JRPG Relapse: The Conclusion

JRPGs are what got me addicted to gaming. When I first discovered them all those years ago, it was like a match made in heaven; for years after my gaming agenda remained almost entirely focused on Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Xenosaga, and the like.

My, how times have changed. In the last year, I’ve played and finished one JRPG – Persona 4. It’s no secret that the genre is dying; in fact, the genre as we know it is essentially dead already. JRPGs haven’t evolved with the industry, and because of that, there really isn’t a market for them in today’s gaming landscape.

As my faithful readers know, over the last week I sampled four different JRPGs from four different console generations. It was an interesting and enjoyable time, and it reminded me of why I used to love RPGs so much.

First and foremost, being a nerd, the copious amounts of dialog and story exposition games such as Final Fantasy VII had was a huge draw to me  – RPGs, it seemed, were the only games that could tell a decent story. I would become engrossed in the 40-hour epic tale of Cloud in Final Fantasy VII, or the cutscene-dominated space opera, Xenosaga.

But while that may have been the case ten years ago, things are different now – games such as BioShock and Uncharted are among the best storylines of this generation. Dead Space and Modern Warfare deserve some credit as well. There are a lot of games on the market with good stories these days – and none of them are JRPGS.

While I have a lot of love for Lost Odyssey, I have to concede that it’s built on incredibly dated mechanics. Random Encounters, turn-based combat and utterly unattractive gunmetal  menus should be a thing of the past at this point – at least on consoles.

I never thought I’d say a thing like that, but the fact is that you could never sell a game like Lost Odyssey to someone who didn’t have a pre-existing love for the genre. This being the case, the genre must find a way to evolve – or die.

BioWare’s two big RPGs of the generation, Mass Effect and Dragon Age Origins, are two prime examples of the natural evolution of the genre. There are no turn-based combat systems or random encounters to be found, but there are huge worlds to explore, a rich storyline to experience, and a vast amount of freedom to make decisions and alter the game.

Games such as Mass Effect and Fallout 3 have been far better received than, say The Last Remnant was. And to give Japan some credit, Demon’s Souls has been very successful from a critical standpoint if nothing else. The point is that gamers clearly want something different. Demon’s Souls and Mass Effect did things that no other role-playing experience had quite done before.

It will be interesting to see how Final Fantasy XIII fits into the RPG landscape of today upon its release. For years it’s been the undisputable king of the role-playing genre. But today? Well. Things are a little different today.

With that, we conclude this week of nostalgia, Ladies and Gentlemen. Mass Effect 2 Week is upon us. Enjoy the pretty banner on top for now, and stay tuned.

5 Responses to “JRPG Relapse: The Conclusion”

  1. DarthGibblet says:

    While I do think you’re right on most of the points in this post, I don’t know if I’d agree with you that the genre is dying. Gone are the days of the old-school RPG, to be sure, but my favorite parts of RPGs (leveling up and amazing character/stories) are more prevalent than ever in gaming. As with pretty much any genre, the lines of what defines an “RPG” have been blurred in recent years (just look at any of the many podcasts that try to define what an “RPG” is), but as long as those core components are there, I think the genre is very much alive, just evolving to survive, as games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 prove.

    As for traditional, old-school RPGs (with an overworld and battle menus), I certainly hope they never go away completely. Like many others, they were the genre that first got me into gaming. I think there will always be a place for the Final Fantasies of the world, it’s just becoming an increasingly smaller space as the market fragments further and further. This seems to be a particular problem for the RPG market, since it hasn’t really enjoyed the growth in consumer base that other genres have in recent years (in addition to the fact that RPGs are typically longer than most other games, so the game consumption rate is much lower).

    Anyway, just my $0.02. Not really sure what (if anything) I’m trying to say with it, just felt like ranting for a bit, hope nobody minds :F. I really enjoyed reading the relapse week posts, though. It may very well have been my favorite week yet, keep up the great work guys (or just Riddles, since Ethos’ internet seems to be in perpetual limbo :F).

  2. Riddles says:

    Well Darth, you and I are essentially on the same page. What I was saying is that there really is no market for game like Lost Odyssey these days – a doggedly traditional JRPG blown up and ported to a modern console.

    Games like that really are more at home on handhelds these days, while consoles are suited to games like Mass Effect and Fallout.

    It’s a bit of a shame, really; I wish games like Lost Odyssey were more well-received in today’s gaming landscape. But that landscape has done a lot of shifting in the last few years.

    Thanks for the compliments, by the by. I really enjoyed writing my stuff for Relapse Week, so I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

  3. DarthGibblet says:

    Yeah, I think we ended up at the same place after all :D. I completely forgot about handhelds while I was ranting, and the more I think of it, the most sense they make for really any games that are grind-heavy. I’ve got about 2 hours every day on the train that I can spend leveling if the game’s on a handheld, you know?

    Sometimes, though, I prefer to recline in a comfy chair and watch a good old-fashioned big-screen cutscene (preferably in HD, but I’m not picky). Hopefully the likes of Atlus and similar companies can keep that experience alive and kicking for a while yet. I think the ideal RPG for me would be one I can move between a big-screen TV and a portable system, sort of like what Sony enables with the PSP 2000 onward. I just wish there was a way to upscale it through the PS3 to make it look a little nicer :F.

  4. Ethos says:

    I’m actually more with you, Darth although I understand that we’re all on similar pages. While I’m interested and partially concerned about the future of console JRPGs, I also hope that there always be a place for the fuckers somewhere on the console space.

  5. DarthGibblet says:

    So do I, Ethos, so do I. I just got my little sister into video games this year with FFX. It would be a real shame if that type of game drops off the face of the earth just as she’s done catching up on the classics.

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