Written in 2023
The sea voyage
The motiv of a group of heroes traversing a big sea in order to reach a different destination is part of many japanese role playing games throughout the times. There are many famous games that cover at least one moment where the party is onboard a ship for a longer period of time.
These moments can be interesting, as the party usually has more time to get to know each other, or the players have more time to get to know the characters more, as a longer journey usually leads to some quieter moments. At least, if the ship is not being attacked.
Let's take a look at some memorable scenes.
The journey in Grandia takes place fairly at the beginning of the game. It is basically the first big goal the players and the main character Justin have.
Justin is the son of an adventurer and wants to explore the new continent that had only been discovered some years prior to the events of Grandia. Together with his friend Sue, he works hard to obtain a passage on a steamer ship to cross the ocean. Eventually, he achieves to get the ticket, says his goodbyes to Sue (who is really not happy about this) and embarks on his journey.
The journey takes quite some time in the early gameplay. The steamer is big, and Justin can explore the ship at the beginning. Eventually, the story progresses by Sue appearing on the ship as a stowaway. Justin has to save her, as sailors are pretty superstitous and believe that stowaways need to be thrown in the sea. Justin then accepts to work on the ship with his friend, and during that journey, they also meet Feena, the games' other hero.
Eventually, the steamer even gets in touch with an alleged "ghost ship", which has to be cleared by Justin, Sue and Feena.
The whole journey is pretty long, involves a lot of story and sets the tone of the game for quite some time.
Lunar: The Silver Star Story is from the same people who also developed Grandia. And like in Grandia above, there is a sea journey very early into the games' story.
Alex, the hero of the game, along with his childhood friends Ramus and Luna, track down a dragon in their home island and are able to obtain one of the rare draogn diamonds from him. Since no one on their island is rich enough to buy the diamond, the friends embark on a journey to the mainland, where the big city of Meridia is located. Someone there should have enough money to buy the diamond.
Luna initially intends to stay at home, but decides to join the journey in the last minute. She still has some doubts about the whole idea, but doesn't want to leave her friends alone.
Being a talented singer, she decides to climb up the crow's nest of the ship and sing about her sorrow. This is a very, very famous scene and a great song. The accompaniying video was legendary in the RPG scene in the late 90s. And even today, as cheesy as it may be, it's still touching.
This one is very special - and received mixed reactions back then when the game was published.
At some point in the game, the main character, Will, and princess Kara will be stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean. As the game describes it, this voyage takes almost 30 days.
Gameplay-wise, there's not much going on during that scene. Will can talk with Kara. As the day progress and the two starve more and more, they begin to hunt fish (even if Kara, being a vegetarian, didn't want to kill or eat the fish on the first occassion), they try to be brave when sharks encircle the raft and they try not to get mad or argue even if the raft is kind of claustrophobic.
The scene brings up some philosophical thoughts about how ethical it is to kill for food, how to fight the bordeom and the helplessness. It was very thoughtful for the time, and maybe players just weren't ready for this level of storytelling back then.
The whole game of Ys VIII is about a sea journey. Adol and his friend Dogi are abord a ship that gets attacked by a sea monster near some island.
There is some time at the beginning to talk with all the people that are on board of the ship. And all of these people can be met later on in the game and found as shipwrecked people. Also, one of the main objectives of the game is to build a new ship with debris from the ship so that all of the people can leave the island they're stranded on.
Ys VIII really maxed out the idea of a ship voyage by developing the whole game around the idea of such a journey.
This is another game that basically evolves around the idea of a sea journey. Lazlo is a knight in training in the Gaien Dukedom. After falsely being accused of killing his captain whilst also receiving one of the deadliest true runes, Lazlo is being banned from Gaien.
The first sea voyage is that of his banishment, where he and some friends have to leave Gaien on a small boat, which soon strands on a remote island. During the war between Kooluk and the various island nations in the sea south of Toran, Lazlo gains control of a ship and eventually travels around all of the island nations in order to unify them. Battles are fought on the deck of the ship, and there are even naval battles between ships.
There is not so much of a single voyage going on in Suikoden IV, but rather the whole game is a huge sea voyage with occassional stops on islands.
This wouldn't be an article in the "a world of cliché" section, if the idea of sea voyages weren't such a big thing in so many RPGs. The idea is basically present in all sub genres. There's a huge voyage in "Divinity: Original Sin II", where the game also begins on the ship. The whole chapter 5 of Shining Force is about crossing an ocean. The journey to the costa del sol in Final Fantasy VII is on the ship (with great music)!
Even Final Fantasy XIV, a MMO, has a long journey on a boat (with a dungeon in the middle) in the "Stormblood" extension.
Many RPGs follow a hero's journey, and as our real world is made up of mostly water, it's logical that storytellers also would like to implement such a journey into their game.
However, there's not necessarily an ocean to be involved. Breath of Fire IV, for example, has boats that float on sand and many other Final Fantasy games have airships. The main thing is - spend some time on a boat together.