When I started this series about console game history, the first game I wrote about was Final Fantasy. That was before I got more organized and realized there were older games I wanted to cover as well. Games like Cleopatra no Mahou (which translates roughly to “The Cursed Treasure of Cleopatra”), the first role-playing game that Square made, before getting their breakout hit with Final Fantasy. The story goes that the “Final” in Final Fantasy referred to the fact that it may well have been Square’s final game, although that may not be wholly accurate. But Square were in financial trouble at the time, because their earlier games hadn’t sold well. I wanted to play Cleopatra no Mahou not only to see what Square’s early foray into the role-playing genre was like, but also because I was intrigued by its modern day Egyptian setting and blending of role-playing design with adventure game elements.
I’ve written about a lot of Japanese-style role-playing games on this blog, but most have been smaller, free offerings created with a tool like RPGMaker. I haven’t really dug into the big names, in part because they’ve traditionally been tied to console systems that I do not own. And when trying to take a historical look at games like Final Fantasy, the first entry into the phenomenally successful and long-running Japanese role-playing game series, this leads to another problem: while console games are often re-released so they won’t disappear along with the older consoles they ran on, they are often modified significantly in the process.