Posted by Townz90 (10 posts) -

So I wanted to write a blog on JRPG’s, as that’s what I’ve been playing lately. The thing is all I really want to do is wax lyrical about them. Doesn’t really make for an interesting article does it? That was a rhetorical question, no need to answer. Still struggling of a direction to take this – ok I’ll just start writing and see what mess of a write-up I create!

So my journey with games started when I was 5 and my dad bought home a SEGA Mega-drive (Genesis for our cousins across the pond). Immediately I’d found my hobby, transfixed by the animations in Earthworm Jim and the speed of Sonic the Hedgehog, I was set for a life of strained eyes in front of the TV set. However my love affair with this industry really started a few years later with the arrival of Sony’s flagship console the Playstation. As well as the usual titles such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, I also acquired – what to me was an unknown quantity at the time, Final Fantasy VII. Yeah I’m cliché; my first foray into the world of JRPG’s was that flagship title that everyone loves and others claim to be overrated. Truth is, I actually hated it when I first played it. That first timed segment in the reactor core can be quite stressful when you’re only seven! Eventually I got over myself and gave it another crack. A few hours later and with Midgar cleared, I was introduced to the over-world. A common feature in many JRPG’s, my little seven year old mind was blown! A seemingly linear affair exploded into an open vast adventure. Fast forward a year and the SNES classic Chrono Trigger is ported for the Playstation. Following the same formula, I was made familiar with through FF7. Further I fell through the rabbit hole.

The mid to late nineties are widely regarded as a golden age for JRPG’s. I was in heaven, games such as Xenogears, Suikoden II, Wild Arms to name a few graced my console. That’s the period of time I remember most fondly when reminiscing about gaming past. The era that followed, ushering in the ps2, started off on a sour note for me. After having thoroughly enjoyed VI, VII, IX and to some degree VIII, Final Fantasy X was a disappointment. I’m not saying it was a bad game, it was actually a very solid game with a compelling story but it lacked something. At the time I didn’t know what it was but years later I’ve come to realise the lack of a world map and a somewhat linear layout of areas made the whole thing seem a bit insular and scaled back – even though the story and settings were in a sense more epic. The disappointment of that was probably where I started to stop playing JRPG’s. I went onto RPG-lite fares such as Kingdom Hearts (amazing how well Disney and Final Fantasy collided!). After a long hiatus Final Fantasy XII came out and it was incredible! The battle system took getting used to but there was real depth there, if you looked for it. As great as the star wars-esque story was, the game became too much of a grind. I never finished it and I moved on to shorter more accessible games.

I soon left the PS2 behind me – leading me to miss great titles such as Persona 3 & 4. Purchasing an Xbox, I was seduced by the western RPG. Boasting more accessible game play, dialogue trees and easier to digest lore! I spent the following years playing Fable, Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. Whilst still a time-sink these titles didn’t demand nearly as much time as their eastern counter-parts and I was fine with that. I didn’t have to endure random encounter after random encounter to level up. In a sense it took a way a sense of achievement but this is where my head was at.

Fast forward to the present and well, I’m so very sorry I neglected you JRPG’s. This comes after a dark period where I succumb to marathon sessions of Call of Duty – come on, pre-Modern Warfare 2, they were quite good games! Anyway I digress, after years of avoiding the genre I once loved, I came back to a dearth of quality content unfortunately most of it on the PS3 (partially regretting my choice in console). Throwing myself back into the fray, I tried out FFXIII-2 and whilst not reaching the same dizzying heights of its predecessor, it still manages to tell a very compelling, if not confusing story. It’s a good game, benefitting from a fast fluid battle system. It still however lacks the massive landscape and world that I crave, something that seems to of been absent since IX! Where the Final Fantasy series has gone wrong, is seemingly where the ‘Tales of’ series has gone right.

Tales of Vesperia was my first foray into the ‘Tales of’ series and my, what a great introduction. This game is very much comfort food to me, it’s like I left JRPG’s at FFIX and came back to everything being how I left it. ToV plays very safe in this regard, taking very few risks and sticking with a formula that has been successful since the nineties. I’m only about twenty hours in but I can already tell that this is game I’d been yearning for since the disappointments that followed Final Fantasy IX. Alas this reunion is short lived, turns out the Xbox 360 is a bit poor when it comes to JRPG’s with hardly any games in the same vein. Looks like once ToV is over, I’ll be back to wearing space-marine armour shooting in a very brown/grey battlefield.

If you made this far down the article, well done you! I appreciate that this is probably just some self-absorbent ramble and I’m pretty sure that the quality of writing rapidly decreased after the first paragraph. Feel free to rip it apart and/or praise it in the comments, or you could just lurk in the shadows leaving no trace you were ever here.

Regards

Matt

#1 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5339 posts) -

The PS2 has plenty of excellent peripheral JRPGs (Xenosaga Series, Front Mission 4, Valkyrie Profile 2, Suikoden III and V, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Rogue Galaxy, etc.) ; Linearity simply serves to strengthen the plot of a game; if you want a bigger game with less of a plot then play a non linear one; but plot is a pretty huge thing in these games.

The problem with JRPGs now is that they all kind of look similar and extremely cartoonish, with XIII and XIII-2 being the exception. Also plots just seem to be weaker in general, Xenoblade excepted. The more a JRPG emphasizes the "Friendship = power and this is why we're able to beat the big bad guy" element the worse the plot gets; Tales bashes you over the head with that. A game like Vagrant Story or Dark Souls you're acting completely alone almost the entire time and that adds quite a lot to a game; even though there isn't much of a plot to Dark Souls. A solitary struggle where you accumulate power or alternatively a villain with credibility is what a JRPG needs; friendship = power may be inevitable in any group based game but it doesn't have to be the primary element. Of course Front Mission 3 ultimately has that as the cause for the villain's supposed defeat; but then that motherfucker just keeps coming back and you sort of lose faith until a nuclear device takes him out where you could not.

In essence, JRPGs can become too much like Scooby Doo.

#2 Posted by believer258 (11682 posts) -

1) If you want to play more modern JRPG's then you really need a 3DS and a PSP/PSVita. There are a few console ones but most of them seem to be sticking to handhelds.

2) PS2 games are still sold. If you still have a working PS2, you should definitely look into Nocturne and any other JRPG's you probably missed.

#3 Posted by QuistisTrepe (628 posts) -

I'm starting to question the very future of the subgenre myself. The developers who remain in the game are giving plenty of love to the 3DS and making more of a presence on iOS and Android, but we're not seeing much in the way of any great new console releases on the horizon. Granted the industry is about to transition to a new generation on consoles, so perhaps this is premature, but I get this feeling that the best days of console JRPGs are long gone and they aren't coming back.

Just look at this past generation, the quality pickings have been slimmer than ever. The more time marches on, the more Japan seems to cling to the past. Just look at Mistwalker's lineup.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36110 posts) -

Can't blame your 7 year old self for hating FF7, given where you were. The beginning of that game just sucks.

That's really all I can contribute to this discussion, outside "FF12 sucks" and "FF13-2 is pretty damn cool".

#5 Posted by Oscar__Explosion (2206 posts) -

@townz90: if you haven't played this already then I highly recommend you play Lost Odyssey. It is one of my favorite RPG'S of this generation and one of the few on the xbox 360.

I too have also be wanting some jrpg love for this gen and have hardly found it at all (xbox 360 owner) luckly handhelds seem be where it's at for jrpg's now-a-days.

#6 Posted by Townz90 (10 posts) -

Thanks for the comments guys. I'm looking to invest in vita and/or 3DS to fill that JRPG shaped hole in my life!

#7 Posted by Townz90 (10 posts) -

@oscar__explosion: Thanks Oscar, I've actually had a few people recommend that game to me and considering I can pick it up for £5, I may very well have to invest!

#8 Posted by Veektarius (4646 posts) -

I have a similar love-hate relationship with JRPGs, but on my end, it's harder for me to explain the love than the hate. I just got Nier recently, and that is an ugly game (both artistically and graphically) with tedious sidequests (looking at you, fishing) and a lot of very cutesy story stuff that I don't particularly care for. At the same time, I'm still enjoying the game at at least a 7/10 level.

Why is that? Is it the dungeons? The mystery of the unconventional fantasy setting? The boss battles? The great audio? (Good voicework and great music) Is it just the fact that I'm a sucker for being gradually rewarded with greater power and every JRPG is just like an MMO that never devolves into a repetitive grind? (unless you count crafting stuff, which I rarely do)