strategy. Players are able to build and train characters to use in battle, utilizing different classes, including warriors and magic users, depending on the game. Characters gain experience points from battle and grow stronger and games like Final Fantasy Tactics award characters secondary experience points which can be used to advance in specific character classes.[15] Battles will have specific winning conditions, such as defeating all the enemies on the map, that the player must accomplish before the next map will become available. In between battles, players can access their characters to equip them, change classes, train them, depending on the game.[15]

History

Many early Western computer role-playing games used a highly tactical form of combat, such as parts of the Ultima series, which introduced party-based, tiled combat in Ultima III: Exodus. Conventionally, however, the term tactical RPG refers to the distinct subgenre that was born in Japan. The early origins of tactical RPGs are difficult to trace from the American side of the Pacific since so much of the genre developed in Japan.

All tactical RPGs are descendents of table-top role-playing games, such as Chainmail, which were mainly tactical in their original form. Indeed the very format of a T/CRPG is like a traditional RPG in its appearance, pacing and rule structure. Likewise, early table-top role-playing games like Chainmail are descended from skirmish wargames, which were primarily concerned with combat.

8-bit/16-bit generation

File:Langrisser2-1.png

It is generally accepted that Nintendo released and published the first tactical RPG, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), created and developed by Intelligent Systems. Released in Japan in 1990, Fire Emblem was an archetype for the whole genre, establishing gameplay elements that are still used in tactical CRPGs today (although some of these elements were influenced by Ultima III). Combining the basic console RPG concepts from games like Dragon Quest and simple turn-based strategy elements, Nintendo created a hit, which spawned many sequels and imitators. However, it was not until the release of Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken for the Game Boy Advance, many years later, that the series was introduced to Western gamers.

Among the first imitators was Langrisser by NCS/Masaya, first released for the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis in 1991. It was translated for North American release and retitled Warsong. The Langrisser series differed from Fire Emblem in that it used a general-soldier structure instead of controlling main characters. Langrisser, too, spawned many sequels, none of which were brought to North America.

Master of Monsters was a unique title by SystemSoft. Where Langrisser and Fire Emblem used a square-based grid, Master of Monsters used a hexagonal grid. Players could choose one of four different Lords to defend their Towers and areas on the grid by building an army of creatures to destroy the opposing armies. This game had a sequel for the PlayStation called Master of Monsters: Disciples of Gaia, which had limited success and was criticized for its slow gameplay.

The first game in the long-running Super Robot Wars series is another early example of the genre, initially released for the Game Boy in 1991. Another influential early tactical RPG was Sega's Shining Force for the Sega Genesis, which was released in 1992. Shining Force used even more console RPG elements than earlier games, allowing the player to walk around towns and talk to people and buy weapons. One game released solely in Japan for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Bahamut Lagoon, began Squaresoft's (now Square Enix) famous line of tactical RPGs.

Four games from the Ogre Battle series have been released in North America: Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen was released for the SNES and is more of a real-time strategy game in which the player forms computer role-playing game-like character parties that are moved around a map in real-time. When two parties meet, the combat plays out with minimal user interaction. A later release, Tactics Ogre, was originally a SNES game that was not released outside of Japan. It was later ported to the PlayStation, along with Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. Both of the PlayStation re-releases were marketed in North America by Atlus, as was Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber for the Nintendo 64.

Tactics Ogre's gameplay is more similar to the genre of tactical RPGs that Final Fantasy Tactics belongs to, complete with battles taking place on isometric grids.[16] It was also the first to bear the name "Tactics" in the title, a term gamers would come to associate with the genre. Not only are characters moved individually on a grid, but the view is isometric, and the order of combat is calculated for each character individually. Although this game defined the genre in many ways, it is not widely recognized by American gamers because it was released to American audiences several years later. Final Fantasy Tactics shared some staff members with Tactics Ogre and shares many of its gameplay elements. A prequel to the original Tactics Ogre, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis was later released for the Game Boy Advance.

Fifth/Sixth-generation consoles

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The 32-bit era saw many influential tactical RPGs, such as Konami's 1996 Vandal Hearts, Square's 1997 Final Fantasy Tactics and 1999 Front Mission 3 and Sega's 1997 Shining Force 3.

Vandal Hearts was an early PlayStation title that helped popularize tactical RPGs in the US. It was released by Konami and featured a 3D isometric map that could be rotated by the player. A sequel was subsequently released, also for the PlayStation, and Konami has announced a third title in development for the Nintendo DS. Final Fantasy Tactics was arguably the most responsible for bringing tactical RPGs to North America. Developed by former employees of Quest, the developer responsible for the Ogre Battle series, it combined many elements of the Final Fantasy series with Tactics Ogre-style gameplay.

A loyal American fan-base has been established by Nippon Ichi, makers of the popular PlayStation 2 games La Pucelle: Tactics and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.[17] Of these games, Disgaea has been the most successful to date, and was the second Nippon Ichi game released in North America (the first being Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, published by Atlus) even though La Pucelle was developed and released first in Japan.[16] Throughout this generation, companies have recognized the large audience and popularity of these types of games, particularly Atlus and Nintendo. La Pucelle: Tactics and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which Atlus re-released due to high demand, have become cult hits for the PlayStation 2.[18]

The Game Boy Advance would also see the release of Rebelstar: Tactical Command (2005) by X-COM creators, Nick and Julian Gollop.[19][20] The game would be highly praised for adapting the combat mechanics of the highly detailed and acclaimed PC strategy series; but would also receive criticism for sub-par presentation, a lackluster storyline, and lack of link-mode support.[20][21] The game ended up receiving an average score of 78% at Game Rankings.[22]

It's also noteworthy to include one of the first 32-bit tactical RPGs, Guardian War, which was released in 1993 on the Panasonic 3DO. While the game lacked in story it included many game mechanics that are seen through out all of the 32-bit tactical RPGs; like isometric camera rotation, interchangeable and hybridization of "jobs" or "classes" for each character, the combination of moves between characters, and the capture of NPCs and having them play on your side.

Seventh-generation consoles

Sega's Valkyria Chronicles (2008) for the PlayStation 3 utilizes the seventh-generation console processing power by using a distinctive anime/watercolor art style, as well as incorporating third-person shooter elements. After selecting a character in the overhead map view, the player manually controls him/her from a third person view. This mechanic allows for, among others: free movement to a certain range, manual aiming with extra damage for headshots, a limited cover system, and real-time hazards, such as interception fire and landmines. The game has been described as "the missing link between Final Fantasy Tactics and Full Spectrum Warrior."[23]

Developer Kuju Entertainment released Dungeons & Dragons Tactics for the PlayStation Portable in 2007. The game intended to adapt the rules and mechanics of the popular table-top role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, but suffered from a poor interface and awkward camera controls.[24][25]

Personal computers

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Many Western PC games have utilized this genre for years, as well. Differences include a tendency toward stronger military themes without many of the fantasy elements found in their console (and mainly Japanese) counterparts, as well as greater tactical detail and freedom when interacting with the surrounding environment. Notable examples include the Jagged Alliance[26][27][28] and Silent Storm[27][29][30][31][32] series, with many titles owing considerably to X-COM[26][33] and its sequels. Outside of consoles, new tactical and squad-tactics games are few and far between, however.

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Genre blurring

Other games feature similar mechanics, but typically belong in other genres. Tactical wargames such as the Steel Panthers series (1995–2006) sometimes combine tactical military combat with RPG-derived unit advancement. Avalon Hill's Squad Leader (2000), a man-to-man wargame utilizing the Soldiers at War engine, has also been compared (unfavorably) to X-COM and Jagged Alliance.[29][30] Rebelstar (1984) and Laser Squad (1988) were precursors to X-COM created by the same developer, Julian Gollop. They did not, however, feature the (admittedly minor) statistical character development and strategic map of the later series.

Some CRPGs, such as parts of the Ultima series[31]; Wizard's Crown (1985) and The Eternal Dagger (1987); Return to Krondor (1998); Pyrrhic Tales: Prelude to Darkness (2002)[32]; and the Gold Box games of the late '80s and early '90s (many of which were later ported to Japanese video game systems); also featured a heavy form of tactical combat. The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003) hearkens back to RPGs' tactical, table-top roots by implementing the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition ruleset.[33]

Tir-nan-óg (beginning in 1984) is a series of role-playing video games that premiered in Japan on the PC98 and later released for Windows. The latest title in the series is also being released for the PlayStation 2 and PSP.[34] The X-COM series also possesses a strategic layer, complete with strategic map and research tree. Knights in the Nightmare (2009) combines elements of traditional tactical RPGs with bullet hell–style shoot 'em up gameplay. Heroes of Jin Yong (1996) is a Taiwanese role-playing game based on the popular historical novels by Jin Yong featuring a number of melee and ranged kung fu skills to train and develop, as well as a grid-based movement system.

Massively multiplayer online gaming

File:Gunrox02.jpg

Several MMOGs have combined multiplayer online gaming with tactical turn-based combat. Examples include, Dofus (2005), The Continuum (2008), and the Russian game Total Influence (2009?).[35][36][37] Tactica Online was a planned MMORPG that would have featured tactical combat, had development not been cancelled.[38][39] Strugarden is a Japan/Korea-exclusive 3D MMORPG which uniquely employs separate movement and attack rounds.[40] Gunrox (2008) and Poxnora (2006) are some other "new games on the block".

Popularity

Many tactical RPGs can be both extremely time-consuming and extremely difficult. Hence, the appeal of most tactical RPGs is to hardcore, not casual, computer and video game players. Tactical RPGs are quite popular in Japan but have not enjoyed the same degree of success in North America. The audience for tactical RPGs has grown substantially after the mid-90s, and PS1 and PS2 titles including Suikoden Tactics, Vanguard Bandits, and Disgaea have enjoyed a surprising measure of popularity, as have hand-held war games including Fire Emblem. Older TRPGs are also being re-released via software emulation, such as on the Wii's Virtual Console. Japanese console games such as these are no longer nearly as rare a commodity in North America as they were during the 1990s.

Western tactical RPGs for the PC are less popular, however. Most western developers focus rather on developing real-time and turn-based strategy games, when developing PC games; and according to one developer, it is becoming increasingly difficult in recent years to develop tactical RPGs for the PC in the West.[41] Several, however, have been developed in Eastern Europe with mixed results, such as Silent Storm.

See also

References

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