JRPG Monogatari: Discussing battle SystemsBy: Tipamari posted at Apr 14, 2011 3:52 am
Battle systems are what make the majority of gameplay in a JRPG, aside from running around entire countries and doing tedious mini games and side quests. There are so many different aspects to look at when looking over a game and ironically actual gameplay is given a stool in the corner. A good story is important, but this would all be moot without a great battle system. Aside from good natural puzzles and court room dramas, the games I play usually contain good natured battles and bloody combat, which is the format for almost all action games.
Turn-based combat is the traditional format for the majority of JRPGs. From its humble beginnings in original Dragon Quest all the way to other games in the family, turn-based combat has had its fair run through multiple systems. Aside from traditional, the system has also been stated as outdated and plain boring. I will admit, however, that this is slightly true, as turn-based battle systems were made to function on older systems. And with newer technology, turn-based combat seems like a lazy alternative. But here’s the rub: why the heck do I still find them fun? I have played many games across many genres, but I still enjoy the strategy aspect of turn-based combat. One point is that they are satisfyingly hard, without being overly hectic. You really have to think about what you do, and each individual action by a party member has a large part to play, as one mistake can be fatal. The battles don’t look particularly real, but there is so much potential for strategy. One of the reasons I loved Final Fantasy VII so much is because of the material system. Not only did I have to worry about leveling my party, but I had to take extra care on which character had which material, and skillfully combining other materia together to make devastating combos. What’s not to like?
But, as we know, times are changing, and Final Fantasy would be the biggest example of this. After Final Fantasy X, the battle systems have taken drastic changes. While Final Fantasy IV was one of the first to introduce the ‘Active Time Gauge’, the mechanics after Final Fantasy X were unlike anything seen in any RPG. Final Fantasy XII created a seamless battle system where combat was constant with exploring, eternally active, and while Final Fantasy XIII reintroduced instance based battles to the series, it completely revamped itself yet again. The tri-Aced developed Resonance of Fate is also quite novel in its make up as well. The entire battle experience is both unique and extremely difficult to grasp and utilize, but can still be classified as using this Active Time Gauge.
Action-JRPGs are starting to become even more popular now. Active player controlled battle systems have usually been really clunky in JRPGs, but there are examples where the combat has become very fluid. Kingdom Hearts is a perfect example of this. Although standard difficulty is easier compared to its less free-running cousins, the battles are fluid and fun. FFXIII's battle system did raise some complaints, which has garnered more hope into Versus XIII.
One way JRPG developers have developed gameplay is by, unfortunately, ripping the conventions out, turning the games in Action-Adventures. One huge example of this is Catherine, a game created Atlus, the makers of the Shin Megami Tensei games. I was always confused on how the plot was meant to develop without a battle system, until I realized that they ripped it out, in exchange for a puzzler: a puzzler, of all changes. This feature fits perfectly into place, and doesn’t hinder the story line. I enjoy leveling my character, but I feel it is good when a developer isn’t hindered into one genre.
From what I can tell, JRPGs are trying to change, but I also feel that they are expected to, something which I personally do not like. There are people, like myself who enjoy traditional turn-based combat, and I like many of the new battle systems coming out as well. What I don’t get is what the international community wants? I hear people saying that turn-based is boring, and then I hear people moaning that these new developments are huge flops, and that they should stick to what they are good at. It’s all very confusing, but understandably. We are customers, wanting a quality product. In this reality, we don’t really know what we want until we get it. We want to be thrilled and excited: nothing more and that’s really all that game developers have to go on. Fan input is both necessary but also a hazard in that respect, and is what I hope people will begin to think about.
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