Crono Trigger, Final Fantasy, the Tales series, The Legend of Dragoon, Vagrant Story, Vanguard Bandits these are usually some of the first games that come to mind when I think of JRPG’s classics as I see it but in today’s day and age is the JRPG still relevant outside its native Japan? Do people still want to play a game that takes time and strategy, especially when you can pop in the latest FPS and blow your enemy away? The first experience I had with a role-playing game was the Legend of Zelda I had to be at least five years old and was at my cousins’ house I would normally play Mario or Duck Hunt but for some reason I tried out Zelda. While not the traditional turned based play style it still took more strategy than I was familiar with needless to say I didn’t get anywhere with it and went outside to play instead( I thought I was Link for a while afterward )but from those few minutes I had discovered a new type of game and I was intrigued. It would actually be years after that until I attempted another RPG on my own I continued to watch my cousin play them he was big into Final Fantasy and the like so when I first saw the turned based system I couldn’t believe how you would play it( a short answer he gave me one day was ‘it’s kind of like chess think ahead’ ). I’d watch him for hours going through menus, performing super arts, healing, and getting engrossed in the always great storylines I was hooked before I even played one.
It was YEARS later that I finally bought my first RPG it was around 99 or 2000 on the PSOne and that game was Vanguard Bandits, I had tried my hand at the FF games on PSOne but I never got a chance to beat them early on, I would give up mostly due to lack of proper leveling and not reading the manuals. But VB seemed simpler to me so I went with it, it’s strategy gameplay was different from FF VII( which was the first JRPG I played on PSOne )yet easier for me to get into. I saw it all as taking advantage of the battle grid who to move where and when it took strategy and that kept me coming back again and again, my brother and I would talk about strategies on how we won each battle and how we’d approach the next one I had a blast with that game and the best part is it was lengthy I hated games that I could beat in a few days felt like a waste of money.
After finally finishing VB I went through another play through then went to buy FF VII and gave it another try after playing through VB I had a better handle on the ATB system in VII from VII I tackled VIII skipped IX unfortunately and went to X from X to XII and along the way I got into games like Skies of Arcadia, Grandia, Crono Cross, Dragon Quest, and Vagrant Story. The entire PSone generation and a good portion of PS2 most of my gaming consisted of JRPG’s. Mainly because you got a lot of Bang for your Buck with hour’s of gameplay and great replay value I didn’t see other genre’s as being much worth my money. Eventually the current generation of consoles rolled out and the JRPG became an endangered species, while the FPS reigned as king nothing against FPS at all I do play a few but the replay value isn’t very strong outside of online and even that runs its corse and becomes boring. Fortunately the XBox 360 boasted a few of the greatest JRPG’s of this gen in Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and Tales of Vesperia I had the chance of playing Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey and throughly enjoying but sadly they didn’t have much impact here in the states so we never saw any sequels after that I didn’t play any JRPG’s on this gen until FF XIII and while good it seemed like it was missing something I eventually traded the game due to boredom. I felt as if it was over the JRPG was dead the end of an era.
After my stint with Final Fantasy XIII i got into more FPS and action games which was cool I discovered games like Halo, Killzone, GOW, Uncharted all top-notch games that I thoroughly enjoy but all games that don’t last very long. There are games like Mass Effect and Skyrim that offer lengthy campaigns and great replay value but the combat in them is your run of the mill shooter or hack n slash great games but the strategy that I crave in JRPG’s is absent. Fortunately PSN started pushing out old PSOne JRPG’s Dragoon in particular was a
big deal for me since I had never played it naturally it was a day one download. I still haven’t beat it yet but am having a blast going through it unlike the many graphic whores out there the graphics don’t bother me the reason I play games is for story and challenging gameplay and Dragoon delivers in spades. Along with Dragoon I’ve downloaded FF VII, VII, IX, Crono Trigger, Vagrant Story, Vanguard Bandits, and Breath of Fire all old games but they still retain the charm I remember. I see it like this JRPG’s are an undying genre games that are made for replay value but sadly this generation they’ve been few and far between especially on the XBox 360 and PS3 for us fans we have to import or hope for localization. But it does pay off this year on the PS3 Tales of Graces f was released and it packs all the elements that made me love the genre in the first place intriguing story, great gameplay, and a lengthy campaign.
But is that enough can the JRPG make a comeback and become relevant again in the U.S. honestly the competition is brutal there are a ton of AAA developers that have a large portion of the gaming public in their hands look at COD for instance it essentially makes zero changes yet it still draws some of the biggest numbers of any game. Marketing could sure help the JRPG come along with more companies taking the leap and localizing these games Namco Bandai is one dev that is doing that next year Tales of Xillia will come stateside along with Ni No Kuni( Level-5 and Studio Ghibli sign me up ). Hopefully they do well enough that we see more JRPG’s making the jump here again. One reason the Tales games have gotten localization is due to fan demand their fans are as passionate about Tales as the Final Fantasy fans are about FF and reasonably so Tales games are very well done.
It is of note that there are developers like east asia soft that are breaking the mold and producing great games with the classic JRPG feeling like Rainbow Moon so the ideas are still out there you just have to look for them. Also the Wii has had a nice share of JRPG’s with the likes of Xenoblade, Tales of Graces, Arc Rise Fantasia, and soon The Last Story. While the Wii has had the most JRPG’s I don’t own one but in all honesty I’ve been considering another just to play some of these great games. Japanese RPG’s have a very strong fanbase and have been the door to gaming for many individuals though the genre has slowed down I do believe it can pick up again and become as great as it once was.