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.