I used to love JRPGs. At some point years ago they were almost the only genre I was interested in. I sank countless of hours on Final Fantasy VII Ė X, probably completed them all at least three times in a really short span of time, while also playing others in the genre, notably Dragon Quest and Shadow Hearts Ėseries.
Nowadays, I still buy and play almost all the better JRPGs that gets released, but itís starting to feel like Iím just trying to convince myself I still like them. Because most of the time I canít finish them.
I really want to love them, but I simply canít but hate them.
Now, what could have caused such a drastic change, going from loving the shit out of a genre to almost hating it in just a couple of years? There are a few factors to it which some of you might even agree with.
Itís no secret that genres evolve throughout the years. Shooters adapting cover- and time-slowing mechanics, hack ní slashes getting more complex combo systems and finishing move mechanics, JRPGs getting.. umm.. err better graphics?
They are still so deeply rooted in the 20-year-old traditions and seemingly afraid to evolve in any direction. You are still playing the young hero trying to save the world with his party of loyal companions, suffering from random battles, stale NPCs with nothing to say standing in the one place all day and save points scattered too far apart. There are, of course, some exceptions to this, like Tales of.. Ėseries placing the enemies on the map so at least you know when youíre getting in a battle and Persona Ėseries blending in some dating sim mechanics. More often than not, these little changes are not revolutionary enough and the devs continue copypasteing 13-year-old games, just switching the main characterís name and coloring his hair a bit different.
This with moar HD.
Iíve come to a point in my life where I canít dedicate all my free time on gaming. Sometimes I can only play for an hour or two a day. Now, what kind of game do I want to play during that limited period of time? Something relaxing with a good story flowing, something action-packed with lots of explosions and cool set pieces, or perhaps running in circles in some forest killing the same monsters for the entire time? Well.. not the last option at least.
If there is one thing I would change about how JRPGs work, I would get rid of the endless grind. I donít mean getting rid of a level system entirely, for that is a defining aspect of a JRPG, but there must be some way these games can work without forcing you to kill endless amounts of same boring monsters just in order to progress with the story. The current system is archaic and displays the developerís total unwillingness to evolve, just following ages old tradition for traditions sake. At least killing all the random encounters that pop up during your progression should be enough, but most of the time this simply isnít the case. You are forced to grind.
To make this even worse, the battles nearly always load a separate battle area which takes a few seconds and after the monsters are dead you are forced to click though the victory screens. These few seconds may not be so bad in individual battles, but they really offer some extra nerve-grating in longer grind sessions.
You will look at this screen for 8 hours or not progress the story.
The Battle System
Now this is the part many of you will disagree with, but I will address it anyway.
Why do JRPGs still use the archaic turn-based battle system? Please tell me if Iím wrong about this, but how I figure it the old NES-era JRPGs only had a turn-based battle system because they couldnít make any other system work as well with the hardware limitations and all. I understand having turn-based battles in a strategy game, where you are supposed to think about your next move. However, in JRPGs any decisions you need make are usually solved in a matter of seconds, something you can easily do without the game having to wait for you every time.
Why not a battle system like this?
Now with these super-powerful HD consoles, they still canít make any other battle system work than turn-based or pseudo-real time where you just map your weapon skills to different buttons (Tales ofÖ)?
How about a battle system that is not fully decided by levels and dice throws, one that even somehow relied on real-world physics and player skill. The MMOs have recently started to adapt this kind of combat systems. Take a look at Darkfall Online, Fallen Earth or Mortal Online, just for an example. I donít see a reason something like this would not work for JRPGs too. It just sounds like the logical direction of evolution for this genre. An evolution that would surely re-ignite my love for the genre. read