RPG Analysis

Posted on Sep 21st 2013 at 11:20:38 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under JRPG, Handheld, Gaming Platform, 3DS XL, PSP, Vita

Until only a few months ago I vehemently detested any handheld since the GameBoy Advance. The graphics paled in comparison to what the latest living room systems could produce. Games were released on tiny cartridges that I could easily lose underneath a piece of furniture and forget about. The GameBoy Advance SP came out and I could care less. Then the DS and its various iterations received the same reception. Sony's PSP and Vita were not even on my radar.

Then something happened.

My bulky home consoles started getting fewer and fewer JRPGs. "Is the sub-genre on its way out?" I thought. The games that tickled a soft spot in my heart had to be hiding somewhere. I then saw games news outlets reporting on Final Fantasy: Bravely Default and Etrian Odyssey Untold, and my ears perked up a little. After reading some previews and watching brief gameplay videos I was sold. These were games I were longing for, but there was a problem: they were for the 3DS. How could such great looking Role Playing games be slated for release on portable console? Who would even want a handheld when one could spend roughly $50 more to get a fully HD game system? That was my argument that naively justified my unwillingness to consider the handheld market.

While trekking across America in The Last of Us, experiencing the monomyth in Journey, and saving my son in Heavy Rain I was silently craving a JRPG. I resisted buying a 3DS by telling myself the screens were too small. I held out against the XL redesign by saying the colour choices were not attractive. Much to my surprise Nintendo announced the black 3DS XL and I thought it looked like something I might actually want. Two highly intriguing titles were on the horizon after all. So, with the release of the sleek obsidian coloured handheld I jumped aboard the ship, and I like where its taking me.

Having found the new home of my favourite genre left me wondering why these developers began to favour the different platform.

The JRPG was once synonymous with the SNES and gained even more steam on PlayStation 2. Gamers had titles including Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, Final Fantasy X, and Odin Sphere. Part of the RPG experience was budgeting one's time and sitting in front of TV to save the world. This was the domain of the genre and it made sense because as console technology improved developers were able to craft grander epics with increasingly beautiful visuals. I firmly believed JRPGs weren't going to leave the living room thinking that the XBox 360 and PS3 would offer me with the next enthralling odyssey. However, the current generation of gaming stations didn't receive as many of these games as their predecessors. The games relocated onto the DS and PSP, and even series that originated on the home console appeared on these 4 inch screens.

The home consoles were left with cliche, trope-laden, painfully linear games that resulted in long time fans wanting more at best, and feeling burnt out at worst. Meanwhile someone on a bus was commanding an army or crawling through maze-like dungeons. Perhaps the Japanese gaming style was the catalyst of this change where mobile gaming dominates over the living room experience. Moreover, those who grew up playing Phantasy Star and Robotrek now have jobs, families, and responsibilities that take them away from a 40+ hour epic. So it's completely reasonable that these games shifted to the pocket sized platforms.

In a way this could also be seen as JRPGs honouring their roots. These games, after all, are about the stories at the core. Without long cutscenes and voice acting to rely upon, any weakness in the narrative are easily exposed. Thus the focus has returned to the plot and character development which is paramount to any RPG. The handheld JPRGs take on more a "all-killer-no-filler" approach to the experiences they offer.

Many are quick to say that the JRPG is dead, but that's not true. One just needs to know where to find them. The genre that went stale found a breath of fresh air on Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's PSP or Vita. There's more new ideas and adventures to experience while commuting and during shorter periods of quiet down time. With few exceptions like PS3's upcoming The Guided Fate Paradox, RPG fans have reason to get excited again but they will just be playing on a different, smaller screen.

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You know when I first read the title of your article, I pictured something very different before I clicked on the link.  Granted I was reading the prefix only, but...

I am extremely happy that you have finally moved into this new-ish space.  That wonderful deluge of JRPGs that have existed on the handheld platforms is upon you, and I can't wait to hear of your experiences wading said deluge.

I find your observations correct linking the age to RPG ratio on the handheld systems.  These days my only link with JRPGs is with the PSP (and the PC Smiley )

We done, sir.
For sure! The PSP is a treasure trove of JRPGs, both new and PS1/SNES remakes. 
I do so love my portables.  When our boys were born, my DS helped me keep my sanity between hospital stays, late night feedings, and cranky newborns.  Nowadays, if an RPG isn't portable, I probably won't finish it.

I would say that, second to PCs, a DS Lite (with its Game Boy Advance backwards compatibility) has the best overall playable RPG library to date.  Although a BC model PS3, with its PS2 and PS library, would compete.

The PSP has an excellent RPG library, but even with superior hardware, the constant loading delays are often a dealbreaker for me. Sad
And YS IV on Vita in November. Likely the best game of the year. Second only to dragons crown Cheesy
I've found this out as well. I have a DS and a PSP, but find it hard to divert funds from my home console budget to the handheld budget. I really only play jRPGs, so I'll have to at some point, though. I play a lot of old jRPGs on my phone.
Im feeling like you lately. If I can manage to nab one of those sexy pikachu 3DS XLs I would love to be able to finally catch up on a few gems I've been missing like Fire Emblem and SMT IV.
This article really makes me remember that I need to try Popolocrois and the rest of the Legend of Heroes series.
This article is so very true, I've been a JRPG fanatic since Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy...through the entire history of consoles since.  And lately, yes...the only place to find great JRPG's is on the handhelds.  Oh sure, there's Record of Agarest War 2, and even Disgaea D2 coming out this week on PS3....but PS Vita has Persona 4 Golden.  Perhaps the 2nd best JRPG ever made.  (Valkyrie Profile is the best ever)

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Role Playing games are my favourite genre of the gaming library. I feel it is appropriate to take a look at the games that have touched me in my time as a gamer and collector and share them with the community. Feel free to discuss your thoughts, ideas, and challenge my opinions. The conversation is welcomed.
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