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Author Topic: The Western JRPG thread.  (Read 9154 times)
Dincrest
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« on: June 14, 2009, 07:34:50 PM »

I know JRPG stands for "Japanese RPG" but the term has become synonymous with a certain subgenre of RPG.  After all, Final Fantasy feels very different from Fallout (a WRPG or Western RPG.)  And Korean RPGs like Magna Carta and Crimson Gem Saga have more of that JRPG feel. 

Anyway, playing Black Sigil and having played so many commercial RPG Maker games from devs in North America (Amarath, Blossomsoft), South America (I believe Dark Souls' developer is Brazilian), and Europe (Aldorlea's based in France), I thought I would start a thread talking about the non-Japanese JRPGs, which have been in our gaming consciousness more than we think. 

I'm sure a lot of us remember Secret of Evermore on the Super NES (fun game).  MagiNation, by Interactive Imagination, on the Game Boy Color is one that quite a few people liked but I did not.  How about Shadow Madness, by Crave, on the PSX? Man that game was terrible.  I remember this era as my own weeaboo era when I thought America could not create a good Japanese style RPG. 

But I will admit back in 1999/2000, Septerra Core caught my attention.  Could it be a successful American JRPG?  I thought it had beautiful visual design (love the worlds) and an interesting plot, but the dungeon design and laborious battle system left something to be desired.  Later on came Ion Storm's Anachronox which remains my favorite JRPG.  Something about that game joneses me in all the right ways and is my benchmark of what a "Western JRPG" should be.  I also liked Sigma Star Saga (I probably liked that game more than I should have.) 

Speaking purely for myself, I like the more traditional Japanese RPG style gameplay, but prefer more American style characters.  For some of these Western JRPGs, do you think they fell short because the developers were trying too hard to "be" Japanese?  Part of me wonders if Black Sigil falls victim to the "trying to be too Japanese" bug when maybe a more Canadian personality would've lent more charm?

For those who may want to see more Japanese style RPGs from Western developers, would you like to see characters and storylines that are more congruent to the country of origin's storytelling and archetypes?  I'd prefer that than trying too hard to recreate a Japanese anime/RPG archetype.  I think it would be interesting to see how an American, Spanish, or Norwegian archetype would handle the kinds of JRPG situations thrown at these typically Japanese protagonists. 

Basically, yeah, let's discuss Western JRPGs, past present and future. 
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2009, 09:06:26 PM »

You mentioned Ion Storm's Anachronox (how do you pronounce that anyway?), which I also feel is the best of the Western made JRPG's.  It remains my favourite game designed by Tom Hall and I hold it in higher esteem than even the mighty Deus Ex. The thing that hurt it, I think, is the platform it was released on and the time. The game came after Daikatana right? I mean that was a huge blow to the company considering the time and money they spent on it. I wonder, if it had gotten a Dreamcast or PlayStation 2 release. Defiently a forgotten classic.
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2009, 09:06:53 PM »

The one thing that Western developers have not been able to get right is the turn based battle system. It's always too tedious and slow. Septerra Core, Sonic Chronicles, and even the beloved Anachronox had battles that weren't particularly fun and in the first two instances completely sucked after a while. And from what I hear of Black Sigil, they might not be any better after a while. What's up with that?
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Gen Eric Gui
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2009, 09:08:47 PM »

Dammit man, you had to mention Septerra Core.  That game is my personal Deus Ex, every time somebody mentions it I inevitably re-install the game.

Dammit.

I haven't played enough of this specific genre to make an accurate statement RE: them, but I can say that I really liked Septerra Core and that Black Sigil is a pretty good improvement on Chrono Trigger's engine.  I'm much more interested in playing more games like both of them, and probably -would- play a lot more of them if they weren't all PC games.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2009, 09:11:10 PM by Gen Eric Gui » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2009, 09:19:49 PM »

I never really GOT the JRPG/WRPG split. I tend to blame the popularity of Final Fantasy in America, though, because... well, here.

The Dragon Quest games have ALWAYS been fairly Western in their sensibilities, even if they're also regarded as some of the most Japanese of the JRPGs. But storywise, they're very European classicist. From a gameplay standpoint, things like classes and the level of controlled open-ended-ness that the DQ games have is also very western, and the DQ battle system has a much more traceable lineage back to Wizardry.

Same with Phantasy Star. Wizardry-style battles, first person dungeons, and a degree of non-linearity and adventure gaming aspects.

Actually, you know, the first three FFs...

So let's say it was FFIV that caused the split.

And the notion of reducing a story's importance in a WRPG is... I actually have no idea where that came from. I blame Bethesda. Originally it was because of text limitations, like with the console counterparts, but later Ultima games were always story heavy, and Black Isle's games are DAMN story heavy, and there's also stuff like Krondor.

So in a sense it's hard for me to say what's distinctly Western about WRPGs. In general I guess they tend to be a bit more staid -- you're not going to see something really outlandish come out of them *generally*, whether it be a really bizarre battle system or character growth system, or just a particular visual style, like how early PSX Square RPGs were pretty dadgummed... well, you know how FFVII's pre-rendered backdrops were. Slightly wacky.

At the same time I wouldn't say WRPGs tend towards realism, although Oblivion kind of did (And that's one of the reasons I liked Morrowind better. More rich chocolate GIANT MUSHROOMS please!)

You also don't get a lot of action RPGs in the West, and when you do, the action elements are way more FPS than the uh... they're not so Zelda-ish. Partially I think this is hardware related, a little. During the DOS era, games tended to run kind of choppy which is suckish for an action RPG, and console controllers are a bit rubbishy for FPSes.

Summatively, battle systems in WRPGs tend to be a bit more integrated and seen more like interfaces to a particular set of gameplay mechanics whereas in JRPGs they're more like minigames, sometimes.

Maybe the biggest difference is aesthetics.

(Summary of deleted intro: MagiNation would've been funner if it hadn't been so damned slow; is Black Sigil trying too hard to be japanese or trying too hard to be oldschool?)

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The one thing that Western developers have not been able to get right is the turn based battle system.

Well, if you cherry pick three games out of a 20-year history of games, you can pretty much back up any statement you want to make. Septerra's battles, in particular, are noted as being usually slow even by WRPG aficionados, and Sonic Chronicles is, uh, irrelevant.

Admittedly, there HAVE been a lot of slow turn based battle systems in recent WRPG history -- Wizardry 8, for instance, although partially just because of how LARGE the battles could get, and even some old games like GoldBox were notably slower than other tactically-based WRPGs like Ultima 4-6 -- but, like, Might and Magic 3-5 (And 6 and 7 too if you view them relative to the fact that battles usually involved upwards 30-50 enemies), The Bard's Tale and its lot, Wizardry games prior to 8, Albion, and the entirety of the roguelike subgenre... Even the Fallout games, though they can have lengthy battles, aren't prone to a lot of down time like Septerra was.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2009, 09:35:15 PM by MeshGearFox » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2009, 09:25:53 PM »

Were the creators of KNights Of Xentar Japanese or American?
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2009, 11:26:02 PM »

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Well, if you cherry pick three games out of a 20-year history of games, you can pretty much back up any statement you want to make. Septerra's battles, in particular, are noted as being usually slow even by WRPG aficionados, and Sonic Chronicles is, uh, irrelevant.

And how many have been released in 20 years? Not many. The three mentioned are a decent sample besides. And since when is Sonic Chronicles irrelevant? What a senseless response.
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« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2009, 12:19:39 AM »

Were the creators of KNights Of Xentar Japanese or American?

Japanese. The game is part of the Dragon Knight series, which is developed by Elf if I'm not mistaken.

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« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2009, 12:49:08 AM »

I was a HUGE lover of Secret of Evermore, this game had a very strong Western/European feeling. I considered this game like a masterpiece even if it wasn't very well received by the general audience. I also think it was the best work of Jeremy Soule. I've listened to the soundtrack thousand of time.

I also loved Ultima 7 on SNES very much, it was cheaply done yes, but I got immersed inside the plot. I think I'm the only one that beat this game because no one could tolerate it haha

I was also in love with Shadowgate 64, but this one was also disliked. There was a very good atmosphere with this game, the music score was probably what kept me absorbed though, maybe I wouldn't have liked the game otherwise. Sometime it's always a 'little something' that can make you love a game.

I should note however that I'm not a huge complainer, I find pleasure in almost everything that fall under my hands.





« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 12:55:48 AM by blackthirteen » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2009, 03:47:54 AM »

I could only think of a Japanese WRPG game: Demon's Souls

I was a HUGE lover of Secret of Evermore, this game had a very strong Western/European feeling. I considered this game like a masterpiece even if it wasn't very well received by the general audience. I also think it was the best work of Jeremy Soule. I've listened to the soundtrack thousand of time.

I loved Secret of Evermore. I thought it was made by Square Japan but found out recently it was made by Square USA. It was developed by college students right (somewhere in the U.S. as what I've heard)? Personally, I found it to be a really good game.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 03:54:09 AM by Hoshino_Kid » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2009, 05:19:50 AM »

It really isn't fair to call Secret of Evermore "American made" any more then it's fair to call a Subaru Legacy "American made". While Squaresoft is indeed an American company, it's a subsidiary of a Japanese company, and the employees are going to reflect some of the same sensibilities, even if they're American. See, there really isn't a heck of a lot of difference between American and Western artistry and craftsmanship when you get to that level, it's mostly about what the artists/craftsman are expected to do. Bethesda isn't going to create a jRPG, not because they don't have the knowhow or the sensibilities, it's just not what they do. Squaresoft isn't going to create a wRPG (even if they're American), simply because anything with the Square name is going to have Japanese sensibilities. Basically, it's perfectly reasonable for an American company do make a game with completely Japanese sensibilities it's so inclined to do so. It would have been more of a surprise had Squaresoft released a GTA type game.

One game that shocked me and really made me realize this was "Lost Winds" for WiiWare. The game has incredibly stylized Japanese artwork in the same vain as Okami. It wasn't until I beat the game and watched the credit roll when I realized that it was totally American made. I think the two regions are a lot more versatile than we expect them to be, but they simply are catering to different aesthetics. I wish we'd see more jRPGs come out of America, personally.

On the flipside, I've always felt that Kojima's Metal Gear work was always incredibly western influenced. All of the fantasy influence is from western-style comic books (ala X-Men or Batman). The approach to design and gameplay is very western: leave things as open as possible, and leave it completely up to the player to develop methods for proceeding through the game.

As for Dragon Quest, I'd have to also agree. DQ reminds me of some old Apple II RPGs I used to see when I was a really young kid. It's right out of Dungeons & Dragons, or Lord of the Rings type material, all very high-fantasy European. You have to remember that back in the late 1980s, there really wasn't a huge separation between east and west, because games were so simplistic, they really hadn't developed separate identities. DQ has always strived to remain very simple and draw from its 1980s roots, so its resemblance to early western RPGs is pretty clear.
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Dincrest
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« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2009, 10:03:06 AM »

Kyle- I almost forgot about Sonic Chronicles.  Yeah, the Elite Beat Agents special attacks did get old after a while and it didn't help that the music was bland.  It wasn't a bad RPG and was one of the better Sonic games in recent memory, but it was definitely one of Bioware's weaker offerings. 

N-Sef- I always pronounced it uh-NA-crow-nox (the "NA" being like in "natural" or "anachronism.") 

Mesh- I think you and Kyle both mention similar sentiments in that MagiNation and Septerra Core could both have been much better if they weren't so slow, particularly with the battling.  Then again, the pacing of the battles is important in any RPG.  For me, a fixed camera option in Anachronox would have been nice, because the constantly moving camera made it difficult sometimes to keep track of the enemies. 

ASIDE: I still think it's interesting that JRPG as a colloquial term refers to a subgenre or style of RPG rather than merely "an RPG from Japan." 
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« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2009, 11:27:14 AM »

I have yet to see any evidence that Western developers understand what makes for good JRPG gameplay.  Septerra Core & Anachronox both have much to recommend them, but they both suffered greatly from "Copy the outward tappings of JRPG gameplay without understanding the underlying philosophy behind making that kind of gameplay good and enjoyable."  Likewise, the videos I've seen of Black Sigil don't look all that promising in the gameplay department (the battles look really slow), but I'll withhold judgment until I've actually played the game.

I will say that I have seen better JRPG gameplay in some of the better RPGMaker games than I have out of any of the commercial Western made games that I've played.
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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2009, 11:42:37 AM »

I will say that I have seen better JRPG gameplay in some of the better RPGMaker games than I have out of any of the commercial Western made games that I've played.

See, that's interesting. Maybe the developers are trying too hard by making their battles slightly different than just straight turn based. Either that or they should just up the speed of the attacks and such. I've always liked quick battles in a JRPG, like Suikoden for instance.
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« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2009, 12:16:27 PM »

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Likewise, the videos I've seen of Black Sigil don't look all that promising in the gameplay department (the battles look really slow

They're about as fast as Chrono Trigger's were.
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