Time to cast a Raise spell on JRPGs

Looking Beyond

Is the genre still relevant overseas? Yes, though it depends on how you look at it. Yes, there will still be publishers willing to release oddities like the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Nippon Ichi and XSeed will still create and localise JRPGs for their niche market out of passion first and business second.

Let’s also not forget that the long-running Pokemon titles for Nintendo’s handheld systems are JRPGs themselves. The games are made by Japanese developer Gamefreak, you can create your own party of high-powered midget monsters, you have a narrative to play through -a simple one at that-, and the game world is ripe for exploration. Do a quick search on any North American NPD sales-related story and you’ll find any recent iteration of Pokemon cracking the top ten for at least a few straight months. In its native country alone, the latest Pokemon title cracked 2,919,977 units in sales for the whole of 2012. Lord knows how the creators of the Final Fantasy brand right now will react to the impending opening numbers for Pokemon X and Y in both Japan and North America.

Speaking of which, Square Enix seem to have lost the fight in maintaining JRPG relevance as Western developers are beating it at its own game, so to speak. Titles like the Mass Effect series and Fallout 3 are narratively-structured like a JRPG amidst its shooting and action. The recent Final Fantasy XIII titles did cause a rift between fans due to its mechanics and narrative pace.

Depending on your point of view, the single-player JRPGs are still going to be around as long as titles like the Pokemon series and Dark Souls are still in the limelight. From a purist’s viewpoint, it is great for international JRPG fans that games like The Tales Of and Megami Tensei series get some form of publicity, even if it is a slow climb. The supposed alpha pack leader Square Enix, however, should buck up and re-analyze their priorities when making the next JRPG, maybe by even reallocating their R&D budget on next-gen graphics to something like a new RPG project or a true revival of their Mana and Chrono brands.

More after the break...

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