Today, I am talking about gaming, and mainly the lost world of J-RPG's. Nearly abandoned in the modern gaming world, J-RPG's are the games that I grew up on. I was 6 years when I played Final Fantasy I for the NES for the first time, and I immediately fell in love, not to mention got my ass kicked because that was a hard game for a 6 year old. The Final Fantasy series is the most popular RPG series of all time, and for good reason as they produced a lot of the classic games of the genre. But I don't care to talk about Final Fantasy games today. Instead, I am going to go over what some the top classic RPGs that, maybe aren't as well known, were.
Lunar: The Silver Star Story
Lunar; The Silver Star Story was an incredible game that follows the protagonist Alex and his childhood friend Luna as they embark on the journey to become the Dragonmaster. Centered around a Theistic world worshipping the Goddess Althena, Lunar is unique in that it was one of the very first games to feature voice acting both in game and in fully fleshed Anime-style FMV cutscenes. It was originally released on Sega CD, but luckily was ported to the more popular Playstation. The battles consist of up to 5 characters and different attacks are useful for different formations. Many random battles are avoidable because the monster runs into you. I highly suggest you 'acquire' this game if you've never played it.
Probably the most well-known RPG that isn't a Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger tells the story of Crono and his gang as they travel through time in order to stop the destruction of the world. Chrono Trigger has one of the more memorable casts in any game. You also get a different ending depending on which era of time you destroy the final boss in, allowing for some strong replay value. Since you gain time travel abilities, different actions occur in different eras based on what you do in the past. Random battles are avoidable as you can sneak by a lot of the enemies without getting touched, which engages the battle. The game is also famous for it's illustration and character design, as this was done by Akira Toriyama for Dragon Ball fame (Note the similarity between Crono above and Goku in the face, as well as the blonde girl and someone like Bulma.)
Easily one of the best RPG's of all time, Suikoden II features the trials and tribulations of two young army recruits in the Highland army as they battle the City States. There are 108 recruitable characters which perform various tasks, with around 70 available for battle which gives you a large selection pool for customizable teams. There are also 3 battle types in Suikoden II. The most common one is the random battle, in which you have up to 6 units at a time in against whatever enemy. The second most common is an army strategy battle, in which you control multiple units with certain powers, defense, and abilities. This is interesting as it allows permanent character death if certain characters die in these battles. The last is a 1 on 1 duel, in which the Hero of the game takes on a character 1v1 and has the option to Attack, Defend, and Super Attack, which is kind of like Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are different endings depending on whether or not you get all 108 characters. Probably my 2nd favorite RPG of all time.
Tactis Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
My favorite game of all time, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is a strategy-based RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics, whose battle system was based on Tactics Ogre. You can take up to 10 units into battle with you, and they move around much like chess pieces on a chess board. Your basic units can change into different classes, each with their own strength and weakness. This allows for complete army customization. Another strong point of this game is that any character can equip anything. Want an axe wielding wizard? Done. Your archer with a staff? Whatever man. Your knight with a dancer's fan? Shit, you go brother. The plot is politically driven as we follow a group of youths whose ethnic group has been the victim of genocide by other groups on the island. This is another game that, depending on your choices, GREATLY alters the plot and how you proceed next, giving this game tons of replay value. The only downfall this game has, and it's a minor one to me, is the occasional poor translation. Everything else, I love.
Also, just to elaborate, all of these games have amazing soundtracks. As a musician and music lover, I have a hard time playing a game unless it has good music.
And there you have it, the 5 greatest RPGs that aren't named Final Fantasy in my opinion. Really, I favor all of these over just about every Final Fantasy except maybe VII.