Cthulhu and Bad 16-Bit Nostalgia

Cthulhu Saves The World has done pretty well for itself since its release on steam [http://zeboyd.com/2011/07/18/zeboyd-games-revenue-from-steam-exceeds-1yr-xblig-revenue/]. Part of me thinks this is great, especially for the developer, but another part of me is annoyed by the hype the game seems to have garnered. The game is a basic 16-bit era role-playing game that adds contemporary necessities, such as a save-at-anytime feature, and puns the genre as much as presenting another entry into the epic-type story landscape.

This is the wrong type of nostalgia. If something is worth remembering about JRPG’s, isn’t the contrived storylines that repeat themselves in each new offering. What is worth honoring is the sense of adventure and the mechanics that made the endless bashing of monsters appeasable, if not outright fun. Case in point: while most would agree that Final Fantasy VIII had a more compelling story than FF7 managed to produce [a great memorial on FF 8’s story and other improvements: is found here:http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/70336-remembering-the-orphan-final-fantasy-viii/ ], FF7 was infinitely more loved in part due to the fact that the Materia system worked much better than the broken magic system its sequel introduced.

What killed the JRPG is the same adherence to traditional functionality structure that has recently destroyed the music-game genre is stagnating the Call of Duty type of first-person shooters. I wish Zeboyd games all the best, but what I want out of my RPG re-hashes aren’t the same old fighting system with a bit of a tune-up. That is not the reason why I remember the 16-bit era nor should it ever be. It is this type of misplaced nostalgia that killed the genre in the first place, stagnating everything into poorly made rip-off of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Indeed, examples of recent RPG’s that have lauded critical acclaim and good sales are the games that have kept the sense of adventure the genre is so well known for while completely overhauling the dated combat system: DQ IX, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Persona 3. Instead, what is referenced as a time honored tradition in releases such as Cthulhu Saves The Earth, and somewhat less recently Double Fine’s Costume Quest, is the antiquated battle system. Releases like this point out that it is the battle-system (and the inventory system, as well) that has been systemically retained in the consumers and developers minds as the indicator of a role-playing game, and it is this reason why we will never get to play English versions of some really cool and genre-innovating games like Last Story or Xenoblade. After all, they are RPGs, and those are boring.

5 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by zus

Cthulhu Saves The World has done pretty well for itself since its release on steam [http://zeboyd.com/2011/07/18/zeboyd-games-revenue-from-steam-exceeds-1yr-xblig-revenue/]. Part of me thinks this is great, especially for the developer, but another part of me is annoyed by the hype the game seems to have garnered. The game is a basic 16-bit era role-playing game that adds contemporary necessities, such as a save-at-anytime feature, and puns the genre as much as presenting another entry into the epic-type story landscape.

This is the wrong type of nostalgia. If something is worth remembering about JRPG’s, isn’t the contrived storylines that repeat themselves in each new offering. What is worth honoring is the sense of adventure and the mechanics that made the endless bashing of monsters appeasable, if not outright fun. Case in point: while most would agree that Final Fantasy VIII had a more compelling story than FF7 managed to produce [a great memorial on FF 8’s story and other improvements: is found here:http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/70336-remembering-the-orphan-final-fantasy-viii/ ], FF7 was infinitely more loved in part due to the fact that the Materia system worked much better than the broken magic system its sequel introduced.

What killed the JRPG is the same adherence to traditional functionality structure that has recently destroyed the music-game genre is stagnating the Call of Duty type of first-person shooters. I wish Zeboyd games all the best, but what I want out of my RPG re-hashes aren’t the same old fighting system with a bit of a tune-up. That is not the reason why I remember the 16-bit era nor should it ever be. It is this type of misplaced nostalgia that killed the genre in the first place, stagnating everything into poorly made rip-off of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Indeed, examples of recent RPG’s that have lauded critical acclaim and good sales are the games that have kept the sense of adventure the genre is so well known for while completely overhauling the dated combat system: DQ IX, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Persona 3. Instead, what is referenced as a time honored tradition in releases such as Cthulhu Saves The Earth, and somewhat less recently Double Fine’s Costume Quest, is the antiquated battle system. Releases like this point out that it is the battle-system (and the inventory system, as well) that has been systemically retained in the consumers and developers minds as the indicator of a role-playing game, and it is this reason why we will never get to play English versions of some really cool and genre-innovating games like Last Story or Xenoblade. After all, they are RPGs, and those are boring.

Posted by Veektarius

I think that you're on the right track, but you're overstating the evolution of a lot of these combat systems.  The Tales games and Grandia, and even the latest Final Fantasies have offered a great deal more evolution to JRPG combat than either Dragon Quest or Persona.   And aside from Final Fantasy, arguably the most well-liked 360 JRPG (an admittedly small field) was Lost Odyssey, which was a game with mechanics that were described as outdated at the time of its release.   I think that you're wrong that the battle system is what killed the JRPG - though it may keep it from ever catching on to the extent of Call of Duty.  I think that it's that while the Japanese could tell a story that was serious enough for us as kids, their story writers continue to target an all ages demographic that no longer satisfies adults in the face of western offerings.   
 
So it isn't really a problem that Cthulu has an outdated battle system.  What looked like a problem to me was that there's no way a joke about JRPGs can stay funny as long as one of the masterpiece JRPGs stayed fun.

Posted by Example1013

Wait, so you're saying the materia system in FFVII was what made it better than VIII, even though VIII had a better story, but then you turn around and say you don't like Cthulhu because it uses accurate mechanics?

Posted by ervonymous

Persona 3's combat didn't overhaul anything, it just gave the reins to an AI that would rather cast Marin Karin on a boss than do something useful. The Raidou Kuzunoha games were a huge departure from the traditional combat and weren't generally praised for it.

There's still a place for turn-based RPGs, I'm going to weep if the next big SMT title goes real-time and doesn't have some sort of Press Turn/Demon Co-Op system.

I'll make sure to play The Last Story (Xenoblade doesn't look like my kind of game) when it's released next year, I don't think some indie retro RPG is to blame for Nintendo of America's stand on not releasing them there.

Posted by Arestice
@zus said:

completely overhauling the dated combat system: DQ IX, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Persona 3

Persona 3, hahahaha.
Posted by AlexW00d

Doesn't the game take the piss out of all the shitty things from JRPG like the bad combat, the grindy nature of levelling up, and the meladramatic storylines?

I thought that was why it got the hype it got anyway. That and the massive front page Ad in the Steam store.

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