JRPGS: Going Back To The Basics

By Ishaan . June 6, 2010 . 7:34pm


This past week, Siliconera had a chance to speak with famed RPG writer-cum-artist, Soraya Saga, about her work practices and her opinion on the state of the genre. Saga-san is a rare breed of RPG writer, unafraid to tackle stories of an immense scale, and is responsible for writing two of the most revered role-playing games to be developed in her country of origin: Xenosaga and Final Fantasy VI.


When asked what she thought about the current state of RPGs, she replied, “With the technological advances, RPGs have remarkably become beautiful and dramatic, but we learnt from our own experience that games shouldn’t be something just to watch. It’s not that games don’t need good stories, it’s that we developers should think first of what gamers are looking forward [to]. Now we’re trying to get back to basics, to provide sheer enjoyment of games again.”


While you might think it’s a little surprising to hear one of the most talented writers in the industry suggest that, perhaps, developers need to focus more on making games enjoyable rather than cinematic or dramatic, it shows a certain understanding of the bigger picture, which so many other developers lack — after all, there’s nothing that prevents games from being both fun and insightful. Saga-san’s last known project, for example, is Soma Bringer, which is an immensely fun action-RPG but is no slouch when it comes to character development either.


So, RPG developers need to go back to the basics in order to understand what made the genre appealing in the first place. The irony here is, if one were to explore just what this quality was, the answer is “storytelling” — which brings us right back to square one. Sure, catchy battle themes and summons were all part of the fun, but let’s face it; Japanese RPGs were highly-regarded because they aspired to make you care about the characters you played as.


Here’s the problem. Back in the ‘90s, the few games that really invested you in their characters came from Japan. It was far easier for each of these games to stand out on its own because the genre was still developing, and minor tweaks or improvements made a much larger difference than they do now. In 2010, several games make you feel connected to your “party,” and they do it better than most Japanese games, which is somewhat painful to admit.



Driving the nail in further is the fact that western games have both “role-playing games” and “games with role-playing elements,” both of which are mutually beneficial in that there’s an exchange of ideas that facilitates experimentation and, eventually, better games. For instance, western developers have the luxury of experimenting with role-playing elements in first-person shooters and sports games, both of which are incredibly mainstream genres. They also have a wider variety of financially-viable genres in general -– even the so-called “niche” ones such as realtime strategy have the financial backing of major publishers such as Electronic Arts and Activision.


Japanese developers, however, have no such luxury. In Japan, role-playing games represent a large majority of new releases. Even numerous games that we would never consider RPGs tend to be lumped into the genre. The genre of role-playing games as a whole is then further divided into sub-genres represented by individual series such as Final Fantasy, Tales and Monster Hunter, based on their playing style. The problem is, RPGs aren’t as mainstream as they once were. This means that, there exists a point beyond which the audience for these games will never expand because those uninterested in playing RPGs will ignore anything tagged with that label.


The good news is, Japanese developers are starting to branch out into overseas territories in an effort to cater to everyone, as opposed to their limited local audience. With globalization on everyone’s mind, perhaps this is what Saga-san’s point was: that, instead of necessarily going back to the very basics — because, really, JRPGs have never strayed too far from their roots — developers need to find a way to make games stand out on their own merits once again, instead of categorizing them into genres. That, perhaps, the genre as a whole must change and evolve in order to be more widely appealing.


After all, no one had any idea what “tactical espionage action” was when Metal Gear Solid released. Neither did anyone care. And nor did MGS need to be an RPG to tell a good story. It cultivated a fanbase for itself on its own merits. It was a fun game with a healthy blend of ideas and that’s all that mattered.

Read more stories about & on Siliconera.

  • RupanIII

    I guess it’s true you need to adapt to survive. But, on a personal level, I miss the formal elements of yore. The emphasis on story, not necessarily graphics or having fancy voice acting, the flow of visiting towns and events, etc. These days if something is traditional in these regards it doesn’t seem to go over well. I read a lot of negative commentary on Mistwalker’s 360 stuff about random battles, etc. If you look at gaming as a give and take, back then there was more give than now, I think (random battles to level up, grinding etc), but it made the take/reward that much sweeter. It seems to me like there’s more lazy take nowadays (slow fading away of turned-based battles, prevalence of immediate-gratification stuff like mindless FPS games). Perhaps it reflects our instant gratification/media culture as a whole. They’ve got to figure out how to keep entertaining new markets without sacrificing what made them special (ie not confusing trend-aping for innovation like a few recent massive-budget JRPGs I can think of). I still haven’t seen this done in a way that totally satisfies me, though. This extends to other genres too. MGS 1/2 used to be top-down perspective, planning out an infiltration strategy, etc. A thinking man’s action game. 3 gradually made the camera more loose, more weaponry, etc. Then with 4 we have a completely westernized camera, and a plethora of guns to appease the FPS set. Don’t get me wrong (ie flame me), I enjoyed the gameplay in 3 and to a lesser extent 4, but nowhere near 1 & 2.

    • Aoshi00

      Wish Xenoblade and Last Story were both turn-based, really “back to the basics” like Xenosaga (I didn’t mind LO’s random encounters at all, it wasn’t very frequent and was just right, and most importantly fun and challenging, before the DLC accessory came at least). I guess it’s almost impossible now since JRPGs aren’t as popular as back then, let alone turn-based ones, which most brush off as archaic and boring. Even Blue Dragon, the first one was so old school and fun just like the old RPGs, then they have to make portable spinoffs like RTS and now the MMO-like DS game, all I want is just Blue Dragon 2 on console. I guess they just give people what they want, like the Monster Hunter-like co-op mode made into Peace Walker which I don’t care for.. The expansive MGS3/4 were overwhelming for me at first, but I got used to the control because I was really sucked in by the story and cinematic cutscenes.

      • jj984jj

        I wish they would too, especially The Last Story since it has 5 characters on the field at once. Takahashi has been saying the same thing as Saga and it’s clear they aren’t just talking about JRPGs though, since Soma Bringer and Xenoblade are suppose to be examples of what they’re talking about. He wants to go back to the basics in exploration and gameplay, and they’re talking about the basics that make RPGs fun in the first place. Soma Bringer has the gameplay of a Diablo clone with their own break system and while Xenoblade looks like it has a much deeper combat system bringing back the positioning gameplay of Xenosaga, it still puts an emphasis on exploration since you can get experience from simply finding certain places in the game.

      • You’re right! Blue Dragon keeps jumping genres. I think Mistwalker has that luxury though because Blue Dragon itself is treated like an anime license. Since there is a Blue Dragon fanbase already, Mistwalker knows a group will buy Blue Dragon: The Fighting Game if they made it.

        • jj984jj

          But what about Blue Dragon 2? :(

          • Aoshi00

            10 yrs after the original Blue Dragon w/ the cast all grown up, turn based battles, we’re all set! Pls don’t make us for Blue Dragon 2 like we did Chrono 3..

        • Aoshi00

          I think the brand was cheapened after the first game alrdy, w/ the 2 mediocre (borderline laughable, really) anime series and manga, sadly I did read the 4 vol. of manga and watched the entire first season, so I did fall into the trap of “wanting anything Blue Dragon” at the beginning, but not anymore… I don’t think many people liked the RTS BD Plus, can’t say for the new DS game that isn’t about Shu & co, are those games even selling even in Jpn? I don’t think Blue Dragon has ever gotten as big as Dragonball though (w/ 20 yrs of history) even w/ the Toriyama design… If they just do a survey asking people if they want a real Blue Dragon 2 sequel for the 360, I think everyone would say yes. And now Last Story isn’t turn based anymore.. so I pray to “Gooch almighty, pls don’t forsake us turn-based RPG loving folks, you’re our only salvation”

      • RupanIII

        Yea Xenoblade and Last Story seemed more ‘back to basics’ when I first heard about them. Speaking of Peace Walker.. I pre-ordered the GameStop bundle when it was first announced and I’ve been waffling on whether or not I should cancel it this past week. I almost clicked cancel like 3 times. Like, I don’t play my DS enough, do I really need a PSP that has even less games that are appealing to me? But I really liked the camo, and I’m a big MGS fan despite my gripes with the recent entries. Looks like it shipped already. I’m cautiously optimistic. The lead-in hype made me more apprehensive than excited though, as a whole. Most of it was about product tie-ins and such. Anyway, back on topic, in general I don’t mind random battles too much either. I mean what makes grinding for hours in MMORPGs and such so different or advanced vs. traditional JRPG random battles?

        • Aoshi00

          So is this your first PSP system? The camo pattern is unique, but I think it’s too busy to play other games on, I still think the default black frame is the best, you don’t feel as conscious being boxed in. I had the same experience as you, I don’t know how many times I actually canceled my Peace Walker pre-order on Amazon, but I finally let it go and re-order it because of the $10 credit.. reason is I really hated the Jpn game for many many reasons, bad control, presentation (it was so clustered w/ Jpn text in word bubbles on the comic strip cutscenes, etc..) but I’m getting the US ver as well, because I have both Jpn and US ver. for MGS 1-4 (I’m not sure if I can even play this game more than once..). You said you liked MGS1-2 top down perspective the best, but the free camera in MGS3 (initially not in the Jpn ver and added to the US ver later) was necessary because static camera really limits your view in the expansive jungle, compared to indoor environment. And the cutscenes were just so epic… Peace Walker does not have that at all, and the boss fights are hard and frustrating as all hell, because they expect you to fight it w/ 4 people and not by yourself, and there’s not easy mode or any way to adjust the difficulty level. They took away crawling, no aiming behind wall, I dont understand why PW sells so many copies, this has to be the only game Kojima disappointed me the most, kind of selling out… which brings back to the point that I don’t like to play games on portable, especially those in big scale.Limited edition systems are cool, the bad thing is if you end up not liking the game, then you’re stuck w/ it and it constantly reminds you. I got the Ace Attorney Investigation LE DSi, I only liked the game okay, not as much as the Phoenix Trilogy, but the Blue Badger was at least a cute mascot and not intrusive to the white DSi.. Frankly I’m not sure if I’m going to like Xenoblade either, I would much prefer turn based battle system like Xenosaga, that’s what I liked about JRPGs all these years since I was a kid playing them on the NES/Famicom (I played many Dragon ball turn based RPGs in the 80’s before all the fighting games now, of course the NES one are really outdated now). I like the US games too nowadays, like Alan Wake, Heavy Rain, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, etc and their immersive cinematic experience, because I like watching movies, but I don’t like Jpn games copying them either.. I don’t see how people could say they don’t like FFX and like XII & XIII, FFX was the last turn based FF that was fun for me, unfortunately S-E will probably never make another true turn-based game in the future.

          • RupanIII

            Yep, my first PSP. I see your point about the black making you less aware of being boxed in. I snuck around some forums and saw a lot of ppl had issues similar to yours, another part of the reason I was so iffy. But, I read some really positive impressions too, especially in regards to the story. I’m hoping that if I don’t like the gameplay the story will make up for it. Incidentally, shh don’t spoil anything lol If I don’t like PW too much I’ll force myself to associate the camo PSP with Snake Eater haha In terms of selling out, I can see that view with all the product tie-ins. I’d also argue that there was a bit of selling out in Westernizing the series so much post-MGS2, though, in terms of camera, play mechanics, weaponry, etc. I think Kojima was pretty self-conscious about how much the series has changed in 4 though, and that was an interesting element to me. Anyway, I’ll let you know what I think once I put some hours into it. Let me know how you like Xenoblade too. Same thing with me, the RPGs I played growing up were turn-based, traditional, so I’m used to that and prefer them. When they try to ape the Western style a lot it starts to feel conflicted to me, like the game is having an identity crisis.

          • Aoshi00

            That’s true, just think of Big Boss and all is good :) I can’t spoil you, I actually only played maybe around 5 hrs (more than that if you include dying), the gameplay and control just bugged me so much though, reason I stopped was there was one point my team is required to make the C-4 explosive before progressing further, and I don’t feel like doing side missions to pass the time yet.. and then I got into Alan Wake and finished it in 2 weeks :) I think the cutscenes’ presentation in the US ver of PW would be cleaner based on the demo and Hayter should be a cooler Snake. I hope the story overall is as epic as MGS3 because it’s a continuation of that (have to say it’s a hard act to follow, and on a scaled down portable too), but the gameplay posed a serious obstacle for me… don’t you hate it when you want to find out what happens in the story but you just don’t like the gameplay :(?Yea, Kojima did kind of sell out w/ all the tie-ins (ipod in MGS4), and he made it clear that he wants Jpn to not fall behind and catch up to the West, which does make sense in a way. I still liked MGS3 & 4 because the sneaking worked and felt exciting, but I don’t think it does in PW, it’s so easily to get noticed/caught and I end up shooting everyone in sight (enemies even have HP like Monster Hunter or something…), I don’t know if it’s because I’m not used to not having the 2nd analog stick or the environment is just so small.. hopefully we will like PW more when the US ver. comes out, and I’ll let you know what I think about Xeno, if you don’t mind my rambling that is lol..

  • For most part, it’s almost a relief to see people realise that games are more than a pretty picture, but the question becomes if they’ll go back to the basics and remember that games are games because they’re supposed to be fun, as opposed to thinking the old formula worked because of its older successes.

    It’s the slight difference between making a game that is supposed to look good with entertainment as an afterthought, and a game that’s fun first and foremost, and any graphical improvements are because of the polishing involved…

  • Eddie

    Overall I just feel you need to sit down and think what makes a good game? Look at everything. Hell Xenosaga is one of my favorite series. Everything about it I enjoyed. Characters you cared for, a nice world, cool villains, excellent music (Hepatica), strong replay value. I feel you can still be original, you just have to be unique. If that makes sense.

  • holyPaladin

    Yup they need to prioritize story first than anything else..

  • nonoko

    I find it pretty funny that the image used (Xenosaga: Episode 1) is the game I’m currently playing. The games focus on strong story and gameplay is what keeps me playing. Heck, I even like the long custscenes.

  • While I don’t necessarily need my RPG’s to be turn-based, something inside of me still wants to see an occasional JRPG to show up as such. And the fact I’ll probably not see one for a long while is a sad thing.
    Since I was buying a few games recently I got to thinking where everything’s falling in place and within the last few months, all the “good” games seem to fit in just a few select archetypes. This may be the biggest challenge of going “back to basics.” Everyone seems to be fitting their games lately to appease audiences that are used to already established systems…
    I think another hurdle is that niche audiences could be satisfied with a lower budget game in the PS2 era but as the technology improves it’s costing more and more to make games (and the economic problems didn’t help either). It’s probable that these niche rpg’s just aren’t worth the money they used to be…

    • This is exactly it, I think. People are catering to an existing audience, which probably makes them feel like they can’t step out of bounds too much for fear of alienating their fans. The cost and technology point is a great one, too.

      Honestly — and I know there are many who will disagree with me — I think the best place for Japanese RPGs is on portable systems, especially with beefier hardware like the 3DS on its way. It gives them a comfortable zone to experiment in, and it keeps the budget under control as well. This is my highest hope for the 3DS — that it’ll help some of these guys get back on their feet.

      • You are right. I vehemently disagree with you on RPG’s being on portable systems. lol

        • Pichi

          If its the only way to survive, so be it. Much safer bet to try out and less criticism. Bugs me when people hate seeing 2D on consoles and expect some high end graphics many companies can’t afford to do. Gameplay is overlook because it “doesn’t look good enough.”

          • I hate seeing that too, but it doesn’t mean we should forsake consoles because some people can’t get over being graphics-obsessed.

          • RupanIII

            That drives me nuts too. One of my friends is a graphics whore like that, I keep telling him to play FFVI but he’s reluctant because it’s 2d, says he’ll wait for a remake (yet he imported XIII AND bought the domestic release). The thing is, he’s actually more of a gamer than most, in the sense that he has multiple consoles and plays a decent variety of games, not just pure casual/mainstream stuff. Is it any wonder 2d or niche stuff doesn’t sell.. :

      • bonafide

        I have to agree with Charles on this one, I’d rather have my jRPGs on home consoles.

    • I think one of the problems for niche games in general is in retail too. Would a store carry a $30 “budget” niche PS3/Xbox 360/Wii RPG at launch? Gamestop? Probably. Amazon? Sure. But mainstream retailers like Target and Walmart? Maybe not. Giant retailers have limited shelf space, a comment I often hear from niche publishers.

      Those same distributors purchase, often in large quantities, games that are similar to games that sold well. So, if a brutal action game does well – stores are willing to buy more of them. This may be another reason why such archetypes exist.

  • It can’t be sugar coated. All those focus group tested experimental battle systems, or half-hearted attempts to rip off western RPG design, are crap.

    There’s a good reason why Dragon Quest has remained the entire genre’s most revered series in Japan since its very inception. Turn based with random battles is a time-proven combo that just works. Makers of recent games like Etrian Odyssey or SRT Endless Frontier understood that, and build around the basics instead of forcibly trying to fix what isn’t broken.

    • jj984jj

      Endless Frontier isn’t exactly a good example to defend any position and sales prove that. Maybe you enjoyed it, but not everyone did.

      • Could be right. Atlus isn’t as open to discussing sales as, say Xseed.

    • lucy1986

      I agree.

      There’s nothing wrong with building around the basics. It’s not to say that they can’t try new ways of doing things, but improving on a successful means of gameplay is surely better than doing something that fans of the genre are likely to shun.

      For example, turn-based battles may become tiresome, but the addition of the judgment ring added a new dimension to Shadow Hearts yet retained the turn-based mechanic.
      The Wild Arms series included random battles but allowed you a gauge to avoid a certain number of battles when you felt it necessary.

      Augment the tried and tested means to improve games for the rpg audience rather than trying to change rpg’s to suit the non-rpg audience.

  • ShinGundam

    If i want to grind i will play some MMORPGs

  • Zefiro Torna

    No matter to what degree of importance or veneration of RPG plots one may hold, what I’m about to type should resonate with just about any type of RPG fan. It’s also been a while since I’ve done a long post (blame tough times).

    Firstly: A picture is worth a thousand words. Trite? Yup. Meaningful? Certainly. As I’ve always felt, the most important characteristic of a visual artist is NOT in his/her ability to fill things with as much detail as possible, but is in that artist’s capability to tell a story with an image. When I look at just a snowy landscape, do I see place which has housed many a creature? The docile ones who huddle here and there to keep warm or the feral ones who carved a frontbase for their hunter-gatherer ways? Do I see an environment which has welcomed one a many tobogganers or does it present itself as a playground for trappers? Would I want to see this place outside my window or would I rather it be far away so that I may visit when I want to get away from my daily life? So as with any story, a “who-what-when-where-why-how” would have to be addressed, but not necessarily always answered. Especially not directly.

    Go on to other mediums, such as comic strips. Throughout my 25 year lifetime I’ve always found the single panel strips worth looking at due to the artists’ ability to a story through a single image. My measure for a talented political cartoonist, for example, is those who can tell a very weighty viewpoint just though a single image using the least amount of written labels or dialogue as possible. The others, who fill every image with a verbose amount of labels, clearly lack talent and imagination in the field of execution.

    So this all brings us to video games, an interactive medium. Early (good) games can be briefly compared to, say… pottery. Finding itself well crafted as time went on for a bit, but lacking in “story” until they found themselves adorned with images by option of the artist. A new storytelling medium was born. Well, eventually crafting and adorning together became mastered, with visuals complimenting the structures. Time went on and the pottery was valued based on the imagery, and so less creative energy went onto the structure itself. Then a “reaction” in the video game industry occurred, as seen with story-lite DS games, in which a number developers focused solely on refining gameplay “structure” and throwing story “imagery” aside.

    What does this all leave us with?

    Go back to once upon a time, game developers were wonderful at making a good game match with a very involving story. There was synergy, but how? A lot of those stories could be seen be viewed alone as “just lighthearted and generic stuff” and yet they could come off as captivating and memorable based on talent alone. That was because developers and designers knew HOW to tell a story by knowing how to craft an enjoyable game that can still feed the player the plot as he/she still PLAYED the game.

    As seen in the recent sterile formula of going from story sequence to story sequence with battles and stuff in between: the worst design decisions happened. We’ve been made to move from point A to point B with the expectation of another passive story sequence awaiting us. That is the only carrot it seems. More often now do people who once played RPGs for stories now can just view the game on youtube, since the majority of button presses have now found themselves being used to advance the dialogue in cutscenes (‘cept in games which do so automatically) and to chore through the experiences in between.

    This brings me back the earlier great artist example. Have developers as artists focused too much on just the details as opposed to how they can tell us a story? Whenever I first power on a contemporary-era console RPG I can just almost hear the devs say “From this point on expect a plot barrage mindfuck as soon as possible, expect as many epic details and tackled on allusions and references as we could possibly fit on this disc.”

    “Oh, and there’s a game on there that will get in your every now then. It’s as experimental as it is familiarly reliable, try to enjoy it too.”

    This is as much an interactive medium as it is a storytelling one, and they once went hand in hand with game play itself telling a fair share of the plot. Now it’s just a segregated experience altogether. Stories were once told through battles, through the hardships of the journey, through the discoveries made along seemingly dead ends all without much dialogue. Active experiences were still a plenty as opposed to passive ones, any yet it was still possible to get much of a story. For example, I didn’t need to learn complete character personality traits upon glancing through profiles or articles but rather as I went along the experience. Sometimes I would gain plot knowledge in the game even by accident, even without things like dialogue trees.

    As an optimist this brings me hope though, as there now exists a supply of reinvigorated craftsmen (via those who took the story minimalist DS route) and an increasingly worried bunch of storytellers on the console front. We have got to get these two together and hope it all blends well, even if it takes some time as it needs to merge correctly.

    • Fantastic post overall. Looking into what you said further, I feel this is the biggest issue with turn-based RPGs: that, very often, there’s a clear line separating the “playing” and the “storytelling” elements. And that, unfortunately, in most cases, there’s no “role-playing” whatsoever.

      This might be why people (including myself) appear more tolerant of action-RPGs. Even if you don’t make an effort to blend the action and storytelling together, it’s less noticeable when the entire screen doesn’t warp and distort, telling you, “Okay, it’s time for battles and grinding now!”

    • I wholeheartedly agree. Many genres, not just RPGs have the same game-story-game problem. I think it really started with FMVs. At first players marveled at the graphics, and watching them was considered a reward.

      As you pointed out, interactivity is lost so the experience is disjointed. There’s even more separation when the story is told with in a database, but I suppose that’s not much different from character profiles explained in an instruction manual.

    • Admittedly, this may have been part of the reason I stopped FFX. I liked the story enough, but the whole FMV-battle-town-FMV sequence was getting extremely tiresome.

      I completely agree with what you’re saying. It seems like a lot of games have taken the “telling” route lately rather than “showing,” which is really the easy way to tell a story. More often than not, RPGs now smack the story in your face, with a neon flag saying, “This is story!” And then they suddenly take you back to the game with a, “Nope! We have to save some incentive for you to continue playing the game =D”

  • I wish they would go back to the old school, turn-based, random battle style, myself, and that they’d stop focusing on the handheld systems so much. I think what they need to do is stop trying to appeal to “the West.” People in America will buy whatever it is you put in front of them, as long as you market it correctly. I wish Japan would just focus on, well, being Japanese. There was a definite appeal to that. A game like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne does not feel Western to me in any way, and that is exactly the game’s appeal. I am tired of games having to have real time battles or be pseudo-MMO’s like FFXII. Sure, Dragon Age took that battle system and made it a lot less obnoxious, but I look at that game as almost an action-RPG, rather than an RPG.In short, STOP TRYING TO MAKE RPG’S APPEAL TO PEOPLE WHO DON’ T ACTUALLY LIKE RPG’S!!And as for the handheld thing, I know that’s big in Japan, but I am so incredibly sick of it. I don’t want to play an RPG on the subway. I want to do it in front of a big television and immerse myself in the experience. Handheld systems are for bite-sized games you can do a level of on a car trip or on a subway ride, not for RPG’s where you have to dedicate hours to it.

    • Moriken

      Yeah, you can’t even save anywhere in most of the handheld RPGs, and just playing an RPG for 15 mins is kinda pointless anyway…so what’s the friggin’ point when I have to play a handheld game at home? >_>;
      I miss the old style of games too, but if real time combat is done well, it’s cool too (-> Star Ocean e.g.). Maybe it’s time to think about quitting RPGs (except Megaten games *.*), hm…not that much time on the hand anymore anyway.

    • Pichi

      I just don’t believe that about handhelds these days. There are plenty of RPGs that have long hours in and you can save anywhere. If not, the system does have sleep mode for you and can have other advantages such as not hogging the TV or doing it quickly on limited time. As handhelds get stronger, it’ll be even more like consoles and hopefully that means good budgets for developers to work with in case they can’t do consoles and still survive.

      • As someone with my own apartment with my own tv, I don’t worry about hogging it.

        • Joanna

          I think the point was that for most people who live with others (parents, siblings, spouses), you can’t just indefinitely use the TV for yourself. I know that’s why I play mostly on my handhelds and computer. Most of the time someone in my house is using it and if I don’t want to be disturbed in my immersion when I’m playing, I have to play when no one is home, or when they are asleep. Lucky for you, you have the TV to yourself, but you cannot force your conditions onto others. For those very reason, I find handhelds much more immersive than console games (where I have a strict time limit because I cannot hog the TV).

    • So, you want Japan to focus on being Japanese and Japan naturally favors handheld games now… but developers in Japan shouldn’t make handheld RPGs?

      • Come on, you know what I’m saying. When I say focus on being Japanese, I’m talking about gameplay and storyline, not whether or not their market prefers handheld games. Not to mention, if half of the DS/PSP RPG’s that came out, came out for the console systems instead, I think we’d definitely see the consoles selling more in Japan, as opposed to the handhelds. People are just going where the games are.

        • Joanna

          yeah, but the reverse can be said as well: developers go where the people are at. DQIX was made for the DS because it has the biggest install base. PS2 had all those awesome games because it had the biggest install base, or was that too just the developers pushing games onto whatever system they wanted and people were just *forced* to buy that system? I just don’t see it like that. Publisher and developers need to make money so obviously they push games onto the DS BECAUSE a lot of people own it, and not the other way around.

    • SeventhEvening

      It blows my mind, but on most other gaming sites I visit, people immediately turn their nose up when they hear “turn-based battles”. Game informer has given bad reviews to some more “classic” styled RPGs and slagged them for being too old fashioned. I remember one that said, “we’ve moved far beyond random encounters, there is no excuse for a game using them anymore.” It really disappoints me.

      As for the handheld thing…I’m split. I agree with bite-sized games on handhelds, but when I thought about it harder, I realized I play my DS and PSP much more than I played my gameboys combined. And most of that is due to really epic handheld games that are structured to be turned on an off. Like Monster Hunter, Atelier Annie, Pokemon…. All three of those can be picked up and put down easily (although good enough you might not want to) and I usually play them in short 10 to 15 minute bursts, but I’ve devoted hundreds of ours to Monster Hunter and Pokemon, and Atelier Annie is working it’s way there.

      • See, games you can pick up and then put back down are fine for handheld systems. But when I play an RPG, I don’t play for only 15 minutes. I usually devote an entire evening to it. I don’t want to do that on a tiny screen that hurts my nearsighted eyes. I’ve never felt that portable systems were the place for big 40-80 hour games.

        • Aoshi00

          I agree w/ you man. Playing Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton on my DS is perfectly fine, bite sized puzzles I love it. But for an RPG that I’m spending 50 hours pouring out my entire soul, I want to play it on my 46″ TV on the sofa. I can’t imagine playing Nier on a DS or PSP, the experience would definitely be different.. I don’t like mission based RPGs on portables, they don’t feel continuous to me.

          Not to mention my eyes get tired very easily looking at a small screen, I think I’m one of those people who needs a DSi XL… I hope the 3DS would be big or I’ll need to wait for the eventual 3DS XL (but then they have the viewing angle to worry about). I wish I hadn’t gotten the DSi so quickly…

      • cowcow

        But Fallout 3 can be both turn based and action.

        I think I read The Last Story will try to implement both as well

    • RupanIII

      Agreed on both points. I like a lot of DS games but I just don’t find myself playing it as much. I don’t travel too often and when I’m at home I don’t want to crane my neck on the couch for hours. I feel like gaming in general, not just RPGs, used to be more experimental when it came to representing things. A person didn’t have to look exactly like a person; they could be a dot or some shape or something more abstract. Of course a lot was necessitated by graphical limitations, but those limitations ironically forced people to come up with more creative representation/story telling, imo. It seems like now there is this unspoken or unconscious assumption in the West (and increasingly in Japan) that the goal and measure of a game is its realism. You take control of a character in a sandbox world with free roaming camera and encounter/fight people in real-time. This is the way to make a game. Nothing wrong with those types of games, but if there’s only that very literal approach employed, I think it limits creativity. How could a game like Rez come about if that was the only approach to making a game? Gaming is a unique medium, interactivity allows for a lot of experimentation, self-reflexivity, etc (MGS2 comes to mind). Designers need to broaden their perspectives from the status-quo. Of course, gaming has become big-business, so it’s harder to get original or traditional ideas (things like World Maps, turn-based battle, etc.) through all the sales-focused barriers, marketing, focus-group testing as theclaw mentioned, and other assorted bs. And, as SeventhEvening mentioned, the gaming press is so often in collusion. That annoys me so much when they call JRPGs old-fashioned or antiquated. Newer always equals better, right? There’s only one type of good game, right? I was talking to a friend the other night and we were saying how it was kind of ironic that back in the day the idea of gaming gaining more mainstream acceptance was desirable (not being a scapegoat for society’s ills, etc). I suppose we got the acceptance, but on mainstream terms.

  • Woohoo, FFVI, truly a favorite of mine, and one that started me on the path to RPGs.

    I haven’t played any RPGs recently, mostly due to lack of time. The one game I have been addicted to, I’ve only gotten to play piecemeal on weekends, when time permits. I do miss going back and playing some gorgeous games I’ve missed out on over the years.

    I do remember, however, somewhere when I started slowing down on RPGs, one of the things I missed most was the random item find while pressing a button ferociously as I explored a town or forest or just any new area. There was that thrill of scavenging and finding a hidden item, finding potions or weapons are cool, but it was especially satisfying if it the a secret meaning in relation to a character or storyline, without even being useful or picked up. I miss that aspect of RPGs and I’m not sure if you see it still exists in the same way I remember it anymore in current RPGs.

  • Joanna

    I know I am in the vast vast minority here, but I think story isn’t the strongest element for a good RPG. Sure it is important, but what I really like about my RPGs is a sense of exploration -a get to go around this world and see different places. I don’t need a sandbox nonlinear RPG, I need one with dungeons (using this loosely to mean an wilderness area to explore, not necessary a cave per se; it could be anything from a forest to the bottom of the sea) to explore (paths that lead to treasure, and paths that lead to the next place, not just one path), cities with their own unique “culture” so to say, and side quests that fill in the history of the world. Good and interesting characters are also important, but sometimes I just want to roleplay myself and I would love to see more games cater to that (like Pokemon, EO, DQ). Of course, I don’t want all my games to focus on role-playing, I do enjoy story-centered one like FFX. My point was more that, minimalist, role-playing RPGs need to continue on because these kinds of games are awesome as well.

  • cowcow

    This is why I like Yakuza series. Because it’s an RPG in disguise with a great story and is fun to play with so many things to do

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