"A video game comic and blog that would have been awesome and relevant 10 years ago. Maybe." -Famous Website
This week marks a couple of notable occasions, but only one that really matters to Pie. It was one of those actual conversations where she was especially excited for one reason, counting down the days with excitement as the special day approached. Of course, she was just being who she is- a girl with her priorities straight.
So I guess we are also at comic #100 with this entry. Pretty crazy! If you were to count the unscheduled bonus stages it would be #107 though, but it is an interesting place to be. To be honest, I don't think it is as special as the #25 comic and 1 year anniversary marks. Those were just a lot more significant because we started from scratch with no real direction and those milestones felt like real achievements. These days, it isn't any less rewarding, but we are in a groove and making the comic has become ingrained into our psyches.
Pie goes into a lot of details about her Tales of fandom below, partly because of the Tales of Graces F release but also because we have been discussing JRPGs a lot lately. It is a genre we are quite transparently passionate about and also because of the 3-part series from Extra Credits. In it, they evaluate the differences between Western and Japanese RPGs and why Western RPGs are dominating the market.
They come to the conclusion that battle systems are at the crux of the decline in JRPGs, but I really have to disagree with them. Certainly a game has to be fun to play, but I don't think that is the reason for the amount of criticism and lack of sales JRPG are at the brunt of. One of the biggest issues I think they are facing is a lack of freedom.
A good combat system can make a game with little freedom tolerable (see FF13), but that doesn't make it engaging. This can be seen with how FF13 was largely scoffed at because of the lack of exploration by way of a corridor world; lack of real character build choices by way of the terrible Crystarium system; and no hand in impacting story events by way of a single path through the narrative. Freedom makes all games more engaging and something we desire at our cores as people. If you have a lot of freedom to explore a world, build your character or impact the story, I really doubt using old school menu systems will bother anyone; Person 4 seemed to do quite alright despite it.
I've been super obsessed about Tales games lately due to anticipation of the release of the most recent game of the franchise to American shores, Tales of Graces f. I dug out all of my old Tales games over the weekend, popped them in, played around, and am even considered starting new game files. XD I suppose you can kind of call it a personal celebration.
I've been a huge fan of the Tales series since I first got my hands on Tales of Destiny for the Playstation back in 1997. I remembered being really surprised and excited about playing a typical console RPG that has battles in real time like an action game. I've read about the first game of the series, Tales of Phantasia, for the Super Famicom years before in a Nintendo Power magazine and was very interested in it but alas, it never hit American shores (though you can argue about the slow Gameboy Advance version with terrible voices which was released in 2003) It's been fun and interesting seeing the series grow and improve over the years. I admit I think I enjoy the games in which you battle on a 2D linear plain most, but the continual experimentation and tweaks to the base system as the series progresses has spawned some fun and interesting changes.
Bear and I borrowed and started playing Tales of Vesperia for the first time last weekend. I was really excited to finally show Bear a Tales game, but he didn't seem to like it much. One of his biggest gripes about the game was the battle system. He thought since the battles are very action oriented that it would have tight fast controls like a fighting game, but to his dismay, he felt it was sluggish and was like a button masher. I've heard the "button masher" comment before on boards and I think I can kinda see that aspect but at the same time, there's so much more to it, a lot of that attacks have their own quirks and effects that make them better at certain situations than others. I sometimes wonder if I'm thinking too much into it. >.< I was pretty disappointed after hearing his qualms, but got really happy when he started warming up to the characters. ^_^ He was squirming and gritting his teeth at the dialogue in the beginning of the game. XD I don't know if we'll be playing much more together, he told me I can continue on without him, but he would sometimes come back to the couch and watch when characters have dialogue. XD Here's hoping he likes the game if he gives it a second try. =)
There's been an issue that's been floating around lately, the idea that Japanese RPG's are failing and are being trumped by Western RPG's. People argue that JRPG's are stuck in their old ways, and that they don't do anything new or creative and try to keep it safe by recycling old mechanics and formulas. I think it's a real hard argument to refute and I feel kind of like a fool for saying this, especially considering that I'm not in the game industry, but I disagree. Of course one of the most important aspects to consider when comparing these two types of RPGs (as Extra Credits mentions) is that they are two very different things, practically different genres. People of course gravitate to one over the other to fulfill their own personal yearnings. Western RPG's focus a lot more on making the player the protagonist, emphasizing on personal customizability and choices while Japanese RPG's have more of a tendency to focus on telling a predetermined narrative starring premade protagonists.
It pains me how it sounds like so many people have a condescending view on JRPG's. I personally believe that many Japanese developers are stepping up and trying many new things; new mechanics and ideas are being used all the time! Take the semi-recent Final Fantasy 13 and The Last Story for instance; if not those, Resonance of Fate, Valkyrie Profile 2, Odin Sphere, Shadow Hearts 3, Wild Arms 5, Breath of Fire 5, and Valkyria Chronicles, all of these games have something new and very different to offer and are very unique! Sure some of them were released back to the end of the PS2 era, but from what I hear, this argument has been going on for just as long. The world is full of game creators trying to do something new, fresh, and fun; I think everyone's chasing innovation and are slowly progressing.
I guess some of the things I've read in some Tales of Graces f reviews sparked this topic for me. Though most of what I've read has been very positive, I can't help to stop and think when people criticize it by how it has similarities to "the typical Japanese RPG." I couldn't believe it when I read one reviewer saying that it has dated ideas and concepts and listed having text boxes as one of the things out of date. Text boxes? Really?!
I know I might sound like just some big Tales fan crying over people bashing it, maybe I am, I don't know. XD I can't deny the fact though that as much as I'd want to distance myself from the topic, I believe Japanese RPG's are being innovative, creative, and are coming up with some interesting things, even if the nay-sayers think otherwise. '_'