Goodbye JRPGs

Just a few years ago, it seemed like any game that did reasonably well in Japan would find a home in Europe and America. Strategy RPGs, rougelikes, and games from every other niche genre in Japan filled the release calendars. Fans could take it for granted that most anticipated titles would eventually find their way out of Japan. While not every title made the trip westward --Mother 3 and Namco X Capcom were conspicuous in their absence – most games of note did. Compare that to today: while the PSP continues to be the platform of choice for hardcore gamers in Japan, the system is effectively dead elsewhere in the world. Nintendo is holding back three separate hardcore Wii titles, while the number of games that Japan-focused publishers like NIS or Atlus release each year is steadily dropping.

I was never a big JRPG fan, but I’ve played a couple. I can see why the economics of publishing them in the West just doesn’t work now. Was it ever really more than a niche thing?

I have bought at least two of them and just never played the damn things. I was weaned on western-style RPGs and the JRPG is just too odd. Reccetear may be the closest thing to one that has ever actually worked for me.

That article refers to “rougelikes”.

Like rouge, but less fulfilling.


This makes me twitch so hard I break the irreplaceable panes of my beautiful glass house.

edit: sheesh, I take a minute to think of a decent snark and i get ninja’d twice. qt3 is on the ball today.

Meh. Back in the SNES days we missed out on tons of JRPGs as well, then the PS1 happened and FF7 happened and all of a sudden we were getting every half baked RPG attempting to cash in on the hype.

Naturally the bubble burst and now it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to localize a game that’s only going to sell 10k copies.

Typos aside, that’s a good article. Not that pointing out the economics of retail distribution will quell fanboy forum froth, but it might educate a few of them.

I don’t know if they were exactly niche - there was a healthy fan base for them but they certainly weren’t huge compared to other genres such as platformers and action/adventure games. They did become more mainstream with FF 7. That seemed to be the game that changed everything or at least it appeared to. While it and the subsequent FF games sold millions, I don’t think any other RPG series or franchise ever gotten close here in the U.S.

It’s a shame though that the genre has been nearly forgotten about for home consoles - of course it’s the opposite for the DS which has seen a large amount of JRPGs released in its lifetime - and not just remakes but an exclusive sequel (DQ 9) and original IPs from Atlus and SquEnix.

As a side note my cat’s name is Rogue and my girlfriend’s sister kept calling him “Rouge.”

Haven’t read the article itself yet but I think Japan’s influence as a whole has been in decline for the last ten years. I don’t have a lot of love for JRPGs but I’d miss the Megaten stuff and one or two other things if they were to disappear. I don’t think that will happen completely, though. There are still way too many people who like JRPGs (witness the love for Demon’s Souls recently) and will buy them.

Usually people crying “death of a genre” are flat wrong. Popularity generally goes in cycles, declining and then coming back. Once upon a time people were saying western CRPGs were dying. Then along came Diablo and Baldur’s Gate and suddenly CRPGs were back. I wouldn’t worry too much, some JRPG will set the west on fire and they’ll be back, eventually.

The last JRPG I played was Blue Dragon and that was because so many people gushed about the character design. I got it easily since it was published by MS here, plus it was on sale for $20 when I ordered it.

Ugh. I hated it. I don’t think I got past four hours with it.

The character design that everyone went on and on about absolutely failed to impress me. It just looked like the same stupid Dragonball Z people fighting inscrutable monsters. The gameplay was awful. Boring Final Fantasy stand in a line and trade blows mechanics with minutes-long uber-attack animations. Zzzzzzzzz…

I guess JRPGs have just never done it for me.

I know plenty of US fans are sad to see the genre die here though. I guess I’d be upset as well if Western swords-and-chainmail-bikini dungeon crawls died.

JRPGs all seem the same; the same anime roots with that genre’s Japanese, childish aesthetic and essentially graven-in-stone characterizations (spikey hair boy, adult woman with glasses, big eyed girl, evil purple hair, ect) that seem increasingly stagnant, juvenile and undeveloped. It seems like they really have nothing left to say. Japanese developers still seem remarkably imaginative in world building and art but it’s a caged and childish imagination struck out the same mold over and over again. Games like Demon Souls do well despite themselves, typical JRPG developers selling out and making a boring Western game that, in fact, merges the best of Japanese creativity with something new as they are forced out of their comforting ruts.

I’m pretty sure FF7 marked the end of the JRPG golden age.

Nearly all the JRPG’s I care about either haven’t clicked for me (Final Fantasy) or have moved to a platform I don’t use (like DragonQuest on the DS). Get back to quirky, crazy gameplay, give me lots of level-up and equipment option, a crazy world to run around in with even crazier monsters and put it on the PC or my iPad and I’m there.

Yay! I’ve wasted enough money these horrible games over the years.

That includes FF7.

People usually rave about the stories in a JRPG, but they never jived with me. Inevitably, your typical JRPG story comes across to me as random drivel. It’s like Enidigm said, except I extend it to the stories themselves. I don’t miss these games, or their 20 second long combat animations (Hero raises his arms to the sky, shoots a lightning bolt which zips across the cosmos, travels back in time, loops around to the present, then hurtles down to Earth to kill the badguys. lolwut?)

You’re painting with a pretty broad brush there. Maybe they’ve all turned that way, but it was mostly Square RPGs I played that were like that (extremely long battle animations) and even of those it was mostly FF and even then mostly FF7 and beyond. I haven’t really played a JRPG in years, mostly because I don’t own any consoles. As far as the stories, well, I’m sure plenty are random drivel and I also think a lot of the subtext may be lost in translation for the ones that are interesting.

Yeah, I loved a lot of the elaborate 2D art (for the time) and monster designs from the Final Fantasy series at least.

I’m at the point where I luckily soon will not have to care anymore as my Japanese will be good enough to simply import - though I will have to hope for no region locks or ways to circumvent them to keep the costs down.

To be honest I don’t see why people jump on JRPGs for their cliches but not on the clone bodybuilder space marines of most FPSes these days that shoot things. It’s not like there’s a lot of innovation in any genre, except for the indie(sque) games.

Ok so slightly off topic but I’m playing Alice 2 right now, and I’m in the Asian levels fighting samurai bees. They have these giant boss bees who are pretty much invulnerable unless you smack them when they go into their JRPG style absurdly long screaming attack windup. I laughed.

The only JRPG I’ve played in the past 5+ years that I liked at all was Final Fantasy XII, which I liked mostly because of the combat system which I thought was interesting, rather than a compelling story. I just don’t really find the normal JRPG mechanics compelling at all, the turn based combat doesn’t do anything for me and the linear story/worlds with very little character customization takes away the things I love about RPGS. I know these things are the way they are to make the game better at telling a story, but when I play an RPG I don’t want to be told a story I want to write the story.

The worst part about these “genre dying!” threads is the people that come out in droves to say “Good riddance! I will mock this genre with criticisms that lost relevance five, maybe ten years ago!” Final Fantasy VII came out around fifteen years ago, guys. Are we still talking about the Knights Of The Round summon and pretending it has anything to do with the gameplay of today? Are we going to talk about Mode-7 graphics and lament the death of the Wii? Are we going to harass Microsoft for the oversized and laughable Xbox controller and say that it’s a clear sign they don’t know how to design a good controller?

For every uninspired Final Fantasy clone out there, you have just as many, if not more, actual quality games in the JRPG genre. The triumph of world design and subtlety that is Final Fantasy XII – but it’s much easier to make fun of the “bunny girl” and the kid with the weird abs, isn’t it?

How about the mythology-in-a-blender Persona series, and everything else in the Shin Megami Tensei line, from roguelikes to a mashup of dungeon crawlers and dating sims? The Persona series features probably the best RPG localization I’ve ever come across, and the concepts at work in Persona 3 and Persona 4 are thought-provoking and borderline unsettling in places. But no one talks about them, or if they do they get the “Atlus pass,” tearing down an entire genre while conveniently leaving out the one critically acclaimed game that they personally like.

The World Ends With You, a quirky, funny, and altogether brilliant take on both Japanese youth culture and a very Catholic afterlife. Gameplay that worked in the standard JRPG tropes (levels, various elemental attacks, equippable items that raise stats) with a combat system both fast and furious that used both screens and every button on the DS without overwhelming the player. Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi, Nintendo’s own JRPGs from the Nintendo 64 to the Nintendo DS, deconstructing their own games and mythology to make fun of themselves with expert writing and top-notch humor. Tales of Vesperia, a gorgeous high-action JRPG with the best cast of characters this side of an Insomniac platformer and a game that explores the themes between doing what’s right and doing what you should, giving both equal weight and showing the typical JRPG hero in a new light. Lost Odyssey’s brilliant short stories. The balance and gameplay in a sprawling epic like Tactics Ogre. And this isn’t including games that break out of the JRPG mold but will probably be filed next to them in whatever encyclopedia chronicles the history of the gaming world, like Valkyria Chronicles and Nier. Hell, you could argue that Dissidia is as much a JRPG as it is a fighting game. Might not work, but you could try.

I don’t give a damn if you don’t like JRPGs. That might be hard to believe since I just got all bent out of shape about it, but I don’t. What I DO give a damn about is when people tear down a genre I like with accusations and mockeries from either the worst of the genre or elements of the game that just aren’t relevant anymore, and haven’t been relevant for years. “Long summon spells that take control away from you and do elaborate animations with no purpose and end up doing practically no damage!” Yeah, you know what other game did that? Planescape: Torment. Mechanus Cannon. Google it.

Every JRPG is not Final Fantasy VII any more than every Western RPG is Oblivion/Morrowind/whichever game you hate today, every FPS is Duke Nukem Forever, every platformer is Bubsy 3D, every sports game is Madden, every strategy game is Master of Orion 3, or every fighting game is Street Fighter. If you say that they are, you’re either misinformed or willfully stupid. I hold Quarter To Three to a higher standard.