How the legendary Studio Ghibli filmmaker explores the intersections of childhood, parenthood, and magic in his most famous films.

One of life’s great joys is watching your children play. Through a kitchen window overlooking your backyard, at the beach, exploring a park. There’s great pleasure in observing the unobserved. You see their joy, watch them solve problems, navigate complex social situations, work together, fight, hug, laugh, run. Be free. You become lost in their imagination and for a fleeting moment recapture the wonder of a long-ago childhood. Watching your children play is an opportunity to see the world through excited eyes.

It’s this warm, emotive sense of simplicity and well-being — as though, somewhere deep within your heart, life’s…

Chrono Trigger defined the concept of New Game+, and then its divisive sequel missed the point entirely

Of all the gifts Chrono Trigger gave the Japanese RPG genre, New Game+ is probably its most endearing and enduring. This mode — which unlocks when you’ve beaten the game once — allows you to replay the game using your previously-powered up characters, and most of their equipment (minus items related to plot beats). It’s a brilliant way to re-experience the game, and encourages multiple play throughs in search of new endings.

Chrono Trigger’s divisive sequel, Chrono Cross, carried over this feature, but, due to many of its design choices, New Game+ is not nearly as compelling as it was…

How a Super Nintendo JRPG developed by a Dream Team of creators is still finding new fans 25 years later

Nobody likes to throw up at school.

But even if I could travel back in time to that fateful morning in early 1996, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I arrived at school groggy-eyed from staying up all night slugging coffee and working on Chrono Trigger fanfic. (Don’t ask me why a 12 year old was allowed to drink coffee all night, ask my parents.) My grade seven teacher had told us to create a sequel to Madeleine L’Engle’s classic fantasy novel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. …

An early demo of Sea of Stars reveals a game bursting with innovation and beauty while staying true to its classic inspirations

Sea of Stars is an upcoming turn-based RPG from Sabotage Studio, the makers of 2018’s The Messenger. It caught my attention early on thanks to the studio’s pedigree, and the obvious inspiration it takes from golden age Japanese RPGs like Chrono Trigger.

Sea of Stars launched with a huge Kickstarter campaign, and one of the tiers included access to a recently-released demo covering about two hours of the game. Thanks to Sabotage Studio and Sea of Star’s creative director, Thierry Boulanger, I was able to play through the demo on stream last week, and had an absolute blast.

Watch me…

How Rabbit & Bear Studio’s new Kickstarter is channeling the soul of the beloved Suikoden franchise

“Suikoden” and “Eiyuden Chronicle” don’t exactly roll off the tongue the same way “Final Fantasy” and “Dragon Quest” do, but these Japanese RPGs from Yoshitaka Murayama represent an important place in both the history and future of the genre.

In the days before Final Fantasy VII, the Sony PlayStation was full of Japanese RPGs modelled off the 16-bit formula popularized by games like Final Fantasy VI, Phantasy Star IV, and Chrono Trigger. Before Cloud and Sephiroth revolutionized the genre and brought cinematic storytelling to gaming’s forefront, Japanese RPGs like the original Suikoden — and its contemporaries like Wild Arms and…

Screenshot via

Despite gorgeous sprites, fun battles, and great characters, this late-generation PlayStation Japanese RPG just misses classic status.

In my debut on the Hugo Award-nominated Nerds of a Feather, I’ve got some deep dive impressions into the first several hours of Breath of Fire IV. Released during the PlayStation’s final months, Breath of Fire IV is a throwback to the way Japanese RPGs were on the Super Nintendo, with gorgeous sprite work, a stellar cast, and fun battles. It ain’t perfect, though. It’s held back from classic status by a combination of clunky, four-directional controls and an obtuse camera that makes navigating its tight environments nearly impossible.

“Cultivate” by Billy Christian — via Wizards of the Coast

Following the 20 year digital journey of the world’s greatest trading card game from tabletops to eSports

I’ve made no secret about how Magic: The Gathering — a hugely popular trading card game with origins in the early ‘90s — has impacted me as a writer, gamer, and creator. More than Tolkien, more than Final Fantasy, Magic is responsible for setting me on a lifelong obsession with Fantasy. Over on VentureBeat, I had the opportunity to dig into Magic’s 20+ year history as a digital card game — from early attempts to replicate the tabletop experience, to zany arcade offshoots, to its recent move into the eSports scene with Arena.

It’s not often I get to combine…

How Final Fantasy VII Remake’s opening hours use nostalgia and modern gaming ideologies to redefine how we think about remakes.

Spoiler warning: This piece contains open spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake’s first five chapters and the entirety of the original Final Fantasy VII.

Few games have changed their respective genre as much as the surprise 1997 PlayStation hit Final Fantasy VII. It released to a market broadly unfamiliar with Japanese RPGs — with most of the genre’s popularity relegated to a small but passionate fan base that had enjoyed the likes of Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo and Phantasy Star IV on the Sega Genesis. Final Fantasy VII features a large meteor in its logo, and, like a…

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the two versions of Trials of Mana show strengths and flaws in opposite ways

Remakes are super hot right now. From the huge success of Final Fantasy VII Remake to Switch re-releases of the Bioshock trilogy, game publishers are leveraging nostalgia to sell old games to both new and longtime fans. One of the most surprising is Square Enix’s Trials of Mana for the Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Based on the 1995 game of the same name, Trials of Mana is a from-the-ground-up remake that attempts to capture the magic of one of the Super Nintendo’s most impressive — and elusive — games.

I grew up playing and loving Square’s Super…

Chrono Trigger fan art by Julie Dillon

From dead Squall to post-war Kanto, you’ll never look at Final Fantasy VIII, Pokemon, or Chrono Trigger the same ever again.

Who doesn’t love a good fan theory?

(Besides George R.R. Martin because it makes finishing his series so much more difficult.)

Fans have been speculating about their favourite books, films, and TV shows for decades, and gaming is no different. From theories about Majora’s Mask and the five stages of grief, to the indoctrination of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard, to companion cubes being full of people, there’s no shortage of crazy theories concocted by fans to fill plot holes.

Japanese RPGs like the Final Fantasy series and Masato Kato’s work on Chrono Cross and Xenogears offer some of the most…

Aidan Moher

Hugo Award-winning writer with work in Kotaku, Wired, Uncanny Magazine, and He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and kids.

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