Posts Tagged ‘jrpg’
This week Fred is again solo, but fear not because he will have his faithful companion Jam back for the next episode. This week he’s discussing the origins of the Japanese Role Playing Game or JRPG and the genre’s eventual journey to the West. From humble roots in the early 80s to the powerhouse genres of the 90s, it’s a wild and crazy road.
When I was younger and talked to friends about games I was often asked the question that would come up regularly, “how long is it?” If I followed up, “well, not that long bu…” I would usually have lost their interest and they would dismiss the game entirely despite me possibly recommending the game whole heartily. In this article I wanted to explore the topic of game length and give some personal thoughts.
As I’ve grown older I went through a few phases with my perception of game length. When I was very young without a care in the world and I messed around on the Amstrad and the Mega Drive, I didn’t care diddly squat about game length. I was small and just happy to mess around with this fascinating medium. To quote Dylan Moran from a a episode of the hilarious Black Books TV show, “He looks surprised, all children look surprised, the world is new to them.” This was absolutely me as a youngster everything just amazed me. I wasn’t allowed to play games for extensive lengths of time because my dad did accounts on the Amstrad computer and I was interested in other things like rocks and bugs. When I did game I didn’t care about length, I didn’t care about completing the game I was just having fun. I rarely would finish a game because I was young and pretty dumb, this probably pleased my parents as it meant that they didn’t have to buy a whole lot of new games.
One of the most fun things to do in the 16-bit era of JRPGs – although not exclusive to this time period – is break the basic system and do all kinds of ridiculous overpowered feats. Of those, Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in the US on SNES) had a featured known as the “break damage limit” that forced the game to allow you to dole no more than 9999 points of damage (sounds like a lot of you aren’t a consistent re-player of the game) regardless of combos, leveling, and parties. ROM hacker “chillyfeez” found a hexidecimal code in Final Fantasy II (specifically the North American ROM) that allowed the cap to be raised to 16383 damage. While this is probably no big deal to many of us, Final Fantasy hardcore fans are probably overjoyed with the ability to increase damage and possibly even result in faster speedruns of the game. Either way, if you want the ROM hack, which will work on any emulated or flash cart copy of the original untouched ROM, you can download it here. Thank you Retro Collect for the story.
Price: $13.49 (used, cart only), $48.50 (used, complete), $288.00 (new)
Additional Releases: MSX2 (Japan only), Wonderswan Color (Japan only), Playstation (Final Fantasy Origins, updated graphics), Gameboy Advance (Dawn of Souls, upgraded with additional dungeons, new translation), PSP (original title, includes Dawn of Souls content with updated visuals and soundtrack)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (NES version, $5), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $10), iOS/Android/Windows Phone (PSP version, $7)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II
If you ask most Americans what the first true console RPG was probably one of the most common responses would be Final Fantasy. Not only is Square’s epic tale of four warriors taking on a timeless being that plans to destroy the world memorable, but it stood well above the competition of the time. The Legend of Zelda may have taken around 10 hours to complete, a size and scope only possible with the ability to save that was unheard of prior, but it was nothing compared to the massive world and 30-50 hours you may spend conquering Final Fantasy. Aside from that, the 1986 Famicom title Dragon Quest (changed to Dragon Warrior in the US for its earlier iterations) had just received a slight upgrade and released to North America in 1989, less than a year before Final Fantasy. It was great but couldn’t compete with a game that was made three years later with the lack of classes, a party system, and various other differences. It should be noted that in Japan Dragon Quest II had already released and Dragon Quest III came out in February 1988, a mere two months after Final Fantasy, which had slowly built up most of the game’s staples such as a party system, exploration, turn based battle system, and both games had similar class systems. That doesn’t mean that Final Fantasy doesn’t have its own identity, it’s far superior in terms of graphics, nothing like the airship showed in the first three Dragon Quest games, and instead of sending you back to town when you die like Dragon Quest you would instead get a game over and go back to where you last saved. Final Fantasy also shipped with a map and huge manual that got players more invested in exploring and completing the campaign, not to mention a cheap and huge Nintendo Power strategy guide that released shortly after. For me, it was the near perfect conversion of the Dungeons & Dragons universe – some of the characters are literally stripped from the Monstrous Manual – and converted it into a single player experience.
Nowadays when people refer to a “JRPG” it’s either associated with a flood of nostalgic love for a handful of long-running series or a groan as modern Japanese companies try to capture the form of evolution that many game players strive for. This is because modern day JRPGs aren’t a whole lot different from the ones that started life and popularity back in the 16-bit era in Japan and the 32-bit era in America. If you’re not too familiar with or have never played any of these games, modern or classic, you may wonder why games that follow a well-known and successful formula may fail. Sure, gamers’ tastes have changed to a certain extent, but there’s still plenty of us that love to play these classic titles and have no problem sinking tens of hundreds of hours into beating them all over again. Unfortunately for modern titles of this ilk, they suffer from a lack of resources and that personal touch that made the older games so charming. Even when they do, like the recent Wii release The Last Story, these titles still can’t hold a candle to the heavy hitters of history. As a result fans of the genre have pretty much independently decided to freeze this genre, and its subsequent games, in time and appreciate that era as exactly that: a specific time of genre-specific gaming bliss. This makes it difficult for modern gamers trying to break into the genre because the amount of time to complete most games is much lower these days, lack of explanation and exploration are things of the past, and the price tags on the “classics” are either sky high or dirt cheap for the “poor ports.” For that reason, we’ve compiled a basic overview of the genre as a whole, it’s roots, and the factors that make a title considered JRPG. At the end we also suggest a handful of very accessible titles that are good for those starting out, especially with many of the classics porting to handhelds with varying results, and will continue coverage throughout this site.