Posted by Red (5995 posts) -

Over the past month or so I've found myself getting back into something I had pretty much dismissed a year ago: JRPGs. Excited by all of the news regarding Persona 4: Golden, and having spent hours reading through various fantasy structures on TVtropes, I felt a need for a long, epic journey. My answer was Final Fantasy Tactics.

For a little bit of history, I first bought Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP about four years ago. I got a few levels in before decided it was not my thing. In the beginning of the game, the combat is very limited--characters can do little but use potions and normal attacks--and trying to get a correct camera angle through the 3d environments can be kind of infuriating, especially on the PSP. Flash forward to last year, when FFT was put on the App store. I bought it, tried playing again, and got the same result.

However, last month, in my gaming drought, I found myself able to push through the game's slow beginning and complex systems. What I found was a game that, while not entirely my strategical cup of tea, managed to keep me entertained for a good 40 hours or so.

By my "strategical cup of tea" I'm referring to Fire Emblem. I adore that series, and believe it to be the absolute pinnacle of turn based strategy. It seems that turn based strategy RPG fans actually split between FFT and FE, and for good reason: pretty much every possible design decision made is different. Tactics uses much smaller maps, and each battle has about a third of the characters in a FE chapter. Tactics uses an open world, whereas the vast majority of Fire Emblem games are completely linear. Turns in Tactics are based on character speed and a CT gauge; Fire Emblem just has player and enemy go turn by turn. Characters in Fire Emblem have very well-defined roles, while any non-monster character in Tactics can change their job at any time outside of combat. Characters in Fire Emblem can do little but use the weapons they have on their person, while Tactics characters have a wide variety of usable skills and spells. Fire Emblem is in 2d, while Tactics is in 3d (kind of). I think you get the picture.

Ramza is a pretty good JRPG protagonist. Even though he speaks more than most of my favorites, he's well-written and isn't whiny.

As a result of these differences, Fire Emblem plays a lot like a game of chess, while Tactics plays more like a traditional Final Fantasy game, just with a little more emphasis on movement. The increased difficulty and punishing death in Fire Emblem actually reminds me of Super Meat Boy--both are games that are seemingly very simple, yet very punishing while still remaining fair (except Fog of War, enemy critical hits, and when reinforcements come at the start of an enemy's turn. Ugh). In both series, you know every tool you have, and all of your obstacles--the difficulty comes from finesse, either mental or physical.

Tactics, on the other hand--while still difficult--gets its difficulty from asking the player to grind. Perhaps the added complication in turn order and movement stopped me from really thinking about what I was doing in each turn and how the enemy would react, but I can't think of any neat strategic maneuver I pulled while playing Tactics, aside from a few XP and boss exploits. The game's endgame was also completely ruined by the completely overpowered Arithmetician job, which basically allows you to use the most powerful spells in the game on all enemies (regardless of range), without casting time or mana use. Another problem I had was just how faceless most of the characters were. Even story characters had little personality or story relevance after their recruitment, aside from Ramza. They're very different series, and while I don't think either is better than the other, I personally prefer Fire Emblem.

I've been playing a bit of FE6, too. I like it (it's Fire Emblem), but it's probably the most difficult Fire Emblem game I've played, and the maps could use more variation.

One thing I really did enjoy in Tactics was the setting. Although the story was at times a bit too convoluted, the dark world of Ivalice is perhaps one of the best Square has created. From the Shakespearean language to characters with a practical sense of style to the world's constant throat-cutting and treachery, I really enjoyed my time in Ivalice. It was this realization, as well as Balthier's rather awesome cameo character that made me give Final Fantasy XII another try. I had played maybe an hour of it a few years ago before deciding against the combat's simplicity and actually selling the game. I bought it again, and, after playing the game for another hour, I can say that was a huge mistake.

My problem wasn't the combat this time, which hadn't come close to opening up enough for me to judge it. My problems this time were pretty much everything else; the graphics, the camera...and Vaan. While technically a very good looking game, FFXII lies in that weird JRPG voice-acting funk so popular nowadays. I'm actually fine when Persona 3 or 4 don't have any voice acting because I'm given a big icon of a character to look at--its supposed to emulate manga and anime. However, when given more realistic models and film-like camera angles, it's pretty ridiculous when a game doesn't have full voice acting. When I see a character moving its mouth, and words only come out part of the time, it's just distracting. FFXII also nestles itself firmly into the uncanny valley, which, yet again, I just can't stand.

Also, the camera is inverted and you can't change it. While it's an issue I'm sure we're past now, it doesn't make it any less inexcusable.

Oh, and, after the small intro mission, you are put into an incredibly boring situation without any present threat. Your first quest is killing rats, then you do a fetch quest, then you go out into a different area to hunt a mob. While I'm fine with mmo-esque combat, (conceptually, FFXII's combat isn't far off from KotOR or Dragon Age) single player design should not have MMO-quests.

I hate Vaan. So much.

And Vaan is perhaps the worst protagonist I've ever seen. He's whiny, awfully designed (put on a shirt you anorexic rat-face), and pretty much follows every single possible awful anime cliche ever (has platonic friend that is a girl who wears ridiculously skimpy clothing, opposes authority, hotheaded, stubborn, too young to be saving the world, has no parents). The thought of putting up with him for another 50 hours is just unbearable.

All of this is pretty unfortunate, too. From what I've heard, characters like Basch, Balthier, and Ashe are actually some of the series' best. Originally, FFXII was meant to be centered entirely on Basch, but, in fear of twelve year olds not liking a protagonist over 18 that wasn't androgynous, Square threw in Vaan.

After watching some of the Persona 4 anime (which is actually pretty well done), I felt a strong desire to go back into that series. But I didn't want to play through Persona 4 again, because then I'd just miss all the Golden content I keep hearing about. And I didn't want to play through P3 because then I'd just want all the P3P content (like direct party control), and I didn't want to buy P3P because then I'd have to play it on my PSP, and I don't like touching that thing.

So, I decided to try out some of the FES part of Persona 3: FES, which pretty much strips away everything that makes Persona stand out (social links, time management, choosing dialogue options). It's what I expected, but the AI controlled party members can be very stupid at times (Metis straight-up refuses to use wind spells on the boss that is weak to it, instead opting to attack its neutral minions). Like FFXII, I doubt I'll play more.

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it. Still, I find myself needing to defeat some big, ancient evil while leveling up characters and occasionally fighting goofy sub-bosses, so I'm going to keep looking for a good JRPG. I think I'll try to beat Dragon Quest VIII, or maybe play some more Xenogears...

#1 Posted by Red (5995 posts) -

Over the past month or so I've found myself getting back into something I had pretty much dismissed a year ago: JRPGs. Excited by all of the news regarding Persona 4: Golden, and having spent hours reading through various fantasy structures on TVtropes, I felt a need for a long, epic journey. My answer was Final Fantasy Tactics.

For a little bit of history, I first bought Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP about four years ago. I got a few levels in before decided it was not my thing. In the beginning of the game, the combat is very limited--characters can do little but use potions and normal attacks--and trying to get a correct camera angle through the 3d environments can be kind of infuriating, especially on the PSP. Flash forward to last year, when FFT was put on the App store. I bought it, tried playing again, and got the same result.

However, last month, in my gaming drought, I found myself able to push through the game's slow beginning and complex systems. What I found was a game that, while not entirely my strategical cup of tea, managed to keep me entertained for a good 40 hours or so.

By my "strategical cup of tea" I'm referring to Fire Emblem. I adore that series, and believe it to be the absolute pinnacle of turn based strategy. It seems that turn based strategy RPG fans actually split between FFT and FE, and for good reason: pretty much every possible design decision made is different. Tactics uses much smaller maps, and each battle has about a third of the characters in a FE chapter. Tactics uses an open world, whereas the vast majority of Fire Emblem games are completely linear. Turns in Tactics are based on character speed and a CT gauge; Fire Emblem just has player and enemy go turn by turn. Characters in Fire Emblem have very well-defined roles, while any non-monster character in Tactics can change their job at any time outside of combat. Characters in Fire Emblem can do little but use the weapons they have on their person, while Tactics characters have a wide variety of usable skills and spells. Fire Emblem is in 2d, while Tactics is in 3d (kind of). I think you get the picture.

Ramza is a pretty good JRPG protagonist. Even though he speaks more than most of my favorites, he's well-written and isn't whiny.

As a result of these differences, Fire Emblem plays a lot like a game of chess, while Tactics plays more like a traditional Final Fantasy game, just with a little more emphasis on movement. The increased difficulty and punishing death in Fire Emblem actually reminds me of Super Meat Boy--both are games that are seemingly very simple, yet very punishing while still remaining fair (except Fog of War, enemy critical hits, and when reinforcements come at the start of an enemy's turn. Ugh). In both series, you know every tool you have, and all of your obstacles--the difficulty comes from finesse, either mental or physical.

Tactics, on the other hand--while still difficult--gets its difficulty from asking the player to grind. Perhaps the added complication in turn order and movement stopped me from really thinking about what I was doing in each turn and how the enemy would react, but I can't think of any neat strategic maneuver I pulled while playing Tactics, aside from a few XP and boss exploits. The game's endgame was also completely ruined by the completely overpowered Arithmetician job, which basically allows you to use the most powerful spells in the game on all enemies (regardless of range), without casting time or mana use. Another problem I had was just how faceless most of the characters were. Even story characters had little personality or story relevance after their recruitment, aside from Ramza. They're very different series, and while I don't think either is better than the other, I personally prefer Fire Emblem.

I've been playing a bit of FE6, too. I like it (it's Fire Emblem), but it's probably the most difficult Fire Emblem game I've played, and the maps could use more variation.

One thing I really did enjoy in Tactics was the setting. Although the story was at times a bit too convoluted, the dark world of Ivalice is perhaps one of the best Square has created. From the Shakespearean language to characters with a practical sense of style to the world's constant throat-cutting and treachery, I really enjoyed my time in Ivalice. It was this realization, as well as Balthier's rather awesome cameo character that made me give Final Fantasy XII another try. I had played maybe an hour of it a few years ago before deciding against the combat's simplicity and actually selling the game. I bought it again, and, after playing the game for another hour, I can say that was a huge mistake.

My problem wasn't the combat this time, which hadn't come close to opening up enough for me to judge it. My problems this time were pretty much everything else; the graphics, the camera...and Vaan. While technically a very good looking game, FFXII lies in that weird JRPG voice-acting funk so popular nowadays. I'm actually fine when Persona 3 or 4 don't have any voice acting because I'm given a big icon of a character to look at--its supposed to emulate manga and anime. However, when given more realistic models and film-like camera angles, it's pretty ridiculous when a game doesn't have full voice acting. When I see a character moving its mouth, and words only come out part of the time, it's just distracting. FFXII also nestles itself firmly into the uncanny valley, which, yet again, I just can't stand.

Also, the camera is inverted and you can't change it. While it's an issue I'm sure we're past now, it doesn't make it any less inexcusable.

Oh, and, after the small intro mission, you are put into an incredibly boring situation without any present threat. Your first quest is killing rats, then you do a fetch quest, then you go out into a different area to hunt a mob. While I'm fine with mmo-esque combat, (conceptually, FFXII's combat isn't far off from KotOR or Dragon Age) single player design should not have MMO-quests.

I hate Vaan. So much.

And Vaan is perhaps the worst protagonist I've ever seen. He's whiny, awfully designed (put on a shirt you anorexic rat-face), and pretty much follows every single possible awful anime cliche ever (has platonic friend that is a girl who wears ridiculously skimpy clothing, opposes authority, hotheaded, stubborn, too young to be saving the world, has no parents). The thought of putting up with him for another 50 hours is just unbearable.

All of this is pretty unfortunate, too. From what I've heard, characters like Basch, Balthier, and Ashe are actually some of the series' best. Originally, FFXII was meant to be centered entirely on Basch, but, in fear of twelve year olds not liking a protagonist over 18 that wasn't androgynous, Square threw in Vaan.

After watching some of the Persona 4 anime (which is actually pretty well done), I felt a strong desire to go back into that series. But I didn't want to play through Persona 4 again, because then I'd just miss all the Golden content I keep hearing about. And I didn't want to play through P3 because then I'd just want all the P3P content (like direct party control), and I didn't want to buy P3P because then I'd have to play it on my PSP, and I don't like touching that thing.

So, I decided to try out some of the FES part of Persona 3: FES, which pretty much strips away everything that makes Persona stand out (social links, time management, choosing dialogue options). It's what I expected, but the AI controlled party members can be very stupid at times (Metis straight-up refuses to use wind spells on the boss that is weak to it, instead opting to attack its neutral minions). Like FFXII, I doubt I'll play more.

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it. Still, I find myself needing to defeat some big, ancient evil while leveling up characters and occasionally fighting goofy sub-bosses, so I'm going to keep looking for a good JRPG. I think I'll try to beat Dragon Quest VIII, or maybe play some more Xenogears...

#2 Posted by dankempster (2252 posts) -

Nice write-up Red. As somebody whose time spent with JRPGs tends to ebb and flow, I can empathise with a lot of what you've written here.

If you enjoyed the world and writing of Final Fantasy Tactics, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Vagrant Story to you. Written and developed by the same team responsible for FFT, it's a fantastic RPG. I played it through earlier this year and loved every minute of the experience. I'm one of those rare breeds who adores Final Fantasy XII, but I can understand why a lot of people don't get on with it. Vaan is a very poor character, quite blatantly an after-thought as you mention in your post. Had the game dispensed with his sorry behind and focused on Basch, I think I would love it even more.

Whatever you end up playing next, I hope it satisfies your JRPG craving, and I look forward to hopefully reading your thoughts about it in a future blog. I'll be particularly interested if you pursue Dragon Quest VIII, as that's one of the many JRPGs I hope to get around to playing eventually.

#3 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Red said:

I've been playing a bit of FE6, too. I like it (it's Fire Emblem), but it's probably the most difficult Fire Emblem game I've played, and the maps could use more variation.

Thracia 776 will eat you alive. Also, maybe the first one, since you can only beat the final boss with Marth using a certain weapon, and even then, he's probably not gonna hit for anything above single digits.

#4 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6158 posts) -

I agree completely with your thoughts on Vaan, but I enjoyed Final Fantasy XII. Its focus on politics and its overarching plot were pretty darn great, and I enjoyed the combat. I'm not a huge fan of its sequel for various reasons, but I think Final Fantasy XII was a terrific foray for Square into trying something new with their tried-and-true systems. To be honest, I'd much prefer a more traditional FF in their next iteration with turn-based combat and the like, but a return to XII's ideas wouldn't be bad either.

Moderator
#5 Posted by CaptainCharisma (339 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

Thracia 776 will eat you alive. Also, maybe the first one, since you can only beat the final boss with Marth using a certain weapon, and even then, he's probably not gonna hit for anything above single digits.

I have no idea how I beat it when I was younger.

#6 Posted by DiscoGobbo (35 posts) -

FFXII is definitely a slow burn of a game. Like XIII it takes quite a few hours to get all of its systems in place. Your opinion of Vaan is quite valid and even the game itself seems to realize that he's a poor character. By the halfway point of the story, Vaan and Penelo are practically in supporting roles and the focus is centered on Ashe and Basch. If you liked the combat system, I'd suggest re-visting FFXII sometime later and trying to power through the opening acts to get to the meaty delicious center of the game.

(Full Disclosure: I fucking love FFXII.)

#7 Posted by Red (5995 posts) -

@Video_Game_King: I played through Shadow Dragon and don't remember it being very difficult. I don't really remember much about that game, though, aside from being bummed out there weren't any supports, and they may have toned down the difficulty for the port.

Perhaps I will play more FFXII, if it does get as good as you all say. About how long is it until you have everyone in your party recruited?

#8 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

They definitely did. Hell, they even added gaiden chapters you unlocked by killing too many of your units.

#9 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Red said:

I've been playing a bit of FE6, too. I like it (it's Fire Emblem), but it's probably the most difficult Fire Emblem game I've played, and the maps could use more variation.

Thracia 776 will eat you alive. Also, maybe the first one, since you can only beat the final boss with Marth using a certain weapon, and even then, he's probably not gonna hit for anything above single digits.

Video game king... I want to get into this series... but dear God do you make it sound frightening!

#10 Posted by sickVisionz (1268 posts) -

If you have a 360, give Lost Odyssey a shot. The combat is fairly standard but you can customize your skill tree to a degree that I usually only see in WRPGs and there is some really good writing in these visual novel type of sequences. To this day, those are some of the best writing I've ever seen in a video game.

#11 Posted by Jesna (84 posts) -

I found that Vaan becomes way less annoying if you just pretend Balthier or Basch are the main characters and he is just a scrappy sidekick. Vaan really isn't the driving force in the narrative, so its not exactly hard to do.

#12 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Jay444111:

I'll still recommend the hell out of it. I'd tell you to play Tear Ring Saga, since I'm playing it right now and Holmes is nine kinds of awesome, but given that it's in Japanese and I'm not even sure if you can read kana, yet, I'll stay away from that. Instead, I'd recommend Fire Emblem. Best entry on the GBA, and it includes a helpful tutorial.

#13 Posted by Jay444111 (2441 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Jay444111:

I'll still recommend the hell out of it. I'd tell you to play Tear Ring Saga, since I'm playing it right now and Holmes is nine kinds of awesome, but given that it's in Japanese and I'm not even sure if you can read kana, yet, I'll stay away from that. Instead, I'd recommend Fire Emblem. Best entry on the GBA, and it includes a helpful tutorial.

Right now I am concentrated on getting my GED done and then I will be starting to seriously look into reading Japanese then. Seriously, if I can get that down I think that will help my ass out in many different ways. (1. being able to actually play imported games. 2. Asking where the bathroom is in Japan will be FAR easier. 3. Jobs will hire a guy who understands Japanese than one that doesn't... most times. 4. Japanese signs won't confuse me any more and I can actually probably not get lost there then, yeah, I have a horrifying sense of direction.)

So yeah, after GED I am planning on taking computer programming and Japanese language classes. That is my own plan... but what Fire emblem games have come out in America though? Just wondering so I can make a list.

#14 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Jay444111 said:

@Video_Game_King said:

@Jay444111:

I'll still recommend the hell out of it. I'd tell you to play Tear Ring Saga, since I'm playing it right now and Holmes is nine kinds of awesome, but given that it's in Japanese and I'm not even sure if you can read kana, yet, I'll stay away from that. Instead, I'd recommend Fire Emblem. Best entry on the GBA, and it includes a helpful tutorial.

Right now I am concentrated on getting my GED done and then I will be starting to seriously look into reading Japanese then. Seriously, if I can get that down I think that will help my ass out in many different ways. (1. being able to actually play imported games. 2. Asking where the bathroom is in Japan will be FAR easier. 3. Jobs will hire a guy who understands Japanese than one that doesn't... most times. 4. Japanese signs won't confuse me any more and I can actually probably not get lost there then, yeah, I have a horrifying sense of direction.)

So yeah, after GED I am planning on taking computer programming and Japanese language classes. That is my own plan... but what Fire emblem games have come out in America though? Just wondering so I can make a list.

Anything after the one I linked. Except...*sniffle*

#15 Posted by DiscoGobbo (35 posts) -

@Red said:

Perhaps I will play more FFXII, if it does get as good as you all say. About how long is it until you have everyone in your party recruited?

Hard to say exactly, but I'd reckon between 3-6 hours, depending on how much you poke around in the introductory sections of the game.

#16 Edited by Alkaiser (358 posts) -

If you loved FFT and hated Vaan, then there's a good chance you might actually be Yasumi Matsuno posting under a fake account.

Kidding aside, if you have a PSP then it'd be a safe bet to give Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together a try. That game is chunky and deep and needs to sell more copies for the love of christ.

Edit: It just came to my mind that you might also enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. Shares similarities to FFXII, but in my opinion handles itself with much better pacing.

#17 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11645 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@Red said:

Thracia 776 will eat you alive. Also, maybe the first one, since you can only beat the final boss with Marth using a certain weapon, and even then, he's probably not gonna hit for anything above single digits.

Yeah, what this gentleman said. I just reached chapter 22, and that one is clearly asking for some warp staff abuse. Why? Because the boss has 10 leadership stars (which add 3 avoid/hit per star) on a map full of balistae and siege tome enemies. Yeah, sure. Fuuin no Tsurugi/Sword of Seals is the hardest GBA game by a wide margin, but there are some chapters in Thracia 776 that were clearly designed by some sort of evil sadistic monster. That's not to say it's pretty great and all, but there are parts of that game that I wouldn't have had the patience to do was I not using an emulator and thus capable of abusing savestates. I've also started messing with the NES installments, and while Fire Emblem (the first one) is like a crusty bad version of Shadow Dragon, Gaiden is interesting if only because of the things it does differently than the rest of the series. And yes VGK, I have Tear Ring Saga as well now. As far as I can tell it's Fire Emblem. On drugs. Sold.

@Red: I basically am in the same camp you are, if the previous paragraph wasn't an obvious give away. If I have a problem with FFT it's that everything takes so long to do since you can't skip animations, which is made worse by the PSP version's lagginess on certain spell animations. Also it's grindy and I hate grinding if/when it represents more than 50% of what you are actually doing in the game. I actually like Tactics Ogre a bit more, with its more clearly defined character roles and "You are a terrible person regardless" style of moral choice, though battles in that game similarly take too long to finish.

#18 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater said:

And yes VGK, I have Tear Ring Saga as well now. As far as I can tell it's Fire Emblem. On drugs. Sold.

That's only the beginning. Just wait until you can solo maps with Holmes, or when you can sell a fourteen year old girl into slavery, forcing her to dance for money. Expect a blog on it soon. (And by that, I mean at least a month from now.)

#19 Posted by FLStyle (4667 posts) -

I need to get back into Tactics, my last playthrough I trapped myself when I saved outside a boss battle when I was under-levelled. Won't make that mistake again.

#20 Posted by Hailinel (24429 posts) -

@Video_Game_King said:

@ArbitraryWater said:

And yes VGK, I have Tear Ring Saga as well now. As far as I can tell it's Fire Emblem. On drugs. Sold.

That's only the beginning. Just wait until you can solo maps with Holmes, or when you can sell a fourteen year old girl into slavery, forcing her to dance for money. Expect a blog on it soon. (And by that, I mean at least a month from now.)

Did you ever play Berwick Saga, by chance?

#21 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@Hailinel:

Not at all. All I know (aside from what Fire Emblem fans generally know about it, which ins't a lot) is that there's no translation for it at all (at least Tear Ring Saga's got the FAQ and all those other files) and that it's closer to Fire Emblem than most people think.

#22 Edited by QuistisTrepe (628 posts) -

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

#23 Posted by believer258 (11816 posts) -

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

#24 Posted by JBG4 (411 posts) -

Great, great write up. I really enjoyed this and wish you would do a more regular blog on here. I, like you, have had a fire for JRPG's rekindled over the last few months and while playing through a mix of old and new have been really enjoying gaming as much as I did 10 or 15 years ago.

#25 Posted by Hailinel (24429 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

#26 Posted by believer258 (11816 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

Wow, I posted that a while ago - and it's worth mentioning that I put FFXII back in after that and found myself liking it more, though Vaan is still incredibly annoying and Fran is still creepy fanservice.

Anyway, FF12 isn't indicative of all JRPG's but I can't name any recent (past three years) JRPG's that have been considered "interesting" or even "good" outside of the community that plays them all the time.I know they're kind of a niche product, but what is the genre doing these days? I'm admittedly not too deeply interested in it so I'm probably missing some gems or something, but I do keep up with gaming news and gaming forums and I don't hear JRPG's mentioned much at all.

#27 Posted by tutuboy95 (90 posts) -

I love playing JRPGs, though traditional turn-based ones with random encounters every few seconds, like the older Dragon Quests and the 1st 3 Final Fantasies have begun to greatly bother me. I like ones with more of the action-adventure aspect, like Kingdom Hearts, Tales, and Xenoblade. I highly recommend Xenoblade particularly, as it's a JRPG, yet not at the same time, a pretty refreshing experience.

#28 Posted by Hailinel (24429 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

Wow, I posted that a while ago - and it's worth mentioning that I put FFXII back in after that and found myself liking it more, though Vaan is still incredibly annoying and Fran is still creepy fanservice.

Anyway, FF12 isn't indicative of all JRPG's but I can't name any recent (past three years) JRPG's that have been considered "interesting" or even "good" outside of the community that plays them all the time.I know they're kind of a niche product, but what is the genre doing these days? I'm admittedly not too deeply interested in it so I'm probably missing some gems or something, but I do keep up with gaming news and gaming forums and I don't hear JRPG's mentioned much at all.

Have you looked into Xenoblade Chronicles at all? That got near universal praise during its European release last year and the North American release this year. The Last Story, which is coming out on Tuesday, is also unique in its own ways.

The genre still has plenty of life in it, and contrary tot he beliefs of some in the press, has actually undergone a lot of significant evolution since Final Fantasy VII. Some people seem to think that the genre lives in a time capsule and that its fans are content with that, but it's simply not the case.

#29 Edited by believer258 (11816 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

Wow, I posted that a while ago - and it's worth mentioning that I put FFXII back in after that and found myself liking it more, though Vaan is still incredibly annoying and Fran is still creepy fanservice.

Anyway, FF12 isn't indicative of all JRPG's but I can't name any recent (past three years) JRPG's that have been considered "interesting" or even "good" outside of the community that plays them all the time.I know they're kind of a niche product, but what is the genre doing these days? I'm admittedly not too deeply interested in it so I'm probably missing some gems or something, but I do keep up with gaming news and gaming forums and I don't hear JRPG's mentioned much at all.

Have you looked into Xenoblade Chronicles at all? That got near universal praise during its European release last year and the North American release this year. The Last Story, which is coming out on Tuesday, is also unique in its own ways.

The genre still has plenty of life in it, and contrary tot he beliefs of some in the press, has actually undergone a lot of significant evolution since Final Fantasy VII. Some people seem to think that the genre lives in a time capsule and that its fans are content with that, but it's simply not the case.

I'll be damned. I tried to brainstorm recent JRPG's I'd heard of and Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story didn't even cross my mind. I have heard of them.

Anyway, I know the genre evolved past FFVII - XII is an odd duck but it's different enough - but what other games in the genre have recently come out (on Western shores)? I'm genuinely interested, by the way - I now count Chrono Trigger amongst my all time favorites and want to know where this genre has headed. I just haven't the foggiest clue where to start, beyond the Persona and FF series.

#30 Posted by Hailinel (24429 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@Hailinel said:

@believer258 said:

@QuistisTrepe said:

Although my faith in JRPGs was somewhat revitalized by FFT, FFXII took that faith and strangled it

FFT of all games? That's a bit bizarre, but to each their own. I've played FFT to death, so I could never really play it again. Though a ROM-hacking patch at moddb.com sort of caught my interest.

I could see how a game like FFXII could really dampen someone's outlook on JRPGs. Just the look of Vaan and a setting that looked a bit too much like some horrible movie from a popular sci-fi episode that shall remain nameless were almost enough alone to make me skip the game altogether. I haven't really picked up a FF game since X, which felt like a JRPG with training wheels attached, because that's how locked down it felt when there weren't parts of the game that would have been completely cut out of the picture without a trip to gamefaqs.

I swear, if it weren't for Atlus, the JRPG genre would be dead. Japan is completely out of ideas it seems and totally behind the times.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish the genre could completely stick to top-down or isometric views with text boxes and no voices instead of full 3D. I could play FF6 or Chrono Trigger all damn day, but I find it hard to sit down and enjoy my copy of FFXII when some of the characters are so annoying and other parts of it just don't come across well. Like, why the hell is that bunny girl wearing almost nothing? At times it's just unsettling to me.

I really like the genre's penchant for the basic Star Wars tale of "young man grows up, makes friends, then saves the universe", but there are other things about it that are very off putting to me.

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

Wow, I posted that a while ago - and it's worth mentioning that I put FFXII back in after that and found myself liking it more, though Vaan is still incredibly annoying and Fran is still creepy fanservice.

Anyway, FF12 isn't indicative of all JRPG's but I can't name any recent (past three years) JRPG's that have been considered "interesting" or even "good" outside of the community that plays them all the time.I know they're kind of a niche product, but what is the genre doing these days? I'm admittedly not too deeply interested in it so I'm probably missing some gems or something, but I do keep up with gaming news and gaming forums and I don't hear JRPG's mentioned much at all.

Have you looked into Xenoblade Chronicles at all? That got near universal praise during its European release last year and the North American release this year. The Last Story, which is coming out on Tuesday, is also unique in its own ways.

The genre still has plenty of life in it, and contrary tot he beliefs of some in the press, has actually undergone a lot of significant evolution since Final Fantasy VII. Some people seem to think that the genre lives in a time capsule and that its fans are content with that, but it's simply not the case.

I'll be damned. I tried to brainstorm recent JRPG's I'd heard of and Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story didn't even cross my mind. I have heard of them.

Anyway, I know the genre evolved past FFVII - XII is an odd duck but it's different enough - but what other games in the genre have recently come out (on Western shores)? I'm genuinely interested, by the way - I now count Chrono Trigger amongst my all time favorites and want to know where this genre has headed. I just haven't the foggiest clue where to start, beyond the Persona and FF series.

From my experience, the Tales series has been hit or miss; you're either going to like the games or you won't. Along those same lines is Eternal Sonata; it's a very different take on a story in JRPGs, and while it's not entirely succcessful, succumbing to at times stifling melodrama and a very pretentious, philosophical ending, the nature of the story, set within the dreams of a dying man, is an interesting one, and came to me at just the right point in my life. The World Ends With You is arguably a JRPG as well, and is one of the most unique games on the DS or any other platform for is design and other aspects, and only toys with standard tropes (amnesia, etc.) before quickly reaching beyond those bounds.

Though I have no played any of them as of yet, the Atelier series is another example I've heard good things about. The Arland trilogy in particular is interesting in that its games take place successively over time, and characters that appear show age with each passing game. The Ys series continues to march on, both on the PSP and on Steam with entries like Oath in Felghana and Origin. There's also the Rune Factory series, which started as a simple Harvest Moon spin-off with dungeon crawling elements and has burgeoned into its own series. Dragon Quest IX is pretty cool, too.

Really, there are numerous examples in the genre that I could name. Some are definitely better than others, but a lot of that preference is marked by personal tastes. But my point is that there are plenty of recent and not-as-recent entries in the genre to choose from.

#31 Posted by QuistisTrepe (628 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

I'm reading both of you're posts, and I am confused. Since when did Final Fantasy XII become indicative of all JRPGs? The genre is much, much broader than that.

Read the OP again.

#32 Edited by Slag (4269 posts) -

@Red said:

All of this is pretty unfortunate, too. From what I've heard, characters like Basch, Balthier, and Ashe are actually some of the series' best. Originally, FFXII was meant to be centered entirely on Basch, but, in fear of twelve year olds not liking a protagonist over 18 that wasn't androgynous, Square threw in Vaan.

That explains a lot about how awkwardly he fits into the narrative.

Man Vaan has to be one of the worst FF characters ever, if not the worst....

#33 Edited by xyzygy (9953 posts) -

I would recommend Resonance of Fate. I feel like that game is a shining example that the JRPG genre still has plenty of ideas left. There is so much to love about that game. Also Lost Odyssey. It caters to an older audience, and that's what I love about it. It's such a great throwback to the RPGs of the SNES era, and is clearly aimed at those of us who played those games as kids.

Should I play Tactics? I don't have a PSP but I do have a DS, is there a version of it for that? I am also thinking about buying a PS2 just so I can play through FFXII, and some older JRPGs that I missed. I never owned a Playstation product before 2008.

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#34 Posted by Red (5995 posts) -

@xyzygy: I played about four hours of Lost Odyssey before getting side-tracked. I really liked what I played of it, and the Thousand Years of Dreams stuff was really, really good. The game has hella uncanny valley, though, and given its absurd length and my relatively tight schedule as of late, I can't imagine myself playing through it any time soon. The original Tactics doesn't have a DS version, although you can get Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 for the DS, and the original Tactics Advance for GBA if you don't have a DSi. War of the Lions is available for the iPhone though, and, given it's a turn-based game, it doesn't make too many control compromises by being on a touch-screen only device. If you don't have an iPhone, though, Tactics Advance is a perfectly good game. It doesn't have the maturity of the original, but it's still a rather good tactical RPG, and, because it actually has a bunch of sidequests, doesn't require as much senseless grinding as War of the Lions.

@JBG4: Thanks, I'll try to write something soon about structure in RPGs, and how they can actually get me to beat them.

#35 Posted by QuistisTrepe (628 posts) -

@xyzygy said:

Also Lost Odyssey. It caters to an older audience, and that's what I love about it. It's such a great throwback to the RPGs of the SNES era, and is clearly aimed at those of us who played those games as kids.

That's precisely why I will not play Lost Odyssey, and I happen to be a part of the "older audience" that you're referring to. Mistwalker was proof enough that Hironobu Sakaguhci is a has-been, the gaming industry has passed him by. JRPGs with mid 90s gameplay just don't cut it anymore. The times have changed, gamers expectations have changed. Sure, Atlus' games retain a faint hint of JRPG characteristics, but the gameplay quality is the class of the genre.

#36 Edited by xyzygy (9953 posts) -

@QuistisTrepe said:

@xyzygy said:

Also Lost Odyssey. It caters to an older audience, and that's what I love about it. It's such a great throwback to the RPGs of the SNES era, and is clearly aimed at those of us who played those games as kids.

That's precisely why I will not play Lost Odyssey, and I happen to be a part of the "older audience" that you're referring to. Mistwalker was proof enough that Hironobu Sakaguhci is a has-been, the gaming industry has passed him by. JRPGs with mid 90s gameplay just don't cut it anymore. The times have changed, gamers expectations have changed. Sure, Atlus' games retain a faint hint of JRPG characteristics, but the gameplay quality is the class of the genre.

So you're saying that mid-90's gameplay RPGs are simply not allowed to coexist with other RPGs? Unlike you, many people adored Lost Odyssey for that reason and many others. Just because it takes cues from a bygone era (an era which is held in EXTREMELY high regard to MANY people) doesn't mean there isn't an audience for it, and it certainly doesn't mean these types of games shouldn't exist.

I consider LO to be one of the best RPGs this generation, along with Xenoblade Chronicles and Resonance of Fate. All of those games are completely different from each other and yet they are still all amazing in my eyes. The fact that the systems and combat of RoF and XC are far more "advanced" and "evolved" than LO's mean nothing to me, because they're just simply all great games in their own way.

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