I think the definition of RPGs can differ from person to person. I also
believe that there isn't a set standard, for a few reasons.
I think that the so-called RPGs are just as much RPGs as your "true
RPG". RPG stands for Role Playing Game, much to everybody's knowledge. It
does not stand for "Menu driven combat games", which the previous argument
seems to stress. There are many branches of the term RPG. I am not just
talking about the widely known: Strategy, Action, and Adventure. There are
others that are undefined, and are they any less RPG? No.
Baldur's Gate is the first game that comes to my mind. It has no menu driven
combat, but does have individual statistics for characters, and you can "level
up" your characters. Another is Might and Magic VI, which once again meets
the statistics categories but doesn't have menu driven combat. If you want to
disagree with me on these, I'll be very surprised. You might be seeing a
pattern emerging, which is PC, so let me get into the console examples.
First of all, let me state that while I do not think there are set standards
to make a game an RPG, I do believe that there are characteristics. Some of
these are: fairly lengthy (20+hours), involved story, exploration, combat, and
a constant enemy. Once again, these are characteristics, not set rules, so
don't think that I don't realize there are exceptions to the rule, for that is
my main argument.
Strategy games are mainly RPGs. Why, you ask? Because they are long
involved games which you fight a constant enemy, explore the land, and are
usually very long. Examples are: the Shining Force series, The Ogre battle
series, and even though I didn't like it, Final Fantasy Tactics.
I believe also that Action and Adventure games fit the same category in this
discussion and can most definitely fit the category of RPG. As long as it
fits the above criteria. Examples I can pull from this are: Alundra,
Landstalker, Dark Savior, and Magic Knight RayEarth. You might notice that I
left Zelda off my list, this is the one place where I agree with the other
argument. Mainly because the story was "SAVE ZELDA!" in every one. I do like
these games, but really feel they don't fit the category.
In conclusion to my opinion, I think there are divisions to the term RPG.
These are: True-RPG, Action/Adventure RPG, Strategy RPG, and just RPG. Keep
in mind when reading this that my favorite division is the True breed.