Needless Grinding, Staggered Releases, Bad Translations and Silly Names: The 4 Horsemen of the JRPG Apocalypse
The JRPG is a dying breed. The days of epic Final Fantasy adventures are over, and it's clear that something needs to change or the JRPG will soon become extinct.
I, for one, am not a fan of JRPGs.I have liked one JRPG in my entire gaming life, and that was Final Fantasy X (which, in my nearly infinite childhood stupidity, I called “Final Fantasy Ex.” It’s okay, you can laugh). I remember spending HOURS playing that game… Something in the neighborhood of 26 hours in two days.Of course, I didn't beat it.Sin was crazy hard and I didn't feel like slaying ten billion level 2 Fire Anuses with my comically huge sword for another 72 hours to get to the end. In my experienced opinion, that is a significant problem.**There is no way you're one-handing that thing**Grinding SucksBarely anyone likes grinding (feel free to debate with me on this topic). It makes sense to have it within the context of a game I guess, but after a point it's not fun and it can ruin the flow of a solid turn based JRPG. I also understand that this style is a tradition within the realm of JRPGs; it was how RPGs began! We can't just eliminate the turn based play-style, and while I personally would rather be strapped to the back of a truck and dragged through a desert naked, grinding is something that is inseparable from the classic JRPG equation. But the traditional turn based style was implemented due to technical restrictions (limited animations and whatnot), which renders the classic play style not only obsolete, but also archaic. It’s equivalent to using a horse and buggy to get around as opposed to a bus, cab, or personal vehicle. But fear not, sad people: there is a solution! Make the combat better!**Just kill 7,000,000 more and we'll level up**In recent years JRPGs have been experimenting a little more. Games like Eternal Sonata, and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, allow a sort of turn-based strategy with more in-battle freedom and depth. Unfortunately those games didn't really get the attention they deserve, in spite of solid reviews (80 and 85 on Metacritic respectively). For the record I've only played Eternal Sonata briefly (still not my jam, though its unique theme was a breath of fresh air) and I'm waiting for Ni no Kuni to get a bit more of a price reduction before I pick it up.To expand upon these novel gameplay ideas is the key to appealing to the Western market, which in today’s industry climate is the linchpin to commercial success. I honestly don’t think that Japanese developers are lazy or stuck in the past or anything (which certain industry professionals have recently declared). I think they're tremendously talented people that over-concentrate on unimportant things, like how real they can make human skin look. I'm not sure they realize that - while impressive - we don't really care. We just want good games. I really don’t need to see every pore of a digital person; at a certain point it just seems like they’re trying to throw a cosmetically impressive curtain over the deformed monster into which JRPGs have morphed. You can tell when someone has had excessive plastic surgery over, and over, and over: It’s the same concept: spending too much time on trying to make things look better without improving actual gameplay will only enrage gamers. And we are an unforgiving, and sometimes hypercritical, bunch.The overall aim of grinding is to make the player feel like they’re overcoming insurmountable odds in a gradual and organic fashion, but it gets to be too much. However, plenty of games balance grinding with compelling combat, great story and similarly vast scale. Having gamers spend $60 on a game only to say “now kill things for 200 hours so you can beat it,” then claiming to have a game that’s over 200 hours is really lame. It would be like buying a car for good gas mileage, only to find out you have to propel the damn thing Flintstones style everywhere you go, then having the dealer tell you, “look how many miles you can get without filling up!” At the end of the day, it’s misleading and kind of obnoxious.**Wait.. when did she say.... Wait, what?**You're Kidding Me... Right? RIGHT?!Another issue that has actually been vastly improved upon in this console generation is the JRPG's absolutely dim-witted dialogue. I realize that all of this is written in Japanese, and I appreciate the time and money it takes to translate that volume of text have it read well, but guys… it is seriously painful sometimes. I’m not exaggerating here, it puts me physical and emotional pain to the point where, were you in the U.S., I could hire a lawyer, sue you for emotional distress and win. You spend 5 years and $18 million on this game; I would literally come in TOMORROW for FREE and just say: “No that sounds like a 6-year-old wrote it, which would be adorable… but you’re not 6, so change that immediately.” The ham-fisted dialogue has to be cut out in order to have anyone take the game seriously. It makes the characters completely unrelatable, and could potentially ruin important plot moments within a story.**"Maybe if we look up all pensive-like they'll think we're cool?"**What's in a Name?Less important, but within the same vein: stop giving characters names like ‘Lightning’ and ‘Snow.’ The only people in the world with those names are Brooklyn hipsters and Gwyneth Paltrow’s children. I’m not saying that you should name them ‘Bill’ or ‘Travis’ either, but you can be edgy and unique without being silly. Or you could always pull a Kojima (I know he doesn’t make JRPGs, but he’s a Japanese developer) and give everyone ridiculous/awesome code names to compensate thematically for the silly name you want to give the character. Someone named ‘Amanda’ with a code name ‘Lightning’ is infinitely cooler than someone trying to convince us that someone’s parents willingly named her 'Lightning'. I’ll grant that this is nit-picky, but it takes me out of the game and makes me doubt the legitimacy of the world on which the developers are trying to sell me. **Couldn't have said it better myself**Stop With the Staggered ReleasesIn today's world with all the MyFaces and Twitter-machines staggered releases have become a sin comprable to hate crimes. JRPG fans want their games on the shelves of their stores, not imported. The reason for these staggered releases (which all too often turn into never releases) is that the developer is not sure if bringing a game to the U.S. and E.U. regions is worth their time and money. Japanese developers have been having a terrible time 'reaching' the Western gamer this past generation, and while it may be more cost effective, they end up alienating an entire region of the world. Then, if the games do manage to make it to the other regions the developers sit and scratch their heads when the sales are terrible.The biggest problem with staggered releases isn't the release itself, but the marketing post-Japanese release. The game looses momentum; the press forgets, the gamers forget and the hardcore fans feel left out. It's a real shame because you can have a great game like Valkyria Chronicles (definitely real screenshot pictured above) sitting on a shelf collecting dust for something that could have been avoided by just delaying the game for a couple of months. These things have gotten better with time, but it’s beginning to seem too little too late. All the industry needs is one really great, AAA, multiplatform JRPG to get the world back on the side of companies like Square Enix, which has been floundering for several years now. The president and CEO of Square Enix America, Mike Fischer, even left today, which could be indicative of the company’s troubles as a whole. Games like Final Fantasy used to be the pinnacle of the gaming universe; yet recently they have been degraded to a series of in-jokes and misplaced expectations.**More please...**JRPGs are not lacking in creativity. They often have very stylish and well designed characters, and worlds that are compelling and fun to explore. But as the industry continues to grow, so too must our games, and this is one thing the JRPG fails to do. No one would expect anyone to purchase and play a first person shooter that plays like Doom, not because it wasn't and isn't good, but because literally no one will pay full price for something we've played before (except for Call of Duty... they market really well).There are few genres with more passionate or dedicated fans than the JRPG, so what do you guys and gals think? Are you still waiting on bated breath for the next JRPG, or are you sick and tired of the same old stuff. Am I being too harsh, or are there truths in my words? Comment down below, I love a good debate! If you do maybe we can be best friends forever!
Games DoomFinal Fantasy XFinal Fantasy X-2Final Fantasy XIFinal Fantasy XIIINi no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Genres ActionAdventureMassively MultiplayerRPGShooter Tags final fantasy
Published May. 23rd 2013