It was thirteen years prior to today that I received my first ever gaming device, the humble Nintendo Gameboy, and in terms of shock over value, one of the greatest Christmas presents I have ever received. It was that portable piece of technology that was to combine my further escapades through the realm of gaming into my being; That one fateful gift that was to turn me into a gamer. In another five years, my father bought me a Sony PlayStation, which truly solidified my nerd foundations. After eight years of pure console carnage, and only barely maturing, I found my hands gripping tightly to a thread of hope, praying that all my favoured childhood memories would stay in pristine mint condition. But I soon found that nostalgia was as cruel as it was warm and comforting. The JRPG I had known and loved was slowly dying.
The life of a university student has both decreased my console gaming and raised my time surfing the internet. While looking up future release dates for JRPGs in 2011, I noticed something: The majority of RPGs on the list were for the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS. I was flabbergasted to say the least. Where was my mind? How did I not notice this? I had always known that there were stockades of games spawning ever since I sold my Gameboy for a measly twenty dollars, but never had I thought that the gold that I was tirelessly mining for was shining right in front of me.
We moan and groan that the JRPG is dying, but perhaps it is only ditching our old consoles, gripping tightly to our PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s that has truly blinded us. A lot of fuss has simmered consistently from the disappointments of a large group of gamers towards the later two releases of the main Final Fantasy series, a series that has treated us to a collection some of the greatest JRPGs of all time. On top of this, many of my favourite RPG titles were found on the PlayStation (PSOne), with graphics which we would struggle to call average. These powerhouses of technology should have somehow developed this, but they really haven't hit the mark in the west in a big way. It appears that the new generation of handhelds seems to be bearing the torch to a flame which we once thought was nearly extinguished.
One of the most successful series on the handheld would easily be the Pokemon games. Pokemon Red was my first RPG. There were plenty of other RPGs being released on handhelds at the time, but I was only ever concerned with my Pikachus and my Jigglypuffs. In fact, it was the only reason I bought a Nintendo DS. Although not as strong a fad in the west (especially in New Zealand), the Pokemon games are extremely popular in Japan. This doesn't apply only to the younger generations, for there are just as many teenagers and adults who play Pokemon. Anybody from female fashionitas to the hard working salarymen can be seen taking on the task of becoming a Pokemon Master.
Being the petty nostalgic I am, I enjoy playing through old games, and the remakes even more so. Chrono Trigger, a JRPG which dates back a couple of decades made its way to modernity on the handheld. Even Atlus' Persona 3 has been ported to the PSP. I'm sure a lot of you remember going crazy after seeing the Final Fantasy VII graphics demo for the PS3, and taking it as a sign from Square Enix that they were going to be remaking one of the greatest games of all time. Unfortunately,the cake was a lie, but that hasn't stopped Square from releasing copies of many of its other titles, some of which have never been released outside of Japan prior to the present.
One game which clocked up a lot of game time on my PS2 memory card was Dragon Quest VIII, a game which opened up the fabled, classic-styled RPG series to a larger more "non-Japanese" audience.Dragon Quest IX for the NDS, the next installment in the epic JRPG series saw many firsts was the biggest of these and was the first game in the main franchise to be initially released on the a handheld system. I think this in itself was a huge move to make, and really shows how far the handheld has come from such humble beginnings. Dragon Quest is huge in Japan, and in terms of RPG titles, would easily be the most popular in Japan. So for such a large game to be released on the Nintendo DS makes a pretty bold statement.
So where to go from here? Do I think there is going to be a huge paradigm shift of successful JRPGs onto the handheld. No, not at all. There are a lot of good titles on handhelds, and Sony's announcement of its NGP have also caused a storm or two of excitement. But I don't think it is going to end with us playing Final Fantasy XX on a PSP360 or something like that I'm sure there will be technology in the future that will allow gamers to amalgamate console and handheld games together. Although there are lots of games being released on handhelds, and there is bound to be an incredible JRPG on the console soon enough. We just have to be patient. There are some good games coming out this year for console, but I've already bought my 2012 calendar. My last words are that if you are sick of the slump, buy a PSP or a NDS, or both. If not, then play a good MMO while you wait.