When I was in Primary School I discovered a game called Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I think it was my very first Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG). I liked the game a lot. So as you’d expect I sought out as many similar games as I could find. I ended up playing games that included Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals, Breath of Fire 2, Secret of Mana and Terranigma. I think when playing Final Fantasy VII at the age of 14 was when I first understood that these games shared the genre of JRPG. This a post about how Persona 4: Golden brought me back to that and a thought I had about the nature of JRPGs now and potential for new ways on interacting with the genre with today’s technology.
As it happened, sadly, after I finished High School and eventually dropped out of my secondary education degree I had less time to play long games. Particularly when having to fit gaming around full time work. It didn’t help that I was in with a boisterous bunch of friends who enjoyed parties more than discussing the motives of Sephiroth or Dark Gaia. One or two bad experiences in Grandia 2 and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter further alienated me from the grand sweeping stories I was used to. Final Fantasy X is still the most recent Final Fantasy I have finished with Final Fantasy XII unfinished after my PlayStation 2 bit the dust and Lightning still lingers, under leveled at the final boss in Final Fantasy XIII. For eight years I have always looked at new JRPG’s, but very rarely bought them in consideration of my ever growing backlog of video games. Of course, massively multiplayer online games like Final Fantasy XI and Rift did very little to help me find that extra time.
Something very special happened about six weeks ago though. On a whim I purchased Persona 4: Golden. I cannot articulate what led me to the purchase but I can say the results have been fantastic. I was engaged immediately by the story line, the setting and the characters. The mix of dungeon game play and the social game play kept the pace of the game brilliantly. The portability of being able to play on the Vita meant I could relax and play at any time without being in the way of my housemates as well. For the first time in years I had picked up a JRPG and played it from start to end, even starting a New Game+ immediately on completing the game. I won’t go into the details here as this isn’t a review and by now are plenty of useful resources to find out more on the game. My main thought during all this is that as I have grown older and begun to have more responsibilities, the JRPG genre has been relegated to my carefree days of youth. The Vita however seems to solve these problems. Before I had finished Persona 4 I had also purchased Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland; Shin Megami Tensai: Devil Survivor – Overclocked and Fire Emblem: Awakening; to allow my rekindled love for these games to continue. Quite a back catalogue again.
For me it’s a sign that the gaming industry seems to follow emergent gaming behaviors Home consoles have lots of short quick games coming out; while some larger experiences are coming to handhelds. Sure that seems counter intuitive; it is not an all-encompassing rule by any means. I just wish to illustrate that TV’s are being shared and handhelds are usually personal devices to one person. In that sense people are less willing to monopolise a home console with a sixty hour, single player game. At least that’s how I feel with two other housemates using the communal TV. On my Vita and 3DS I can be greedy and selfish because it’s mine. Particularly with the Vita the difference between a PS3 standard game and a Vita standard is not so great that they are not comparable. Atelier Totori is a PS3 port after all. So if the quality of the games in respects to game play mechanics and graphics is similar then….
If I could make one request for the next iteration in JRPG game play it would be this.
Make Ps3 and Vita releases simultaneous with cloud saves. How enjoyable would it be to play as much as you can on a handheld, but when you do have the time, the inclination, or are playing a particularly cinematic sequence, be able to load up your save on the big screen? I’d rather the graphics and game play be limited to the Vita’s capabilities and to have that level of accessibility than any other feature at this point. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale already shows it is possible, as does Dead or Alive 5. To be able to roll the credits of your glorious victory on a 42” LED would be stunning. To do side quests on the train and come home and play the next main story portion with surround sound. So please let this be the next step (お願いしま! [onegaishimasu!])