Is Nostalgia The Only Reason We Want Our Old JRPGs Back?
I'm currently playing Tales of Graces f and while playing, something struck me-
Fans of old-school Japanese role-playing games will often bemoan the loss of tried-and-true turn-based mechanics and in fact, the overall decline of quality in their favorite sub-genre. I'm one of them, as I have always believed turn-based could've remained (and evolved); the fans never wanted it to die, the designers opted to kill it off without our feedback.
But we've addressed that before. There's something else, something surprisingly obvious, that we don't usually acknowledge: Back when we all loved JRPGs during the SNES, PS1 and for the most part, PS2 generations, that's pretty much all we had. On consoles, if it was an RPG, it was made by a Japanese developer. So they all had that distinct Japanese flair; most were obviously inspired by anime, and every last one adopted one or many traits and elements of the Japanese culture. The bottom line is that we really had no choice; we were all indoctrinated, so-to-speak.
And of course, there's nothing wrong with appreciating other cultures. But the point I'm trying to make should be obvious. Now that Western developers have caught up (and in many ways, surpassed) Japanese designers, we don't have to adopt traits that are unfamiliar to us; we don't have to try and enjoy something that is quite clearly the product of a different culture. And while it's true that a lack of quality is a big reason JRPGs don't fare so well today, I firmly believe that quite simply, we have more options that hit closer to home.
I'm the perfect example. I never liked anime. I never understood it and I still don't. I'm also not a big fan of Japanese culture and style in general (no offense to any Japanese out there), although I definitely want to visit Tokyo one day. Therefore, it makes zero sense for me to have such an affinity for games that are dripping with Japanese flair. Many have expressed surprise at my love of old-school JRPGs and my complete dislike of anime. And I never really examined that but the reason is clear- I loved the gameplay in those games, I loved just about everything about them. So in truth, I would've played them had their roots been in Russia, India, South America, Africa, any European country, wherever.
I remain firm in my belief that turn-based mechanics and world maps didn't need to disappear, despite our advances in technology. But besides our love of those gameplay elements, what are we really clinging to besides nostalgia...? I'm sure there are plenty of Americans who really like the Japanese culture, but now that they have a choice, there's no real reason to bridge that culture gap anymore.
3/18/2012 9:26:55 PM Ben Dutka