Top 10 Cinematic RPG Introductions

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The title sequence, animated introduction, or what's sometimes called attract mode, is a long-standing feature of most RPGs. A flashy introduction sequence has the power to captivate and entice a player into trying a video game out. These intros usually take advantage of the highest quality visuals and animation the game can offer in an attempt to impress a player. Much like the opening sequence of your favorite anime or television sitcom, they show a variety of scenes and characters to give you a taste of what you can expect, often accompanied by the game's main theme song.

Within the RPG genre, which titles have some of the shiniest and most attractive title sequences? Here's my choices for Top 10 RPG Intros.

10. Wild ARMs

Wild ARMs is a Japanese RPG developed by Media.Vision. It was originally released on the PlayStation in 1996 for Japan, 1997 in North America, and finally 1998 in Europe. It is a Western American-themed game that features 2D graphics for general gameplay and 3D rendered graphics for battle sequences. It follows the story of the Dream Chasers, who journey the world of Filgaia in search of fame and fortune. The player makes use of weapons known as Ancient Relic Machines (ARMs) which resemble firearms.

Wild ARMs received an enhanced remake titled Wild ARMs Alter Code: F which was released in 2003 for PlayStation 2 in Japan, and later in 2005 in North America. It featured enhanced graphics, an expanded script, remastered soundtrack, new characters, and new story and gameplay elements.

What makes this intro so great? The catchy whistled tune is perfect for emphasizing the western-american theme. The visuals are timeless as well with the classic 90s anime visuals that at the time really showed off the PlayStation's capabilities. Finally, it shows off a bit of setting as well, providing the player with a bit of wonder and mystery by showing them magic and danger in a neatly packaged two minute video.

YouTube video courtesy of Luna477

9. Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice

Disgaea is a long running tactical RPG series by Nippon Ichi. The third entry into the series, Absence of Justice, released on PlayStation 3 in 2008 for Japan and North America and one year later in 2009 for Europe. The game takes place in a fictional school located in the Netherworld called, Evil Academy. It's a school where being bad is good and being good is bad, the biggest delinquents in school being those who show up for class on time and always do their homework. The player controls Mao, the son of the Netherworld's Overlord, who hatches a plot to dethrone his father by becoming a Super Hero.

Like Wild ARMs in the previous entry, Disgaea 3 has also received an enhanced remake. Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention -- also known as Disgaea 3 Return in Japan -- launched in 2011 for PlayStation Vita in Japan and 2012 for North America and Europe. It features enhanced gameplay, graphics, and the inclusion of all of Disgaea 3's paid DLC for free. In addition, it includes brand new story chapters focused on Mao's childhood friend, Raspberyl.

This intro feels like the kind of thing you'd see if Disgaea 3 were an anime, upbeat and silly visuals set to an over the top tune that romanticizes villainy and evil. This plays into the main character's nerdy mannerisms, the intro to his game feels like the opening sequence of what could be his favorite hero anime. Finally it also shows off a great deal of the cast and gives a general idea of what the world of Disgaea 3 is like.

YouTube video courtesy of OmegaBlades

8. Lunar Silver Star Story Complete

Our next entry was released originally in Japan as Lunar: Silver Star StoryLunar: Silver Star Story Complete is an RPG developed by Game Arts and Japan Art Media for Sega Saturn in 1996. A remake of the 1992 Sega/Mega-CD game Lunar: The Silver Star, it has been enhanced and ported a multitude of times. Eventually finding its way to the Sony PlayStation in 1998, it finally found its way to North America thanks to Working Designs one year later in 1999. 

The game follows the story of Alex, a young boy who is chosen as the heir of the title Dragonmaster, a guardian of the planet. He sets out to stop an evil sorcerer who was once a famed hero from taking over the world.

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete received a sequel titled Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete. Beyond the sequel, Silver Star Story received two more remakes -- the first being Lunar Legend in 2002 for Game Boy Advance, which changes the game's story and removes several features from the game in order to fit into the very small 8-megabyte Game Boy Advance cart. The second, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, was released in 2009 in Japan and 2010 in North America for PSP. It featured a revised and enhanced script, graphics, and new music.

The gorgeous voice of Jennifer Stigile is the most striking part of this intro. The lyrics really push the romantic and heroic adventure that you'll be participating in for the duration of this game's plot. Combined are these things with very crisp animated visuals and a look at a variety of whimsical and magical things we can expect from the game, such as dragons and magic. There's no doubt that you're in for a treat once you've laid eyes on this sequence.

YouTube video courtesy of Galaga Forever

7. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

World of Warcraft has been a massive success in the Massively Multiplayer Online game market for more than a decade. The second major expansion of the game, Wrath of the Lich King, marked the end of the tale of Arthas Menethil, beloved Paladin of Warcraft III fame.

Releasing November 2008, Wrath of the Lich King was the high point of World of Warcraft's popularity. In the wake of the events of The Burning Crusade, the Scourge began a mass attack on the cities and towns of Azeroth. Forming a temporary truce, the Alliance and the Horde set out to Northrend to assault Icecrown Citadel, home of the aforementioned Arthas Menethil, now known as the Lich King.

In contrast to the previous entries we have a fully computer generated intro. Used as the trailer of the expansion during the days leading to its release it was also the prologue to the events. The narrative of Arthas' father, King Menethil is chilling and haunting, and the tale he tells is enough to break the heart of any fan of Warcraft III. The stunning reveal of Arthas' Scourge army and his frost wyrm are the cherry on top of this delicious feast for the eyes.

YouTube video courtesy of World of Warcraft.

6. Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix

Kingdom Hearts II, the second title in the popular action RPG series developed and published by Square Enix, released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2. Seeking to combine elements of Disney and Square Enix properties into a heartfelt kid-friendly adventure, Kingdom Hearts grew to become one of the most successful RPG franchises under Square Enix's lofty roof. Kingdom Hearts II is set one year after the events of previous games Kingdom Hearts and the companion game, Chain of Memories. It follows the story of Roxas and Sora, two boys who have an intertwined fate as they travel between worlds themed on various Disney and Square Enix properties to defeat the sinister Organization XIII.

Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix is the re-released international edition which was created to add additional features, content, and tie together loose ends of the story. Released in Japan in 2007 as Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, which contained a copy of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix as well as a copy of Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, a PlayStation 2 recreation of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories -- previously a GameBoy Advance game. Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix was released outside of Japan many years later in 2014 packaged as Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMIX for PlayStation 3.

Introducing us to the game with an eerie yet heart warming tune and some heroic visuals is a great way to begin a game. Utada Hikaru's song, Sanctuary, is not only delivered beautifully but is also an empowering score that underlines the heroism of Sora in his quest to save his friends. The amazingly computer graphics visuals provide us a glimpse into the story that has unfolded in Kingdom Hearts thus far, as we're introduced to heroes and villains alike. You really get a feeling of friendship and struggle between Sora and his friends.

YouTube video courtesy of PowerButtonGaming

5. Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross, developed by Square (now Square Enix), is a RPG released on the PlayStation console in 1999 in Japan and 2000 in North America. The sequel to Chrono Trigger, it follows the story of the teenage boy Serge and his journey between two parallel worlds. Faced with the reality where he died in childhood, he decides to seek out the answers for the other world's existence with the help of a thief named Kid and while being pursued by a dark villain named Lynx.

Another entry from Square Enix that takes full advantage of their skills at creating gorgeous computer generated visuals. Giving us a brief glimpse into the events of the game with clips from future cinematics in the story we have an opportunity to see what lies ahead of us. The sorrowful yet empowering melody of the song playing over the animation is punctual and it's hard not to keep your toes from tapping to the beat. We're also shown all the major players of the story, Serge, Kid, even the antagonist Lynx and his partner in crime Harle.

YouTube video courtesy of DestinStrider

4. Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland

The enhanced remake of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland by Gust Co. Ltd. was released for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 in Japan in 2013 and in the west one year later in 2014. It features enhanced visuals, additional story elements, and cameos by characters in games that had come out as direct sequels to the original Atelier Rorona, such as the characters Meruru and Totori from their respective Atelier games. Following the story of a young alchemist apprentice, Rorona, you are tasked with clearing the debt of your masters atelier, an alchemy shop. With a combination of crafting and adventuring you set out complete the tasks set by the Crown before the rapidly approaching deadline. You must test your time management, adventuring, and social skills to succeed as an alchemist in the world of Arland.

Right away we're given a magical feeling thanks to the mystical sounds of the music and the various alchemical formulas and beaker. This sense of magic and scientic wonder continues through the entirety of Atelier Rorona's intro as we're treated to spectacularly animated visuals that show us not only the cast of the game but also give us a sense of what sort of world we're entering. You'll be itching to pick up the game and explore the mysteries of the atelier in a heartbeat.

YouTube video courtesy of KOEI TECMO EUROPE LTD.

3. FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV is a massively multiplayer online RPG developed by Square Enix and released in 2010 for Microsoft Windows. It was intended as a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy XI, however reception for the game was decidedly negative and many critics panned it for lack of depth, gameplay, and obsessive attention to graphical detail. This led to a premature closure of the service in 2012. However, from the ashes was born Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Under new management the game was taken in a new direction with a much bigger focus on gameplay, nostalgia, and story.

Released in 2013 for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 3, it was met with wide praise and acceptance. The story tells the tale of a Warrior of Light who assists the Scions of the Seventh Dawn in their efforts to stop the threat of Primals -- which are giant mythical godlike creatures -- and the Garlean Empire. The game has since gone on to release it's first major expansion, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, and is expecting the announcement of another expansion soon.

The longest entry on the list tells the tale of a world in crisis and the heroes trying to save it. Once again, Square Enix gives us unbelievably detailed computer graphics to marvel over as we are treated to the hypnotizing audio of the song Answers, composed by series legend Nobuo Uematsu. We are treated to an all out battle that highlights both heroes and villains a like, giving a feel of tense fear and speculative hope as the dragon Bahamut descends to destroy the planet. The hopeful upbeat ending giving us a glimpse into the world the game will be taking place in. You really can see the attention to story and detail in this short movie, the wonder and adventure of a newly born world ready to be explored.

YouTube video courtesy of FINAL FANTASY XIV

2. Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

A crossover RPG developed by Atlus, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth features gameplay and dungeon exploring elements from the popular series Etrian Odyssey and story and characters from the series Persona. Released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2014, it tells the story of an alternate dimension which has dragged the cast of both Persona 3 and Persona 4 into it. The motley crew sets out to determine who or what has brought them here, how they can escape their new otherworldy prison, and the origins of their new companions Rei and Zen.

Persona has a strange way of mixing familiar with the surreal in a spooky yet engaging way. The amazingly done animations of Persona Q's intro are colorful and engaging, showing off the entire cast of both Persona 3 and 4 in their highly stylized appearances exclusive to this entry in the series. We're shown hints at the mystery the gang has to unravel as well as the new characters they'll befriend in that time. The upbeat song, Maze of Life, has a rhythm and pace that can get you excited and really drills home the core values of Persona, that friendship and comradery will give you the strength to help you through the craziness of life. There's just enough here to wet your pallet and have you craving more before you dig into the treat that is Persona Q.

YouTube video courtesy of AtlusUSA

1. Tales of Vesperia

The Tales series is a wildly successful RPG series developed and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment (formerly Namco). Tales of Vesperia is the tenth entry in the series and one of the most celebrated among them, even to this day. Released in 2008 for the Xbox 360 in both Japan and North America, it was later rereleased in 2009 on PlayStation 3 for Japan with exclusive content, characters, and additional story. Vesperia tells the story of Yuri Lowell, an ex-Imperial soldier who forms a guild called Brave Vesperia to aid a run away noble woman, Estelle. Together they travel the world challenging factions who seek to abuse a precious resource known as Blastia.

The game's theme song featured in the title sequence, Ring a Bell by Bonnie Pink, became one of her most successful singles, selling over 250,000 digital downloads in Japan alone and becoming Platinum certified by the RIAJ. The animation is done by famous anime stupid Production I.G. and was heavily influenced by cel-shaded animation.

Truthfully, there are a number of Tales games that could have made this list, but none of them are as well done as Vesperia. Bonnie Pink's musical talent lends itself perfectly to the visuals, which are so unbelievably well done that it's hard not to watch it several times just to admire all the little details sprinkled throughout. Right away we have an idea of the sort of magical and fantastic things our heroes will be going through on their journey. Estelle's scene in the field of flowers is beautiful. Watching each the characters participate in battle and showing off their skills, Yuri's confident smirk, the dark moments of Rita thinking to herself. It all comes together to give us a narrative that tells us we're in for something expansive and engaging. Watching the video while writing this article was enough to spark a desire to play the game. Here's hoping for a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One remastered edition!

YouTube video courtesy of Globsh

Published Aug. 29th 2016

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