Recently I have been trying to contemplate why I was never into western RPGs compared to the Japanese iterations. The answer does not solely rely on the fact that Japanese RPGs, for the most part, are really linear. The western RPGs tend to focus on the free roaming non-linear aspect. Personally I find it hard to follow a story in a non-linear form of progression. There are simply too many ways to get sidetracked.
Japanese RPGs may not be award-winning in the story department, as many are quite cliché, but they tend to make up for it in the characters. Certain characters you tend to build a bond for overtime, whether it is Cloud for Final Fantasy VII or Zidane from FF IX and the chemistry which takes place with party members.
Final Fantasy IX
It would be quite silly to prefer once RPG creation over another based on the linear fashion, but the simple aesthetics of a JRPG I find much more appealing compared to the western creations.
Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
So what has happened with the JRPG genre over the past decade or so. Most PS3 and Xbox360 JRPGs were sub par at best. One may argue the best RPG last gen may have been Xenoblade on the Wii or Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360 (a creation by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi). With JRPGs in the decline in the west they seem to be less common and the quality seems to have declined. Developers have moved from big companies and are forming their own studios and hope to find some way to fund their projects – usually through external publishers or even the crowdfunding platform kickstarter.
There seems to be a shift in the way gamers choose to play games with the rise of mobile worldwide. After the Last Story on Wii Sakaguchi and his studio including famous composer Nobuo decided to produce Terra Battle for mobile platforms.
So what did happen to the soul of JRPGs? Currently, I am playing through Chaos Rings on IOS (mobile) and was immediately taken by the art, music and battle system. It just so happens that the art director for Chaos Rings worked on past games such as Final Fantasy 7 , 8 and more. The development team has past experience working on the Wild Arms series so they are definitely JRPGS veterans. These mobile ventures are not quite as meaty as their console counterparts but they sure to capture the essence of the old school JRPG.
This article is not to discredit games such as Persona which seem to be doing well on consoles in terms of sales and reviews. Also, I’m sure there are plenty of niche ventures on handhelds such as Nintendo 3Ds and Playstation Vita that are undiscovered. The purpose really is to find out where JRPGS will land next. Final Fantasy seems to be in decline with each new release saleswise and personally I havent really enjoyed a Final Fantasy since X – although, XV might turn out good.
Western RPGS do have their strong points as well since JRPGs tend to get criticized a lot of not evolving but that may be primarily due to the Japanese culture of not wanting change. The Last Story on Wii tried to push those boundaries a bit, and so did Final Fantasy XII, but is this enough to really push JRPGs into the popularity it once held.