What happened to JRPGs??


Back in 1998 I found my true love and she was called Aeris. She tragically died at the hands of Sephiroth and for the first time in my then short life, A videogame had breached the TV screen and pulled at my heart strings.
No other game had left me as dumbstruck and in awe as Final Fantasy 7. This game started a torrid love affair with the “JRPG” genre (or Japanese Role Playing Game). From that moment onwards I absorbed any and all JRPGs that I could get my hands on.
From the tender age of sixteen I played through all of the best games, From the aforementioned Final Fantasy 7 to Skies of Arcadia. With the stand out moments being the Suikoden franchise and the sequels to FF7.

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As I grow older these games still hold a place in my heart and if pushed to answer the question of my favourite game I will say FF7 99% of the time. But now at the age of 26 and with family life pressing down on me, Access to these games is becoming harder and harder. Is this the fault of life changing, is it the genre itself becoming stale or is there no room for in depth games now?

Having spoken to many gamers who have been huge fans of the genre, many are shying away from JRPGs now. I know that as a father and husband I find it hard to sit down for long periods of time and absorb a story like I used to. Not only that, but the style and set up of many games in this genre put constraints on your gaming time, with sparse save points and long drawn out battles. These aren’t downsides to the games themselves but more to the ever changing lives that we live.
But why aren’t Japanese developers taking notice of these aspects of life? As members of a busy culture themselves surely they can relate to the issues like these.

But maybe this isn’t the biggest problem that holds back some of Japans finest games.
The world is filled with hundreds of shooters that are easy to jump in and out of quickly and can be picked up, played and put down before you would’ve gotten to a save point on Eternal Sonata.

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It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. It feels as if JRPGs are falling off of the radar to people who used to play them religiously.
Final Fantasy 13 will be with us soon and it is highly anticipated, will this be a resurgence in the genre?
Square are looking to Final Fantasy 13 with misty eyes, the first “next gen” instalment of series has the world on it’s shoulders, but it feels to me that while carrying the world it’s carrying the future of the these traditional role players we care for.
I for one will definitely be buying FF13 and playing it to death, but then I said the same thing about lost odyssey which sits unplayed on my games shelf.

It seems to me that games playing has changed so radically over the last decade that the humble JRPG is getting pushed to the bottom of the pile. As more shooters appear on the market, the promotion of playing together socially while keeping an excitement level up so high means that people are looking for shorter and sharper experiences.
To combat this maybe it’s time to change the JRPG as we see it, add more save points or a general save system to allow people to jump on for fifteen minutes and then jump off. Give us more co-op to allow us to socialise a lot more while we experience the story you write for us.

With these as options, the family men and women who tell us that they don’t have the time to play these games in their entirety will hopefully come back to the fold.

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This feature purports that there is something wrong with the industry, which overall isn’t true. The games being produced are still fun to many people and sell relatively well.
However in a genre ripe with clichés already, most JRPGs are practically a facsimile of each other and this can’t help when trying to garner more fans and sway older fans to play their game. This shows that the industry is lacking one thing, originality.

I for one am making a mid year resolution to sit down and get back to JRPGs more often.
Hopefully we’ll see Final Fantasy 13 sell big numbers with many people revelling in what looks like a great addition to the franchise. Any big sales numbers for the genre are a good thing, but my hope is that with FF13 selling well that more developers will look to it to bring more JRPGs that have care and attention lavished on them.
But let’s get rid of the clichéd spikey haired orphan protagonist that saves the world and give us more flavour.

If you build it, they will come.

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    • James Richards
    • April 29th, 2009

    I completely agree, I’ve found the JRPG to not have nearly as much flourish to it as it used to. The closest you can really get these days is the reincarnated FF3 and FF4 on the DS.

  1. I too agree.

    I don’t know if it is just me not having as much time on my hands now to really get involved in the story or what.

    The ones that I have played on the next gen consoles have been either far too lead (follow this route and hey theres the boss) or they have been far too open and you end up getting lost.

    Also I think that now days my gaming is more of a solical thing in that I want to play online with my mates rather than on my own, so I end up opting for the MP games.

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