Panorama Toh (のらま島), released by Nihon Falcom for the NEC PC-8801 computer in 1983, departed from the standard RPG formula in several ways. For example, it combined RPG gameplay with real-time combat, combined fantasy with sci-fi elements, and introduced survival mechanics.
The game was designed by Yoshio Kiya, whose innovative ideas about RPG design departed significantly from the turn-based norm at the time. In 1984, he would go on to create Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer franchise, which laid the foundations for the real-time action RPG genre.
The camera perspective switches between a top-down view for the overworld (like the early Ultima games) and a first-person view in the dungeons (like the early Ultima and Wizardry games).
Panorama Toh introduced several innovations that significantly departed from other RPG's at the time. It has a real-time, persistent open world, with a day-night cycle. The screen becomes darker at night, but the player is unable to move during that time (presumably because the player character is resting).
The game introduced survival mechanics. The player can die of hunger or fatigue, represented in the form of hit points and stamina statistics. The stamina decreases with every action taken, but can be replenished with (F)ood or rations. Certain kinds of food can only be found above trees, which need to be climbed using a rope. The game also features a flashlight, necessary to brighten dark dungeons, and batteries are needed to power the flashlight.
The player can interact with non-hostile, NPC's (Non-Player Characters), usually tribal bushmen, in several ways: (T)alk to them, (A)ttack them, or (G)ive them money (some NPC's might give something in return or run off with the money). Traps also occasionally appear, where the player can either attempt to (J)ump out of the trap themselves or (C)all for help for some NPC to come and help out. The player may also occasionally get bit by snakes, which can lead to paralysis and needs medicine to cure.
The game also has towns that the player can visit. They have shops to buy and sell items, and inns to rest at. They also have thieves that could steal the player's money. Some towns also have unusual places, like a sauna or a porn shop (with nude images, drawn with text characters).
The game also came with a manual explaining the plot, in Japanese writing, much of which was philosophical.
The game's biggest innovation is the introduction of real-time combat. In addition, instead of a sword, the player character's main weapon is a gun.
The game uses two types of real-time combat systems:
- In the overworld, when engaging in battle, a side-view battle is shown in the bottom-right corner of the screen. The player needs to quickly press the (A)ttack key to shoot enemies. Enemies can attack singularly or in packs; if a pack of enemies are defeated, the player can received up to 30 rations.
- In the dungeon crawling segments, the battles take place in first-person view, where the player needs to quickly press the (A)ttack key to shoot an enemy, a precursor to later FPS (First-Person Shooter) or RPS (Role-Playing Shooter) games.