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The World of Asian RPGs

Brief History of Chinese RPGs

Chinese (Taiwanese) RPGs have a shorter history than the Japanese ones, and needed quite a long time to achieve stylistic maturity. In general, the gameplay system of Chinese RPGs largely follows the Japanese prototype the way it was established during the 8-bit era. Just like Japanese RPGs, Chinese games tend to have simple game mechanics, linear gameplay, and focus on story line and characterization. What makes them different is mostly the incorporation of Chinese culture into the games. Most Chinese RPGs are set in classic China, and many games define the time period exactly and contain many historical events, characters, and references to popular Chinese legends. Another important difference are themes and content of Chinese RPGs. Their story lines tend to be less world-embracing and philosophical, but instead pay more attention to cultural, political, and social aspects, as well as to personal relationships between the heroes. The experience of playing a typical Chinese RPG has no parallels among Japanese ones, including even such spiritually related games as Suikoden.

The first well-known Chinese RPG was also the one that started its most venerable and long-running series, Xuanyuan Jian. Released in 1990 for PC, the almost exclusive platform for Chinese RPGs, it was to Japanese RPGs approximately what the first "Dragon Quest" had been to Western ones in 1986: more of a simplified copy than a real new word. Nevertheless, the first "Xuanyuan Jian" already manifested the tendency that later became the trademark of Chinese RPGs: it was set in China, and its story was based on ancient Chinese myths.

Until 1995, Xuanyuan Jian remained the only dominant RPG series in China, delivering a high-quality sequel and a side story that were much more typically Chinese than their predecessor. Only a few other Chinese RPGs were released, but even though some of them were very interesting, such as Xiake Yingxiongzhuan, they were unable to compete with Xuanyuan Jian. 1995 marked the advent of a new series that has since then become the most beloved Chinese RPG franchise of all times, Xianjian Qixia Zhuan. With an intimate story based on romantic relationships, "Xianjian Qixia Zhuan" was a game that immediately got recognition from the players.

The first few years of the new millennium were by far the most productive time for Chinese RPGs. Quality sequels from both Xuanyuan Jian and Xianjian Qixia Zhuan franchises still continue to lead the Chinese RPG industry, but several new series emerged during the last five or six years. Popular series such as Xin Juedai Shuangjiao or Huanxiang Sanguozhi were still conceived in the vein of the two great franchises, concentrating on Chinese historical events or love stories. Others like Shengnü zhi Ge - Heroine Anthem return back to the Japanese roots of the genre, with animé design and fantasy world setting.

Continued: Xuanyuan Jian

Table of Contents: The World of Asian RPGs