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Will We Ever Again See Another Super Big-Budget JRPG?

The new generation is upon us, and it seems plausible that the days of big-budget JRPGs may be drawing to a close.

There was a time when Japanese developers put a ton of money and resources into their role-playing games; Final Fantasy isn't the only example. Squaresoft and other devs really produced some seriously eye-catching games with ridiculously high production values. There were still a few niche titles out there but moving forward, I'm afraid that's all we'll see. Things have drastically changed.

The JRPG will likely continue to survive and perhaps even flourish with that select group of gamers who still adore the genre. But as no JRPG will likely be considered "mainstream" ever again, the amount of time, energy and overall resources will be reflected in that demotion. Some will argue that Final Fantasy XV is a JRPG and it has a plenty big budget but personally, I argue that it doesn't even qualify as role-playing. Maybe it will and I'll bite my tongue but for the time being, I just see a flashy action game with a few RPG elements. Hell, most action games have those features these days.

The JRPG will exist mostly in the digital downloadable realm in the new generation, and it may also enjoy a resurgence on portable devices as well. But as far as big-budget AAA productions for consoles, I think it's over.

Tags: jrpg, japanese rpg, japanese role playing game, gaming industry

12/8/2013 10:18:21 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (46 posts)

Conn
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:32:46 PM
Reply

The sudden loss of confidence in the JRPG is what really killed the genre, I blame Sqaure-Enix for getting off on such a bad foot with their Xbox 360 exclusives, and FF 13 being such a disappointment to Final Fantasy fans.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:38:31 PM

You have to also blame Microsoft for trying to buy up all JRPG exclusivity early on, which ended up killing the genre since nobody in Japan bought a 360.

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 3:34:27 AM

You guys gotta seriously get over that Microsoft story. There's just no way whatsoever they can be solely to blame. It's a comfortable pillow to cry on, sure, but it really is quite ridiculous.

The problem is much rather that the Japanese developers simply didn't manage to stay on top of the game. This does not just apply to this one sub-genre "jrpg" but across the entire board. They've degraded themselves to become makers of cheesy themes, cheap content and and simple action games. Ref Bayonetta, DoA, Chainsaw Lollipop & co.

That's your problem, guys. Not that Microsoft pumped some american dollars into their businesses around a decade ago.

(It's too long time since I was the devils advocate. Feels good to be back. :) )

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 7:29:41 AM

None of those are jRPGs.

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 7:46:28 AM

... and that's exactly my point, Underdog. This does not just apply to one sub-genre but across the entire board. They're lagging behind, plain and simple.
And we can't blame Microsofts investments almost ten years ago for that.

Last edited by Beamboom on 12/9/2013 7:49:38 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 8:41:11 AM

When you pay to remove a product from its fans, you share some of the blame for it failing.

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 8:55:27 AM

World, we may say so for those particular affected titles but not for the entire genre.

Did Uncharted being exclusive on one platform cause adventure games in general to fail this gen? Did LittleBigPlanet cause damage to other platformers? Did Killzone screw up the shooter genre?
Of course not. Even asking the questions is silly.

So yeah, I can understand why some feel butthurt for not getting their jrpgs on their favourite platform. Such is the property of exclusivity.

But to blame them for the fall of an entire genre? Getoutahere. Or to put it differently, if *that* was all it should take to tip them over, well then it was doomed to happen anyway.

Last edited by Beamboom on 12/9/2013 9:03:26 AM

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:08:59 AM

The developers do certainly have a lot to be blamed for, I agree, Beamboom. But I don't think it's completely incorrect to blame MS for some of the fault. I don't think they're mostly to blame, by any means, but they definitely hurt things.

Microsoft wasn't trying to destroy jRPGs. That's silly. I think they wisely (at the time) tried early to corner a large portion of a genre that PS2 had dominated and profited massively from. At the time, they needed to compete by providing something jRPG fans would like too. It made sense since at the time it had just proven the generation before to be a hugely profitable genre.

I look at a game like Lost Odyssey which might have sold well on PS3. (It definitely would have on PS2) It sold poorly. Mistwalker made a few other good jRPGs as well. But they sold poorly. I don't think it's because they were bad... they reviewed well and still are considered great by most reviewers. I think it's because jRPG's are not and never were XBOX's strength and early adopters of the 360 were into traditional XBOX type games.

I think the lack of success of good jrpgs might have discouraged other companies from taking risks. Lost Odyssey (while I still think it's overrated personally) was not a cutesy jrpg either. So you can't blame that. After the initial wave of jrpgs early on for XBOX, they practically stopped being made almost altogether.

Anyways, Beam, I don't think MS is the main culprit. The developers are. But I do think they accidentally damaged the genre. Don't forget... MS paid big bucks to make the Mistwalker studio, and they paid for some pretty big names. That alone weakens other studios who otherwise may have brought games to multiple platforms at a minimum. Either way, though, it's impossible to look back and say what would have happened otherwise. But I don't think the Microsoft business practice of monopolizing everything helps.

Edit: In response to your last post, the difference between those titles and what MS did is that those developers didn't try to corner the entire genres and pay for big talent from other companies to come to them instead. The "monopolization" strategy of MS wasn't present. That's an important difference, I think.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 12/9/2013 9:10:48 AM

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:20:12 AM

You only needed to write the first paragraph cause I agree, Underdog. :)

I agree with all you said there. And sure, it didn't *help* that MS bought a couple of the titles at the beginning of the generation. I'm just saying they can't be held responsible for the fall of the entire genre.

Cause if that was the case, well then this genre was so ridiculously fragile at this point in time that something would have brought it down regardless.

We should also keep in mind that even though the titles may have sold little on Xbox (and actually, the sales numbers are not *that* bad), Microsoft did inject money into those projects to make them exclusive. We don't know how much but they did make *some* money. They must have.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:47:04 AM

You have to be able to project your thoughts forward. The result of the poor sales of JRPGs on 360 was the retooling of the genre to appeal to the Xbox audience. The failure of that led to the lack of investment and the departure of mainstays like Suikoden and Grandia. The decline of Final Fantasy (which tried to do this same western appeal approach) also affects decisions on what to invest in. If even FF can't make numbers then how could Suikoden?

Exclusivity matters much more for this genre than action or platformers because of the tendencies of its fans, who tend to be more monolithic in their behavior. It has always been a tightly knit community of both games and gamers. It's a similar situation to anime, if an American company caused the westernization of anime and moved it all to a single, unpopular delivery service then all the fans would leave and the medium would die.

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Temjin001
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 10:06:53 AM

yes, Underdog, I remember reading in XBOX Magazine way back regarding japanese games. MS surveyed what was one of the highest requested genres that needed to get better representation on XBOX and it was the jRPG and japanese support in general. Hence why we saw several Japanese exclusives and support for xbox.

my take. No one forced the japanese to do anything. S-E made the bed they're in. Their own idiotic management decisions is their fault and no one else's and i believe would've invariably led to stupid franchise decisions anyway. take a look around. JAPANESE games have been suffering for years. people fell in love with PC style gaming migration of CoD, Bethesda, Valve, Bioware, and more once consoles received the memory and processing to make them happen.



Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/9/2013 10:08:03 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 10:52:26 AM

Microsoft certainly isn't solely to blame, but to say they had no influence in the fall of JRPGs is also incorrect. That being said, there were a whole lot of factors involved.

The simple fact that Western developers started to take over, for instance. When that happened, gamers realized they didn't have to buy games that didn't really reflect their culture. Unconsciously, subconsciously, or even consciously, this has a definite effect.

Then there's the mainstreaming of the entire industry; JRPGs were a casualty of that as well, as there was really no such thing as a simple, mainstream JRPG. There's no such thing as a casual RPG in general, really. In this, Microsoft definitely had an indirect hand, because the arrival of the Xbox was one of the biggest reasons this industry started to become legitimized in the eyes of mainstream press and consumers. Again, hardly the only reason, but there was a definite MS contribution.

As for when MS tried to grab that market, it's important to note that several of the games in question during this period (Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, etc.) were actually pretty darn good. They just didn't really sell that well in ANY territory. They couldn't sell in Japan because Japanese gamers simply don't buy Xbox platforms and obviously, a few JRPGs weren't enough to make them change their minds. And here, many of those who had bought the Xbox were NOT JRPG fans.

Microsoft wanted those fans to buy their product and that didn't really happen. I know a few who did just for Lost Odyssey but that's not good enough, especially for a company like Microsoft. During this time, the Western devs were really coming into their own and this, combined with the vastly increased casual/mainstream market, contributed to the downfall of the JRPG.

Last but definitely not least, the Japanese developers themselves: First, they thought they needed to change the JRPG in order to appeal to the Western gamer, which was perhaps the most critical mistake they made. Second, Japanese devs on the whole were lagging behind; this is currently obvious in the production values of JRPGs today, which are woefully outdated when compared with the competition.

And that's that.

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Temjin001
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 11:01:10 AM

yes, i agree with ben.

……and on a similar note
"Gran Turismo 6 feels like a relic of the past and the gameplay hasn't evolved to today's standards. There really isn't anything real about the so called 'real driving simulator', just an old fashioned Japanese game that isn't all that fun to play."
these days we now get to read japanese hate crap like this from some critics.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/9/2013 11:01:29 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 11:21:45 AM

I told people to expect that from GT6 reviews, though. They hated on GT5 as well; that wasn't going to change. Most critics are just Forza fanboys.

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 12:11:39 PM

Very good post, Ben. Balanced. I believe that summary.

There's only one question I got, in regards to this quote: "The simple fact that Western developers started to take over"

Do this mean that the software on the earlier generations (ps1 - ps2) were dominated by Japanese devs? Cause on the home computer/PC side of things western developers have been dominating the gaming market ever since the very beginning in the eighties. In fact most AAA game devs today have their roots stretching back to the 80s or at the very least 90s - in other words well throughout the entire lifespan of the Playstation brand?

Was it different on consoles back in the days? Didn't western devs seriously enter the console markets until the last generation?


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/9/2013 12:13:28 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 1:28:09 PM

Yeah, it was very segregated back in the old days. Western devs almost primarily stuck to PC while Japanese devs almost primarily stuck to consoles. Which makes sense, considering that every console produced came from Japan, while the computer was not a Japanese invention.

That's why the Microsoft Xbox was definitely a tipping point in the industry. It was a console NOT produced by a Japanese company and on top of which, it was Microsoft. Microsoft Windows ruled the world then, right? Hence, that began the Western incursion into the console world. We started seeing it more and more in the PS2/Xbox era; prior to that, Japanese games dominated consoles.

As for why Western devs have proven to be better in terms of pushing the industry forward since the early 2000s, that's more complicated.

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Beamboom
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 2:05:31 PM

Hmmm... So what you're saying is that we got Microsoft to thank for bringing companies like Bioware, Bethesda, 2K Games and Ubisoft over to the console world?

Well, if that's the case I'd say that's a pretty darn good trade for a handful of jrpgs. :p


Last edited by Beamboom on 12/9/2013 2:05:50 PM

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Temjin001
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 3:15:17 PM

PC ports near always sucked on consoles for a variety of reasons pre-XBox.
Both Deus Ex and Half Life were a joke and the shooter genre in general was way better on PC back then.
I also remember during XBox's era Bioware stated they wanted to do games for PS2 but the lack of a standard hard drive made it impossible with such little system memory available.

The Xbox was first to the market with an x86 processor and HDD. and MS's incubator program sought after under budgeted but highly talented western devs. Bungie was one of them. Most of the hottest blockbuster games of this gen has it's founders and roots tied to PC gaming visionaries of the pre-Xbox era.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 3:51:23 PM

I would say Xbox was partially responsible for the success of such studios, but only indirectly. It was certainly a boon for the console industry but at the same time, I think it really confused Japanese developers.

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Temjin001
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 7:36:02 PM

I have to say I really loved the original leadership of the Xbox team. Seamus Blackley, Ed Fries, and J Allard. I was totally supportive of their original vision for the platform and I would've been right there with them today if the original minds didn't depart to other venues many years ago.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/9/2013 7:36:28 PM

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Solid Fantasy
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:36:47 PM
Reply

This crosses my mind a lot.

It's the real difference between the old days and what we've got for JRPGs these days. Maybe if the PS4 has the upper hand this new gen due to the hardcore gamer preference then publishers will see the value in fan base interest and give us the AAA JRPG we want. Seems unlikely as the fan base isn't large enough right now.
Who knows. This drought can't go on forever can it?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:37:25 PM
Reply

I think it's over too. With the rise of western game development and gritty realism nobody wants a fanciful universe with diverse and colorful characters in an epic quest any more. Things could have continued pretty decently but changing them from RPG to action games turned the fan base away.

What's silly is they don't even need a big budget to be great and successful. You could use the barebones awesomeness of the niche Atelier series to make a game just as great as the Final Fantasies of old and it would sell pretty well because it's the gameplay and stories folks are starved for more than the cutting edge graphics. So long as we only get nichey niche JRPGs then nobody will see them as potential money makers.

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Kiryu
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:58:34 PM

nobody wants a fanciful universe with diverse and colorful characters in an epic quest any more???

Say that to Ni No Kuni and people loved it.

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SaiyanSempai
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 12:18:25 AM

I don't know...I'm hoping for a change this generation. I mean, if the PS4 is much easier to code for and has a big market share, then maybe, just maybe, we might see some developers going for it.

...I hope.

Last edited by SaiyanSempai on 12/9/2013 12:18:40 AM

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 12:26:44 AM

Kiryu, Ni No Kuni was amazing, I agree. I loved it as well. But it's only almost reaching 1 million sold almost a year after release. It's awesome, true. But I wouldn't call it mainstream, either.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 8:44:20 AM

I'm being very general, back when Final Fantasy VII came out Japanese RPGs were the IT games of the time for gamers. Now Call of Duty is the IT game of the times (gritty realism). It isn't that NOBODY wants what Ni No Kuni had to offer (I loved it) but the main gaming audience doesn't anymore. And it showed in the sales.

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Kiryu
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:07:07 AM

It all depends on the sales of PS4's in Japan and Japanese dev's catering to that audience.

Last edited by Kiryu on 12/9/2013 9:07:23 AM

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Conn
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 10:47:17 PM
Reply

Professional reviewers also bemoan jrpg elements, I don't know if anyone ever watches reviews on the run in Canada, but Victor Lucas and his cronies places the entire Final Fantasy series 38 out of the top 50 games of all time. Talk about underscoring the value of the series to the video game industry :/

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souljah92
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 11:09:52 PM
Reply

No, no we will not.

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c31647
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 11:12:39 PM
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What about project phoenix?

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SaiyanSempai
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 12:20:47 AM
Reply

There's already the game "Child of Light" coming from Ubisoft. Granted it's not big budget and not made by a Japanese company even though its a JRPG.

But hey, it's a start.

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Wrote
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 1:15:54 AM
Reply

Well X for Wii u is somewhat big budget I bet. I know xenoblade cost quite a bit tomake and X is HD so one would assume it'd cost more... But aside from XV it might take awhile for somthin else. Maybe if DQ XI is for ps4 that'd have a big budget. And if this new Tales is for ps4 that could be too. Not in the sense your probably talking but still. All the games listed are games I highly want, yes even FF XV. And I sincerely hope the new dragon quest and tales are for ps4 as well.

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Lawless SXE
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 1:47:51 AM
Reply

Depends on how you construe big budget, really. I mean, we know that Monolith's X is shaping up to be one of the Wii U's biggest exclusives, and Square-Enix is coming out swinging with both FFXV and KHIII (and I will maintain that they are JRPGs until it can be definitively proven that they are not) and then there is still Level-5's PS4 project and Persona 5, Drakengard 3... And those are just the ones we know about. Admittedly, the majority of JRPG titles are super niche so they aren't likely to get huge amounts of funding. There will be some, but not many.

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ethird1
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 3:09:18 AM
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Ni no Kuni was a fantastic JRPG. I loved it more than Dragon Quest 8. But people have to understand that European and their American children LOVE Gothic armors and weapons. We love badass armors and weapons. We DONT LIKE TO PLAY DRESS UP WITH DOLLYS.

We have Kingdom's of Amalur, Elder Scrolls series, Dragon's Dogma, Dragon AGe, and a ton of other NON SISSY TYPE rpgs.

Now don't get me wrong, there are quite a few good jrpgs like the White Knight Chronicles and such. Don't even get me started on what the VITA can give you in terms of JRPGS.

I think we will see another big budget JRPG. BUt until square gets it in its head that America is not effeminate (Hell our gays are tough!)they will continue to lose sales.

Good job Benny boy. I hope you are wrong. But you are a different generation that knows about the good games of yore. You still suck.

End of line.

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 7:31:59 AM

You're like a walking, talking contradiction.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 8:45:34 AM

I may not be a child but I love to play dress up with dollys. Especially when it means I can put Rikku into the sluttiest things I can imagine ;)

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:14:57 AM

And World... that brings a tear to my eye. :')

That's way better than dressing up a greasy, sweaty, muscle man, imo. Not judging ethird... if that's what you're into, by all means!

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Vivi_Gamer
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 3:47:20 AM
Reply

Well next year we have Xenoblade 2, the fact that it is getting a sequel bares good news to me. The first game was released at the end of the Wii's lifespan and limited quantity, so not many got to play it as the pricing is rather sore. But it is the main reason I bought a Wii-U and I just cannot wait for it.

We had Ni No Kuni this year, I admit I couldn't get into it personally due to poor pacing and the game limiting combat features to its convenience - Like the shortcut to guarding all 3 characters at once, which you get 15 or so hours into the game... & Then we have Persona 5 arriving ... well in quite some time.

I don't think we will ever have a JRPG strike gaming culture like Final Fantasy VII again, which I think is what is really at heart with this article. Due to that, other developers will be less willing to tackle the genre, but I can't see Level 5, Atlus, even S-E abandoning JRPG's completely. For me personally I am still waiting on Final Fantasy XVI... Which could be in 2020, but we've seen XV for years, I want to see what S-E can offer us beyond the mess of XV - I heard they may be doing a sequel to XV which I really hope is not the case....

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:00:05 AM

I suddenly have a Wii on hand, I'm debating either getting Xenoblade or selling the thing. On the one hand I'm sure I'd like it, on the other hand the sub HD and fact that the controllers piss me off make me wonder if I should bother trying to put the time into it. I ended up quitting The Last Story because of those controls.

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Underdog15
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:16:34 AM

Xenoblade is the reason I wish I had a Wii.

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Vivi_Gamer
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:26:05 AM

I recommend trying it before selling the console, heck if you don't like it you'll always be able to sell the game for what you bought it for being a rarity. One nice thing about Xenoblade is that it has no motion controls, I never once got irritated by it - But then I never found an issue with The Last Story's controls either...

But I found the game to be the JRPG experience I have been craving for all this gen. It's much more open than The Last Story and while it doesnt have turn based combat mechanics it has menus to select and you can move your character around with the analogue stick - It worked really well and kept me busy for 100 hours at least.

The graphics are a bit similar to the high-end PS2 graphics - I wont lie. But then the scale and sense of exploration more than makes up for it. The pure detail is just astonishing, each environment is so huge and rich in detail - I should note the game has well implemented fast travel options, so it is never gets too daunting. If you want to progress with the story you can, if you want to explore or train you can, the pacing is really up to you.

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berserk
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 8:47:03 AM
Reply

Don t care if it s big budget or not , i just want some .

Just look at Child of Light , it s no AAA game but it still look awesome .Hell , i ll even dare say South park .

They just need to stop thinking jrpg MUST have a huge budget .

Last edited by berserk on 12/9/2013 8:49:11 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:01:21 AM

I'm hoping that the smaller games like Child of Light are successful and they grow into bigger games as JRPGs become culturally acceptable again.

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MRSUCCESS
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 9:44:53 AM
Reply

As long as Atlus keeps developing Megaten/Persona games I'm happy with that. I'm not sitting waiting for Square to finally grant us with a big budget JRPG.

Also, Dark Souls satisfies my RPG needs for sure. I feel at home in Dark Souls as filthy and unwelcoming the environment may be.

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PlatformGamerNZ
Monday, December 09, 2013 @ 7:15:53 PM
Reply

yeah as much as some of you will want one i kinda doubt it atm.

happy gaming =)

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Lunar_Miyuki
Thursday, December 12, 2013 @ 5:04:03 PM
Reply

well im not sure if you consider tales a big budget rpg but heres a link http://www.vg247.com/2013/12/12/tales-of-zestiria-revealed/

also persona 5 was announced its just FF has gone down the drain because enix has been involved abit

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