Monday, January 11, 2010

The Death of Japanese RPGs

With huge franchises such as Final Fantasy, is the Japanese role playing game (JRPG) going the way of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy? Sadly, it seems so.

While there were plenty of incredible hits earlier in the 2000s and 1990s, JRPGS are slowly declining in popularity. Think about it, which RPG are you excited for in 2010 that’s Japanese other than Final Fantasy XIII? As far as I know, other than FFXIII, there’s nothing too thrilling about the JRPG genre coming out this year.

First, let’s take an in-depth look at why JRPGs are doing so poorly right now. Ever since FFVII every JRPG has been pretty much the same. Somewhat spiky haircut? Check. Character is wielding some sort of over-the-top blade? Check. Everyone else has guns? You got it. How about an annoying little girl for your party? It’s there (even in FFXIII).

And the storylines? Don’t get me started. While some are genuinely well done all we’re getting is more of the same. In fact it’s so easy you’ll see a new one born right in front of you eyes:

Pick a character name, perhaps the name of a geological feature or an animal. For instance, we’ll name the protagonist, Suchi Rukara (literally robot in Japanese) and name her two sidekicks. One will be Mikazuki (a Japanese female name) and the other will be James (we can’t forget our token European name in the game).
The story is set in a futuristic medieval-ish world that includes transforming aircraft that shoot lasers and perhaps a group of peasants that still mine with pick axes instead of super awesome futuristic precision razors.

The peasants aren’t too thrilled about how these transformer planes treat them and Rukara, Mikazuki and James are all peasants. Their enraged and want to fight back the airplanes. Throughout the game you’ll be fighting endless battles because you took a wrong turn or happened to be on the world map, and they happened to be there as well for no apparent reason.

Once you’re done fighting thousands of random battles you may encounter a glimpse of the story line in a cutscene that’ll last for an hour. During the scene it reveals that Mikazuki is actually an airplane in disguise of a little girl and she betrays you. She turns into a massive pink airplane with thousands of razors and you’re forced to fight her with your token European named member and an animal (we’ll call him Bear).

After that fight there’s so many different plot twists that you’re so insanely lost and you’ll have no clue about what the hell is going on. Then finally the player gets an ending finding out that their character was actually half-human, half-airplane (surprise!) and that she is in an identity crisis.

So there you have it, a JRPG written in about 15 minutes.

A quick storyline aside however, that’s how most JRPGs go; plot twists that make no sense, some really annoying characters and a predictable ending.

What’s really been gaining some ground is American RPGs. In the 2000’s and starting this year we’re really getting a sweet deal. We had Knights of the Old Republic, KOTOR 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, ME 2 and loads of others. Most (key word most not all) of them have just been fantastic.

Am I saying JRPGs suck? Not always. But are they getting a little bit more, generic? Absolutely, and the trend seems to be continuing. Hopefully Japanese developers learn that the whole world isn’t Japanese. It’s fine to have their culture and their own tidbits in the game, just don’t make them so damn generic.

We have orcs, trolls, gnomes and elves and most stories containing those creatures turns out different, the Japanese can certainly do the same.

Otakus? Unite and flame me, I’m ready for it.

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