~Welcome to the Opinion Zone~
Disclaimer: JRPGs aren’t actually dead, it’s a catchy headline, got ya, the Persona series and Trails games are great examples of modern JRPGs that capture the magic of the classic genre we all love.
As a Switch owner in 2017, I’m pretty much jumping on any new exclusive game for the system I’m interested in. I’m also an old-school JRPG fan, so when I saw Octopath Traveller announced on the recent Nintendo Direct and that the demo was Out Now, I downloaded it immediately. However, I was cautious because it was the Bravely Default crew, and I really disliked how that one was written in some spots and padded itself out with unnecessary content. So my guard was already up.
It’s a pretty art style, though some of the pixel textures look weirdly blown up. It’s a really smart, neat and impressive way to take on the problem of mixing the old school with the new tech.
Not all of the areas look that good, but like, nice.
The music is also great. I have gone back to it on YouTube after playing. It was definitely the thing I liked the most.
The combat was pretty bare-bones. You have the standard turn-based JRPG setup except for two wrinkles–the not so unique concept of enemy weaknesses, and the more unique concept of “boosting”, an extra meter you can use up to have more attacks, or more powerful magic. But these enemies in the demo seemed so beefed up that I basically had to use boosting all the time, so it amounts to an extra button press. After only 30 minutes, I already wanted to run away from combat scenarios and skip them. Also, there’s random encounters, and all the smart advancements of Bravely Default, being able to control the amount and reward of encounters, seem to be gone???
The worst part of the demo, and what brought me to make a thread about JRPGs, was the writing-- both the dialogue and the scenarios I could see being set up. Hell, even the temp name of the game isn’t very imaginative. (I bet it’s not a temp name; remember, this is the team that made a game named Bravely Default after the battle mechanics and nothing else)
So far I only played the character Primrose, a dancer in a tavern who is enduring a gross, awful “master” and a less-than-flattering profession to hunt down the people who murdered her father. I haven’t tried the other story line, but I heard this was actually the “good” one. It proceeds in pretty cliché fashion with lines of dialogue so poorly written and uninteresting that it seems like a waste to have them fully voice-acted.
This all makes me pine for better writing in JRPGs, and my high bars are ridiculously high (FFVI and Chrono Trigger), but I think JRPGs deserve the kind of effort that gets put into other story-heavy games. Especially with many of the recent JRPGs that are specifically angling for that old-school feel, I feel the reasons I love these games are being COMPLETELY missed. I want engaging motivations, like FFVI’s bad politician about to become something a lot more apocalyptic, or Chrono’s looming future disaster that I can prevent…somehow. I want strongly defined characters that I will remember forever, like the endlessly and somehow endearingly horny Edgar from FFVI, or the tragic, Shakespearean-speaking Frog from Chrono Trigger.
So my question and reason to make this thread is-- what makes you love JRPGs, and what do you want to see in them for your love of the genre to continue? How could companies like Square Enix successfully revitalize the genre? Am I wrong–is Octopath Traveler exactly what you want?