My Year of JRPGs
I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, and my tastes have always been pretty diverse; I’ve always liked to think I was down for anything, but that’s not really true. I’ll never play an MMO, for one, because I am incapable of devoting more than a week or two at a time to any particular game. I can come back to a certain game after some amount of time, as evidenced by my Mass Effect addiction, but I need a regular influx of new titles to keep myself from getting bored. There’s just no way in hell I’ll ever be able to make myself regularly play one game for months straight.
Within the realm of single-player games, though, there’s only one genre that I’ve regularly shunned over the course of my life: the JRPGs. I’ve played maybe a dozen and a half, total, in my 23 years, and I’ve actually completed less than a third of that number. That isn’t unusual for a hardcore Western gamer, as we do tend to play every type of game but JRPGs.
That phenomenon isn’t hard to understand. The Japanese treat story as paramount, and yet most often the stories written for the highest profile Japanese games — the ones our otaku friends love to talk up, like Metal Gear and Final Fantasy — are utter nonsense, and so we are hesitant to delve into other moronically long Japanese games. There are plenty of Western games that are just as stupid as the most awful Japanese RPGs, but very few of them require a significant time commitment to complete, and, in the West, there isn’t any one genre of games that is known specifically for featuring horrendous, “oh god I need to inject Everclear directly into my brain” kind of stories.
And the humor. Oh god, the humor. And why does it seem like there are always small children fighting alongside our heroes? And why don’t the women characters wear people clothes? Yes, I’m making sweeping generalizations.
I’ve been better about at least trying new JRPGs in the past two years, but I rarely ever finish them. But something has changed.
It hit me when Final Fantasy XIII-2 was announced last month. A couple days after the announcement, when Squeenix showed off the first teaser for it, I felt like I was mentally prepared to dive into that bitch and show it who’s boss. I was stunned that I felt that way, because once I had wrapped up FFXIII*, I was wildly angry and felt more annoyed and generally miserable than I ever previously had after finishing a game, and I have a friend who can testify to that. As I said above, though, one extremely important thing had changed since I played FFXIII, and there is no way to overstate the importance of this change in relation to what we’re talking about here.
Just days after I completed Final Fantasy XIII, I began writing for FileFront.
Now, I get paid to play and critique games, and, for tax purposes, every game I buy is a business expense. I spend 18-20 hours a day on my couch writing and playing games. That’s really my entire life. It’s better than you could possibly imagine. I’m less hesitant now to play JRPGs because I get paid for it now, but it isn’t enough to just to review one every once in a while; I need to fill an enormous hole in my gaming résumé.
When I was playing Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll last week, I had an idea. I want 2011 (plus a month or so) to be the year I fill that hole. I’m going to plunge headlong into this genre of games I’ve so often derided, and, yeah, it’s gonna f–king hurt at times, I’m sure, but it’s just something that needs to be done, and I’m gonna learn something through this, goddamn it. I’ve already completed two — Trinity and Hyperdimension Neptunia (review forthcoming) — and a third arrived in my mailbox yesterday.
I won’t just be playing the new games. I’ll be digging into the library of current-generation titles, initially; the title that just arrived is the latest Atelier, and I’ve got Nier waiting in the wings, and then, in two weeks, Ar Tonelico 3 hits North America. But I don’t want to stay exclusively within this generation. I’ll also go back through some older Final Fantasy titles and perhaps revisit VII, and I will take requests, which you can make in the comments below, or by email (email@example.com) or Twitter.
Because only new releases will get their own write-ups, I’ll post a general update every month, and because the JRPG genre is so full of variety, there’s no telling what the hell kind of things I’ll be saying in them, but it should be fun.
My Year of JRPGs began two weeks ago, on February 10. It’ll last until Final Fantasy XIII-2 comes out, unless that game gets pushed significantly beyond next winter. It’s gonna be, uh, something.
*I did not “actually” finish Final Fantasy XIII. I had a party I was happy with, their skills completely maxed out; it was a conservative grouping, built to take a pounding while slowly chipping away at the enemy’s HP. Unfortunately, the final boss slapped me with a death timer after I had been chipping away for 30 minutes, and my party was physically incapable of taking him down in the time allotted. I sure as hell was not going to fight that ridiculous battle again, and so I watched the final cutscene on YouTube and called it a day.