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Will JRPGs Eventually Disappear Entirely?

There's no denying the declining popularity of the niche sub-genre. Sad but true.

Contrary to popular opinion, there's more than one reason for that decline. The industry's priorities have shifted, the Western markets have started to dominate, and the amount of effort put into many JRPGs this generation has been embarrassing.

For example, take the recent gigantic letdown known as Time and Eternity. It's hardly the only example of a JRPG that shows an appalling lack of progress on the part of the Japanese developers. But it's certainly one of the most jarring. This is because of why the game is bad; it's not due to an ambitious attempt at something special, which ultimately fell flat due to a lack of time and resources. This is due to a total lack of either effort or talent or both. You could just sense that everyone involved in that production was...bored.

Now, there are still plenty of die-hard fans out there. They'll continue to support the ailing genre because of the great memories they've accumulated over the years. And many still hold out hope for a renaissance of sorts. After all, we did get Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, right? It just doesn't seem like many designers are taking the cue, and let's face it, the acclaimed title didn't sell as well as many anticipated. So, even when there's a great example of what could be done with that genre, it's as if there aren't any game makers willing to give it a go.

In the future, everything will continue to shift. It just doesn't seem likely that JRPGs will survive; at least, not in the strictest sense of the term. Role-playing games made by Japanese companies probably won't die out, but what we've come to know as "JRPGs" may eventually disappear. And at this rate, maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing. I don't think I can handle another Time and Eternity. That was just brutal.

Tags: jrpgs, japanese rpgs, japanese role playing games, gaming industry

6/27/2013 11:23:32 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (52 posts)

bebestorm
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 12:04:55 AM
Reply

Its interesting how jrpgs have performed the past few years.... Some changed while others remained the same yet neither had huge success. In all honesty it me makes wonder what has happened all jrpg gamers. What can developers do about it.

Last edited by bebestorm on 6/28/2013 12:05:23 AM

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Beamboom
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 12:46:53 AM

"In all honesty it me makes wonder what has happened all jrpg gamers."

That is a very good question, and something we've asked over at the PSXE forums too. How large *is* that diehard group really? And where are they found?
If we look at what the numbers tells us it looks like the core group is in fact very small, and maybe even very fragmented on top of that.

Last edited by Beamboom on 6/28/2013 12:47:32 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:17:01 AM

I think most of them just grew out of gaming.

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KidPresentable
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:01:41 AM

I have a tip for JRPG devs: make sure to add a young charge, preferably female. It's all the rage these days.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:49:00 AM

The group is definitely fragmented, but it's still larger than most people think. My main point is that the group isn't just filled with fools; they're not going to buy junk.

However, it has always been true that Japan is the home of most JRPG aficionados. Logically enough.

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bebestorm
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:49:44 AM

@World I think you are right...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:55:49 AM

BTW I don't mean to suggest gaming is something juvenile that mature people "grow up" from. I just mean when we grow in different directions in life sometimes that takes us off the road of gaming, and a lot of the people who gamed when JRPGs were king seem to have no time and are full up with families and careers. The good news is it's a hobby anybody can come back to when their life evens out and they have some money in the bank.

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Temjin001
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:56:40 PM

http://kotaku.com/the-remarkable-short-stories-of-lost-odyssey-611615901

Here's a jRPG story headlining Kotaku.

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Temjin001
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 12:31:20 AM
Reply

I'm okay with the classics. There's more than enough for me to play again and again until I die of a withered old age.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 6/28/2013 12:31:32 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:17:24 AM

Not me, I want new horizon expanding experiences.

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Temjin001
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:52:50 AM

there's something about crude pixels, midi-like melodies, and text based story telling that feels entirely it's own from today's more cinematic, big budget, professional voice acted experiences.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:20:41 AM

I don't disagree, but going over the same thing where you know exactly what's going to happen next eventually wears on me.

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Temjin001
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:55:49 PM

World, you really need to find a Jasper chipset or newer Xbox 360 core unit and pick up Lost Odyssey for like $15 used. It's better than most jRPG's I've played. It's battle system also doesn't allow you to sleep through encounters. Suikoden seemed way too easy in comparison.

oh, yah, and grab Bayonaise while you're at it.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 6/28/2013 3:56:11 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:25:30 AM
Reply

To be fair, the dev of Time and Eternity isn't the greatest.

But I think the genre will be mostly dormant for awhile, restricted to super niche titles. The current youth gamer is the one that is targeted most, nobody is taking the 30+ crowd seriously when they think about colorful imaginative emotional epics from Japan.

I don't think it had to be this way though. If Final Fantasy had continued the way it was supposed to I think the rest of the market would have followed along. When the biggest JRPG name can sell a piece of crap on name alone you know that the audience is out there waiting.

Why haven't they embraced the remaining titles like Ni No Kuni with fervor? There are other barriers, NNK is seen as kiddy. NIS titles are a niche within a subgenre. Basically the style that the core wants just doesn't exist anymore and it's hard for a JRPG to shift the big numbers needed these days to profit.

I think there's still a chance at a return some day when grit and grime and gore go back out of style. I don't know when that is but there are cycles to these things, like with movies Vampires are big whenever there's a recession. Maybe getting out of war will help.

In the mean time I'm looking forward big time to Tales of Xillia this summer.

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Snaaaake
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:29:16 AM
Reply

It will never disappear.
The worst case scenario?
JRPGs will never be released on international shores except in Japan.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:54:53 AM

I'll move.

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Snaaaake
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 2:54:51 AM

I'd just learn some Japanese and import games from there.
I feel this urge to play visual novels and we're not getting any at all!!!

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:25:33 AM

What about the 2 Corpse Party games for PSP?

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maxpontiac
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 2:06:41 AM
Reply

With games like Fallout, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Witcher, and Dragon Age out there, I am sorry to say that not many will notice or even care.

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Vivi_Gamer
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:03:13 AM
Reply

For me there are two types of JRPG's. The JRPG's which while surreal are not completely immature. Like Final Fantasy and even Ni No Kuni - despite the protagonist being a young boy.


Then you get the other type of JRPG's the ones which are heavily covered in stereotypical anime designs - So not a distinctive art design like Ni No Kuni, just them silly wide eyed generic looking anime characters with girls with pink pigtails and try to reach out with either over the top sex appeal or are portrayed so cute it get annoying. Its's always one extreme or the other, even when you get a character who is not silly but serious in tone. He often comes off as this over the top 'badass' who can kill everyone in his surrounding by just blinking.

So I have to admit when I look at a game like Time and Eternity the Art Direction puts me off instantly. I just cannot take stereotpyical anime designs seriously.

But it goes beyond just the visuals and characters. Something that put me off Persona 3 which is highly regarded as a decent game is the pretentious imagery. With characters posing like kids on social networks by pointing their fingers to the side of their face and when they fire they summon a monster. Final Fantasy was never so immature in its imagery and content.

Even a game like Final Fantasy IX, which many disregard for the same reason I disregard most generic anime art direction - The characters were catroonishly proportionate. But the game offered so many different races which really made the world feel active. So you would have a horse as a maid or a bunny in a suit, but it was all in good taste. There is a difference between fun and immaturity. Final Fantasy IX certainly knows the difference, I still find Vivi's existential quest one of the most well delivered character drives within gaming.

I know I am going on a tangent, but I honestly feel why the JRPG market has become so alienated is because a good 80% of JRPG titles have that generic anime art design which is very off putting. So why dont get many JRPG's which can appeal to a wider market. Xenoblade certainly had the potential but was so poorly distributed here in the UK not many copies where shipped and it is already a rarity. It also didnt help that it was the last gem on a console which by most peoples standards is behind current gen. But Xenoblade offers a the huge sense of adventure which JRPG's lovers have been craving for all this gen and I highly recommend it to many who have been dissapointed by the JRPG market this gen.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:28:21 AM

Actually those are guns they are pointing to the side of their heads. You shouldn't diss Persona because you've made negative associations to the art style.

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KidPresentable
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:11:44 AM
Reply

Speaking of JRPGs, what is tri-ace doing? I remember a while ago they debuted that beautiful tech demo and have been quiet since then. Hopefully. they are working on something great, Star Ocean or otherwise.

This gen has been light on the JRPGs in camparison to the PS2 and the Golden Age of the PS1 but it had some absolute real gems across all 6 systems(PS3, 360, Wii, DS, 3DS and PSP) Not sure how any self professed JRPG fan can turn a blind eye to Xenoblade and The Last Story and still ask where are the RPGs.

Last edited by KidPresentable on 6/28/2013 3:14:44 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:28:53 AM

I'd like to know too.

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Draguss
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:20:06 AM
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No. No they will not disappear. As long as there's people who want them, someone will be willing to make them. Maybe we won't see another big budget epic like the old FFs in a while. Maybe not ever, but great JRPGs will continue to be made.

"And at this rate, maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing." This is getting rather irritating. Ben, you seem embittered to the point of loosing any hope in the genre. It's especially irritating with the image you used. That should be enough of a reminder that not every great JRPG series has spit in the face of its fans (disappointed us with a lack of localizations yes, but they seem to be getting better at that). Not to mention, while I realize you likely weren't serious, implying in any way that the disappearance of an entire genre in an artistic medium could ever be a good thing is infuriating.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:14:05 AM

The point is that if there are no "great" JRPGs being made (and fewer and fewer are), then how can the genre survive? Even the most hardcore won't just keep buying trash for the hell of it.

And why keep everyone suffering? Why bother? If it's not working, it's not working. Developers not making JRPGs wouldn't be a bad thing at all, if this is the case.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:24:17 AM

While I'd hate to see JRPGs disappear completely I take his point, I'd prefer survival horror take a break rather than keep getting games like Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3.

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Draguss
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 3:48:36 PM

We got Ni No Kuni earlier this year, and we'll be getting Xillia soon. As KidPresentable pointed out, there were also Xenoblade and The Last Story. And there were Tales of Vesperia and Lost Odyssey on the 360. I realize most of these games aren't particularly relevant to this site, as they're not on playstation. But they're there, and they show that, even though they're fewer, farther apart, and spread out over more consoles, great JRPGs still are being made.

Who cares if we've also had to suffer through some crap games? If nothing else, they can keep the idea alive until someone decides they want to do it right.

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ddsfan2
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 4:37:51 AM
Reply

I certainly hope not, but with Atlus in a bad financial situation, (Index is now filing for bankruptcy after a corruption scandal) I can only wonder.

JRPGs this generation haven't delivered to me, (if you have every handheld system and every console, it gets a little better, but still not that great) but not because of western competition, which is very different.

The kinds of experiences that I was looking for this generation I found in games such as Yakuza 3/4, Nier, Catherine, and a few others. While all of those games are unabashedly Japanese, they are not JRPGs or RPGs in the typical sense.

My expectations of story in RPGs have increased, and JRPGs this generation are not at the level story-wise that they were on the PS2, for the most part. It just isn't the same. I'll mostly stick to handheld JRPGs, especially from Atlus, until Xillia comes out.

I Love Valkyria Chronicles though, awesome game.

Last edited by ddsfan2 on 6/28/2013 4:41:38 AM

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Banky A
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 8:14:29 AM

omg yes and valkyria chronicles all of it

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Banky A
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 5:08:29 AM
Reply

ni no kuni. beautiful
tales of xillia. expecting to be beautiful
persona 5. pleaaaase?

level 5. are the hope of the renaissance <3

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:21:42 AM

Persona 5 IS coming, there's just no telling when. As much as I loved Catherine it's a shame that put off development for so long.

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Knightzane
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 6:12:07 AM
Reply

If i was a JRPG developer would i want to bother releasing a game in the west where first person shooters and anything with guns dominates the market? Nope. If i made a game it'd stay in the land of the rising sun. They aren't giving us anything because not enough Mericans want it. I bet they have some epic amazing super duper JRPG that we haven't heard about.

I do think once the FPS genre dies, and the market desires something new, that JRPGs and RPGs will take over. If FF13 didn't... :( If SE didn't lose their minds J/RPGs will still be ruling the market. When like 7 million people are disapointed with a FF game you know JRPGs are only going to spread out negatively.

Not to mention most Merican gamers want some sort of online play. RPGs and JRPGs would be weird with some dumb android, tablet app that allows for that crap. I've been playing FFX (prepping for HD) and FF12. Playing them has made me realize just how much i miss Final Fantasy. The world needs Fantasies. I was ok with FPSs at first it because wasn't like this. Now i cant read the plot of a new FPS without facepalming at the evil russians out to get us again.

I miss running around in circles grinding till my characters are over powered. Auron 2 hit Omega Weapon earlier. I miss that feeling of satisfaction while playing a game. If i shoot 20 people in the face online or single player i don't feel satisfied. I feel bored. Oh wooopdie doo i killed people with a gun...again.

JRPGs NEED to return, not to combat RPGs like Mass Effect, but to work together. I believe everyone needs to explore a world that somebody created through their imagination and experience the fantasy of it all. Not run around getting kill streaks with an explosive shelled shotgun. I hope that this damned FPS genre will die out soon. Im just so fed up with shooting stuff. TLOU shooting was such a nice change of pace. It wasnt just another 3rd person shooter. It had meaning and it makes you feel like survival comes first. TLOU is just so good.

I would also like to blame SE for cause of this downfall. FF is the biggest JRPG franchise and they blew it. They had one damn job and thats to make a Final Fantasy game. Instead we get Crappy Emotionally Dumb Constantly Degraded Linear Franchise 1, 2, and now 3. But yeah, everybody needs to experience a Fantasy world. One they can go to when their own world gets stressful or unhappy. You know, what video games USED to be for. I hope JRPGs return stronger than ever but the way Merica is, i doubt its ever going to happen. If you can't get killstreaks and be rewarded with messages telling you how awesome you are the game isnt interesting.

I hope jrpgs dont disappear but if they do than Sayonara. I had a great childhood because of them. And even now, after playing them 100's of times they still bring me delight. So instead of shooting people in the face, im going to go play FFX and work on getting Rikkus celestial weapon. Afterwards ill be dodging 200 lighting strikes. Then ill be raging at the impossibility of getting under 0 seconds on the chocobo race. Then, after that mess of a quest, im going to play Deadly Premonition. It may be the weirdest game ive ever played but, its also something new.

Yeah, id choose Deadly Premonition over any FPS thats come out in the past 2 years. Its agrivating, weird, old people tell me its a rip off of some old 80s tv show, it has an annoying open world system, pointless combat, but it has the most badass protagonist ever to be conceived in a video game like this. Well, it has its own genre. I really cant compare it to anything else. SWERY should make some JRPG. I bet that would be the second greatest game ever made ever.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:34:27 AM

WKC had a fantastic multiplayer, unfortunately the battle system wasn't fun during the single player. All they had to do was make it turn based and wala.

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Solid Fantasy
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 7:38:29 AM
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It's hard to believe that the once dominant genre could ever go the way of the Dodo and yet here we are. On a long enough time line wouldn't someone just do bang up job with an Indi class JPRG. One that could respark the old days. Remember LoD? FF 7,8,9,10? And all the rest that I thought were sub par at the time when compared to today were amazing?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:31:44 AM

That's what confuses me, a small team with weak tools could create the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy VII right now for very little money and nobody is even trying.

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Underdog15
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 8:01:47 AM
Reply

I sort of disagree and I think many here are missing a point I've thought for a while now.

The art style.

Think about it. First of all, FFXIII sold what... 6... 7 million copies? There's clearly a market looking for a quality jrpg title.

Ni No Kuni was fantastic. I loved it, and it is easily one of my favorite experiences this gen. But the art style is -not- something the western market cares for. I think that's an important point. It was beautiful, but at first glance... it was -very- childlike. Those of us that played it know what it did for the game, but I'm not surprised it didn't sell as well.

Think back to the "golden era". Games like Chrono Trigger/Cross, FFVI... for the time, they were extremely visually appealing games. FFVII was the first well done 3D jrpg world... FFVIII was hardly "cartoony". In fact, it was ah-MAZING for the time. FFX people thought we had hit the most photo realistic possible. (haha) Even Xenogears was a mature game. So even with games of average look, it was a mature game. jRPG's used to push the envelope in visuals and story. They don't do that anymore. Story, maybe sometimes. But on average...

But my point is that jRPG's now are either cartoony, immature, or both. That's a HUGE reason!! If we got a AAA jRPG with great battle system and visual and story elements that... well... your typical adult would like... I bet you'd see the genre have more success.

Like I said... if everyone hated jRPG's... FFXIII wouldn't have sold like hotcakes one day one.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 6/28/2013 8:03:15 AM

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Beamboom
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 9:26:07 AM

FF13 sold solely on franchise reputation. Brand recognition.

But I agree with what you say - most jrpgs today do look like are being aimed at children. And quite frankly, from the producers point of view I think they are.


Last edited by Beamboom on 6/28/2013 9:27:53 AM

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Underdog15
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 9:42:04 AM

Exactly. Most gamers now are adults. I have a hard time believing kids dont want more of an actiony game anyways.

How many jRPGs can you count in the last decade that are mature and attractive to your typical adult? jRPGs of yesteryear were mature for the time. Ff8 and Parasite Eve spring to mind as turn based games in the ps1 era. Both popular. Both aimed for the most photorealistic experiences possible for the time. That isn't even attempted in todays jrpgs. No wonder they aren't doing well. They don't even try to compete..

The only reason some sell ok is because of left overs like me who have the nostalgia to be ok with the game simply because of the gameplay.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 6/28/2013 9:44:30 AM

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shadowscorpio
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 9:48:57 AM

Very true . Its as if the devs don't care anymore . The upcoming jrpg title I think might satisfy this however, is Tales of Xillia. I suppose Star Ocean TLH didn't do too bad.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:33:03 AM

While there is a trend to make the anime designs more realistic they never really tried to be photoreal.

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Underdog15
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:39:15 AM

@Shadow and World
I agree with both of you. And I can't wait for Xillia. I've bee playing the Tales games since the PS1 era. First one I played was Tales of Destiny. SO;TLHI was fun too. Both good games. I also enjoyed Tales of Graces f.

And I know none of them are trying to be photoreal. And for those titles, including Ni No Kuni, which I also adored, perhaps they shouldn't even try.

But I'm saying, no one is trying. These games are great, but they aren't going to be blockbusters ever. I do not believe the gameplay is to blame in a well made game. I think most gamers like all sorts of gameplays so long as it's well executed and fun. I'm saying those art styles simply don't appeal to -most- people. And it automatically carries with it a culture that is very niche.

I used FFVIII and Parasite Eve as examples because they tried to look as perfect, real, and believable as possible for the time. Neither were cartoony, really (save a couple enemies in FFVIII). Even Xenogears, which was anime based, at least had some very mature themes within the story that could resonate with adults.

These Tales games, Ni No Kuni, Star Ocean... they just -really- aren't making anyone believe it's for adults. And the result is excellent games being niche.

My question is, while those games are great to have, why has the effort put into FFX, FFXII, Parasite Eve, etc... no longer found? I think that's a real major factor that jRPG's aren't even trying to touch. And they aren't competing with the best of the generation across all genres because of it.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 6/28/2013 11:40:55 AM

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Hand_of_Sorrow
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:11:00 AM
Reply

is it because of, declining popularity or is it because of
what they're doing to them that are driving fans away?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:29:13 AM

both, and they are interrelated.

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EndZero
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 10:55:46 AM
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their time was on the PS1. If you ask me the good ones should just get remakes.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:24:28 AM

And PS2.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:25:36 AM
Reply

I have another question to ask in an article about SE, but I'm afraid the community will attack for so many articles about them.

Maybe I'll do something that requires a little research instead.

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Underdog15
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:42:37 AM

lol this site could never write another SE article for 2 years, and once it got around to it, SOMEONE would be like, "ARRRG.... a-NOTHER- Square Enix article? Give it a rest Ben!" even though you wrote it.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 12:00:13 PM

lol yeah they always think I'm Ben, it's just that when it comes to them there are a LOT of completely legitimate and interesting points to talk about that have nothing to do with my personal axe to grind. The fact is, most every other genre is following the proper bell curve of interest and advancement. Only Japanese devs are suffering from this illness and aside from Capcom even they are starting to get the idea.

In short, SE is a fascinating study. It's like they want to go out of business.

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shadowscorpio
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 11:51:21 PM

@ World

I say do it anyway. Some are actually interested in what you might find. People are going to bash. Through i find it interesting that instead of skipping over an SE article and ignoring it, they choose to jump in to tell you to stop bitching.

Almost as if they subconsciously need Square-Enix articles to validate something within.

...and let the thumb downs roll!!!

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Oxvial
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:55:15 PM
Reply

Souls games are here hitting hard so no, problem I have with bunch of jrpg's is the so so plots and 90's anime with shounen style characters, I like anime but they need to use seinen style instead of shounen on it with interesting characters.

Last edited by Oxvial on 6/28/2013 1:55:31 PM

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ethird1
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 1:56:56 PM
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I don't think they will entirely, but in America at least, European rpg settings rule the hen house. See Skyrim.

End of line.

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Looking Glass
Friday, June 28, 2013 @ 2:13:39 PM
Reply

Short answer: No.

As long as there are dedicated fans (and there are and that shows no signs of disappearing) and as long as there are JRPG makers who know how to cater to those fans while still making a profit (Idea Factory, NIS, Gust, etc) the genre will survive . It's surviving right now with no end in sight.

Time and Eternity was the exception to this. Not the rule.

Last edited by Looking Glass on 6/28/2013 2:18:03 PM

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Yes, but I'm waiting for a while.
Maybe...not sure yet.
No, not interested.

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