The worst thing that ever happened to Japanese RPGs was Final Fantasy VII. In 1997, Square had grown weary of Nintendo's bold and crappy experiment with chunky cartridge-based entertainment and jumped the Nintendo ship to land the next game in their enormously popular franchise in the calm, welcoming Sony port-of-call. For those of us who cut our teeth on RPGs with the Final Fantasy franchise, this move seemed like the ultimate betrayal...for about three seconds until we saw the screen-shots and any allegiances we may have had went careening off a cliff on a snowboard.
It had three-dimensional graphics! The game spanned like seventeen discs! There was a black guy in it, and he cursed! Final Fantasy VII wiped clean our preconceived notions of what an RPG was supposed to be. Until then, they were 2D, top-down dungeon crawlers with battles taking place on a mostly static screen with animation limited to a sword slicing or some sparkling pixels (the sparkling pixels meant magic). But it wasn't just the graphical leap that captured our stupid imaginations, it was a whole new convoluted storyline with a twist right there at the end of disc one. You know, the part when Aeris dies. (THE PRECEDING SENTENCE MAY HAVE CONTAINED SPOILERS).
The unintended consequence of that story-telling decision was to create a world in which many gamers point to the Aeris-dying moment as the moment some gamers point to as the moment when a game was able to make them cry. For those of you not "in the know," a game making you cry is a very important event for gaming. You see, if a game can draw from its player the same sort of emotion that a book or a movie can, then games will finally be art. This is extremely important, for some reason, that games be considered art, and so those people who cried when Aeris died consider FFVII to be the moment when games crossed the threshold from electronic distraction to high-art. Have you ever been on a gaming message board ? There's going to be a Sephiroth variant among the users. Sometimes, more than one.
"I can't believe we're having this conversation AGAIN."