Jimís recent article about how Rpgs are becoming a handheld only affair made me start to think. At first, I thought he was right and the days of the epic fifty-hour Rpg unraveling while you sit on the couch with some drinks and a night to kill was over. But are console Rpgs truly dead? It seems that way with nothing but the same old, same old coming out it can almost feel like the console Rpg is nothing but a relic of the past. So should this generation be the eulogy of these once proud owners of some of the best stories and longest journeys in gaming. No, the Rpg genre needs to evolve but many say that evolving Rpgs has the potential to take the soul out of remove the fifty hours and the turn based and you no longer have an Rpg. Iím talking about a fusion if you will, of the handheld and the console into one new type of Rpg.
I believe Jim hit the nail on the head when talking about how playing on a handheld improved the experience vastly compared to a console with bite-sized grinding sessions and the portability being the new generation of Rpgs. If this is true how we could go about fusing this two types of systems. Letís look at example in gaming history. When the Pokemon craze was catching on Nintendo knew kids would go ape over the chance to battle in 3D. So instead of creating a new Rpg for the N64 they simply created Pokemon stadium, a game that all you did was battle your Pokemon from your Gameboy Rpg in 3D. To accomplish this they packed in an accessory called the transfer pak
This nifty like device allowed you to take your Pokemon you had raised on the Gamboy and transfer them to the n64 to battle in 3D. While this was never expanded upon outside of that concept they unknowingly hit upon what future Rpgs could become. Nowadays we wouldnít need two different games to connect, with the power of the DSi and PSP memory we could easily have bits of that Rpg download and carry it around with us.
Portable Grinding Machine
This seems to be the largest benefit of having a handheld. Those long and tedious grinding sessions can turn into quick little bursts of game play while saving the story and more meaty parts for when you have an hour or two to devote to some handheld gaming. So why not take this core concept and add in a console? Imagine you reach a part in Final Fantasy XIII that is going to take a couple hours of grinding in order to beat boss X or get legendary item Y. This is where you could transfer your characters to your PSP and wait until you have a spare moment to grind a little. The portable version of the game could even look like a 16-bit equivalent of the game with nothing but monsters to grind. This is taking that benefit of handhelds and stripping it down to the bare minimum. This would be best in a situation where you hit a rough spot and need to gain a couple levels, still preserving the nice graphics and immersive battles for the console but the tedium for the small little device inside your wallet or purse.
Handheld From Point A to Point B Machine
If you were to divide up modern Rpgs into a pie chart you might see that the story elements of an Rpg such as the cutscenes and battle that actually effects the story makes up lets say about twenty percent of the actual game the rest is all invested in grinding, side quests and traveling. Traveling in a Rpg is more than likely to come down to go from point A to point B and battling monster constantly trying get there. The overly elaborate dungeons and the quick trips across the entire continent can begin to add up and even put off some. If we could be able to take those boring bits of travel and put them into the easy to swallow package of a handheld it would be a lot more tolerable. You could of course go for the old standby and add an airship to get rid of the pesky traveling but one thing that can plague Rpgs are stereotypes such as airships or whatever magic way of flying around the party suddenly discovers despite it being the middle ages.
Handheld Compliment Machine
The most unlikely evolution to happen would be on a full-on portable version of the console game. A game that could be played in itís entirety on the handheld or the console would present a few problem namely cost to develop such a monstrosity, having enough memory to do this and the fact that it would probably never appeal to a developer. Why make one game twice when you can make two different games. So perhaps this is something we will see much further down the line, an evolution of the evolution if you will. Despite its likeliness, let us examine just what game like this could accomplish. First you would not be tethered in anyway to any particular device this would make the experience totally unique to your needs. You would still have the big and beautiful console experience when you could find the time but if youíre out and about most of your days you could just devote your time to the handheld. While this is most ideal I have to reiterate that the odds of this happening are very very slim and full of too many difficulties to count.
Rpgs have been around for many years and it is possible that they could become handheld-only one day but we are at a time I think, when Rpgs could become one of the most powerful genres. Truly epic stories that are not only cross-platforms but actually spread across different platforms to supply an experience in story that is unique and could become a huge part of your life for awhile. Becoming your leisure at home and your tiny bits of escapism wherever you go.