Hi, I would like to start by telling you why I decided to write an editorial about RPG. Since I'm not American, you may think (rightfully) it's at least difficult for me to write a readable editorial in English, but I didn't resist the urge to add my opinion to those that are posted at your site. The actual theme (Old RPG vs New RPG, not the system war) is so interesting that I had to tell you what I think. I hope you are interested.
I've been playing RPG for ten years, I'm a game master of AD&D and I own nearly every SNES Rpg and most of the PSX ones; I've come up with a surprising opinion: I like Video RPGs more than the "board" ones. Videogames are in my opinion a great way to tell stories; they're more interactive than movies and visually they can be really impressive. I can't approve those who say "graphics doesn't matter in RPGs": I can't think a type of game that need good graphics more than RPGs. RPGs are different from platform or shooters because they aim at something bigger: bigger stories, bigger characters, bigger game systems. RPGs are the sole type of game that can give emotions different than mere fun. Graphics, along with music, can do more than words (see FFVII: IMHO, the most impressive scene was the one who showed Cloud leaving Aerith body in the lake, and no word were spent). Frankly, imagine the opera house scene from FFVI with the graphics of FFVIII...To those who say FFVIII is an "interactive movie" I say " then FFVI is a really interactive show of orrible drawings". Games come from the efforts of people who work (and gain money) like writers and others artists (yes, artists) and so they have to be respected, like the people who enijoy them. That said, old RPGs had that kind of graphics not for some philosophical choice, but because there were hardware limits and LIMITED MONEY. If they could have done FFVI with FFVIII graphics, they would have done so.
It's at least absurd to criticize new RPGs because they have good graphics. You may say that graphics alone don't make a game: that's true, but then let's see what old RPGs have more then actual ones. FFV had one really great thing : an incredible class system than shocked me at that time, but it's not as deep as the materia system, as Espers are dwarf (maybe goblins) when compared to GF. That's no way you could truly believe old game system were better (FFVII has horrible controls? At least you could move diagonally, differently from previous FF games). So what's this mysterious "playability" that were so good at old times? Maybe it's in the storylines? Let's not talk about FFV, because it was the game's main flaw. Lufia II had a thin story too, but that was made up by the good characters and the nice playability. FFVI is a great mistery for me: I found the characters poors (Shadow was the same old ninja, Sabin the martial artist, then there was the magic knight, the beast, the young prince etc etc) not to talk about the bad guy, who was never able to scare or even interest me: the "weak guy" idea was really good, but he lacked an interesting side. Kefka reminded me the classic madman of a 007 movie, and when compared to someone like Ghaleon, it's not a good thing. The story itself is not that great, because the concept was really too simple, even if really well developed. The reason why in the end I like more the new RPGs is that old-school ones never gave me the feeling of being so complete. I never could realize what Terra or Sabin really looked like, neither what they FELT ( the theme of suicide in FFVI was showed superficially, because the game never showed the relationships between Cid and his cyborg, safe for two lines here and there; in FFVII an actual theme like genetical enginering keep an important role through the whole game). Nontheless I was more involved in old rpgs than I am now with the new ones: as a fantasy fan and a gamer, I preferred FFVII, but maybe I had more fun with FFV. I think that's because it's not RPGs that are worse now, but the ones who changed are us: I have grown old (I at least have) and I lost my ability to be taken away by simple, fantastic stories told by small colored squares I pretended to be mages and knights.
Sorry for all the babbling.