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.