: Sunday Meditation: The Future Of JRPGs May Be Western

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Sunday Meditation: The Future Of JRPGs May Be Western

Westernization could well be responsible for the malingering status of the JRPG, but when considering my own premise I'm strangely optimistic about the future.

I never believed that the genre actually died out due to a lack of consumer interest. I think many factors played a part, especially the tug of war between Microsoft and Sony at the start of the last generation, but cost and sales are likely culprits as well.

Even if Final Fantasy had remained great it never would have pulled in the kinds of sales that would justify the massive investment. Suikoden, Grandia, Shadow Hearts, all of these were top quality and as mainstream as possible in their day. If new versions were made though, they would probably command the same or fewer sales. The question for me is why not just make the same kinds of games but with better textures?

Apparently nobody thought of that and so we are where we are. Where we are isn't so bad though, trust me. With the indie and Kickstarter scene heating up we have a window into the hearts of tomorrow's game developers and yesterday's AAA talent fed up with trends. When I peer into those hearts I see gamers just like me who grew up playing the same JRPGs, having the same deep experiences, and holding onto similar warm memories of grand adventures. There's just something special about enjoying yourself without constantly being tense isn't there?

It is abundantly clear that Japanese developers have moved on from their awesome creations of the past, opting instead to put all eggs into the basket of global appeal. No matter what words we hear year after year it is painfully obvious that the altar at which they will worship for the foreseeable future is called action.

Elsewhere, fledgling developers and even top-shelf devs like those at Ubisoft are starting to embrace their roots. People are starting to discover that there is an unquenchable thirst for classic, sometimes even turn-based gaming. There is a thirst for a bit of strategy surrounding a compelling and flamboyant narrative, for an undying feel of familiarity, for fun without a racing pulse, for a touching moment between action sequences.

Patrick Plourde of Far Cry 3 fame is creating the JRPG-inspired Child of Light, it will mix 2D platforming with the classic art and turn-based combat of games like early Final Fantasy titles. In Bellevue, Washington Distastercake (which may or may not be a single human being) is plugging away on Soul Saga. This one looks like the little JRPG that could. Having reached pledges on Kickstarter amounting to $199,528 even though the goal was just $60,000, one can assume that if you build it the fans will come.

Project Phoenix is another title, this one a collaboration between east and west, that appears to be blazing its own trail as an indie game with AAA talent. It seems to have strong ties to the past, but will feature a squad-based RTS battle system. That doesn't really appeal to my old school desires but what I'm trying to latch onto here is the tone of change that is just starting to show itself. I'm sure some of you will try to stop me here and exasperatedly point to something like Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii, but my lifelong gamer instincts tell me that the bulk of the roughly 25-35 year old people who make up the audience for traditional JRPGs are either gaming on Playstation or not gaming at all.

In the absence of Japanese developers making traditional JRPGs I think there is still reason to hope that the genre can begin again. For whatever reason it seems to be the western audience that was most touched by these games so maybe only they can resurrect them properly. Big name publishers and developers may come around some day when they realize there is a market for these games, but in the mean time I don't have a lot of difficulty trusting the people who grew up with the games in question ushering in their rebirth no matter what culture they come from.

It's about getting it right, and perhaps it will take western dreamers putting their hearts into it to recapture the magic of those halcyon days.


11/2/2013 David D. Nelson

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Legacy Comment System (13 posts)

Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 10:53:49 PM

I am now keeping my ears/eyes on anything being thrown around in the indie and Kickstarter realms. As I see new projects roll of the conveyors of the big devs and find myself greatly lacking interest, I am now hopeful of the littler guys. Project Phoenix and Soul Saga are definitely big hopefuls. Honestly makes me wish the big devs would release their properties to give others a chance to go somewhere with them - like a continuation of Suikoden or whatever else.

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Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 11:59:57 PM

i agree a breakthrough is needed in the RPG department,
it has to evolve beyond menu clicking system rooted in the atari/8-bit era
perhaps the action/rpg orientation is making it look more influenced by western development

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 1:43:49 AM

I loved shadow hearts, and really hope that we get more of these JRPGs.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 2:09:01 AM

I think I might be over RPG's sadly. I thought Ni No Kuni would be the one to grab me like the old days. It should have given it has all the bells and whistles of a fantastic JRPG of yesteryear. Not sure what it is. Perhaps it's my age. Less time to sit around and devote hours upon hours to one play session.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 3:01:53 AM

Look on the bright side, we still have the likes of Tales, Persona, Atelier etc.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 5:08:59 AM

maybe the west can revitalise the japanese games we won't know till they try aye i guess

happy gaming =)

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 9:24:52 PM

How much of a kick in the face would that be to Japanese Developers.

They killed the JRPG genre because they wanted to make their games appeal more to the West. Now the West is going to make more JRPG style games that will probably sell well. Well enough to get noticed anyway.

I wonder what J-Devs will do after that?

Honestly the whole J-Dev industry is dying a slow and painful death any way. Only a very few diamonds in the rough now.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 9:21:21 AM

The JRPG is in crisis, none of us can deny it. It is my favourite genre and I look back at my PS3 collection of 60+ games and... just counting I only have 4 JRPG'S (FF13, 13-2, Ni No Kuni & Nier). For me that is utterly tragic considering how big my PS2 JRPG library is.

What upsets me most is that as JRPG's do continue to go on, we only get obscure ones which over the top anime designs. While I love JRPG's I have to admit even I find this off putting, when the lead character of a game has a questionably proportioned doll with pink hair and boggly eyes. It just got a niche a appeal and if all JRPG's are going to remain like that the JRPG genre wont appeal to the masses again.

I have had to go elsewhere for my JRPG experience and I have to say it was surprising the Wii of all things which delivered. In 2012 I just got so sick of nothing being released on the PS3 I gave in and bought a Wii dirt cheap. With this I got to experience grande JRPG's like The Last Story & Xenoblade Chronicles. These games have the wonder and sense of adventure every JRPG should aspire to. I had been complaining for years about this gen lacking the JRPG experience, it turns out I had to jump ships to get it.

Xenoblade is why I have already bought a Wii-U over a PS4, it really had that much of an impact and I regard it as one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. Once you get over the limitations of the Wii and embrace what the game has to offer you will get what the PS3 lacked this entire generation.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 4:36:24 PM

Don't have time for the grinding anymore. Vita and DS are probably the best place for these now (for me). More time commuting to work or sitting in the bedroom whilst the kids are watching the TV. Maybe as the median age for gamers increases the popularity of grind and menu clicking fests decreases. Just my thoughts.

Give me Valkyria Chronicles or Nier mind you on my Vita and I would be a happy man!

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 7:10:52 PM

Sorta missin the point.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 9:22:55 PM

You make a few good points Nelson.

I have been watching the industry this past year and have definitely noticed a wide range of developers who are leaning towards 'classic'.

The best thing, is that a lot of the up and coming developers are people who grew up in the 90's. While they most may have missed out on the pre-3D era, they grew up with a PS1, and PS2, which are easily the best generations for JRPG's.

I got a PS1 pretty late in the generation, but FF7 was my favourite game to play back then, and even now, after nearly 20 years since I played it for the first time, it is STILL my favourite game of all time.

I hope this kind of nostalgia will have an affect on the gaming industry. A lot of idiots don't believe this, but the next-generation is going to be a renaissance of console gaming. Believe it.

EDIT: Soul Saga is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Go read the guys kickstarter and read his explanation of why he is making a JRPG.

Last edited by Akuma_ on 11/3/2013 9:28:59 PM

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Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 10:14:08 PM


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Monday, November 04, 2013 @ 10:00:36 AM

World if you check this out you should look at a game called Festival of Magic on steam. It just got greenlit and it looks like a really awesome turn based JRPG.

Even the music sounds inspired from FF7, it might not be super JRPG in the trops that it uses but the combat and features all look amazing.


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