View Full Version : Shifting Genres: The JRPG in America
Check out our newest editorial on our main site (http://www.allrpg.com/2011/10/experience-points-the-jrpg-in-america/), if you will.
Opening note: I'm cherry-picking more implicative statements from your really long (perhaps verbose in some areas) editorial. I can't say I'm reading this to enjoy it, as I believe this idea has been pushed forth incessantly for half a decade now.
The traditional JRPG has been reduced to a novelty.
I gather that my difficulty with this statement is despite your title, this is an overly broad and restrictive assumption. Just a personal taste in prose. In either case, it's important to stress that these ideas seem more resonant in America. In any case, JRPGs has always been niche. The argument for FFVII-X as more "mainstream" is one warranting more nuance as ubiquity =/= "mainstream." I think an argument can be made for this in any case.
The JRPG as a subgenre (or rather, its developers as a collective) seem so scared of becoming stale that the massive upheaval in philosophies amongst the subgenre hasn?t had the chance to settle down, and it?s hurting the genre as a whole.
JRPG "innovation" in America is appealing to American tastes, which seems inherently conflicting. JRPGs are obviously not made for Americans. Hence the problem with perhaps constant "bashing" making them weary of even investing in localizations.
Look at X, XII, and XIII, however, and you wouldn?t be mistaken in seeing what could have easily been games from three completely different series. Why does there have to be such a polarity between the each successive game and the last?
In regard to your writing, I feel this undermines the assumption of "staleness."
Games like Borderlands are infusing RPG mechanics into other genres, and the result is something everyone seems to agree is a good thing.
It makes sense. WRPG, target audience is not just age but region-specific.
There are some that believe the JRPG isn?t dead, but maybe just heading to the smaller screen.
In short I feel this: With age comes the sophistication of tastes. With retrospective playing also comes the difficulty of negating nostalgic experience with an objective re-presentation. As I firmly believe JRPGs and RPGs to be a niche industry still, perhaps dissatisfied tastes with what you expect from new releases predetermines part of the entertainment you derive from it. To presume that JRPGs are dead is obviously nonsense, especially when you consider it console-specific as opposed to acknowledging the consistent activity it has on handhelds, in America, as JRPGs. This is how I feel. I'm not trying to change your opinion.
Thank you for writing!
I agree with your point of JRPGs by their very nature not being made for American tastes. I hadn't thought about it that way, to tell the truth. Basically, I take that as a JRPG dev saying, "Why should I care if Americans like my Japanese game? It's not being made for them, anyway."
However, I assume America is a bigger market (not in the sense of the entire American gaming community, but more that the American JRPG playing community is probably larger than Japan's just on the strength of sheer population). Monster Hunter is really played a ton in Japan, but it's had lukewarm success here. With international success it would be a gold mine for Capcom, much more so than it already is in strictly Japanese terms and by Japanese standards. The games that achieve more widespread success should also naturally bring in that much more money. What I'm trying to say is, JRPG developers should be trying to reach non-domestic markets. I see the large amount of gameplay changes happening and I think that perhaps some JRPG devs are switching things up in an attempt to achieve more widespread appeal. Maybe that's not going out and saying, "Americans aren't buying our games! We need to innovate!". I would say it is a factor, though.
In reference to the staleness and the FF anecdote, I see that as devs believing their formula has become tired, but then, to a fault, ceaselessly changing everything and not letting any good qualities stick.
Also, I should have been more specific, I guess. "The Console JRPG in America is Dying".
Thanks for the comments, Idun. Appreciate them a bunch.
10-17-2011, 12:28 PM
I think it's interesting to compare what has happened to RPGs in the West. Just as JRPGs have their classic series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, there are classic WRPGs. Only thing is, they are all more or less dead. Ultima exists only as an MMORPG that clings to life, Ubisoft has shown zero interest in continuing the actual Might and Magic series, and Wizardry lives on only as a series of JRPGs. There is real irony in such a foundational WRPG series becoming Japanese only. Even more so that it's not the first series to do so.
It seems odd that when Fallout 2 was made, turn based combat was still the norm. And it's even odder that there are so called WRPG fans that couldn't name the great titles of the 90's. Well, unless it was one of the early Elder Scrolls games. The generational gap seems especially strong.
Back when Morrowind came out I remember all the complaints that in combat you could seem to hit an opponent but still miss. Yet 10 years prior, Ultima Underworld hardly drew flak for that. And there's a straight line of evolution between those two games. Of course, many of these gamers were going into Morrowind without any prior experience in the genre or with the previous games in the series.
I think a bunch of stuff happened around the same time. In part there was the shift in PC gaming toward console friendly games. This shift saw the decline of a number of formerly key PC genres such as space sims and adventure games. But also there was the rise of a certain kind of gaming. Gaming of an action variety which emphasized verisimilitude and direct engagement but also featured stronger stories and presentation.
Final Fantasy VII made waves by being cinematic, story heavy, and simple enough in the mechanics to be accessible. Since then, cinematic and story heavy games have become the standard. I played Back Ops a little while back and was struck by how hard it pushes for a movie like experience. That game may be more extreme than most, but not by that much.
Action games can offer more immediate gratification. This has always been the Achilles heel of RPGs. I can play a shooter and not only have the direct connection between my hitting the button and death being dealt, but get that rush within minutes or seconds of starting. While generally quicker to engage than classic WRPGs, JRPGs often ramp up fairly slowly and thus require a time investment and willingness to delay gratification.
Against this, I think the shape of current console RPGs becomes clear. Blending genres such as shooter or action into RPGs is one way to get that quick engagement. And I suspect the changes in JRPGs are attempting to tackle the same problem while remaining true to their tradition. It might help explain how FFXIII turned into a corridor crawler.
I hope my rambling made some kind of sense. I should know better than to knock these out long after I should be in bed.
10-20-2011, 08:44 AM
Sorry for double posting, but I wanted to see if I could take another, more concise crack at this.
In the article, you mention shovelware on the Wii, casual gaming, and the general reduction in difficulty as the prime reasons for reduced interest in JPRGs in young gamers. But I think that it's the shift in the current gaming paradigm that's doing it. Or perhaps we could call it the genre contraction. JRPGs fared better than classic WRPGs as they were already designed for consoles. But over time, JRPGs have become more niche simply because they don't quite fit into the standard.
I read a bit by teacher who introduced two classic games to his class: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Ultima IV. The first went over great but the second not so much. It's easy to think it's because the Mario game is better, more refined or a superior example in its genre. However, I see this primarily as the result of SMB 3 better fitting what has become not merely the norm, but the standard by which the experience of gaming has come to be measured.
JRPGs aren't just quirky and story heavy but require more initial investment for an experience that's less direct and thus less intense. How do you sell slower, more relaxed gameplay to someone who expects instant gratification and the rush of action?
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