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A tactical role-playing game (abbreviated as TRPG; sometimes referred to as strategy role-playing game, or SRPG) is a type of video game which incorporates elements of traditional computer or console role-playing games and strategy games. In Japan these games are known as "Simulation RPGs" (シミュレーションロールプレイングゲーム), a designation which might seem peculiar to native English speakers; in Japan, the term TRPG refers exclusively to tabletop role-playing games. This stems from the Japanese usage of "simulation" as a short hand for "strategy simulation game".
This sub-genre of role-playing game principally refers to games which incorporate elements from strategy games as an alternative to traditional RPG systems. Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies. And like other RPGs, death is usually temporary. But this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid. Unlike many other video game genres, tactical RPGs tend not to feature multiplayer play.
Many early Western computer role-playing games used a highly tactical form of combat, such as parts of the Ultima series, which introduced party-based, tiled combat in Ultima III: Exodus. Conventionally, however, the term tactical RPG refers to the distinct subgenre that was born in Japan. The early origins of tactical RPGs are difficult to trace from the American side of the Pacific since so much of the genre developed in Japan.
All tactical RPGs are descendents of table-top role-playing games, such as Chainmail, which were mainly tactical in their original form. Indeed the very format of a T/CRPG is like a traditional RPG in its appearance, pacing and rule structure. Early table-top role-playing games, likewise, are descended from skirmish wargames.
It is generally accepted that Nintendo released and published the first tactical RPG, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), created and developed by Intelligent Systems. Released in Japan in 1990, Fire Emblem was an archetype for the whole genre, establishing gameplay elements that are still used in tactical CRPGs today (although some of these elements were influenced by Ultima III). Combining the basic console RPG concepts from games like Dragon Quest and simple turn-based strategy elements, Nintendo created a hit, which spawned many sequels and imitators. However, it was not until the release of Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken for the Game Boy Advance, many years later, that the series was introduced to Western gamers.
Among the first imitators was Langrisser by NCS/Masaya, first released for the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis in 1991. It was translated for North American release and retitled Warsong. The Langrisser series differed from Fire Emblem in that it used a general-soldier structure instead of controlling main characters. Langrisser, too, spawned many sequels, none of which were brought to North America.
Master of Monsters was a unique title by SystemSoft. Where Langrisser and Fire Emblem used a square-based grid, Master of Monsters used a hexagonal grid. Players could choose one of four different Lords to defend their Towers and areas on the grid by building an army of creatures to destroy the opposing armies. This game had a sequel for the PlayStation called Master of Monsters: Disciples of Gaia, which had limited success and was criticized for its slow gameplay.
The first game in the long-running Super Robot Wars series is another early example of the genre, released for the Game Boy in 1991.
Another influential early tactical RPG was Sega's Shining Force for the Sega Genesis, which was released in 1992. Shining Force used even more console RPG elements than earlier games, allowing the player to walk around towns and talk to people and buy weapons.
Four games from the Ogre Battle series have been released in North America: Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen was released for the SNES and is more of a real-time strategy game in which the player forms computer role-playing game-like character parties that are moved around a map in real-time. When two parties meet, the combat plays out with minimal user interaction. A later release, Tactics Ogre, was originally a SNES game that was not released outside of Japan. It was later ported to the PlayStation, along with Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. Both of the PlayStation re-releases were marketed in North America by Atlus, as was Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber for the Nintendo 64.
Tactics Ogre is a much more direct influence on the sort of tactical RPGs that gamers recognize today such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. It was also the first to bear the name "Tactics" in the title, a term gamers would come to associate with the genre. Not only are characters moved individually on a grid, but the view is isometric, and the order of combat is calculated for each character individually. Although this game defined the genre in many ways, it is not widely recognized by American gamers because it was released to American audiences several years later. Final Fantasy Tactics shared some staff members with Tactics Ogre and shares many of its gameplay elements. A prequel to the original Tactics Ogre, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis was later released for the Game Boy Advance.
Vandal Hearts was an early PlayStation title that helped popularize tactical RPGs in the US. It was released by Konami and featured a 3D isometric map that could be rotated by the player. A sequel was subsequently released, also for the PlayStation, and Konami has announced a third title in development for the Nintendo DS.
Final Fantasy Tactics was arguably the most responsible for bringing tactical RPGs to North America. Developed by former employees of Quest, the developer responsible for the Ogre Battle series, it combined many elements of the Final Fantasy series with Tactics Ogre-style gameplay.
In more recent times, a loyal American fan-base has been established by Nippon Ichi, makers of the popular PlayStation 2 games La Pucelle: Tactics, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, and Disgaea 2. Of these games, Disgaea has been the most successful to date, and was the second Nippon Ichi game released in North America (the first being Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, published by Atlus) even though La Pucelle was developed and released first in Japan.
Tactical RPGs are more popular today than ever, as more companies have recognized the large audience of these types of games, particularly Atlus and Nintendo. La Pucelle: Tactics and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which Atlus re-released due to high demand, have become genuine cult hits for the PlayStation 2.
Sega's Valkyria Chronicles (2008) for the PlayStation 3 utilizes the seventh-generation console processing power by using a distinctive anime/watercolor art style, as well as incorporating third-person shooter elements. After selecting a character in the overhead map view, the player manually controls him/her from a third person view. This mechanic allows for, among others: free movement to a certain range, manual aiming with extra damage for headshots, a limited cover system, and real-time hazards, such as interception fire and landmines. The game has been described as "the missing link between Final Fantasy Tactics and Full Spectrum Warrior." 
Many Western PC games have utilized this genre for years, as well. Differences include a tendency toward stronger military themes without many of the fantasy elements found in their console (and mainly Japanese) counterparts, as well as more freedom when interacting with the surrounding environment. Notable examples include the X-COM series, the Jagged Alliance series, and the Silent Storm series. Outside of consoles, new tactical and squad-tactics games are few and far between, however.
Other examples include:
Other games feature similar mechanics, but typically belong in other genres. Tactical wargames such as the Steel Panthers series (1995-2006) sometimes combine tactical military combat with RPG-derived unit advancement. Avalon Hill's Squad Leader (2000), a man-to-man wargame based on the Soldiers at War engine, has also been compared (unfavorably) to X-COM and Jagged Alliance.
Some CRPGs, such as Ultima III: Exodus (1983), Wizard's Crown (1985), Pyrrhic Tales: Prelude to Darkness (2002) and the Gold Box games of the late '80s and early '90s (many of which were ported to Japanese video game systems), also featured a heavy form of tactical combat. The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003) hearkens back to tactical RPGs' table-top roots by implementing the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition ruleset.
Tir-nan-óg is a series of role-playing video games that premiered in Japan on the PC98 and later released for Windows. The latest title in the series is also being released for the PlayStation 2 and PSP.
The X-COM series also possesses a strategic layer, complete with strategic map and research tree. Knights in the Nightmare (2009) combines elements of traditional tactical RPGs with bullet hell–style shoot 'em up gameplay.
Several MMOGs have attempted to combine multiplayer online gaming with tactical turn-based combat. Examples include, Dofus (2005), The Continuum (2008) and the Russian game Total Influence.
Tactica Online was a planned MMORPG that would have featured tactical combat, had development not been cancelled. Strugarden is a Japan-exclusive 3D MMORPG which uniquely employs separate movement and attack rounds. Gunrox (2008) and Poxnora (2006) are some other "new games on the block" in this genre.
Many tactical RPGs can be both extremely time-consuming and extremely difficult. Hence, the appeal of most tactical RPGs is to hardcore, not casual, computer and video gamers. Tactical RPGs are quite popular in Japan but have not enjoyed the same degree of success in North America.
That said, the audience for tactical RPGs has grown substantially over the last decade, and PS1 and PS2 titles including Suikoden Tactics, Vanguard Bandits, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity have enjoyed a surprising measure of popularity, as have hand-held war games including Fire Emblem. Older TRPGs are also being re-released via software emulation, such as on the Wii's Virtual Console. Japanese console games such as these are no longer nearly as rare a commodity in North America as they were during the 1990s.
On the PC front, western tactical RPGs is less popularity. Most western developer more focus develop strategy game such as real-time strategy and turn-based strategy than put role-playing elements in personal computer. According to one developer, it has become increasingly difficult in recent years to develop these sorts of games for the personal computer in the West. Several, however, have been developed in Eastern Europe with mixed results such as Silent Storm.
Strategy role-playing game is a Role playing game that also involves strategic troop movement. There are several distinct approaches to this genre, but they all boil down to the same concept: more strategy than a traditional RPG.
The most typical approach is that a party member is regarded on the battle field as that member's avatar, and combat takes place on the battle field with no screen changes. Generally, when a member's turn comes up, the player has the option of moving him or her (within a certain range, depending on the character's statistics, equipment, class, et cetera), the option of performing an action - using an item, using a basic attack, or performing a special move - and the option of facing the party member in a certain direction. Most SRPGs make a distinction between attacking an enemy from the front, from the sides, or from the rear, to add more tactical advantage to good movement strategies.
A less popular but also fairly common approach is to regard a unit or group of units as a battle field avatar, which is ordered to move about in a similar action, but performs a screen change in combat. In some titles, as in Fire Emblem, units will then exchange some fire automatically, their statistics will be changed accordingly, and the game proceeds on its merry way. In some others, as in Bahamut Lagoon, the battle screen actually becomes a single turn of a traditional RPG battle; the player selecting a move for each character in the party, and the enemy doing the same.
Battle fields for the first approach, as it revolves around characters, tend to be small and personal. Terrain is usually used to make strategic advantages - for instance, a character on the higher ground of a slope will fare better than his opponent on lower ground. Different types of terrain are also frequently used, like water which can impede movement, and steps that take extra time to move over.
Fields for the second approach, that one revolving more around larger forces (usually, a small army), tend themselves to be more expansive. They also use terrain differences, but being on a grander scale, differentiate between things like rivers, plains, forests, and mountains.
In both fields, some games take an interactive approach with magic - i.e. fire magic can burn plants, and ice magic can freeze water. The SRPG genre is fairly small, and so not only is it relatively easy (aside from all the work involved) to make one very unique, but new ideas for making the games more strategic are always being found.
Most SRPGs have a title that includes the word "Tactics" (e.g. Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Onimusha Tactics, Dynasty Warriors Tactics, et al). Other examples include the Fire Emblem series and Nippon Ichi's games (like Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Phantom Brave).
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