The Death of JRPGs, and What I Think Will Become of Them.

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Whiplash's picture
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Joined: Oct 14 2010

I think the problem with JRPGs in general is that they've become irrelevant. They're no longer considered the kings of RPGs, and instead have been replaced with games that have rewritten the Role Playing formula and genre as a whole, while JRPGs slouch behind as they stay the course and continue pushing forward with their genre, when it's becoming extinct. Games like the Ultima series, KotOR, Oblivion, WoW, Mass Effect, etc. have become so familiar at this point that [the developers] don't want to stop with the trend that we're in right now. It's become an ingrain system; we can't really think of ways that we could improve on it.

JRPGs have always been a part of this niche culture, a cult-cul de sac that only a small portion of the gaming community will take part in. When developers/publishers try to stick to the hardcore audience—especially considering we're in an economic inflation, coped with mobile gaming hastily demolishing console gaming as a whole—they're left with an ultimatum: They either push forward with their plans and please the hardcore audience and make diminishing returns, or they go after a wider audience and are forced to dumb down the game to appeal to said audience and rake in huge profits, but you piss off your loyal fan base. And, unfortunately, we're stuck with the latter for the majority of games that we'll play.

Since I'm on the discussion of JRPGs in general, let me use an example of what's happening: Final Fantasy, XIII to be specific. This was being developed back in 2004 (assuming the wiki page is telling the truth). During the development of XIII, all these amazing games were being made—and eventually released—with critical praise for the innovation they've made. Games like Oblivion (and its expansions Knights of the Nine and The Shivering Isles), Mass Effect 1 & 2, GTA IV, Borderlands, Demon's Souls, etc. were all spitting on the faces of JRPGs for their level of creativity and, the biggest one of all, exploration. With three-dimensional graphics becoming the new norm for level and character design, they were the first to push the envelope with exploration by allowing the player to go where ever they wanted to go, never constrained by loading screens that appeared every time you had to "transition" to another part of the "world".

Fast forward to 2010. Final Fantasy XIII releases. It's a linear game focused on story telling. It's the same as the older games, albeit the linearity is more or less over-zealous. There's no exploration, no side quests (until you reach Chapter 11), the combat is a game of mash A/X on either Auto-Battle or doing the same for Abilities like a kid with Tourette Syndrome holding a strobe light in their face while they suffer from an Epileptic seizure, and the story has no branching trees that allow the player to carve their own story. Now what? People were quickly turned off by this because there was nothing to do in XIII, compared to other, much more successful games right now that can make a game replayable while unconscious.

It was the release of XIII that really started the downward spiral for JRPGs. Sure, XIII has sold close to 7 million copies (what company doesn't see that as a success with money in their eyes?), but ultimately was panned for exactly the points mentioned earlier. Square obviously saw the negative feedback and quickly responded with the sequel, which was, more or less, successful for the fans. The combat is on par with any Final Fantasy game, along with the "open world" exploration and side quests of older games. But it's still not relegated to what we've come to expect from modern RPGs: a massive world to explore, free of loading screens (excluding moments when you enter a major city/dungeon/house/etc.), tons and tons of side content to feast on, immersive combat with equally deep Role Playing mechanics, tons of customization options for your character in the department of clothing/armor, weapons, spells, etc., and the ability to forge your own story through dialogue options.

And I think that's what we're seeing in Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns (I hesitate to even reverse the title as to avoid the "HURR HURR Lightning returns Final Fantasy XIII" bandwagon.) It's now a true open world, much like Skyrim or any MMO out right now, the combat is much faster and more action packed than games of olden days, you can customize Lightning's attire and weapons to your liking (with different benefits from using said armors and weapons), you can complete the game and immediately go into NG+, there's now a day-and-night system, and the most known departure from the Final Fantasy formula: No party members.

To tell you the truth, I'm actually excited that this is where Final Fantasy may be heading towards. I've never been a fan of the Turn-Based combat of the older games. It's not only unrealistic when people/monsters just stand there and stare at each other like they're watching paint dry and can only move when the magnets underneath their feet are removed, but it's painfully boring. I'd have more fun if I were slamming a woman or a fleshlight. I'm one of the few species of "nerds" that is open to change. I'd rather see a game evolve than to see the same thing be done every time a sequel comes out. Case in point for the latter, Call of Duty.

tl;dr: JRPGs in this day and age have become the appendix of RPGs, in that it's become a vestigial genre of the gaming industry, and most to all JRPGs are slowly adapting to the styles of WRPGs.

MarioDragon's picture
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Joined: Aug 2 2010

I feel the biggest problem is the complete inability for the average human to understand what the stories are about without playing through it 16 times, buying a book, and taking notes found from the fan-made Wiki. They also last 50 hours where 40 of that is cutscene, and the gameplay usually starts out overly difficult until suddenly becoming ridiculously easy.

At least that's what I've found with Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts, and 2 of the Final Fantasy's that I played.

greenblattsam's picture
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Joined: Aug 16 2010

Ni No Kuni is making the largest stride to actually bridge the understanding gap. I would take a look at that before writing off JRPGs as a whole.

Whiplash's picture
User offline. Last seen 1 year 40 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: Oct 14 2010

How much you wanna bet it isn't going to sell that well in the long run?

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